General problems with adventure paths and how mythic WoTR interacts with them


Wrath of the Righteous

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Silver Crusade

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Messing with a perfectly good adventure - my campaign and other calamities (Spoiler)

Spoilers are pretty much impossible to avoid

I apologize for the length.

Disclaimer:
Every group is different, and while the access to material and GM style vary greatly, this post assumes the use most paizo created pathfinder resources. However I will try to use core material for my examples.

And while I have made changes to loot distribution and random encounters, this post is based on the core assumptions.

Hello everyone,

this topic has been on my mind for quite some time, and while posters like the esteemed magnuskn and various others have highlighted the problems with high level play and adventure paths, I want to talk about WotR.

While this AP does share some of its problems with other adventure paths, it introduces new or worsens existing problems.

Enemy variety:

While it is not unusual or indeed negative, for a campaign to have a theme, it tends to lower the enemy variety significantly. While I am not a huge fan of the favoured enemy mechanic, whether it is used on a class or feat base (ranger/demon hunter feats) or come in the form of magic items (bane weapons, arrows of slaying) I recognize its potential. After all if a player is properly prepared, he/she should get rewarded for it.
It shouldn’t surprise my fellow GMs, that it can be hard to hit that sweet spot, where a player can make use of all his class features, so it doesn’t seem to be a wasted investment, but on the same time it should not be the answer to absolutely everything. Class abilities like sneak attack, smite evil and channel energy are good examples for this.

Since the vast majority of enemies in this adventure path are evil, a paladin with smite evil (or similar ability) will find ample opportunities and a holy should be a good investment.

After reading the entire AP, I can say, that they actually tried to increase the enemy variety, particularly in the earlier adventures, but most of the significant threats are still mostly evil outsiders.

Of course this also means that DR is far less useful, it isn’t really unlikely that pcs are prepared to faces the hordes of the abyss, after all that is what this AP is about. This along with other abilities tends to devalue material based DR.

When it comes to the area of spellcasting, the limited enemy variety, makes a number of spells very good. The demon hunters handbook recently introduced protection from outsiders, which is frankly amazing. While outside of the Abyss demons are quite vulnerable to dismissal, holy word and similar effects.

A lot of the “important” and challenging enemies will be mythic creatures and most of them will also be demons. A +2 mythic bane evil outsider bane weapon will be a investment, that is very hard to beat, and it can overcome DR/Epic.
Of course magic armor has similar options, the defiant armor enhancement(like bane but +2 to AC) and the champion enhancement (+2 sacred bonus to ac against targets of smite evil) are more than effective here.

The issues mentioned above affect every AP ( excluding mythic bane), but Mythic Adventures gives the PCs other shiny toys.

Arcane Strike (Mythic) is quite potent in every mythic campaign, but in this case it should allow the player to ignore DR completely and add a significant attack bonus.

Beyond Mortality, while removing alignment and allowing combinations like paladin/assassin, the ability to ignore unholy/anarchic weapons (possible encounter at the end of book 5) , defensive abilities like unholy aura (fight in book 6 among others) , offensive spells like unholy blight and blasphemy, class abilities like smite good and various other creature abilities that only penalize creatures of the opposing alignment.
It is a very very good offensive and defensive ability, that seems far more useful in this AP than any other (Cot might be a close second).

Ignoring DR, resistances, immunities and SR: Various powers and abilities allow players to ignore DR and resistances either on a limited basis, or permanently.
Those are some of the greatest defensive abilities demons (and frankly most high level threats) have, and frankly even if you can’t just ignore them the damage output of mythic characters is so high, that 10, 15 or even 30 points of DR or resistances provide a significant obstacle.
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Enemies are not prepared

One of the disadvantages of published adventures is, that either due to limited word count (and/or the authors sanity) it is impossible to provide answers for every possible scenario or player tactic.

Demons have a very broad set of abilities, but some or all of them can be countered by prepared players. This is a good thing.

However since mythic spellcasters can access their entire spell list quite easily, the players can still benefit from good preparation, without actually preparing (preparing the right spells, buying the right magic item) and can respond to challenges with the perfect answer.

Using mythic spellcasting, players can access very efficient long term buffs (mythic mage armor, mythic heroism, mythic magic vestment) and devastating combat spells.

Other mythic choices allow characters to increase their strengths or reduce their weaknesses, but few allow devastating combinations like class mimic.

What I am saying, is that the various slight power increases tend to combine and multiply, this is hardly limited to mythic play, but the players have a lot more options.
The enemies, quite often don’t have the same advantages.

Most of the time, the mythic rules tend to enhance existing abilities, or give similar thematic powers, there aren’t usually a lot of ways to adapt the enemies.

It is reasonable to expect GMs to adapt the NPC tactics to the realities of battle, but that rarely gives them more options.

Fortunately Mythic Adventures provides us with a number of additional templates, to solve these problems. While this puts more strain on the GM, I think it could be a worthwhile idea to provide the GM with some options like: “At the start of the encounter, the Storm King can get the benefit two of the following templates : agile, arcane, invincible ;alternatively, instead of a template the Storm King, is subject to a mythic contingency, that releases an intensified detonate that deals 15d8 electricity damage”

Abilities like limited wish, give the GM a way to adapt the opponents on the fly, and while giving everyone limited wish seems unrealistic, something like “the creature can cast up two 3 ranger spells per day, usually the following spells” could be an option. Again, I love templates, but it can add more work for the GM, but since many GMs will “have” to do this anyway, suggestions are appreciated.

TLDR:Players have access to a diverse number of options, enemies don’t.

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Player damage output

Players can deal a lot of damage, and their ability to deal damage soon outstrips their ability to survive it.

This poses two distinct problems:

-Enemies tend to die very very quickly, and that tends to be a bit anticlimactic, remember that a round takes 6 seconds.
Damage reduction and resistances don’t seem to be very effective at reducing incoming damage/ increasing effective health, miss chances ( mirror image, blur, displacement), concealment (various spells and effects) and cover seem much more effective, but were used quite rarely in the AP.
Enemies could use more hitpoints (about 200 % or 300 % more) and/or DR/-, miss chances and concealment. Mythic adventures includes a the mythic ability fortification (50 % chance to ignore a critical hit or sneak attack) and while it is used only on a select few opponents, I think it is one of the few effective defensive abilities available (block attacks from the invincible template is also quite interesting) .

I think, that as far as mythic play is concerned, Table 6-8 Monster Statistics by CR does not provide the monsters with enough hit points. A melee character with mythic power attack can deal substantially more damage, especially if she is crit based.

Possible solutions include the ability to redirect attacks, like the excellent

Deadly Dodge wrote:


Deadly Dodge (Ex)
As a swift action, you can expend one use of mythic power to gain a +4 dodge bonus to your AC until the start of your next turn. During this time, whenever a creature misses on a melee attack against you, it provokes an attack of opportunity from you. You can choose to either take this attack of opportunity or force that creature to reroll the attack and change the target to a creature of your choice that is adjacent to you and within the attacker's reach. This reroll uses the same modifiers as the initial attack roll.

or the

Mirroring Belt wrote:

Mirroring Belt

Price 36,000 gp; Slot belt; CL 6th; Weight 2 lbs.; Aura moderate illusion
DESCRIPTION
This broad belt is constructed of steel plates polished to a gleaming finish. The belt grants its wearer a +2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity.
Treat this as a temporary ability bonus for the first 24 hours the belt is worn.
Three times per day, the wearer can use mirror image to bring forth illusory duplicates that persist for 6 minutes or until destroyed. These function as normal images from that spell, except any ranged attack (including ranged touch spells) that strikes and destroys an image rebounds onto the attacker, using the attacker's original result to determine whether the attack hits.
If the wearer expends one use of mythic power to activate the belt, the mirror images replenish when the wearer is hit.
This functions as above, except each time an attack hits the wearer instead of an image, the belt creates a new image, up to the spell's limit of eight images. Unlike mirror image, the effect doesn't end when the images are gone. If there are no more images, the belt continues to create new images for the effect's full duration.

but those two can quite easily kill player characters.

Increasing the number of enemies and increasing the hit points of important enemies should provide the players with a suitable challenge and satisfying experience.

- Players can kill other players

The ability to redirect, attacks is quite rare, but confused or dominated players can pose a serious danger to their own group, and while there are quite a number of ways to increase AC, increasing your hit points is surprisingly ineffective.
This usually affects melee characters or if you are really unlucky archers, but spellcasters are far from save. With access to mythic spells, and abilities like channel power, spell turning can be instant death for the caster.

Mythic Adventures includes abilities, that allow a healer to heal a dead creature back to life and I suspect that this is one of the reasons for the inclusion ofdeathless, particularly in the mythic version.
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Players don’t run out of class abilities

Once recuperation becomes available, it is quite unlikely that players will run out of limited class abilities (spells, rage, bardic music, arcane pool) this makes attrition tactics - a long string of attacks/challenges - far less effective, and I would argue that encounters have to be challenging enough to force the players to spend mythic points.

Mythic power quickly becomes the most valuable resource, since it can be used for recuperation, spellcasting (including giving access to spellcasting via mortal herald), extra actions, activating mythic feats….

While there are some ways to refill your mythic power ambrosia is quite cheap in the grand scale of things.

This fact puts quite a bit of strain on the adventure design, since encounters/challenges, have to be so frequent/challenging that the group has to expend suitable resources, but not so frequent that the PCs get overpowered.

For my 2 cents, if the players are smart and use buffs efficiently, encounters will be over quicker and they won’t be forced to spend mythic power in combat to reverse/prevent negative effects.

As written the AP gives the players quite a bit of freedom, and while the a time limit is heavily implied (even in part 5, that is plenty of time) the PCs should have the ability to retreat after a short number of encounters.
However adventure design can only do so much here, outside of trapping the players in a teleportation proof labyrinth, players have a number of ways to evade or postpone challenges.

Maybe this is more of a feature than a bug, but it requires quite challenging encounters, you won’t be able to impress the players with lots of encounters.

TLDR Mythic adventure design is even harder than regular adventure design, and while some of the encounters and challenges might be a bit easy, it is a good first try.

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Enemies only react in a limited fashion

Obviously the players won’t become publish enemy number one at the start of the first adventure, but considering their actions on the first and second adventures, they should be a known threat to the demon army.

Since the demons are a pretty chaotic lot, it seems reasonable (and the adventure depends on this fact) that they won’t make a coordinated attempt to kill or corrupt the player characters.
What worries me, is that the monsters don’t seem to be willing or able to scout and change their tactics based on observed facts.

Again this might be due to the limited word count, but I feel that GMs should modify the enemies to respond to the players, if news reaches them, that they favor various tactics.
And of course sometimes the enemies act just plain stupid (Baphomet), some of these enemies are very intelligent, and I think their tactics should reflect that.
If a creature has wings and ranged offensive capabilities, there is little reason for it to fly too close to the party of greatsword wielding paladins.

To reiterate my previous point, giving the enemies some options (various templates chosen by the GM, limited wish, simple arcane/divine spellcasting) should allow them to adapt. And another crucial point, GMs should be willing to incorporate material from all sources that the players have access to. Paizo tends to use spells from the core rulebook, and in some cases adding spells from other sources (like APG spells for a ranger NPC) can make them far more effective.

Of course at this point the GM has to find a good sweet spot, between rewarding the players from being good at the game (some GMs forget that fact) and providing a sufficient and rewarding challenge.
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Conclusion

With current rules let’s say CRG, APG, UM and MA, characters with the ability to spend resources (everyone other than fighter and rogue) have a distinct advantage.

The mythic rules allow characters the break rules in small ways (like feats but with greater effect), and while this gives characters unprecedented freedom to build their characters, it makes it very tough to write adventures.
GMs have to be willing to adapt, the adventure to their group.

Mythic characters are usually very good at overcoming straightforward combat encounters, so adding a number of nonstandard challenges and customized encounters should provide an acceptable challenge.

Always remember, that the assumption for adventure paths are based on 15 pts. point buy, 4 characters, purchase limit based on city size, wealth per level guidelines (including the suggested values for weapons, armors and one shot items), proper use of knowledge skills to determine enemy weaknesses…..

Pretty much everyone, doesn’t rigidly enforce each and every rule in Pathfinder, so you should always feel confident to make any changes, that you think, make the experience better for your group.

It is highly unlikely that James Jacobs, will come to your home game and shout at you for doing it wrong (highly unlikely, yeah never underestimate a bloody T-Rex)

I hope that once they have a moment, the designers will take a second look at the mythic rules to make some of the abilities a bit more reasonable (like

titans bane:
itan's Bane (Ex)
You can move through the space of any creature two or more size categories larger than you without provoking attacks of opportunity, and you can share such a creature's space. When sharing a larger opponent's space, you gain cover against all melee and ranged attacks made by the creature, and it is considered flat-footed for the purposes of any melee or ranged attacks you make against it.
.

Surprisingly effective for small rogues or ninjas.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This was very comprehensive. Thank you. :) I'll try to add my own thoughts on the matter, but that will have to wait until after work, so this evening at the soonest.

One thing I'll add now: As you said, attrition tactics are more difficult now. What's even more frustrating is that even trying to still implement them will probably grind your campaign to a halt. I am already frustrated with how long module two is taking, due to the mass of encounters in Citadel Drezen. So, yeah, attrition tactics work even less with mythic play and are more annoying for everyone involved.


As a fun fact, in this campaign being neutral aligned (LN, N, CN) is actually incredibly powerful!

It dodges all the smites and anti good spells, and is a very funny flavor to me. The most dangerous enemy of evil is neutral, not good

Silver Crusade

magnuskn wrote:

This was very comprehensive. Thank you. :) I'll try to add my own thoughts on the matter, but that will have to wait until after work, so this evening at the soonest.

One thing I'll add now: As you said, attrition tactics are more difficult now. What's even more frustrating is that even trying to still implement them will probably grind your campaign to a halt. I am already frustrated with how long module two is taking, due to the mass of encounters in Citadel Drezen. So, yeah, attrition tactics work even less with mythic play and are more annoying for everyone involved.

Thank you, it is based on your and a huge number of other posts, but it still took hours^^

CWheezy wrote:

As a fun fact, in this campaign being neutral aligned (LN, N, CN) is actually incredibly powerful!

It dodges all the smites and anti good spells, and is a very funny flavor to me. The most dangerous enemy of evil is neutral, not good

I agree, which is one of the reasons why I rate Beyond Mortality so hightly, but this means, that you side can't use holy wordand similar spells without endangering you. Some magic items might react badly to non-good users.

But yea, one of the reasons why I demanded all my players to create good characters.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

After reading this again, I come to the conclusion that I cannot add that much to it. It's really that comprehensive. :)

Oh, there is one thing: As I did for the finale of my Carrion Crown campaign, maybe other GM's can crib a bit from MMO design and introduce non-standard encounter mechanics which are necessary to kill a boss enemy. I.e. that enemy is only susceptible to X type of damage in his sanctum and even then only takes Y amount of damage per round. Or have the boss have multiple forms, which are unlocked when he takes a certain amount of damage or other types of conditions are met.

Of course that would mean rewriting extensively, which many of GM's who run AP's would like to avoid in the first place. ^^

Second Seekers (Luwazi Elsbo)

Starfinder Superscriber

FWIW, there is literally NO downside to Beyond Morality. You always count as whichever alignment is most favorable to you, so holy word, blasphemy, etc, never affect you.


Actually, in all probability not true. Beyond Morality doesn't help you count as any alignment you might need to have to be able to use certain magic items, feats, or the like, that only goes for what comes of effects or spells. You could not count the bonuses from Sacred summons at all, for example. Certainly, a previously good cleric could summon fiends, but no creatures summoned would require a Std action casting time, because only creatures with alignment subtypes that exactly match the cleric's alignment get that effect. The way I read it, anyway.

Silver Crusade

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magnuskn wrote:

After reading this again, I come to the conclusion that I cannot add that much to it. It's really that comprehensive. :)

Oh, there is one thing: As I did for the finale of my Carrion Crown campaign, maybe other GM's can crib a bit from MMO design and introduce non-standard encounter mechanics which are necessary to kill a boss enemy. I.e. that enemy is only susceptible to X type of damage in his sanctum and even then only takes Y amount of damage per round. Or have the boss have multiple forms, which are unlocked when he takes a certain amount of damage or other types of conditions are met.

Of course that would mean rewriting extensively, which many of GM's who run AP's would like to avoid in the first place. ^^

Yeah, I may add a little bit more later, but I fear, that this talk about the published adventures will bleed over in the general area of GM advice.

Adding nonstandard tactics on the fly is a GM skill I am trying to hone myself. I got the idea from the complete Kobold guide to game design (A book I can, and have suggested to everybody My review ), trying to say Yes (rather than No) when my players want to attempt something outside the options outlined in the adventure. It doesn’t always work, but my players tend to find it quite rewarding.

Scripted boss battles like the ones world of warcraft uses, can be rewarding and entertaining, but the players will need some ways to learn these mechanics (knowledge skills seem like the way to go).

For example here is a version of the fight against the Storm King:

As written in the adventure, but when the players come outside to confront him, they seem him killing one of this subordinates (a demon that is covered in glowing runes)by touching him his bare hands (looks like lightning grasp) seconds later, he explodes in a shower of spark and guts (as detonate reflex DC 25, 20d8 electricity damage).
Damage from this ability doesn’t just heal him, but gives him temporary hit points equal to the damage dealt.

Throughout the fight whenever his hit points fall below 50% he calls for new minions and becomes protected by a powerful mythic sanctuary effect (DC 30). 2d6 CR 10-15 demons (marked with the same glowing runes) fly up from the nearby rift and try to come close enough to the Storm King to detonate them.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------

MMO design these days likes to play with stacks and debuffs and you could use the same tactic here:

Enemies hit by the Storm Kings melee attacks and electricity based spells must succeed at a fortitude save (DC 27) or receive a static charge. Creatures with 1-5 static charges, suffer a -2 penalty on all saving throws against lightning effects, creatures with more than 5 charges receive double damage from electricity.
Static charges remain for up to 1 minute, or until the target fail against a saving throw against an electricity based attack. Receiving further charges resets the duration.

And of course something to discourage attacks from extreme range:

The Storm King is surrounded by a permanent cloak of winds, as a full round action he can strengthen this effect so the penalty on ranged attack rolls doubles and the creatures up to large size have to succeed at at fortitude save (DC 25) to touch or attack him in melee.
This increased effect lasts for 3 rounds.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------

There is certainly room for combats like these, but even in this case I would give him 50% fortification and a lot more hit points (but remove the vorpal blade).

Silver Crusade

Sissyl wrote:
Actually, in all probability not true. Beyond Morality doesn't help you count as any alignment you might need to have to be able to use certain magic items, feats, or the like, that only goes for what comes of effects or spells. You could not count the bonuses from Sacred summons at all, for example. Certainly, a previously good cleric could summon fiends, but no creatures summoned would require a Std action casting time, because only creatures with alignment subtypes that exactly match the cleric's alignment get that effect. The way I read it, anyway.

Most of the magic items only penalize users of the opposite alignment, so a character could dual wield a +1 holy axiomatic sword and a +1 unholy anarchic dagger.

It might very well prevent you from taking feats that require you to be a certain alignment, since the ability only mentions access to classes.

Beyond Mortality is certainly very good (even if James Jacobs doesn’t like it, since it removes alignment entirely) but the low templar prestige class has access to a similar ability.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Good ideas on the MMO mechanics. :)

Liberty's Edge

I've used the multiple forms idea a few times in game (taking a cue from the massive number of JRPGs I have played), though for published adventures I instead grant max HP to all 'boss encounters.' With max HP the enemies remain standing for longer and that makes for a more memorable encounter. I ran a game once that ended with a vrock as the final boss fight, I gave him the ability to cast his at-will SLAs as a swift action. The increased action economy made him a very tough opponent, though its not much different than granting haste to an opponent.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Max HP so far have never done much to make the final fight last much longer than an additional round. And that's over the usual two rounds those kind of fights normally take. IMO you need to put something into the encounter design for such fights that makes it impossible for the party to just beat down the HP of a boss (or multiple ones) and win the fight.


My hope, and this is wishful thinking, is that an AP will be presented either with advanced players in mind either with the core design or at least a presentation of alternate tactics/rebuild suggestions. I believe alternate statblocks are asking for too much.

My thought here is that Paizo has been experimental in theme and design, so I don't know that an "advanced" AP would be completely out of the question. I realize, from the designer perspective, they are aiming to paint with the broadest brush but I believe there's probably enough for a market out there for an advanced type AP. GMs, like those in this and other threads, can scale up encounters, I believe you could as easily scale down encounters if you ran and advanced AP and your group was having a hard go of it but really liked the story.

I like the MMO type suggestion but it is a slippery slope as most MMO content at that level has a model where success is achieved through multiple attempts. Table top campaigns don't have that luxury of having multiple wipes per an encounter, so you have to be real careful with the scripted mechanics.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Have you tried Reign of Winter, and played it using the environmental rules all the way through? Thus negating the ability to charge (unless using buffs), reducing movement, and having a higher tendency toward TPKs and the like?


B0sh1 wrote:
My hope, and this is wishful thinking, is that an AP will be presented either with advanced players in mind either with the core design or at least a presentation of alternate tactics/rebuild suggestions.

I just asked James Jacobs a question along the lines of the first in his Q&A thread, and the answer would seem to indicate that no, there won't be an AP for "advanced" players.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Alleran wrote:
B0sh1 wrote:
My hope, and this is wishful thinking, is that an AP will be presented either with advanced players in mind either with the core design or at least a presentation of alternate tactics/rebuild suggestions.
I just asked James Jacobs a question along the lines of the first in his Q&A thread, and the answer would seem to indicate that no, there won't be an AP for "advanced" players.

Mostly because we prefer to aim for a midline for our products so that they're equally usable by as many folks as possible. Skewing too far from that midline risks that.

I still maintain that players looking for a challenge should build their characters using 10 point buy, minimum starting ability of 10 though! ;-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Nah. If they want a challenge, they should use a 0-point buy with a minimum starting ability of 10.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Alleran wrote:
B0sh1 wrote:
My hope, and this is wishful thinking, is that an AP will be presented either with advanced players in mind either with the core design or at least a presentation of alternate tactics/rebuild suggestions.
I just asked James Jacobs a question along the lines of the first in his Q&A thread, and the answer would seem to indicate that no, there won't be an AP for "advanced" players.

What is an advanced player anyway?

-Skeld


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think "experienced player" would be the better denomination. And I still disagree with James about the power level of Paizo's "baseline" after about level ten on matters of much practical experience.

Seriously, I wonder how the games at the Paizo office go when they reach this level. I'm kinda guessing that they don't play their own AP's (because if you know the plot already, what's the point?), so they homebrew it. Do standard CR encounters like we have in the AP's work at all there or do they need to spice it up considerably, like most of us here have to do?


I agree that "experienced" is probably the better term (one of the reasons why I used quotation marks for "advanced"). As far as WotR specifically is concerned, I'd just note that I think mythic is damaging even the assumed baseline as a result of the power differential it brings to the table.

Tangent101 wrote:
Nah. If they want a challenge, they should use a 0-point buy with a minimum starting ability of 10.

Peri-blooded aasimar with +2 INT replacement for the Daylight SLA would get a +4 INT, and starting at old age is another +2 to mental stats (you won't need STR, DEX is manageable with items/spells, and CON will survive if you take Toughness and avoid getting hit too much). That might work for a decent wizard character. [/completelymissingthepoint]

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Alleran wrote:

I agree that "experienced" is probably the better term (one of the reasons why I used quotation marks for "advanced"). As far as WotR specifically is concerned, I'd just note that I think mythic is damaging even the assumed baseline as a result of the power differential it brings to the table.

Tangent101 wrote:
Nah. If they want a challenge, they should use a 0-point buy with a minimum starting ability of 10.
Peri-blooded aasimar with +2 INT replacement for the Daylight SLA would get a +4 INT, and starting at old age is another +2 to mental stats (you won't need STR, DEX is manageable with items/spells, and CON will survive if you take Toughness and avoid getting hit too much). That might work for a decent wizard character. [/completelymissingthepoint]

So, "advanced" = "experienced." What does an AP for experienced players look like? Is that a proxy for saying "I want an AP that's harder than previous APs have been?" If so, that's easy! Run WotR is mythic foes and non-Mythic PCs.

-Skeld


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Let's see, an AP for experienced players should probably

a.) not have so damned many single opponent encounters.
b.) have less trash mobs (in MMO terms) which only eat up playtime but cannot meaningfully harm the PC's.
c.) generally assume that the current CR system doesn't work at all after around level 13.

Also, future AP's are in their vast majority not going to be mythic, so your point here is kinda wasted, Skeld.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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magnuskn wrote:

I think "experienced player" would be the better denomination. And I still disagree with James about the power level of Paizo's "baseline" after about level ten on matters of much practical experience.

Seriously, I wonder how the games at the Paizo office go when they reach this level. I'm kinda guessing that they don't play their own AP's (because if you know the plot already, what's the point?), so they homebrew it. Do standard CR encounters like we have in the AP's work at all there or do they need to spice it up considerably, like most of us here have to do?

They go quite well.

I'm running one game now that has players who are level 15/tier 1, and they rolled their stats (which means that their stats are well above the standard 15 point buy), and the game is VERY fun. It's consistently challenging to the players, and they come out of each session feeling like they survived due to a combination of their skill and some luck and don't feel like they're dominating the game. And from my side of things as GM, I agree. There's been quite a few combats that would have ended poorly but for the use of clutch tactics, sacrifices, the use of hero points, and plain old blind luck.

I'm currently playing in Skull & Shackles, so that guess is wrong too.

And yes, all GMs, myself included, "spice things up" occasionally because no one group is the perfect group for any published adventure. It's part of what being a GM requires.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, then I don't have an idea where the disconnect lies. I am certainly not going to argue that my guys are more experienced than the game designers themselves. But so far every AP I've played at that level has fallen apart when it came to "encounters as written", to the point where sometimes only a combination of four to five of the "assumed encounters" would even make for a decent fight. Of the three AP's I've run, the only final boss encounter which managed to not be a curbstomp was the one where I exchanged the final boss' class and introduced some definitely MMO-flavored elements of the boss going through three forms before finally succumbing.

Any, yeah, I adjust constantly for my group being larger than average with five, now six players.

Ah, well. Next campaign is going to be homebrewn, anyway. AP's have helped me a ton to understand better story and encounter structure (both by their good and bad features), so I hope to make it interesting at all levels. ^^

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:

Let's see, an AP for experienced players should probably

a.) not have so damned many single opponent encounters.
b.) have less trash mobs (in MMO terms) which only eat up playtime but cannot meaningfully harm the PC's.
c.) generally assume that the current CR system doesn't work at all after around level 13.

Also, future AP's are in their vast majority not going to be mythic, so your point here is kinda wasted, Skeld.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on your first point.

As to my previous point being wasted, this thread is in the WotR forum. :D

-Skeld

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:

Well, then I don't have an idea where the disconnect lies. I am certainly not going to argue that my guys are more experienced than the game designers themselves. But so far every AP I've played at that level has fallen apart when it came to "encounters as written", to the point where sometimes only a combination of four to five of the "assumed encounters" would even make for a decent fight. Of the three AP's I've run, the only final boss encounter which managed to not be a curbstomp was the one where I exchanged the final boss' class and introduced some definitely MMO-flavored elements of the boss going through three forms before finally succumbing.

Any, yeah, I adjust constantly for my group being larger than average with five, now six players.

Ah, well. Next campaign is going to be homebrewn, anyway. AP's have helped me a ton to understand better story and encounter structure (both by their good and bad features), so I hope to make it interesting at all levels. ^^

My experience is relatively close to James'. My players usually walk out of a session feeling like triumphant survivors. There are sometimes encounters that they steamroll, but more often than not someone is using Hero Points to keep from dying.

Like you, I have 6 players, all of whom are experienced (everyone has been playing 3e/PF since 3e rolled out and a couple of us are a year away from reaching our "30th anniversary" of roleplaying). One area in which our experiences may differ is that no one in my group is what I would call a heavy optimizer. In fact, number-crunching is a distant second place to flavor concepts for my group.

-Skeld


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Skeld wrote:
As to my previous point being wasted, this thread is in the WotR forum. :D

Well, the discussion had rather moved to general high-level AP problems.

Skeld wrote:
Like you, I have 6 players, all of whom are experienced (everyone has been playing 3e/PF since 3e rolled out and a couple of us are a year away from reaching our "30th anniversary" of roleplaying). One area in which our experiences may differ is that no one in my group is what I would call a heavy optimizer. In fact, number-crunching is a distant second place to flavor concepts for my group.

I wouldn't call any of my players "heavy optimizers". They generally can be counted on to build effective characters, but nothing even near the min-max stuff you see on the advice boards. Well, except one guy, but I've been chastising him over that for years and he has gotten better under much group pressure. :p

What they do know is that certain tactics are very effective. Dispelling buffs, self-buffing, action denial, flanking, tripping. So pretty basic things of the game. Oh, yeah, and archers. I really don't know what Paizo thought when they elevated that combat style to the best one of the martial styles in the game. ^^

Silver Crusade

magnuskn wrote:

Let's see, an AP for experienced players should probably

a.) not have so damned many single opponent encounters.
b.) have less trash mobs (in MMO terms) which only eat up playtime but cannot meaningfully harm the PC's.
c.) generally assume that the current CR system doesn't work at all after around level 13.

Also, future AP's are in their vast majority not going to be mythic, so your point here is kinda wasted, Skeld.

I have to agree wholeheartedly, especially considering b. inexperienced players might be tricked to invest resources into trash groups, but they learn very quickly. So they are only a waste of time, and occasionally allow the PCs to feel very powerful (but I prefer a challenging encounter that consists of a lot of enemies).

James Jacobs wrote:
Alleran wrote:
B0sh1 wrote:
My hope, and this is wishful thinking, is that an AP will be presented either with advanced players in mind either with the core design or at least a presentation of alternate tactics/rebuild suggestions.
I just asked James Jacobs a question along the lines of the first in his Q&A thread, and the answer would seem to indicate that no, there won't be an AP for "advanced" players.

Mostly because we prefer to aim for a midline for our products so that they're equally usable by as many folks as possible. Skewing too far from that midline risks that.

I still maintain that players looking for a challenge should build their characters using 10 point buy, minimum starting ability of 10 though! ;-)

I just moved my entire RPG collection into a new bookshelf (Expedit from Ikea if anyone seeks a nice one) and while looking through a stack of adventures, I noticed that the premade characters (at the end of the older adventures) are sometimes quite unoptimized.

Is that the baseline ?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Sebastian Hirsch wrote:

I just moved my entire RPG collection into a new bookshelf (Expedit from Ikea if anyone seeks a nice one) and while looking through a stack of adventures, I noticed that the premade characters (at the end of the older adventures) are sometimes quite unoptimized.

Is that the baseline ?

I wouldn't say it's necessarily the baseline... but it's certainly close.

There are a LOT of ways to optimize characters, and like it or not, those ways change every single time we publish a new book. It's a constantly moving goal post, and it's something that takes a lot of time and skill and practice to master. It's a simple fact that there are plenty more folks out there in the world who are better at optimizing specific characters for specific roles than anyone else, Paizo employees included.

Thus... it'd be a constant losing battle for us to take a stance of trying to present an optimized character.

Not only would it be an unspoken challenge to the world to "try to do better than the employees at Paizo!" but it would swiftly be outdated once we published a new option. It's not a game we at Paizo are interested in playing, in other words.

The "baseline" is, more or less, a 15 point character built with as many core options as possible, with a goal of being good at the core strength of the class while having variety and breadth and not deliberately hyper-specializing in any one area. But even that is assigning more of a process to it.

Put another way... we at Paizo are more invested in presenting tools for you to use in your game, be they monsters or character building options or settings or adventures or whatever. One area we're specifically NOT all that interested in going into is the area of building characters for you. We'll do it, as we have for pre-generated characters in adventures or PFS before... but it's not a core goal.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:
I wouldn't call any of my players "heavy optimizers". They generally can be counted on to build effective characters, but nothing even near the min-max stuff you see on the advice boards.

Heh. I didn't mean to imply your players were heavy optimizers, just that mine aren't. :D

My players are good players, but they don't always stick to good tactics. I generally try to keep the combats moving and I don't allow for much time from one player to the next. Cutting down on the amount of time they can sit and argue and debate who should do what also disrupts their tactics.

I think this is one of those things where, if I could sit down and watch your group play (or vice versa), we would see where the differences are.

-Skeld


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'll add my two cents as well.

This is the first AP that I have run but me and my group are experienced gamers. By the middle to end of book two I was having to increase the enemies power.
Now we're fully in book 3 and I am having to add templates, character levels and maximize hit points in order for combat to be fun and challenging. Unfortunately I haven't run an AP at high levels before so I cannot compare this experience to others.
I have severe doubts about challenging them without serious work in future books which is disappointing.
I would consider my group to be closer to the norm as well. They do not practice good tactics but know enough to buff, debuff and not take too many throw away feats.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I'd like to input a thought from the other side of the scale: player perceptions.

For instance, as the GM of two campaigns I often feel that the encounters are not powerful enough and that I'm not challenging my players. They beg to differ.

I've crafted encounters that I want to be a little bit of a threat and end up nearly killing two characters (the ice elementals in RoW: SoS - adding a third elemental and making them medium elementals instead of small for a six-party group of 3rd and 4th level). I've taken other encounters and didn't do much to the group (Xanesha on the Clock Tower - after being increased several Sorcerer levels and 3 Tiers of Mythic). Yet that latter fight stood out for the players and had them convinced they needed their high stats (I asked if they'd be willing to drop down to 25-point builds).

Ultimately, what matters is not what the GM thinks. It's what the players think. If the GM barely hurts the characters and only eats up a portion of their resources but the players are wide-eyed and sure they're barely hanging on... then you've done your job as a GM and successfully at that.

And really, isn't it the enjoyment of the players what we're after? If the players feel challenged and are having a good time then does it matter that we, as GMs, are concerned because monsters drop after two rounds of combat? Don't forget, encounters are more than armor class and hit points. They are cunning and sneakiness and attacking from an unanticipated direction. The weakest of foes can prove an overwhelming foe if used effectively (ie, Tucker's Kobalds). Ultimately, GMs should use tactics and brains to challenge players they feel are overpowered. The players will enjoy every success, even if none of their characters are directly threatened with death.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Tangent101 has a VERY good point.

As a GM, it's easy to lose track of what the players actually perceive as "tough and challenging."

Sovereign Court

I'm really following these threads closely as someone with a similar experience with magnuskn (i.e. 6 experienced players, 20 pt buy, pretty much any paizo source open to use) I have to say that the core assuption just does not address this playstyle and mythic is going to make it much more work intensive for me. But I'm used to that. If anything groups like mine need to adopt the Pathfinder Society 6 player assumption and the new "hard mode" scenarios that started showing up in season 4. That might actually be a nice blog article to see... maybe I'll shoot that past John Compton?

Having run the later half of a planar focused Savage Tide (Tides of Dread to beyond Prince of Demons, Level 10 to 23) this AP is going to be our Pathfinder rehash of STAP with the same core characters. In fact WotR really hits very similar notes and themes from STAP (The Lightless Depths eerily mirrors The Worldwound Incursions underground sequences). Even my continuing the campaign villain was Obox-Ob (bug-like demon/obryth lord) that took them into Epic level play.

So like many of you, my AP experiences (STAP, Carrion Crown, and currently Skull & Shackles) require me to beef up bosses, combine single encounters, heavily use the simple template, max hit points, add +50% minions, and use smart tactics just to challenge my group. I assume 5-6 encounters per day half of which are minimum APL+1. Even then I have a hard time getting my players to burn resources each encounter. I'm sure they could push to 7-8 encounters without needing to rest. I'm not usually a "killer GM" but I may just have to put that cap on to try and make this AP sing.

--Vrocket Launcher Tag


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

@Skeld: I maintain a thread where I post my impressions of how combats went each week in my campaign. It's not a proper campaign journal, but you can see a bit what tactics my guys prefer and how I stat out encounters. You can find it here.

@Tangent: What you are describing so far are low-level encounters. Even Xanesha happens at level 7 and she is considered one of the most terrifying encounter Paizo ever built. I think few people complain about the stuff which happens at levels 1-9, we are talking about the encounter design for the high levels, which quite a few of us feel is off from the PC power levels which we really have to deal with.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I find the easiest way to deal with balance issues in APs is to go the no-XP route, and also to ignore the recommended level-up points. Just level up the party when they start to struggle, and suddenly the entire AP becomes a near-perfectly-balanced challenge no matter how good or bad the party is.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

As I said, my Skype group is one level higher and have rolled stats which are quite high (equivalent to 40+ points - two players rolled well and the player who didn't... well, I upped her stats to compensate so she could survive (basically took what would be a 25-point build with two starting below-10 stats and made it a 40-point build, and she STILL has lower stats than the other two players who she started with). So I see parallels between this group and Wrath of the Righteous groups. (Especially now that I've given them one Mythic Tier. To be honest, they won't be getting a lot of Mythic Tiers, but it still made a bit of a difference.)


I do wonder what Paizo's baseline expectation of the player characters is when they write APs. Perhaps the community would be well-served if the expectations are stated in the APs themselves, so we can have some guidance going in. I would love to know what is appropriate, both as a GM and as a player, so I can either adjust my PC to not overpower the content or know whether or not to expect my players to overpower the content.

James, you say that Paizo aims for the midline. I think the problem is that we don't actually know what the midline is, so we are unable to see the problems which spawn from PCs being outside the midline coming.

What does "as many core options as possible, with a goal of being good at the core strength of the class while having variety and breadth and not deliberately hyper-specializing in any one area" actually mean, in character-building terms? How can I know whether my character is too far outside of that guideline? Which classes are included in that guideline? Which classes are too far outside of it? Does the baseline assume crafting magic items? What about wealth expectations? Which feats, spells, magic items, archetypes, etc fall within Paizo's baseline?

How can I look at my players' sheets and know whether their characters are too far outside? How can I know whether my own PC is too far outside?

If we as GMs and players knew the answers to these sorts of questions before we form our groups and build our characters, we'd save ourselves a lot of headaches.

-Matt


Mattastrophic wrote:

I do wonder what Paizo's baseline expectation of the player characters is when they write APs. Perhaps the community would be served if the expectations are stated in the APs themselves, so we can have some guidance going in. I would love to know what is appropriate, both as a GM and as a player, so I can either adjust my PC to not overpower the content or know whether or not to expect my players to overpower the content.

James, you say that Paizo aims for the midline. I think the problem is that we don't actually know what the midline is, so we are unable to see problems coming.

-Matt

My own guess at the midline is "the average player, the type that grabs a book off the shelf and doesn't visit forums" ;)

Slightly more helpfully, it's likely the type of character build that would be suggested in the upcoming Pathfinder Strategy Guide, which has been said to be characters that aren't optimized but are generally built to not suck and to take fairly relevant options.


Mattastrophic wrote:

I do wonder what Paizo's baseline expectation of the player characters is when they write APs. Perhaps the community would be well-served if the expectations are stated in the APs themselves, so we can have some guidance going in. I would love to know what is appropriate, both as a GM and as a player, so I can either adjust my PC to not overpower the content or know whether or not to expect my players to overpower the content.

James, you say that Paizo aims for the midline. I think the problem is that we don't actually know what the midline is, so we are unable to see the problems which spawn from PCs being outside the midline coming.

What does "as many core options as possible, with a goal of being good at the core strength of the class while having variety and breadth and not deliberately hyper-specializing in any one area" actually mean, in character-building terms? How can I know whether my character is too far outside of that guideline? How can I look at my players' sheets and know whether their characters are too far outside?

If we as GMs and players knew the answers to these sorts of questions before we form our groups and build our characters, we'd save ourselves a lot of headaches.

-Matt

Isn't the simple answer to that "Look at the iconics"?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Mattastrophic wrote:

I do wonder what Paizo's baseline expectation of the player characters is when they write APs. Perhaps the community would be served if the expectations are stated in the APs themselves, so we can have some guidance going in. I would love to know what is appropriate, both as a GM and as a player, so I can either adjust my PC to not overpower the content or know whether or not to expect my players to overpower the content.

James, you say that Paizo aims for the midline. I think the problem is that we don't actually know what the midline is, so we are unable to see the problems which spawn from PCs being outside the midline coming.

What does "as many core options as possible, with a goal of being good at the core strength of the class while having variety and breadth and not deliberately hyper-specializing in any one area" actually mean, in character-building terms? How can I know whether my character is too far outside of that guideline? How can I look at my players' sheets and know whether their characters are too far outside?

If we as GMs and players knew the answers to these sorts of questions before we form our groups and build our characters, we'd save ourselves a lot of headaches.

-Matt

Midline is: 15 point buy, 4 characters, limited or no non-core material, moderate experience on the player's part.

The higher you let characters stats be, the more characters you allow, the more you let them specialize by allowing more and more options, and the more often the group has played the game (and the more often they've played games together), the further you go from that midline.

Now, it may be that it's time for us to re-evaluate that "midline," but regardless of that... we have to pick SOMEWHERE as a baseline for an adventure. It doesn't matter if we change the "midline" to be 18 point buy, 3 characters, Core Rulebook + Ultimate Combat only, or any other combination—it's always going to need the GM to use his/her knowledge of the players he/she has at the table to make the final adjustments.

By sticking to the current midline, my hope is that we make it easier for GMs to adapt material, since when they do so once, the next time they're starting on familiar ground. Changing the midline/base assumption for adventure design would cause more confusion than we already have, I fear.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

thejeff wrote:
Mattastrophic wrote:

I do wonder what Paizo's baseline expectation of the player characters is when they write APs. Perhaps the community would be well-served if the expectations are stated in the APs themselves, so we can have some guidance going in. I would love to know what is appropriate, both as a GM and as a player, so I can either adjust my PC to not overpower the content or know whether or not to expect my players to overpower the content.

James, you say that Paizo aims for the midline. I think the problem is that we don't actually know what the midline is, so we are unable to see the problems which spawn from PCs being outside the midline coming.

What does "as many core options as possible, with a goal of being good at the core strength of the class while having variety and breadth and not deliberately hyper-specializing in any one area" actually mean, in character-building terms? How can I know whether my character is too far outside of that guideline? How can I look at my players' sheets and know whether their characters are too far outside?

If we as GMs and players knew the answers to these sorts of questions before we form our groups and build our characters, we'd save ourselves a lot of headaches.

-Matt

Isn't the simple answer to that "Look at the iconics"?

Yes. That's a much more elegant way to put it, in fact.


thejeff wrote:
Isn't the simple answer to that "Look at the iconics"?

Gah, I wish I'd thought of that now instead of rambling on about strategy guides... :)


James Jacobs wrote:

Midline is: 15 point buy, 4 characters, limited or no non-core material, moderate experience on the player's part.

The higher you let characters stats be, the more characters you allow, the more you let them specialize by allowing more and more options, and the more often the group has played the game (and the more often they've played games together), the further you go from that midline.

Now, it may be that it's time for us to re-evaluate that "midline," but regardless of that... we have to pick SOMEWHERE as a baseline for an adventure. It doesn't matter if we change the "midline" to be 18 point buy, 3 characters, Core Rulebook + Ultimate Combat only, or any other combination—it's always going to need the GM to use his/her knowledge of the players he/she has at the...

Whatever the chosen expectation for a given AP actually is, it would be a good idea for Paizo to let the buyer of the AP know what it actually is. Make the expectation explicit, and warn the buyer of the hurdles ahead if the group strays away from the expectation. Doing this will save many gamers many headaches, because we will be able to see problems coming before it becomes difficult to fix them.

On that note, saying "look at the iconics" doesn't work. Players don't replicate the iconics when they build characters, so the GM and the players would be well-served if they had clear guidelines that were more useable than "look at the iconics."

It would also be a good idea to inform the GM of an AP of what sorts of adjustments he can make if the PCs do stray from the clearly-presented baseline. Pathfinder Society adventures have sidebars within the scenarios, sidebars which show how to adjust a given encounter for four PCs; perhaps APs can give the same sort of advice.

-Matt


Mattastrophic wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Isn't the simple answer to that "Look at the iconics"?

Is telling the players of an AP to confine themselves to the Core rulebook really the answer we want to give? Does Paizo really create the APs such that using material beyond Core is a bad idea?

-Matt

I wouldn't say that there's a problem with going beyond Core material. It's not as if a Magus is more powerful than a Wizard, for example. Or a Tengu more than a Human.

It's that the level of power represented by the iconics is what they're aiming for. If your characters are more optimized than that, whether by using Core or non-Core options, you're going to have to do more adjustment to keep the same challenge.

That optimization is often done with particular combinations of feats and spells and traits and other features gleaned from multiple books, but it doesn't have to be. An optimized Core-only wizard or sorcerer can easily be made as strong as any other class, despite all their non-Core tricks.


They create the APs such that players shouldn't be at a significant disadvantage in terms of getting through them, just because they don't have rulebooks beyond the CRB.

It would be worse if APs were built such that "core-only" groups would always run into TPKs or near-TPKs :)

***

Edit: This post doesn't really make sense now, since the post I responded to was drastically changed. Oh well ;)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Mattastrophic wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Midline is: 15 point buy, 4 characters, limited or no non-core material, moderate experience on the player's part.

The higher you let characters stats be, the more characters you allow, the more you let them specialize by allowing more and more options, and the more often the group has played the game (and the more often they've played games together), the further you go from that midline.

Now, it may be that it's time for us to re-evaluate that "midline," but regardless of that... we have to pick SOMEWHERE as a baseline for an adventure. It doesn't matter if we change the "midline" to be 18 point buy, 3 characters, Core Rulebook + Ultimate Combat only, or any other combination—it's always going to need the GM to use his/her knowledge of the players he/she has at the...

Whatever the chosen expectation for a given AP actually is, it would be a good idea for Paizo to let the buyer of the AP know what it actually is. Make the expectation explicit, and warn the buyer of the hurdles ahead if the group strays away from the expectation. Doing this will save many gamers many headaches, because we will be able to see problems coming before it becomes difficult to fix them.

On that note, saying "look at the iconics" doesn't work. Players don't replicate the iconics when they build characters, so the GM and the players would be well-served if they had clear guidelines that were more useable than "look at the iconics."

-Matt

Since the warnings we would need to give each GM would vary every time... that's not really an option, I'm afraid. What you're asking for is a different product entirely—a "Guide to Running Published Adventures" or something like that. Which would be a cool product, I think... but it's not really one that fits well into our line of books at this time. And one that I doubt would be as quick to offer advice as everyone sharing their experiences here on these boards already does.

To a certain extent the entire Core Rulebook gives you these guidelines, though. They give expected wealth levels for each level, list the 15 point buy as "Standard Fantasy," and so on.


Mattastrophic wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Midline is: 15 point buy, 4 characters, limited or no non-core material, moderate experience on the player's part.

The higher you let characters stats be, the more characters you allow, the more you let them specialize by allowing more and more options, and the more often the group has played the game (and the more often they've played games together), the further you go from that midline.

Now, it may be that it's time for us to re-evaluate that "midline," but regardless of that... we have to pick SOMEWHERE as a baseline for an adventure. It doesn't matter if we change the "midline" to be 18 point buy, 3 characters, Core Rulebook + Ultimate Combat only, or any other combination—it's always going to need the GM to use his/her knowledge of the players he/she has at the...

Whatever the chosen expectation for a given AP actually is, it would be a good idea for Paizo to let the buyer of the AP know what it actually is. Make the expectation explicit, and warn the buyer of the hurdles ahead if the group strays away from the expectation. Doing this will save many gamers many headaches, because we will be able to see problems coming before it becomes difficult to fix them.

On that note, saying "look at the iconics" doesn't work. Players don't replicate the iconics when they build characters, so the GM and the players would be well-served if they had clear guidelines that were more useable than "look at the iconics."

So what are you looking for that's more useable than "Here are examples."?

It's been stated that the baseline is "!5 point buy, 4 characters." But it's certainly possible to have a wide range of optimization within that or any other mechanical limitation.
How would you want them to describe the expected level of optimization?

Edit: The sidebars would be great, but they'd come at the expense of space for the adventure, which I'm sure is a deal-breaker. Maybe fan-made side-bar encounter upgrades?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

thejeff wrote:
Mattastrophic wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Isn't the simple answer to that "Look at the iconics"?

Is telling the players of an AP to confine themselves to the Core rulebook really the answer we want to give? Does Paizo really create the APs such that using material beyond Core is a bad idea?

-Matt

I wouldn't say that there's a problem with going beyond Core material. It's not as if a Magus is more powerful than a Wizard, for example. Or a Tengu more than a Human.

It's that the level of power represented by the iconics is what they're aiming for. If your characters are more optimized than that, whether by using Core or non-Core options, you're going to have to do more adjustment to keep the same challenge.

That optimization is often done with particular combinations of feats and spells and traits and other features gleaned from multiple books, but it doesn't have to be. An optimized Core-only wizard or sorcerer can easily be made as strong as any other class, despite all their non-Core tricks.

Absolutely not.

But neither do we want to create an impression that you have to "Pay to Play" our games. If we explicitly said "We assume your players use ALL the options for ALL of our products in order to survive our adventures," that's basically the same as saying "We require all of your players to buy every book we publish." That type of stance would not work well for us.


thejeff wrote:
How would you want them to describe the expected level of optimization?

To start, from above:

-How can I know whether my character is too far outside of that guideline?
-Which classes are included in that guideline?
-Which classes are too far outside of it?
-Does the baseline assume crafting magic items?
-What about wealth expectations?
-Which feats, spells, magic items, archetypes, etc. fall within Paizo's baseline?

-How can I look at my players' sheets and know whether their characters are too far outside? What are the warning signs?
-How can I know whether my own PC is too far outside without having to replicate an iconic?

To add:

-How high of an attack bonus will cause problems?
-At what point does a characters' save DCs become problematic?
-If crafting is expected, how much of a character's wealth is expected to be devoted to crafting?
-If my play group has more than four players in it, what can I do as a GM?

The less we know about the answers to these sorts of questions going in, the more headaches we have later when we go in with the wrong expectations.

-Matt

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