So as stated I'm a new GM. Been doing if for a little over 6 months now. Played in a game for about 3 months before that. Otherwise completely new to Pathfinder, and have only played one other tabletop game before. But, I digress. My game has had a few rocky moments but it's been a blast otherwise. My players are all new except for one player who played 3.5. We are fighting Xanesha next game. I told them a couple of sessions ago that the "tutorial" mode was now off. It hasn't been bad yet. My question however is how should I change my campaign? I have anywhere between 4 and 8 players depending on who's there. It's been averaging around 6. I've added a few baddies from time to time but nothin terrible. And I've added my own encounters and got rid of leveling by XP, instead choosing to follow the guidelines the AP gives. Now with 6 to 8 PCs should I only start adding more baddies or should I maybe stop them from reaching level 18. I mean I know I will have t add enemies but I'm concerned that "tough" encounters will still be to easy. Should I maybe keep them a level or two behind the given level recommendations? I think I'm just repeating info now and this turned out to be much longer than I intended so I'm gonna quit typing now any and all advice is grealy appreciated!!!!!
You'll probably want to take a look at this post here for some ideas on what to do to modify the path. You'll find a wealth of ideas there.
I only have five players in my game, so I can't speak on specific changes I've made, but I can offer a few ideas. First of all, your best bet is to either add additional minions to a fight rather than increasing levels - part of the issue with more than the baseline of four PCs is that the action economy becomes more and more weighted in the favor of the players. If you have more baddies on your side, then that spreads their actions out, rather than focusing them all on one big bad. You may also want to temper the leveling a bit as well. If they're lower level than the book expects, that can even out their numerical advantage. I'd probably aim to keep them a level behind from where the game suggests - if that still seems too easy, then I'd begin considering two.
My group I run is also a five players and a level behind. Even at a level behind, I routinely up the challenges, and especially with boss monsters. Although Xanesha is super tough -- she should have killed them as written but I held back. But my group is super experienced at RPGs (all of us have played at least 20 years).
So in addition to what Misroi said, and I agree with all of the comment, you have to judge how effective the character builds are and how to change the encounters to keep them challenging.
My group has a super paladin smiting tank, a magus with an outrageous AC, and a sorcerer who focuses on haste and slow. So increasing monsters and adding the advanced template is required. Also spacing is essential -- keeping the monsters spread out when possible. Your group might be different. They might deal a lot of damage but be easier to hit. Or deal little damage but be hard to hit.
And expect the situation to change. At 4th level, the Magus with a 28 AC was a problem. At 12th level, his ability to continue getting a huge AC is hampered, so it's less problematic. Your balance issues at 4th level, 7th level, 13th level, and 17th level will be different.
Yes, adding some more "mooks" to the encounters and/or using the "advanced creature" template seem to be the most popular suggestions for this situation. A larger group would gain XP (and thus levels) more slowly than the four-PC group for which APs are designed - so if you've thrown XP out, you might want to keep them back a level or so.
I currently have 5 players, and while they are a bit behind on XP, I try to keep them in line with where the book wants them to be, and then I just either add the advanced template, a class level or 2, or I put in more minions to take up player actions.
As TyrKnight said things can change. My players Fighter/paladin has something like 34 AC. For a long time there was nothing I could do to him, now it is still hard, but the bad guys can work around it. The exception seems to be the party barbarian, who unless I make him make a will save is effective 100% of the time.
For my players some encounters are still very tough. The fort in book 3 didn't go well, neither did attacking the Ogre camp, and the boss of book 4 killed all but one party member, he only lost because of bleed damage.
Don't be afraid to up the CR. 4+ PCs is vastly different than 4. I have a party of 5-7 (usually 6) and even upping the CR, most encounters haven't been much more than a speed bump to them.
Feel free to add the Advanced template to everything.
Give appropriate monsters PC levels.
Add more monsters -- if the encounter calls for 4 ogres, up it to one ogre per PC + 1 (or more) and make one of them a boss ogre with 5 levels of fighter or barbarian.
Right now my party is mid-way through Chapter Three (they are 9th level, with one of those levels being either warrior or expert). They demolished the Grauls in short order (with loads of extra ogrekin and additional class levels for all the named ogrekin). I think Muck Graul lasted a single round. Black Magga was actually something of a challenge -- and I had her at full HP's and being fought from the deck of a boat and underwater. Gorger & Chaw (advanced ettin) = speed bump. 8 ogres + Malgrue + a Stone Giant on top of Skull Crossing = neatly eliminated in under five rounds. Trolls (advanced and with 2 levels of barbarian) = 4 rounds, maybe. Papa Grazuul (5 levels of barbarian and 2 mythic ranks) = six rounds and down.
So...don't be afraid to beef things up!!
Thanks guys!!! I appreciate all the advice. I've used to advanced template for a couple of main enemies this far. I am concerned a bit though because of the party make up. I have a synthesis summoner (I know it's concidered OP but it hasn't been so far. He's actually almost died a few times), a fighter, a hex crafter magus, an earth specialist wizard, a paladin, a normal summoner (this PC is role playing a summoner with an intelligence of 7. Totally not an OP PC. He's the comedy relieve. Played four games and nearly died in two), a bard (no combat help at all. He is completely focused on the out if combat situations. Luckiest PC ever though. He's survived things that should have killed even barbarians!) and your run of the mill heal bot cleric( this guy literally doesn't participate in combat either other than heals or last case scenario inflict wound spells). They are definitely NOT optimized. And the two players who are normally not there are the paladin and the wizard. Should I be as worried about steam rolling them? We've only had one death and it was honestly their fault. A few close calls but no other deaths.
First - is everyone having fun? If yes, sounds like you're doing just fine.
Second, if you had a player death and a few close calls, sounds like you're keeping the difficulty at an okay level, pending the answer to the first question.
In addition to the tips above, try to keep the NPC/monster position fluid. If you increase opponents, don't put them all in the same room but in neighboring spaces. If the room has 4 monsters and you think the right number is 8, see if the 4 new ones can be "across the hall." If you put all 8 in the room and it turns out that's too many, you're stuck. If 4 is too easy, you can have their "friends" join in to toughen things up. This also goes to make the space seem more realistic - monsters shouldn't just wait in their assigned room to be slaughtered. It also poses some new/additional tactical challenges to the group, getting attacked from behind, etc. And if the original 4 proves to be just right, you can save their nearby friends for the next encounter.
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Latrecis, I love that advice! I started that a few sessions ago. I dislike the "there are x amount of enemies here, unless x happens then they are there." Why can't they be anywhere in between? I've been tryin to make it a more living world and told this to my players too. Just because encounter A happens in room 1 doesn't stop the baddies from encounter B from hearing it across the hall in room 2. I had been sticking with where the book said the encounter should be because it felt easier. But after talking about it both my players and I agreed it didn't make any sense that the enemies heard their allies dying, but decided to do absolutely nothing.
Static enemies are the bane of a fun game; it's absolutely vital that the GM move them around. Sometimes this makes things harder - my Bruthazmus took part in the Sandpoint raid - sometimes it makes things easier - my Orik was captured by the PCs while visiting a local farm girl in the Hinterlands, and is currently guiding the PCs into Thistletop. The PCs had paid a visit to Old Megus, the witch of Brinestump Marsh (from Jade Regent backstory), to ask for advice, and in return for gifts she had told them where to find him.
I have never had a bad experience from playing NPCs dynamically, whereas I have had plenty of bad experiences as a player from GMs treating them as static objects. Think of them as real people with their own goals, and keep them in motion!