Aggression Mechanics


Homebrew and House Rules

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I'd like to get some opinions on a system I'm thinking of implementing. At first glance, you might read through this and say "Get your WoW out of my Pathfinder!" but humor me, please. The goal of this system isn't to turn tabletop RPS into video games; it's to create a simple system that encourages and rewards teamwork while simultaneously making it easier for DMs to run basic encounters.

Here we go:

Aggression Mechanics (v1.0)

Overview
Tanking is a boring, difficult, risky, and thankless job. It's also become a staple of fantasy role-playing to such a degree that more and more encounters are being designed under the assumption that every well-balanced group has one.

These modifications to the Pathfinder rules introduce a quick and easy method of tracking aggression in your game in such a way as to make encounters more dynamic, interesting, and fun.

System
Whenever a player harms or affects an enemy in any way during battle (using spells, items, skills, etc), he also marks it. A subsequent mark replaces an existing mark; monsters only ever have one mark at a time, the latest one applied. On the enemy’s turn, it will prefer to attack the player whose mark it currently bears.

On its turn, a marked enemy may attempt a Will save, DC 10 + the average level of the party. If successful, it may attack whomever it wishes. If unsuccessful, it must attempt to attack or approach the player whose mark it currently bears.

If the enemy doesn't have enough movement or any attacks within range of the player whose mark it currently has, it may attack whomever it wishes.

New Skill Applications

Bluff - "Misdirect"
As a move action, you may attempt a bluff check with a DC equal to the damage you've caused this turn. If successful, you do not mark the enemy.

Diplomacy - "Soothe"
As a move action, you may attempt a diplomacy check with a DC equal to 10 + the enemy's CR. If successful, you may remove another player’s mark from the enemy.

Intimidate - "Challenge"
As a move action, you may attempt an intimidate check with a DC equal to 10 + the enemy's CR. If successful, you mark the enemy. This mark has a value equal to 10 + your level.

New Feats

Witty
Prerequisite: Diplomacy 1 rank
Once per round, as a swift action, you may attempt to soothe an enemy.

Sly
Prerequisite: Bluff 1 rank
Once per round, as a swift action, you may attempt to misdirect an enemy.

Stern
Prerequisite: Intimidate 1 rank
Once per round, as a swift action, you may attempt to challenge an enemy.

Imposing
Prerequisite: Intimidate 3 ranks
Once per round, as a move action, you may attempt to challenge all enemies within 30 feet.

Subtle
Prerequisite: Bluff 3 ranks
The difficulty for your misdirect actions is equal to half the damage you cause.

Convincing
Prerequisite: Diplomacy 3 ranks
Once per round, as a move action, you may attempt the soothe action and, if successful, you may place the mark of any of your allies on it. This mark has a value equal to 10 + that player’s level.

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TL;DR:

Whenever you act offensively against an enemy in combat, you put a mark on it. There are three new applications of the social skills (bluff, diplomacy, and intimidate) that allow you to manipulate those marks in various ways. Finally, there are three new feats that make the use of those skills swift actions instead of move actions. There are also three new feats that give those three skill actions even more abilities.

Thought Experiment

So how would a simple battle play out between a party made up of the four arch-typical fantasy classes and a gang of orcs led by an orc shaman?

Fighter: Stands up front, trying to keep the orcs away from his companions. He lumbers around in his heavy armor, cleaving orcs apart and using his intimidate skill to goad them into focusing on him.

Cleric: Backs up the fighter, whacking any orcs that get too close. He uses diplomacy to remove marks left behind by his companions who would rather not have the enemy's attention.

Rogue: Dodges through the fray into flanking positions, lashing out with devastating sneak attacks. He uses bluff whenever he's got a spare move action to befuddle orcs into ignoring him.

Wizard: When he's not relying on summoned creatures (who apply their own marks), he has to carefully manage how he uses his direct damage and AoE spells. An ill-timed fireball could leave his marks on a dozen orcs, making them charge him before his companions can do anything to help. As such, the wizard must expertly game the initiative system, readying and holding actions until just the right moment. A few skill points in bluff or diplomacy wouldn't hurt his chances for survival, either.

Orcs: With their poor will saves, the orcs are going to spend most rounds attacking whoever marked them. They're easily duped by the new applications of each skill, charging to their deaths under the fighter's blade and scratching their heads wondering where the rogue went. When a summoned wolf bites one of them, he's not smart enough to realize the wizard was responsible.

Shaman: The orc shaman has a great will save for monsters of this level, meaning that he'll probably get to do whatever he wants each round. This is the DM's true representative on the field. He's smart enough to realize that he should target the cleric to stop him from healing the fighter. He knows that being flanked by a rogue is bad news. He readies actions to counter the wizard's spells. He's the boss and is only subject to the aggression system if he sorely botches his will save.

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I think the main issue is that in videogames, no one is running the monsters. Many DMs complain that it is unrealistic to be forced to attack, (the real problem is that it would be unfun). They'd probably want to make players vulnerable to marks, which is even more annoying for players since players only control one character.

My suggestion is to make marks strongly encourage, but fall short of forcing behavior. Something more like:

Unless a creature attacks the PC who has placed the most (or tied for most) marks on it, it takes a penalty on attack rolls equal to half the amount of marks on it (minimum 1). It cannot take 5ft steps that would move it further away from a creature that has placed the most marks on it.
Maximum amount of marks a PC can place is equal to his character level.

I like the skill system to manipulate marks, but I would make it a swift from the start. I think PCs should be encouraged to interact this way, if the Mark system is used at all.

Here's a feat idea:

Master Taunter
You know just how to add insult to injury, and how much or little insult is needed.
Prerequisite: Rogue 5 or Fighter 6
Gain a +2 feat bonus to Diplomacy, Bluff, and Intimidate.
Whenever you would apply marks to an enemy, you may choose to double the amount of marks applied, or to remove that amount of marks instead, or to neither add nor subtract marks. This takes no action.


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Honestly I never really liked non-magic abilities that force someone to attack you. From a verisimilitude stand point, it can make things really janky. Imagine if you are playing a fighter and your friend is in danger. You could go save them right? But if an orc fighter decided to hit you and you failed the Aggression save, suddenly, saving your friend in mortal danger is less of a priority because you have this unnerving need to beat the hell out of that orc. It's abusable and doesn't make a lot of sense in the real world. It'd prevent people from running away from an attacking foe when they are clearly outmatched because GRRRR AGGRESSION!

I think 4ed and the Cavalier does Aggression right. It's still a choice left to the victim, but you or your party still get benefits if they attack the tank or not. I'd much prefer something that doesn't take away agency from the player/GM.

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Monsters always get a will save to ignore their marks, so it's not inescapable. Also remember that this system has been boiled down to be as lightweight as possible. If the DM has to suddenly worry about a bunch of floating roll modifiers on every monster, the purpose of the system is defeated.

Essentially, what this system does is give the players the ability to manipulate the minions and mooks of every battle. Almost every monster that could possibly function as a "boss" is going to have a high will save, so they'll get to do whatever they want.

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Odraude wrote:
Imagine if you are playing a fighter and your friend is in danger. You could go save them right? But if an orc fighter decided to hit you and you failed the Aggression save, suddenly, saving your friend in mortal danger is less of a priority because you have this unnerving need to beat the hell out of that orc.

This system is not intended for PvP or to apply marks to player characters in any way.

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Petty Alchemy wrote:
Maximum amount of marks a PC can place is equal to his character level.

In this system, a monster only ever has one mark at a time. A subsequent mark replaces an existing mark. Remember: Simplicity is one of the system's primary goals.

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Headfirst wrote:
Almost every monster that could possibly function as a "boss" is going to have a high will save, so they'll get to do whatever they want.

I dunno man, I have seen a lot of brutes as bosses. If this is meant to only control mooks (who probably die in one hit anyway), I'd suggest placing an HD cap on what you can mark rather than putting down a will save.

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Petty Alchemy wrote:
Headfirst wrote:
Almost every monster that could possibly function as a "boss" is going to have a high will save, so they'll get to do whatever they want.
I dunno man, I have seen a lot of brutes as bosses.

Boss brutes are going to have better will saves than minion brutes, too. The will save they need to make to ignore their mark is set by the average character level in the party, so it can't be pumped up like a normal save DC can.

In other words, you'll never watch your epic boss ettin get paralyzed by the aggression system because a power-gaming player stacked a ton of traits and feats together to prop up an insane save DC, like it might happen with a min-maxed sorcerer tossing around charm monsters like it's going out of style.

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Also, it might work out to be fun if a big brute boss is subject to the aggression system. The party fighter easily marks him and the hill giant fails his will save.

"Alright, now he has to attack me! Wait a second..."


Headfirst wrote:

Monsters always get a will save to ignore their marks, so it's not inescapable. Also remember that this system has been boiled down to be as lightweight as possible. If the DM has to suddenly worry about a bunch of floating roll modifiers on every monster, the purpose of the system is defeated.

Essentially, what this system does is give the players the ability to manipulate the minions and mooks of every battle. Almost every monster that could possibly function as a "boss" is going to have a high will save, so they'll get to do whatever they want.

Monsters can roll a one and auto fail. Casters can dogpile on the negatives to will saves, or a fighter can take some feats to drop the will save of a boss (Dazzling Display, anything that makes the boss shaken). Players can still game the aggression system against bosses.

How does this mark affect mindless creatures, or creatures immune to mind affecting abilities and fear? I just don't like how my boss creature, who is probably smart enough to run, can't because someone smacked him and he flopped his save. I figured most people would run away from someone attacking them, not fight them back. Doubly so if they are losing. That's the disconnect I'm having. I prefer Antagonize to this, because at least it makes a bit more sense (I'm taunting them). And even then, I still think Antagonize isn't that great.

This ability just feels really abusable. Against mobs, a fighter could just do multiple attacks on them (full attacks on separate creatures, cleave, whirlwind attack) and the mobs will practically autofail because of their low will saves and low level relative to the party. And it is really easy to get an AC of 40 early on in the levels. So any mob fight becomes an auto win for the party because the mobs will be too busy hitting the unhittable cyclone of death, while the casters sit back and save resources (aside from the occasional heal). And nothing is more boring as a GM than running a one sided fight. Honestly, I may as well skip all the fights to the boss fight, with unfatigued casters. At that point, you can either slam the boss with will save negatives and let the fighter have at them, or just unload since we made it easier for casters to nova now.

And why shouldn't it be usable on PCs? Honestly, as a GM, I don't like this disconnect between what the PCs can do and what the NPCs can do.

And having run a cavalier and 4e, the modifiers aren't that difficult to remember. The fighter marks in 4e were simple, left agency to the GM, and still were useful to have as a player.

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Odraude wrote:
Monsters can roll a one and auto fail. Casters can dogpile on the negatives to will saves, or a fighter can take some feats to drop the will save of a boss (Dazzling Display, anything that makes the boss shaken). Players can still game the aggression system against bosses.

All of this is entirely intentional. Natural 1s are a rule in the game, so yes, every now and then, your lich boss is going to botch it and try to use his touch attack on the fighter. Also, the clever application of mind fog or dazzling display should absolutely affect how a monster behaves, with or without the aggression system.

Odraude wrote:
How does this mark affect mindless creatures, or creatures immune to mind affecting abilities and fear?

Even mindless creatures have prescribed actions in combat. Mindless undead have the default command to defend themselves, so they snap right into the aggression system. Also, this isn't a brainwashing or fear-based system. A monster with your mark isn't attacking you because it's been hypnotized; it's attacking you because you attacked it and it perceives you as a threat.

Odraude wrote:
I just don't like how my boss creature, who is probably smart enough to run, can't because someone smacked him and he flopped his save. I figured most people would run away from someone attacking them, not fight them back. Doubly so if they are losing. That's the disconnect I'm having.

As stated above, your boss might roll a natural 1. The difference between this system and the antagonize feat is that the boss doesn't have to do anything absurdly stupid when he does. Your evil wizard doesn't suddenly try to punch someone, and your evil archer doesn't drop his +5 longbow because the system demands he charge into melee instead.

Odraude wrote:
I prefer Antagonize to this, because at least it makes a bit more sense (I'm taunting them). And even then, I still think Antagonize isn't that great.

This system was specifically designed to replace antagonize, actually. I also think it's a poorly-designed feat.

Odraude wrote:
Against mobs, a fighter could just do multiple attacks on them (full attacks on separate creatures, cleave, whirlwind attack) and the mobs will practically autofail because of their low will saves and low level relative to the party.

Perfect! The daring fighter valiantly stands in front and defends his companions! The dim-witted mobs cluster around him, poking at his heavy armor, waiting for their turn to be decapitated. This is exactly what I wanted to achieve!

Odraude wrote:
So any mob fight becomes an auto win for the party because the mobs will be too busy hitting the unhittable cyclone of death

Guess what? If you have an unhittable cyclone of death in your party, fights against mobs are probably auto-win anyway, even without an aggression system. :)

Also remember: You can't bring up bosses rolling natural 1s without acknowledging that some of those minion mobs are going to roll 20s, too. In fact, there are usually way more mobs than bosses, so it's going to be much more commonplace that one or two clever mobs run around the fighter to get at the squishy spellcasters behind him.

Odraude wrote:
And why shouldn't it be usable on PCs? Honestly, as a GM, I don't like this disconnect between what the PCs can do and what the NPCs can do.

Maybe this isn't the game for you, then, because there are dozens of rules that apply to one or the other, but not both. I would never design a system that forces players to do anything. As a matter of fact, I rarely use enemies that have access to charm, confusion, or dominate spells for that specific reason.


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How do attacks of opportunity work? Archer hit enemy. On enemy's initiative the enemy is forced to walk through reach cleric's space and fighter's space to reach archer. Does the mark taken from the attack of opportunity change the course of the enemy?

Also the above commenter is correct. Part of PF is that rules apply universally. If you like this approach then it should apply to everyone.

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Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
How do attacks of opportunity work? Archer hit enemy. On enemy's initiative the enemy is forced to walk through reach cleric's space and fighter's space to reach archer. Does the mark taken from the attack of opportunity change the course of the enemy?

Great question! What do you think would work better: After each AoO, the monster gets a new mark and a new will save, or he gets the new mark but continues on with his original action?

I like how the first option makes players think about their AoOs. Do you really want to take a swipe at the ogre as he charges by? Maybe now isn't the time to get his attention! :)

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Part of PF is that rules apply universally. If you like this approach then it should apply to everyone.

You mean except for things like monster-only feats, the disparity between PC and NPC attribute arrays, special abilities like grab and swallow whole (why can't my barbarian, under the effects of enlarge person grab and swallow a faerie whole?), and all the "DM prerogative" options, like increasing the difficulty of a diplomacy skill check on a whim? Like it or not, there are differences between players and monsters.


Going through the list:

My point about the boss is that the "you'll never watch your epic boss ettin get paralyzed by the aggression system" comment is incorrect. You can easily game the system without trying, thanks to how much it throws off the dynamics of combat. More on that below.

Perceiving as a threat doesn't usually meaning that something auto attacks you. Many times, when a creature sees a threat, they do one of three options: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. If a smart warrior is low on HP, chances are, he may want to do a tactical retreat and regroup. But if he fails his save, he cannot do that. He has to attack the player or at the very least approach him (which is the opposite of retreating). It makes every mob suicidal and removes tactics from the enemies. That's great for dumber monsters like goblins, but for smarter foes like hobgoblins or humans, it's just weird to see these battle-trained soldiers suddenly go suicidal to try and bring down this tank. As a GM and as a player, this would just be boring, especially at the mid levels when most things can't even hurt me. I like tactics. I like smart foes. This removes any semblance of smart foes.

Except that a boss that isn't running away from a clearly one-sided fight is doing something absurdly stupid. If a boss is clearly outnumbered and outgunned, I can, as a player, keep him attacking me if I desired. That's the issues. The boss still has to attack me or approach me. He can't retreat if he fails the save. And that is absurdly stupid.

Antagonize sucks. Even in its new iteration. Hate it. But this has its same issues.

That's great for a couple of fights. But with this system, it would become every fight. See, without the aggression system, the mobs have a choice on who to attack and how to proceed. They could lead you into traps, or go after someone easier to bring down, or freaking retreat. Hell, if I saw a cyclone of death mauling my friends, I'd run away. But with this system, again, there is no more tactics for mobs. It's all "Keep throwing mobs at it till it dies." And given how often fights will delve into this, it means the casters do not have to spend any resources to help the fighter out. Just throw the fighter into the middle of combat, maybe heal him with some scrolls, then be all nice and ready when the boss is here and unload your spells.

The best way to really cheese this actually isn't to make a melee fighter. Honestly, I'd make an archer. We'd all stay back and I'd plug a mob over and over, all while they ran towards me to try and kill me. They can't take cover or run away (unless there is some cover between me and them) and I stay safe. And even if they have ranged weapons, my AC will be good enough since mobs usually can't hit to save their lives. And now I can trivialize every mob encounter till level 20, since the archer just gets better and better as they gain levels. Maybe I'll have a cleric buddy that doubles up on the saves to attack with Sanctuary and we'll go on a killing spree.

The point of mobs that precede the final boss is to use up the party's resources. If you skew that more in favor of the players, you'll find that your players will find it easier to nova on that boss. Sure, the casters may cast a spell here and there to aid the tank, but ultimately, they can hold on to a lot of their spells and just drop it on the final boss. This is because they don't have to drop resources because the archer-tank can abuse this. Shoot, step back. Shoot, step back. Lead the minions like lemmings until they are all dead.

And ultimately, that is the issue with aggression effects like this. You are removing that agency from the GM to make tactical fights. This isn't Charm Monster or Dominate Monster, where there is a limit to its usage. This is an unlimited use of "follow me into my trap!" that skews the game dynamics in such a way that ends up making all fights easy mode. Even monsters that have an immunity to mind effecting abilities, or have spell resistance, or some other method of dealing with Charm/Dominate will be brought down by this easy to spam ability. And ultimately, you aren't making it easier for DMs to run basic encounters. You are forcing DMs to run basic encounters, where even trained soldier are easily duped can can't do good tactics like "Retreat and regroup".


Headfirst wrote:
Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
How do attacks of opportunity work? Archer hit enemy. On enemy's initiative the enemy is forced to walk through reach cleric's space and fighter's space to reach archer. Does the mark taken from the attack of opportunity change the course of the enemy?

Great question! What do you think would work better: After each AoO, the monster gets a new mark and a new will save, or he gets the new mark but continues on with his original action?

I like how the first option makes players think about their AoOs. Do you really want to take a swipe at the ogre as he charges by? Maybe now isn't the time to get his attention! :)

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Part of PF is that rules apply universally. If you like this approach then it should apply to everyone.
You mean except for things like monster-only feats, the disparity between PC and NPC attribute arrays, special abilities like grab and swallow whole (why can't my barbarian, under the effects of enlarge person grab and swallow a faerie whole?), and all the "DM prerogative" options, like increasing the difficulty of a diplomacy skill check on a whim? Like it or not, there are differences between players and monsters.

For the record, those feats aren't actually monster only. They are just in the bestiary. Most GMs just assume they are because they aren't in the core rulebook.

And the difference between those abilities and aggression is that aggression seems like something everyone should be able to do. But it's not and there's no in-game reason for it. Why can't a dragon taunt the fighter into hitting him, or a vampire goading a rogue to try and stab it? The answer is "Because I'm a PC" and it's just way too metagamey. Which is honestly my second biggest gripe with these mechanics. It's way too metagamey. Even in 4e edition, the fighter's marks could be explained with "training in martial combat". And other monsters had marks!

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Odraude wrote:
If a smart warrior is low on HP, chances are, he may want to do a tactical retreat and regroup.

It seems like almost all of your concerns come back to monsters being able to flee battles. What if marked monsters could always choose the withdrawal action (or any other spell or special ability that allows them to flee combat), even if they failed their will saves?

Now your mobs can grow doubtful after the whirlwind fighter kills a dozen of their friends and, when the tide turns against the lich, he can always opt to escape using spells.


Headfirst wrote:
Odraude wrote:
If a smart warrior is low on HP, chances are, he may want to do a tactical retreat and regroup.

It seems like almost all of your concerns come back to monsters being able to flee battles. What if marked monsters could always choose the withdrawal action (or any other spell or special ability that allows them to flee combat), even if they failed their will saves?

Now your mobs can grow doubtful after the whirlwind fighter kills a dozen of their friends and, when the tide turns against the lich, he can always opt to escape using spells.

At that point, then why have the aggression mechanic at all? Without the mark, monsters will have three options: Attack, Flee, and Move. With your mark, they still have those options. Two of them (Move and Attack) are restricted to the target (So Attack Target and Approach Target), but retreat would still be available. So why wouldn't they just retreat. It'd be as if the mark didn't really do anything.

Still, my main gripes are A) it removes tactics from the DM, B) it skews the resource management of the players, turning all encounters into a weird 15 min adventuring day, and C) more powerful than spells of similar caliber.

Honestly, 4th Edition had the aggro mechanic right. There was an option for the target to attack or run, but the fighter could still do something if the target(s) ran. There was still the option of tactics, but now, the mob had to think on what was the right course of action. It was "Hit me or run away and see what happens punk". Great incentive to attack the tank, but it didn't take away the agency from the DM on having good tactics like moving or withdrawing.

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Odraude wrote:
For the record, those feats aren't actually monster only. They are just in the bestiary. Most GMs just assume they are because they aren't in the core rulebook.

Yes, but you still have to qualify for them. Players can never take the Brain Eater feat because they can't play as ghouls. So that's a feat specifically written with the knowledge no player will ever have it.

Odraude wrote:
And the difference between those abilities and aggression is that aggression seems like something everyone should be able to do.

True, but good game design mandates that you rarely, if ever, dictate what a player has to do. It's the reason games like WoW don't apply aggression systems to players, only monsters.

Odraude wrote:
Why can't a dragon taunt the fighter into hitting him, or a vampire goading a rogue to try and stab it?

It can! There are two ways to do it, too: Want to really throw your players for a loop? Give your dragons and vampires the antagonize feat. Also, if your players are good role-players, you could have those monsters use social skills instead.

The dragon points to the charred corpse of your companion and huffs dismissively. "You adventurers are all the same. So bold, so reckless... so delicious." A good role-player is going to make his big, dumb barbarian character charge in to extract his revenge, not tactically consider his options and drink a potion of cat's grace to boost his armor class.

I just wanted to add: This feedback is very helpful!

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Odraude wrote:
At that point, then why have the aggression mechanic at all?

The goal isn't to dictate what monsters can and cannot do, just who they do it to. Once again, this system isn't anything like the antagonize feat, which would force a spellcaster to charge into melee. If your enemy boss rolls a natural 1 on his will save, he's got to attack whoever marked him, sure, but he can do it however he wants, whatever he think works best.

Odraude wrote:
A) it removes tactics from the DM

What I was aiming for was to free the DM of having to worry about what every last mob is thinking and doing, allowing him to focus on what the bosses do instead. Who cares what the orcs are doing? They're only there to swarm at the players and swing their axes. What really matters is what spell the shaman behind them casts and who he targets with it.

Odraude wrote:
B) it skews the resource management of the players, turning all encounters into a weird 15 min adventuring day

I don't understand this statement at all.

Odraude wrote:
C) more powerful than spells of similar caliber.

More powerful than charm person or dominate person?

Odraude wrote:
Honestly, 4th Edition had the aggro mechanic right.

So you're generally in favor of an aggression system?

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I'd like to throw my hat into the ring here.

Tanking and aggro mechanics exist in video games, because players lack the kind of agency a tabletop RPG grants. In Pathfinder, a player can draw attention simply by looking and acting like the scariest guy on the battlefield or by verbally taunting enemies. Players cannot do that in video games unless the game explicitly grants the ability to do so. So it feels very backwards to implement aggro mechanics in a GM'd tabletop RPG when the entire point of aggro mechanics is to model what players can do in a GM'd tabletop RPG but not in a video game.

This system has other problems. Psychological research has indicated that granting extrinsic rewards can reduce intrinsic rewards. You do not really need a complicated system of aggression to reward teamwork. Exhibiting teamwork has its own rewards. It develops character bonds, advances the story, helps keeps party members alive, and enables characters to accomplish deeds they cannot do alone. Adding meta concepts like "marks" can break immersion and distract players from thinking about scenarios as though they were characters in the game world. Mechanics like this could benefit games to help simulate the kind of area control a combatant would have, but flanking and attacks of opportunity already accomplish this fairly well.

One of my most glorious moments in Pathfinder was when I saved a comrade's life by taunting a demon into attacking me instead of finishing off a wounded ally. "Don't hit her, hit me instead!" I said, "Wouldn't you rather she witness the horror of seeing her best friend suffer before she dies?" I then took a critical hit to the gut, but both of us survived. Would it have been as awesome and memorable if I said "I use an immediate action to mark him and make an Intimidate check to persuade him to hit me instead."?


I don't think I like it for a number of reasons. Some characters without great wisdom but a lot of intelligence would always think tactically regardless of the person who just hit them.

It would make party casters almost impossible to get at. A reach cleric (with enlarge person) can just standing in front of the party. Challenge all creatures with a move action, cast, and get three attacks of opportunity with Combat Reflexes, thus marking everyone again. It makes the tank an absolute magnet.

GMs enjoy tactical battle, as do players, I think this automates a lot of the fun for battle while just making it a bit more entertain (more like monopolizing) for one particular type of character.

Mostly though it break verisimilitude for me because the truth is that disciplined, intelligent soldiers, monsters, outsiders would never behave this was; and that sort of behavior-decision is not solely a function of will save and should definitely have nothing to do with the social skills of your opponent.

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Cyrad wrote:
One of my most glorious moments in Pathfinder was when I saved a comrade's life by taunting a demon into attacking me instead of finishing off a wounded ally. "Don't hit her, hit me instead!" I said, "Wouldn't you rather she witness the horror of seeing her best friend suffer before she dies?" I then took a critical hit to the gut, but both of us survived.

So you found it more rewarding that the DM gave you a freebie than it would have been if you'd beaten the demon on a skill roll?

Cyrad wrote:
Would it have been as awesome and memorable if I said "I use an immediate action to mark him and make an Intimidate check to persuade him to hit me instead."?

Nothing about the existence of an aggro system prevents you from role-playing the situation out in a way that feels epic.

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Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
I don't think I like it for a number of reasons. Some characters without great wisdom but a lot of intelligence would always think tactically regardless of the person who just hit them.

Once again, this system is nothing like the antagonize feat. If does not force a monster to do something tactless, silly, or suicidal.

Monsters do not have to run in straight lines to get at the player who marked them. If they have enough movement, they can go around an intervening player. If the player who marked them has reach, they can tactically use 5' steps to approach him and avoid the attacks of opportunity. Additionally, if the monster has any ranged attacks or spells, it could simply opt to switch to those instead.

To reiterate: This aggro system isn't intended to dictate what a monster does, just who it targets.


Headfirst wrote:
Odraude wrote:
At that point, then why have the aggression mechanic at all?

The goal isn't to dictate what monsters can and cannot do, just who they do it to. Once again, this system isn't anything like the antagonize feat, which would force a spellcaster to charge into melee. If your enemy boss rolls a natural 1 on his will save, he's got to attack whoever marked him, sure, but he can do it however he wants, whatever he think works best.

Odraude wrote:
A) it removes tactics from the DM

What I was aiming for was to free the DM of having to worry about what every last mob is thinking and doing, allowing him to focus on what the bosses do instead. Who cares what the orcs are doing? They're only there to swarm at the players and swing their axes. What really matters is what spell the shaman behind them casts and who he targets with it.

Odraude wrote:
B) it skews the resource management of the players, turning all encounters into a weird 15 min adventuring day

I don't understand this statement at all.

Odraude wrote:
C) more powerful than spells of similar caliber.

More powerful than charm person or dominate person?

Odraude wrote:
Honestly, 4th Edition had the aggro mechanic right.
So you're generally in favor of an aggression system?

A) A lot of GMs, including myself, care. Not everyone runs "Orcs swarm and smash". Many of use like our mobs to be more than mindless minions that zerg rush players. I've had memorable combats that weren't decided by the orc shaman, but the minions that actually beat the players using nets, combat maneuvers, and traps. This systems forces GMs to just turn off their brain and let the minions fight like idiot mobs. That might be fun for some GMs at first, but after a while, running one-sided fights where the minions are always stupid gets boring. Hell, as a player, this would get tiresome. I hate mindless waves of minions. I'd rather have close fights that make me think and choose. Aggression doesn't really make me choose. It just makes me steam roll mobs while I'm checking my Facebook in the interim. And the worst part is that as a GM, you don't have a choice. You just have to hope that one of your mobs beats the DC. And planning your tactics around a random chance that your minions will just go a*@&@$* on a random player isn't very fun.

B) Okay, basically, in Pathfinder, each encounter is kind of a resource waster for the party. The more encounters you have, the more players use up resources. Spells, Hit Points, Consumable Magic Items are all examples of resources players use up before the final boss. With this system, it'd be easier to game the aggression mechanics and hold off on resource usage. If every one has bows, then you can just lead melee until they die (if in an open space) or funnel them and let the melee guys decimate them. Hell, if you really REALLY want to get abusive, have a halfling/gnome archer on a riding dog that just hits minions, then runs away. While the minions are chasing him, the other melee guys just crush the minions. Hell, I'd even delay my turn so that I always go before the minions. You essentially make things too safe for the casters, so they don't have to use up as many resources. So when you get to the final boss, they can easily unload (going nova) and trivialize it.

C) As it stands, Aggression can affect creatures that are immune to mind affecting skills and can be spammed as long as you still have HP. If you are an archer, you essentially have an infinite mass dominate monster. Granted, it only does two actions, but those two actions will keep a caster very safe for a long time. A safe caster is a scary caster.

I do like aggro mechanics, but the aggro mechanics in video games are not what I like. Gm loses agency, it's very metagamey, break verisimilitude, but ultimately, it forces options and tactic away from the GM. Which is lame. 4th Edition's fighter passive aggro was honestly a really great idea. It's simple, allows for GMs to use options and tactics, but is still very useful for the fighter. And I'm happy to see some cavalier orders with something similar.


Headfirst wrote:
Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
I don't think I like it for a number of reasons. Some characters without great wisdom but a lot of intelligence would always think tactically regardless of the person who just hit them.

Once again, this system is nothing like the antagonize feat. If does not force a monster to do something tactless, silly, or suicidal.

Monsters do not have to run in straight lines to get at the player who marked them. If they have enough movement, they can go around an intervening player. If the player who marked them has reach, they can tactically use 5' steps to approach him and avoid the attacks of opportunity. Additionally, if the monster has any ranged attacks or spells, it could simply opt to switch to those instead.

To reiterate: This aggro system isn't intended to dictate what a monster does, just who it targets.

Except it does dictate what the monster does. It forces them to go after your player, even if attacking your player isn't tactically the correct decision. An archer may want to hit the wizard while he's casting a spell to disrupt him, but since that fighter hit him and he failed his save, suddenly he really want that fighter dead. Even if he knows that tactically, the wizard is about to do something scary. There is no choice. Any tactics they could have is overwritten with a sudden desire to kill the tank.

Remember, new marks override existing marks. So, as long as a tank is the last person to go before the minions, the wizard doesn't really have to worry about being attacked because his marks were overwritten by the fighter. A wizard could, say, fireball four orcs. Then a tank (or two) can just hit those orcs and the wizard is in the clear.

Grand Lodge

Odraude wrote:
Many of use like our mobs to be more than mindless minions that zerg rush players. I've had memorable combats that weren't decided by the orc shaman, but the minions that actually beat the players using nets, combat maneuvers, and traps. This systems forces GMs to just turn off their brain and let the minions fight like idiot mobs.

Nothing in this system prevents monsters from using special weapons, maneuvers, or ambushes. The aggression system doesn't dictate what a monster does, just who it targets.

Odraude wrote:
If every one has bows, then you can just lead melee until they die (if in an open space) or funnel them and let the melee guys decimate them.

So, in other words, exactly what you could do with a party full of archers against enemies without ranged weapons, with or without the aggression system.

Also, endlessly leading melee opponents across a field is harder than you make it sound. It takes a standard action to fire any ranged weapon, while the monsters can always use double moves, run actions, and finally charge attacks to catch up. Just sayin'.

The rest of your objections boil down to really specific anecdotes that would be overpowered in any combat situation, with or without the aggression system. Yes, a party full of halfling outriders with ranged weapons is going to slaughter a pack of orcs in an open field if they don't have ranged weapons with which to respond.

Feedback is going to be much more useful if it focuses on situations that aren't designed to thwart all of Pathfinder's rules, let alone the system I'm proposing here.

Odraude wrote:
C) As it stands, Aggression can affect creatures that are immune to mind affecting skills and can be spammed as long as you still have HP. If you are an archer, you essentially have an infinite mass dominate monster.

You don't think that statement isn't just a little hyperbolic?

Odraude wrote:
Granted, it only does two actions, but those two actions will keep a caster very safe for a long time. A safe caster is a scary caster.

I really can't stand by and let you run any further with the misconception that this system somehow reduces monsters to basic attacks. So your archer shot the enemy spellcaster and marked him? Guess what, the spellcaster tosses a fireball back at you, wasting you and the squishy healer you were trying to protect who was standing next to you. Maybe the enemy archer you marked uses the rapid shot feat to attack you and the caster. There's also no reason that monster can't run up to attack the archer in melee, but position himself to be adjacent to the caster, too, going for the AoO if he casts another spell.

Please, we're going to get a lot more out of this thread if you stop assuming the aggression system has all of the flaws that ruined the antagonize feat.

Odraude wrote:
Except it does dictate what the monster does. It forces them to go after your player, even if attacking your player isn't tactically the correct decision. An archer may want to hit the wizard while he's casting a spell to disrupt him, but since that fighter hit him and he failed his save, suddenly he really want that fighter dead. Even if he knows that tactically, the wizard is about to do something scary. There is no choice. Any tactics they could have is overwritten with a sudden desire to kill the tank.

Perfect! This is exactly what I wanted to happen with this system. If that archer is just some goon with a bow (re: low will save) then yes, he's going to switch targets and attack the fighter who just hit him. And remember, that doesn't mean he foolishly attempts a ranged attack against an adjacent enemy, provoking an attack of opportunity. That archer could take a 5' back and shoot the tank, or draw a sword with his free hand and attack, or withdrawal, or anything else that targets the tank. If that archer was, say, a monk zen archer, he's probably going to make his will save and then he can shoot whoever he wants. See how that works? A more perceptive monster with better mental scores is going to behave strategically, while a common grunt with a low will save is just going to go after whoever is the most immediate threat.

Odraude wrote:
Remember, new marks override existing marks. So, as long as a tank is the last person to go before the minions, the wizard doesn't really have to worry about being attacked because his marks were overwritten by the fighter. A wizard could, say, fireball four orcs. Then a tank (or two) can just hit those orcs and the wizard is in the clear.

Yes! Exactly as intended! See how the players have communicated, made tactical use of the initiative system, and pulled off a marvelous feat of teamwork? Isn't that what Pathfinder combat should be all about? I'll mark this example as a success!

Also remember: Those fighters could miss some of their attacks, leaving the wizard's mark on some of those enemies. Also, when it's their turn, those enemies could make their will saves and still choose to attack the wizard anyway.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Headfirst wrote:
To reiterate: This aggro system isn't intended to dictate what a monster does, just who it targets.

What a monster does depends entirely on who he targets. Therefore, the system does dictate a monster's actions.

Headfirst wrote:
Cyrad wrote:
One of my most glorious moments in Pathfinder was when I saved a comrade's life by taunting a demon into attacking me instead of finishing off a wounded ally. "Don't hit her, hit me instead!" I said, "Wouldn't you rather she witness the horror of seeing her best friend suffer before she dies?" I then took a critical hit to the gut, but both of us survived.
So you found it more rewarding that the DM gave you a freebie than it would have been if you'd beaten the demon on a skill roll?

The GM and I roleplayed -- ya know, the thing you're supposed to do in a roleplaying game. The result was I took a critical hit to the gut, but ended up saving my ally's life in the process. How is that a "freebie?"

Headfirst wrote:
Cyrad wrote:
Would it have been as awesome and memorable if I said "I use an immediate action to mark him and make an Intimidate check to persuade him to hit me instead."?
Nothing about the existence of an aggro system prevents you from role-playing the situation out in a way that feels epic.

Except for the fact that adding arbitrary extrinsic rewards can undermine the intrinsic value of activities and adding unnecessary meta concepts can distract from roleplaying due to weakening the immersive quality of the experience. Therefore, an abstract aggro system can undermine roleplaying and the epic feel of it. I explained this in my previous post.

Also, by your system, the demon would have attacked my friend because she was the last individual to attack the demon. In-character, she rather have taken the hit. Sure, I could have still done the roleplaying and not follow your system exactly. If that's the case, what's the point of the system in the first place? If the GM needed a roll to determine his arbitration, he would have called for an ad hoc Intimidate check and call it a day. Rules regarding meta concepts like "marks" and requiring a move action simply to taunt someone would be completely unnecessary.

At best, the aggro system adds nothing to the game that couldn't be accomplished already through roleplaying or existing mechanics. At worst, the system undermines the experience and removes GM agency. That's my point.


But again, it's not rewarding teamwork. It's rewarding gaming the system, and leaving the GM having to try and use tactics while dealing with the probability that the monsters he has will simply ignore good tactics. I fully understand that a monster doesn't need to use basic attacks. But what you are not understanding is that this skill negates the use of actual tactics and forces them to engage in fights that would be deemed idiotic at best and suicidal at worst.

Taking my archer example. Let's say I have an archer. Not a halfing archer on a mount, but a normal archer. I decide that he will shoot some archers and distract them while the melee guys run up. So he full attacks/manyshot them to aggro them. Now, the enemy archer have to shoot him if they fail the save, even if they see the impending doom of the melee guys coming in. The melee guys could be literally bludgeoning them to death, but as long as the archer keeps going before them, then they have to make a save to actually fight a real threat. The archer doesn't even have to do meaningful damage. As long as he hits (and with a martial, that's a high chance) he can keep this up. Not to mention how long turns would take. Remember, he has to roll a save for every minion that was hit. That really does add up and can make turns slog. Can you imagine the fight with these rules?

"Oh god, Mork! These Paladins are slaughtering us!!"
*fails roll*
"Yeah, but that arrow shooter is really pissing me off. Let's kill him Gork!"

That's not a corner case or anecdotal. That's literally just an archer distracting some archers while the melee guys take advantage of the turn order. You could replace that archer with a cleric spear thrower or a caster or a freaking slinger and it would be the same. That doesn't scream tactics to me. Tactics would be the same archer plinking away at the enemy archer, while the melee guys in question sneak up on the enemy archer and catch them by surprise. That's tactics. All this does is make the enemy do really stupid things that are dependent on probability, and having the player abuse it. And yes, a mob could roll a 20 and automatically break out of the aggro lock. But it still means that if the GM wants to use good tactics and play his minions smart, he'll be a slave to probability. And that will be why active aggro mechanics that you see in WoW just can't work in a game where the enemies are thinking people.

Grand Lodge

Odraude wrote:

"Oh god, Mork! These Paladins are slaughtering us!!"

*fails roll*
"Yeah, but that arrow shooter is really pissing me off. Let's kill him Gork!"

Yes, in an example where the enemies in question are named "Mork" and "Gork", their will saves are probably going to be low enough that they would be stupid enough to keep shooting the archers.

Odraude wrote:
a mob could roll a 20 and automatically break out of the aggro lock

The only time a mob would have to roll a natural 20 to break aggro is if it had a +0 will save and the average party level was 10.

A standard orc (CR 1/3) has a will save of -1. Against a 1st level party, that means he has to roll a 12 on his will save to attack whoever he wants; that's a 45% chance. And that orc shaman? His will save is +3, so he succeeds 65% of the time.

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?


Headfirst wrote:
Odraude wrote:

"Oh god, Mork! These Paladins are slaughtering us!!"

*fails roll*
"Yeah, but that arrow shooter is really pissing me off. Let's kill him Gork!"

Yes, in an example where the enemies in question are named "Mork" and "Gork", their will saves are probably going to be low enough that they would be stupid enough to keep shooting the archers.

Odraude wrote:
a mob could roll a 20 and automatically break out of the aggro lock

The only time a mob would have to roll a natural 20 to break aggro is if it had a +0 will save and the average party level was 10.

A standard orc (CR 1/3) has a will save of -1. Against a 1st level party, that means he has to roll a 12 on his will save to attack whoever he wants; that's a 45% chance. And that orc shaman? His will save is +3, so he succeeds 65% of the time.

Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

No, it doesn't. Again, missing the point. The point is that it makes no sense. Given the choice between an archer from far away that is hitting them and a big beefy dude that is literally smiting them to death, they would have a 55% chance of not attacking the clear and present danger. Even a creature with an intelligence of 3 would have enough survival instincts to realize that "Hey, this Paladin that is wrecking my face is probably more of a danger than the archer that is plinking at me." But unfortunately, they have a 55% chance of simply ignoring the paladin that is smiting them into oblivion. As long as the archer (or distraction) goes first, there is still that chance that they do something suicidal and ignore the clear and present danger.

It's not the fact that they have a chance of failing the roll against aggression. It's the fact that they have to even make one when an obvious threat is attacking them. That's what this aggression doesn't take into account. It only takes into account the last person that attacked them. The last person who attacks isn't always the actual threat. And that's the largest flaw in any "taunt" system.


Haven't read the whole thread, but have 2 question...

Does this also work the other way around?

Will a PC wizard who fail his willsave attack the fighter right in front of him instead of doing some other thing?

What about distance?

My Zen archer hits 5 guys 200 feet away... They "have" to run towards me? Or can they hit ny rogue friends 30 feet in front of them?


It doesn't control their actions, only their target, right?

So the monster could choose to refocus on it's action, and that way change the initiative order and target the character being saved for last, rather than the tank. Sounds like a pretty easy system to break. In multi enemy fight, one enemy continues the original initiative order, one refocuses. Then the tank has to decide between maintaining aggro on the one, or delaying until the end of the round for the other.

Edit: Come to think of it, it's already got that problem unless the DM uses one initiative result for all monsters in an encounter, unless the idea is to encourage all tanks to focus on initiative, and all other party members to delay.

Grand Lodge

Bacon666 wrote:
Will a PC wizard who fail his willsave attack the fighter right in front of him instead of doing some other thing?

This system is not designed to be used against player characters.

Bacon666 wrote:
My Zen archer hits 5 guys 200 feet away... They "have" to run towards me? Or can they hit ny rogue friends 30 feet in front of them?

They only have to target you. If they have ranged weapons, they can fire back. They could advance if they wanted, using cover and avoiding attacks of opportunity from other enemies along the way. During the course of the discussion above, I also added that all monsters can always choose to withdrawal or otherwise flee combat (using spells, magic items, stealth, etc) without having to succeed on the will save.

Grand Lodge

Scythia wrote:
It doesn't control their actions, only their target, right?

Correct.

Scythia wrote:
So the monster could choose to refocus on it's action, and that way change the initiative order and target the character being saved for last, rather than the tank.

Yes, or refocus their initiative to avoid a lot of the situations Odraude pointed out in his posts above.

Scythia wrote:
In multi enemy fight, one enemy continues the original initiative order, one refocuses. Then the tank has to decide between maintaining aggro on the one, or delaying until the end of the round for the other.

Sounds like a dynamically shifting battlefield to me. Success!

Scythia wrote:
Edit: Come to think of it, it's already got that problem unless the DM uses one initiative result for all monsters in an encounter, unless the idea is to encourage all tanks to focus on initiative, and all other party members to delay.

This system probably works best if DMs roll initiative for at least each group of similar enemies, as Pathfinder rules suggest doing anyway.

As for tanks wanting high initiative rolls, that's one way to go about it. Tank attacks, then all the other players delay until after the monsters.

Or, the tank could delay his actions until all the other players have acted, supplanting their marks with his. The system works both ways, and it encourages people tactically using refocus, delay, and ready actions.

The Exchange

Sorry to be negative, but I feel that any house rule that makes NPC reactions more 'automatic' is heading in the wrong direction. NPCs who are cowards, NPCs who are fearless berserkers, NPCs who are cunning tacticians and NPCs who are hopeless screw-ups need to be 'free' to portray those different natures on the battlefield. PF does have some indirect ways to make the enemies fight the strongest PC - good positioning, reposition maneuvers, intelligent use of battlefield-altering spells, and "being too dangerous to ignore" are four that spring to mind - and I say that leaving it to the players to bring about the situation is fine.

I ran a few spellswords and paladins ('defense' classes) in 4E, and saw plenty of wardens and paladins (ditto) in play, so I'm pretty familiar with the various systems that system used to 'mark' enemies. All of 'em were nice, but none of them ever felt like much more than 'stupidity imposed by the combat rules'.


Headfirst wrote:
Scythia wrote:
It doesn't control their actions, only their target, right?

Correct.

Scythia wrote:
So the monster could choose to refocus on it's action, and that way change the initiative order and target the character being saved for last, rather than the tank.

Yes, or refocus their initiative to avoid a lot of the situations Odraude pointed out in his posts above.

Scythia wrote:
In multi enemy fight, one enemy continues the original initiative order, one refocuses. Then the tank has to decide between maintaining aggro on the one, or delaying until the end of the round for the other.

Sounds like a dynamically shifting battlefield to me. Success!

Scythia wrote:
Edit: Come to think of it, it's already got that problem unless the DM uses one initiative result for all monsters in an encounter, unless the idea is to encourage all tanks to focus on initiative, and all other party members to delay.

This system probably works best if DMs roll initiative for at least each group of similar enemies, as Pathfinder rules suggest doing anyway.

As for tanks wanting high initiative rolls, that's one way to go about it. Tank attacks, then all the other players delay until after the monsters.

Or, the tank could delay his actions until all the other players have acted, supplanting their marks with his. The system works both ways, and it encourages people tactically using refocus, delay, and ready actions.

It sounds less dynamic, and more like every battle it's going to be party delays the entire first round of every fight, and tank always waits until last (because it's easier than using resources to try to get the best initiative). Then enemies catch on and begin delaying. Then fights come to a standstill as DM and players all vie for tactical advantage. Eventually DM declares you can't delay more than your initiative mod in ticks, which invalidates delaying tactics, leading the party at the whim of initiative rolls.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Overall, this system does not accomplish any of your design goals, as explained in detail in the posts above by Odraude, myself, and others.

Headfirst wrote:
The goal of this system [is] to create a simple system that encourages and rewards teamwork while simultaneously making it easier for DMs to run basic encounters.

1) It is not simple because it introduces meta concepts to the game. In addition, the system has at least three different save DCs to memorize, all of which the players and GM will likely forget. It takes an idea easily handled through roleplaying or arbitrated by ad hoc Intimidate/Bluff/Diplomacy checks and makes it more complicated.

2) It does not encourage tactical teamwork, but instead encourages players to game the system. As Odraude elaborated, the system forces enemies to use completely illogical tactics that go against even an animal's basic survival instincts. When enemies stop behaving in believable ways, players have to start approaching scenarios from a meta perspective rather than from the perspective of an actual person in the game world. As a result, it encourages players to game the system rather than use sensible teamwork tactics.

3) It does not reward teamwork, because good teamwork should have its own rewards. Adding extrinsic rewards can often undermine the intrinsic value for a given activity. A plethora of psychological studies exist on this subject. Again, it simply encourages players to game or break the system instead.

4) It is not easy for the GM because he has to roll every time to figure out who an enemy will target, effectively doubling his amount of work per round. It also encourages players to frequently manipulate the initiative order, which gives the GM headaches. For a GM that desires an easy-to-run encounter, this system provides little to no advantage over having monsters do the logical (albeit simplistic) tactic of attacking the nearest immediate threat.


Re: Headfirst

I find your system interesting (I neither like, nor dislike it - I'm still forming an opinion); I would, however, consider altering the "failed save" mechanics slightly.

Assuming I understand correctly, should the marked creature wish to attack someone other than the individual who "marked it", it must succeed in a saving throw or have no choice (save in outlined examples).

I would suggest removing the "saving throw option" entirely and the creature instead suffer an attack/concentration (and must make concentration checks to cast) penalty when attacking someone other than the one who marked it, perhaps -2/-4 or something similar. It may still attack whomever it wishes, but if it doesn't attack the marker, it suffers the penalty.

SWSE did something similar with one of the tank-style talents and it worked fine (it could be used on NPC, monster, and PC alike).

There are, as you mention, plenty of mechanics used by NPC/Monsters and not permissible for PCs. Many of the feats from the bestiar(y/ies) defended above as available to PCs have prohibitive requirements preventing PCs from making use of them without some "house rule" indicating otherwise. Just looking through the Universal Monster rules provides a plethora of material usable by monsters, but not PCs. Arguments to the contrary don't have weight unless they begin with, "I don't like," which makes it opinion and not stated as fact.

As it stands, I'd like to hear how the system functions at your gaming table before forming an opinion on your system.

Grand Lodge

Da'ath wrote:
I would suggest removing the "saving throw option" entirely and the creature instead suffer an attack/concentration (and must make concentration checks to cast) penalty when attacking someone other than the one who marked it, perhaps -2/-4 or something similar. It may still attack whomever it wishes, but if it doesn't attack the marker, it suffers the penalty.

That's very similar to how 4th Edition handled their aggression system. During games that I ran, I found their system to be a step in the right direction, really empowering players to have a say in what happens on the battlefield, but remembering all those modifiers was a pain.

I prefer a system that minimizes the math, which is why the monster save DC is based on the average party level. Theoretically, that number isn't going to change during a game session, probably not even during several game sessions. It should therefor be much easier to remember.


i'm with Da'ath.

don't force, discourage.

also, consider allowing Sense Motive to play a part.

Grand Lodge

rainzax wrote:

i'm with Da'ath.

don't force, discourage.

also, consider allowing Sense Motive to play a part.

Discouraging requires floating modifiers, which defeats one of the major goals of this system: to keep it simple and lightweight.

Sense motive could easily be substituted in place of the will save for monsters trained in the skill.

Thanks for the feedback!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Come and Get At Me Barbarians would be very happy with that system.

Grand Lodge

Eltacolibre wrote:
Come and Get At Me Barbarians would be very happy with that system.

The point is that every player should be happy with the system, the DM, too. Players get more control over the battlefield and the DM gets to put all the minions on autopilot so he can get more tactical with the bosses and integrate more ancillary hazards (weather, terrain, etc).


throwing some ideas at you.

consider this:

Marking is a move action (swift with feat), an extension of the aid another rules, deliverable via any social skill (DC 10), which applies a -2 penalty to hit/DC to any attack/spell that does not include the marker, for one round. In order to take effect, the marker must attack their victim in the same round.

Marks do not stack - the newest always replaces the oldest.

Diplomacy: effect lasts up to 1 minute.
Bluff: effect transposes one ally as the marker.
Intimidate: effect broadcasts to all enemies within 30 feet.


My opinion (since you are asking):

This makes perfect sense for creatures with animal intelligence. Not as much for normal (or higher) intelligence. If the PC's can use tactics, so should the badguys.

Also, I may have missed it, but did you consider a cavalier challenging his enemy? Thematically, that seems equivalent to causing a mark. It is directly provoking an opponent. However, does that replace an existing mark, supersede a new mark, or allow a creature to momentarily have 2 marks.

Finally, I can see PCs abusing this system. Imagine a high-damaging pc (like a wizard at the start of the day, fresh with spells) acting just 1 initiative step before a lower-damaging one. Under this system, an intelligent opponent could still be forced to ignore the person causing him/her the greatest pain, because someone else managed to hit him just before (s)he acted. Better yet, I could see PCs forcing an opponent to run a gauntlet of AOOs and flanks, just to get to the archer 30 ft away. An intelligent opponent wouldn't do that.

Grand Lodge

Jason Rice wrote:
If the PC's can use tactics, so should the badguys.

This system doesn't forbid a creature from using tactics; it only dictates that a marked creature must attempt to include the marking player in its attack.

Jason Rice wrote:
Also, I may have missed it, but did you consider a cavalier challenging his enemy? Thematically, that seems equivalent to causing a mark. It is directly provoking an opponent. However, does that replace an existing mark, supersede a new mark, or allow a creature to momentarily have 2 marks.

I'd have to tinker with the cavalier's marking ability, but I imagine the systems are compatible.

Jason Rice wrote:
Better yet, I could see PCs forcing an opponent to run a gauntlet of AOOs and flanks, just to get to the archer 30 ft away. An intelligent opponent wouldn't do that.

Once again, nothing about my system forces a monster to act in a foolish, silly, or suicidal manner. Just because you mark an enemy doesn't mean he drops everything and charges on a straight line into melee (as the Antagonize feat does). A marked enemy has numerous options: move in to attack, move closer and don't attack (taking the long way around to avoid AoOs, traps, terrain, etc), use a ranged weapon, cast a spell, flee, aid another, or any other non-attack skill or spell use. The only mandatory requirement of this system is that, if the monster does act offensively, it must include the player who marked it in that attack.


Nice initiative, Headfirst. And I think your overall goal of encouraging teamwork and enabling smarter tactics is great, but I'm afraid I find the suggested mechanics to be lacking. My critique and suggestions:

Headfirst wrote:

System

Whenever a player harms or affects an enemy in any way during battle (using spells, items, skills, etc), he also marks it. A subsequent mark replaces an existing mark; monsters only ever have one mark at a time, the latest one applied. On the enemy’s turn, it will prefer to attack the player whose mark it currently bears.

So ALL PCs mark, regardless of their combat training, method of affecting an enemy, class focus etc, and the defining feature which separates the "aggro-drawer" PC from any another is that he was the last to affect the enemy before it's turn?

To me, this sounds reasonable in a game where all enemies the party ever fights are both mindless and lack any other form of potentially contradicting instincts (for example one capable of distinguishing between minor 2 damage scratches and major 200 damage "entrails are hanging out"-wounds). Used in any other game, these mechanics make absolutely no sense and will have terribly awkward and metagamey consequences.

My suggestion:
Make the ability to mark a class feature, preferably resticted to full BAB classes (those really need some actually effective tactical options besides dealing damage), and let the methods of marking vary according to class, thus opening for very different sets of possible tactics depending on a party's "marker" class. Being able to potentially direct enemy aggro is a powerfull thing, and it seems reasonable it should require special training/talents (especially if the timing of a mark is "hard control" which completely overrides virtually all other priorities in an enemy's head).

Headfirst wrote:
On its turn, a marked enemy may attempt a Will save, DC 10 + the average level of the party. If successful, it may attack whomever it wishes. If unsuccessful, it must attempt to attack or approach the player whose mark it currently bears.

So any PC affecting the enemy forces a Will save with a character-independent DC, and a fail completely removes any form of tactical sense from the enemy's mind, regardless of whether the enemy in question is a mindless golem with actually contradicting "programming" or a legendary tactical genius with an IQ of 500?

I think you're making two fundamental mistakes here. First, you're actually suggesting a mark should affect an enemy's ability to understand which action would be the most tactically sound. Don't you think a mark should instead affect which action that is the most tactically sound? (Especially if it's a mark that is universally and automatically applied by all PCs, not an enchanter's special mark or similar.) Second, you're suggesting luck and an enemy's Will save (which may very well have nothing to do with it's talent for tactics) should dictate whether the mark has no effect at all or if it completely removes the enemy's ability to direct it's aggression. Don't you think a simple mark mechanic should instead avoid introducing yet more time-consuming die rolls and that the mark's effect on the enemy's behavior should be first and foremost dependent on the capacities/personality of the enemy in question?

As is, this mechanic feels irrelevant, OP and clunky, since the effect is mental and completely disregards any differences between enemies beyond their (potentially irrelevant) will save and also rely on luck rather than smart tactics. Even worse, it robs the unlucky enemy of his personality while bogging down combat with even more die rolls.

My suggestion:
As other posters have said before, replace the "will save + hard control effect" with dice-less soft control, such as a static debuff on aggro actions vs. creatures other than the PC who marked it, and make sure that debuff is reasonable with regards to the abilities of the marking PC and the situation. Or, for even more interesting teamwork tactics, give the PC who marked the enemy additional tools to affect it. Or do both. This also has the added bonus of not having to be restricted to PCs, as the effect no longer would rob them of their ability to choose their target.

So in short: copy the marking mechanics of 4E "defenders"! Besides perhaps the universal "-2 to attack other" (which some may consider a bit too "magic" for certain classes), I think those mechanics would work fine in PF and provide great tactical depth and fun.

Headfirst wrote:
Da'ath wrote:
I would suggest removing the "saving throw option" entirely and the creature instead suffer an attack/concentration (and must make concentration checks to cast) penalty when attacking someone other than the one who marked it, perhaps -2/-4 or something similar. It may still attack whomever it wishes, but if it doesn't attack the marker, it suffers the penalty.

That's very similar to how 4th Edition handled their aggression system. During games that I ran, I found their system to be a step in the right direction, really empowering players to have a say in what happens on the battlefield, but remembering all those modifiers was a pain.

I prefer a system that minimizes the math, which is why the monster save DC is based on the average party level. Theoretically, that number isn't going to change during a game session, probably not even during several game sessions. It should therefor be much easier to remember.

I think you're remembering the various short-term buffs of 4e "leader" classes or the debuffs by "controllers", not the "defender" classes' static "-2 to attack anyone but the defender", which is really easy to keep track of and, as far as I can remember, didn't change ever (outside of I think one feat which made it -4).

I suggest you take a look at the warder's "Armiger's Mark" feature (from Path of War) for a good PF marking mechanic. And/or check out the 4e fighter's "Combat Challenge" and "Combat Superiority" class features again. With perhaps some slight tweaking, I think those could be awesome additions to the PF fighter, probably even saving the class from the mediocrity it currently suffers from. The same could likely be done with the 4e pally's "Divine Challenge" and "Divine Sanction" features for a PF pally archetype. Maybe even build a tank-ish magus archetype using the 4e swordmage's "Shielding Aegis". I think those mechanics were perhaps the most well-made, unique and interesting class features in all of 4e, and the whole "defender" concept was remarkably fun and tactical without bogging down combat IME.

Grand Lodge

upho wrote:
So ALL PCs mark, regardless of their combat training, method of affecting an enemy, class focus etc, and the defining feature which separates the "aggro-drawer" PC from any another is that he was the last to affect the enemy before it's turn?

Yes. The marks in my system represent who a monster regards as a threat. They are not mind control or any kind of magical effect.

upho wrote:
To me, this sounds reasonable in a game where all enemies the party ever fights are both mindless

The goal was to setup a situation in which low-level minions simply attack whoever is the latest threat, while high-level bosses are free to act strategically.

upho wrote:
Make the ability to mark a class feature, preferably resticted to full BAB classes

Incidentally, in the skill system I proposed, the intimidate skill is used to mark enemies without even hitting them. It's a happy coincidence that all full BAB classes except paladin have it as a class skill.


Look, you don't need to "mark" opponents or "draw aggro" in order to make tanking in general (and cooperative team play in particular) more of a thing. Instead, just let your martial guys move and full attack, and let them take their movement and/or iterative attacks as immediate actions any time during the round. Now they can step in front of enemies to intercept them, guarding their friends, and you don't need to roll will saves or keep track of marks or any of that. Combat becomes more dynamic, martial classes are more exciting to play because they're not just standing still and full attacking, and everyone wins.

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