How Do I Avoid / Fix a Broken Game?


Advice


Hello. I'm considering running Iron Gods, and I'm currently running Rise of the Runelords. A problem in my game is that the players are simply over-matching the content. The enemies can sometimes damage them, and even be lethal, but the players destroy everything they come across very quickly.

I'm hoping to see longer fights, where something other than "do the most damage possible, as fast as possible" is a viable strategy. Where buffs and debuffs mid-fight matter. With Iron Gods, I can't imagine disallowing Gunslingers (because of laser pistols and the like), but those touch attacks are too good. And ignoring gunslingers, other classes also have combinations for huge amounts of damage.

What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?

To provide some context, in RotRL I allowed the players 20 points for point buy (I didn't know it was supposed to be 15 points, and while this would make a difference, I think it wouldn't make a huge difference). I also allowed magic item crafting. I give significant downtime between chapters, but otherwise limit them a fair bit. The players are a gunslinger who ignores AC (touch attacks, a paladin who ignores DR (smite evil), a wizard who ignores surprise and always uses mirror image, and a shapechanging oracle who's new to the campaign.

The average DPR (damage per round) of each player is about 60 when they full attack or cast damage spells.


Golems?


If you're running Iron Gods I'm led to understand it's full of robots with hardness instead of DR. Nothing (besides a few specific abilities and archetypes) ignores hardness. And it subtracts from all damage, not just physical damage. Also robots are neutral, so no smite.


You need to be more specific. AP's are made for normal players with 15 point buy so you should expect to make adjustments. Why can't the NPC's do anything to the players? Is it attack rolls, AC, saves, etc etc?

Sovereign Court

Bob Bob Bob wrote:
If you're running Iron Gods I'm led to understand it's full of robots with hardness instead of DR. Nothing (besides a few specific abilities and archetypes) ignores hardness. And it subtracts from all damage, not just physical damage. Also robots are neutral, so no smite.

Adamantine will usually ignore robots' hardness. Prudent paladins would invest in adamantine anyway, because DR/adamantine is one of the most significant things they usually can't smite, like on golems.


wraithstrike wrote:
You need to be more specific. AP's are made for normal players with 15 point buy so you should expect to make adjustments. Why can't the NPC's do anything to the players? Is it attack rolls, AC, saves, etc etc?

The enemies can damage them, but it's very hard to hit the gunslinger (buffed AC is something like 30), the paladin swift heals himself each turn if he's damaged, the wizard keeps mirror image up. The oracle can be hit fairly easily (he's in melee with about 25 AC). Actually, the enemies damage them too much sometimes, such as the Kreeg ogre crit-killing the oracle last game (2 hero points saved him). Which is why I'm reluctant to buff the enemies too much; they're still very lethal, but they also die easily.

As for saves, the paladin is immune to fear and charm, and has an aura that protects his allies. He's also a paladin, so he has high saves. The others typically have protection from evil up, so a 2 bonus to saves from that. They also use cloaks. Enemy save DCs seem pretty low in RotRL, with 19 being the highest save DC I'm seeing in chapter 3 (10th level). Edit: also, while I will rarely get a save or suck spell through on a player, it seems that many of the enemies have blindness/deafness and bestow curse, and the paladin has remove curse as one of his mercies, so it doesn't even last typically.


Bast L. wrote:
What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?

Pathfinder is a strange game. The better you know the rules and make characters that function optimally within those rules, the more like "rocket tag" the game becomes. This is basically a problem intrinsic to the game. Short of giving enemies tons of HPs beyond what they should have, there's very little you can do.


mplindustries wrote:
Bast L. wrote:
What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?
Pathfinder is a strange game. The better you know the rules and make characters that function optimally within those rules, the more like "rocket tag" the game becomes. This is basically a problem intrinsic to the game. Short of giving enemies tons of HPs beyond what they should have, there's very little you can do.

This has been my view of things for a while now. I figured I should ask the board to see if there are some other ideas though. I've considered limiting books, or magic item creation/purchasing beyond the normal settlement rules. Just reducing player abilities wouldn't solve the issue though, since enemies are still very lethal.


1. The Pathfinder APs are meant for the typical Pathfinder fan, who takes Skill Focus (Craft: basket weaving) instead of Power Attack because it's "more flavorful." (Contrast to the APs they wrote for WotC, such as the Age of Worms, in which PCs like that die in droves.) If your group is somewhat more inclined to optimization, you'll need to redo the villains' tactics and defenses, re-assign some feats, and in some cases redesign the villans.

2. If you have more than 4 PCs, this will make a huge impact on things. As a rule of thumb, if you have 6 PCs, you need to scale up the opposition accordingly -- increase levels/CR by 1+ and/or numbers by 150%.

3. 4-on-1 fights always end quickly. Villains need lots of bodyguards if you want them to last more than a round or two.


Use more enemies of a lower level.

XP doubles every two cr. This means that you get two CR 6 creatures for the xp "price" of a CR 8 creature, and 4 cr 4 creatures.

A common approach to abusing this, which works best on level 1-2, is that NPC class npc's are their level-2 in CR, while PC classes are CR level-1. A CR 1 battle with a cult leader can consist of a level 2 cleric with ac ~18, ~15hp, +6 will save, +0 reflex, +4 fort, or it can consist of 3 level 1 adepts.

They could have 13 AC 5hp, and you could give them Spell focus:Evocation & Spell specialization:Burning Hands, and dole out 3d4 damage if they fail a dc 14ref save, half that if they don't.

If they aren't human, I'd go with Spell focus:Enchantment and cast Sleep instead.

While the cleric might be a hard battle if you miss him a lot, the adepts are prone to live longer, and one or two of them might even be able to run away and survive, in which case the party only get half xp. Also, they stand a chance of taking a party of level two characters captive, if they get the drop on the party.

Beyond this, use ranged attacks combined with movement & terrain.

Difficult terrain means that they cannot charge, as does standing atop a hill or a rise in terrain, towers, trees etc.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
3. 4-on-1 fights always end quickly. Villains need lots of bodyguards if you want them to last more than a round or two.

This.

As I have learned GMing Pathfinder over the past year, it's not just the HPs and the villain's CR but this whole thing about "action economy" - meaning: 1 BBEG still only gets to take a limited # of actions/attacks per turn, whereas the other 4-6 heroes have 4-6x as many. So I have been boosting Boss HPs by about a factor of 3 just so the combat lasts more than 1 rnd. Even then, sometimes it doesn't if someone scores a crit, or smites, etc.


Your game isn't broken. Your experience is very typical when playing with people who are capable of at least moderately optimizing their characters.

Pathfinder is a game of rocket tag, thats just how it goes. I personally consider combat to be long if it goes more than 4 rounds.

However, if your goal is to have longer combats with more potential to damage the PCs so as to have a feeling of greater challenge these are the 3 basic recommendations I make. Do not use all 3 at once because it may be too much. Instead introduce 1 at a time until you reach the challenge rating you like. Also, if you understand the reasoning behind each you can actually choose the one that will help the NPCs in combat the most. Also, don't reward more XP despite the fact this should increase CR and therefore XP reward. If you do that you're only ramping up the power of PCs further. So...

Step 1) Maximize the hp of every enemy. NPC characters are usually just assumed to have average rolls for hp. Instead maximize each hit die. This is actually a little time intensive since you can't just look at the total hp, you have to see how many HD the creature has...so as an easy rule of thumb simply doubling their HP works well enough.

Step 2) Add the advanced simple template. This one is pretty easy.

Quote:

Advanced Creature (CR +1)

Creatures with the advanced template are fiercer and more powerful than their ordinary cousins.

Quick Rules: +2 on all rolls (including damage rolls) and special ability DCs; +4 to AC and CMD; +2 hp/HD.

Rebuild Rules: AC increase natural armor by +2; Ability Scores +4 to all ability scores (except Int scores of 2 or less).

Step 3) Add (more) minions. Action economy is a b+!&+. If the enemy has less action than the PCs from the get go they're bound to lose in a big way. One failed save by the NPCs can end the encounter. Which is why you need weak expendable minions to get in the way. They might never be able to harm the PCs short of a natural 20 roll, but they can buff the friendly NPCs and get in the way of the PCs to give the important NPCs time to act. A good rule of thumb is to use enemies as party CR-3 as the mooks to get in the way. They go down easy, but aren't just paper either.

Also, as a note keep in mind that combats aren't meant to actually be challenging to the PCs until the CR reaches +4/5. At CR+4 it should be roughly a 50/50 shot of the PCs winning. At CR +5 is when the scales actually tip towards the NPCs winning.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

Offensive power doesn't sound like the issue sounds like the issue is durability.

1) Max Hitpoints.
2) Give Bosses the Advanced template.
3) when there's a few minions usually add one or two.


A frequent tactic is also to do things like tack on the Advanced simple template to most things the party faces, especially the enemies that are supposed to be the tough guys to beat. An extra +2 to just about everything important and a bit of extra health can go a pretty long way in a lot of cases. If that doesn't work, maybe throw things like the Fiendish/Celestial/Entropic/Resolute simple templates on top of that.

And more mooks are always a good thing. Why would an evil warlord wade into battle alone when he can have his whole retinue of bodyguards, friends, and champions fighting beside him?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bast L. wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
You need to be more specific. AP's are made for normal players with 15 point buy so you should expect to make adjustments. Why can't the NPC's do anything to the players? Is it attack rolls, AC, saves, etc etc?

The enemies can damage them, but it's very hard to hit the gunslinger (buffed AC is something like 30), the paladin swift heals himself each turn if he's damaged, the wizard keeps mirror image up. The oracle can be hit fairly easily (he's in melee with about 25 AC). Actually, the enemies damage them too much sometimes, such as the Kreeg ogre crit-killing the oracle last game (2 hero points saved him). Which is why I'm reluctant to buff the enemies too much; they're still very lethal, but they also die easily.

As for saves, the paladin is immune to fear and charm, and has an aura that protects his allies. He's also a paladin, so he has high saves. The others typically have protection from evil up, so a 2 bonus to saves from that. They also use cloaks. Enemy save DCs seem pretty low in RotRL, with 19 being the highest save DC I'm seeing in chapter 3 (10th level). Edit: also, while I will rarely get a save or suck spell through on a player, it seems that many of the enemies have blindness/deafness and bestow curse, and the paladin has remove curse as one of his mercies, so it doesn't even last typically.

A couple of things you may or not be aware of. The save bonus from protection from evil does not stack with a cloak of resistance. Also, mirror image does not help against many types of spells, such as AOE spells. Also, an image is shattered each time an attack misses by five or less. Keeping these in mind as well as the other advice given should help.

Jerry


In general,

(a) Extra hit points and/or Advanced Simple template
(b) Extra minions to split up party's attacks


You need you enemies to survive, not wipe out the party. Give them miss chance by using a symbol of mirroring along with false focus, throw smoke bombs, and cast web. This guarantees that the encounter will last longer just based on impediments. Add battlefield hazards and you will be set. Also avoid doing "clone wars" if you are tired of designing complicated encounters. It might be helpful to ambush the party at night as well. If you give the bad guys awesome weapons then feel free to use the sunder maneuver as long as the loot would be significant after the battle. If the barbarian has their great axe broken and they survive the encounter reward them with a better one.


Extra hit points/advanced simple template always felt like a cop-out, at least without awarding more xp.

If we're going to do that, you might as well use more creatures instead.

Depending on what you're using, if you're going to add templates to up the survivability, some of these might make the fight very interesting.

Spellcasting especially adds lots of survivability. The pc's can't kill what they can't see; darkness combined with blind-fight and friends, (greater)invisibility, displacement, blur, and mirror image etc. all offer you ways to be unseen, or at least hard to hit/kill in a way that doesn't involve mountains of hp or a higher ac.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My group has in the past had this problem. I have gotten around it with a couple changes.

1. That 15 point buy really matters. Specifically, it should be painful for players to go over a 15 in their primary stat before racial modifiers. I flat out dont allow over a 17 after racial modifiers at the start of the game (basically, implying that the 'best' available is something in line with the elite array). I actually offer a 25 point buy with this limit (allowing more varried application of stats then just tanking charisma all the time).

2. If you have players that optimize, scale up encounters. I generally have a party of 5 or 6 players. So I generally, literally double everything in the encounter, or add additional equal CR enemies if doubling doesnt make sense (unique villians and such). I vastly recommend doubling over buffing individual enemies, because it avoids the rocket tag effect. If there are 6 enemies instead of 3, its far less likely they will all get taken down quickly, in addition, as opposed to just buffing up one or two enemies in a fight, each individual enemy is no more of a threat then normal to any one PC.

3. Retain line item veto to specific options if they are problematic. This one is sort of the most important issue. It requires the most care and communication, but its still really important. If a specific ability, or combination is a problem, talk to your player about replacing it. If black tentacles is wrecking every encounter, ask your player to switch it out for something else.

4. Reward things you like. If someone takes options that suit their background instead of pure optimization, do things like give them extra traits, or other bonuses (I use hero points, and give them out for such things). Encouraging the behavior you want is always a good thing. And usually if players take even one or two options off the 'perfect' build, it dramatically reduces the effect it has on the game.


The Dragon wrote:

Extra hit points/advanced simple template always felt like a cop-out, at least without awarding more xp.

Ahh, well we stopped using XP a long, long time ago in our circles. It is very freeing to the players and GM alike.


justaworm wrote:
The Dragon wrote:

Extra hit points/advanced simple template always felt like a cop-out, at least without awarding more xp.

Ahh, well we stopped using XP a long, long time ago in our circles. It is very freeing to the players and GM alike.

I did that too, back when I DM'ed, but then if something gets a template or other buff, I add more loot(+5-20 on a loot percentage roll, or maybe an extra magic item roll, stuff like that), more respect from npc's something.

It just feels to me like cheating, not giving players a reward for their work, you know?


justaworm wrote:


Ahh, well we stopped using XP a long, long time ago in our circles. It is very freeing to the players and GM alike.

How are you deciding when it's time for a character to level up?

I like the PFS system of 3xp/level and 1xp for successfully completing 3-4 encounters. But the guys GMing our home games aren't familiar with that and are using the CRB standard xp instead.


Bast L. wrote:

Hello. I'm considering running Iron Gods, and I'm currently running Rise of the Runelords. A problem in my game is that the players are simply over-matching the content. The enemies can sometimes damage them, and even be lethal, but the players destroy everything they come across very quickly.

I'm hoping to see longer fights, where something other than "do the most damage possible, as fast as possible" is a viable strategy. Where buffs and debuffs mid-fight matter. With Iron Gods, I can't imagine disallowing Gunslingers (because of laser pistols and the like), but those touch attacks are too good. And ignoring gunslingers, other classes also have combinations for huge amounts of damage.

What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?

To provide some context, in RotRL I allowed the players 20 points for point buy (I didn't know it was supposed to be 15 points, and while this would make a difference, I think it wouldn't make a huge difference). I also allowed magic item crafting. I give significant downtime between chapters, but otherwise limit them a fair bit. The players are a gunslinger who ignores AC (touch attacks, a paladin who ignores DR (smite evil), a wizard who ignores surprise and always uses mirror image, and a shapechanging oracle who's new to the campaign.

The average DPR (damage per round) of each player is about 60 when they full attack or cast damage spells.

I know it's somewhat of a lengthy, task but before I start a campaign I write down monsters that fit different areas of the campaign that have unique abilities from each of the four bestiaries. This includes unique templates that make NPCs or monsters quite a bit tougher. In addition, you might want to consider giving them a slow XP progression. This way you are still giving them XP when adding more monsters, but it doesn't sky rocket their level. Magic Item crafting is fine as long as you go by the creators guide. This means the person who actually took the feat can get up to 25%+ WBL and up to 50%+(MAX) if taking two item creation feats. If the item creator creates it for other characters it still counts against their wealth as if they bought the item. I don't suggest maxing HP either, 50%-80% of Max HP. What's the point of making a powerful character if the DM is just going to counter-act good choices and it's pretty easy to notice when the DM maxes HP. You need to make the characters appreciate their choices and instead use good tactics, traps, timelimits, or puzzles in your campaign. Also, sometimes they should just have to run away.

Make areas they have to climb, swim, stealth, and use skills. An Advanced Soul Eeater with the Nightmare Lord template can do a ridiculous amount of damage. It can start attacking the characters in it's dreams. It's stealth in the dark is ridiculous. You can replace it's feats with more useful ones. I think the claw attacks will both hit for 1d6 wisdom damage each. DR/Fast healing, fly by attack with 100 ft perfect fly, and use it to hide behind objects because many spells require line of sight.

I don't know how your encounters run. How about you give us a specific encounter and we'll tell you how we would change it. Please give us the levels of the PCs.

Scarab Sages

Bast L. wrote:

Hello. I'm considering running Iron Gods, and I'm currently running Rise of the Runelords. A problem in my game is that the players are simply over-matching the content. The enemies can sometimes damage them, and even be lethal, but the players destroy everything they come across very quickly.

I'm hoping to see longer fights, where something other than "do the most damage possible, as fast as possible" is a viable strategy. Where buffs and debuffs mid-fight matter. With Iron Gods, I can't imagine disallowing Gunslingers (because of laser pistols and the like), but those touch attacks are too good. And ignoring gunslingers, other classes also have combinations for huge amounts of damage.

What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?

To provide some context, in RotRL I allowed the players 20 points for point buy (I didn't know it was supposed to be 15 points, and while this would make a difference, I think it wouldn't make a huge difference). I also allowed magic item crafting. I give significant downtime between chapters, but otherwise limit them a fair bit. The players are a gunslinger who ignores AC (touch attacks, a paladin who ignores DR (smite evil), a wizard who ignores surprise and always uses mirror image, and a shapechanging oracle who's new to the campaign.

The average DPR (damage per round) of each player is about 60 when they full attack or cast damage spells.

Hi there. 20 point buy actually makes a big difference, because that means that the CR for the encounter will be incorrect, which is one reason why the PCs are easily overcoming the challenges in RotRL. If the players are cool with scaling back to 15 point buy, then the CRs will get back in line. Otherwise, you can re-construct the encounters using the rough rule of the thumb of +1 CR for every 5 points over 15. In your case, you would need to increase the CR of the combat encounters by 1.

The other reason the party is easily overcoming the challenges is due to how combats are constructed in RotRL. Many of the combats feature 1-3 enemies, in which DPR is what matters most. The only way to fix that is by re-constructing the combats so that they're varied and feature different types of enemies and abilities.

If you're interested in re-constructing the combats, I wrote this article here:
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2pph8?Combat-Encounter-Construction

-Perry Snow


mplindustries wrote:
Bast L. wrote:
What can I do as GM to prevent the 1-3 round boss fights? Or is Pathfinder simply this way?
Pathfinder is a strange game. The better you know the rules and make characters that function optimally within those rules, the more like "rocket tag" the game becomes. This is basically a problem intrinsic to the game. Short of giving enemies tons of HPs beyond what they should have, there's very little you can do.

Using more not that strong enemies and less boss fights could also help.


I agree with "double the HP". It lets the fights last longer than 1-3 rounds, without making the enemies overly lethal.

And if an enemy is seriously kicking the party's butt, you can just drop his HP down to what is listed in the book. The party doesn't have to know what's happening behind the screen.


RumpinRufus wrote:

I agree with "double the HP". It lets the fights last longer than 1-3 rounds, without making the enemies overly lethal.

And if an enemy is seriously kicking the party's butt, you can just drop his HP down to what is listed in the book. The party doesn't have to know what's happening behind the screen.

They'll know though. It's pretty obvious in-game.


Smallfoot wrote:
justaworm wrote:


Ahh, well we stopped using XP a long, long time ago in our circles. It is very freeing to the players and GM alike.

How are you deciding when it's time for a character to level up?

I like the PFS system of 3xp/level and 1xp for successfully completing 3-4 encounters. But the guys GMing our home games aren't familiar with
that and are using the CRB standard xp instead.

If you're running an AP, the intro section of each installment will tell you what level your characters should be at each major point. Like "The characters should hit level 4 by the end of the 'Pie Fight in the OK Corral' dungeon."

PFS style leveling of 1 xp every 3-4 encounters doesn't necessarily work that well in an AP because there tend to be a lot more weak encounters that are meant to be nothing more than speedbumps and don't offer that much experience. They'd likely level too quickly.


wraithstrike wrote:
You need to be more specific. AP's are made for normal players with 15 point buy so you should expect to make adjustments. Why can't the NPC's do anything to the players? Is it attack rolls, AC, saves, etc etc?

Yes, let us know. What books do you allow? If you allow pretty much everything then the players have a huge edge, if they optimize.

Instead of straight 20pt buy, try 20pt buy, no points back for dumping. Less Min/Maxing. More "normal" characters.

How is the WBL? If you allow crafting and downtime, they can easily have double WBL.

Leadership feat?

Add a few mooks, and scale up the BBEG HP by 1.5, not double.


Need to know how many players.

And what part of the AP they are at, what level are they.

I'm guessing you're not on book 3 or 4 yet, based on your grievances.


Villains like deathtraps. Suck up that action economy advantage against the BBEG by having him start combat by activating a device that:

a. Kills everyone if not stopped.
b. Destroys the relevant plot hook/npc if not stopped.
c. Deals massive damage that he is intelligently resistant to.

Killing BBEG, easy.

Killing BBEG while chasing him through a burning castle with falling beams (A), A princess about to be roasted in the dungeon (B) and, well, fire (C) is a lot harder and more lively.

This is especially true if most of your PC's can solo nova kill the boss. This way 2 will end up nova killing the boss, 1 will end up delivering critical support and 1-2 will get to save the princess. Heroes everywhere!


I would consider adding in alternative situational modifiers that would affect the encounter like, Terrain, obstacles, weather, traps, etc. Add in some content that would allow the bad guys more tactical advantage. Spend a decent amount of time getting to know your NPC / bad guys so you can take advantage of their abilities. Remember to play intelligent encounters as if the bad guys are very tactical. Every character has its strengths and weaknesses. Allow each character to enjoy their niches, and on occasion toss in an encounter that is smart enough to take advantage of their weaknesses. My thoughts on the issue.

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