Changing from D&D 5th, sell me on Pathfinder?


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Hi, after enjoying playing the new D&D edition for about 6 months, my group have expressed dissatisfaction with the way WotC will be developing the game going forward. While we are happy with the rules, it seems like D&D will mostly be represented by minis, boardgames and the MMO rather than the tabletop game. So we are looking for an alternative. Most of us have played 3.5, didn’t like 4E, and some of us have played Pathfinder about 3 years ago with various degrees of success. The one thing PF clearly has going for it is support from Paizo and plenty of monthly material. However, some of the players have reservations, so as GM I am coming here to voice a few concerns, tap into the experience of PFs many players and see if the game would be right for us, as opposed to 13th Age or something.

I’m not really looking to get into ‘edition wars’ or anything – just trying to get a handle on the state of play of PF three years after I last played it, and see it’s a fit for what we are looking for.

There seem to be two main sticking points, as we are all happy with the quality of production, art, supplements, etc. PF looks very healthy and well-supported, which is ideal. I played 3rd edition for years so I’m familiar with the pros and cons of d20 in general.

The problems are these: wealth-by-level, and the adventure paths. I’ll try and cover them separately as they really are two different things.

Here, I want to ask about the ‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’. One of the things that turned many of us off 3rd edition was the laundry-lists of magic items, because they had the combat bonuses required to function at given levels. This felt like everyone just ended up with the same items with little variation, and nobody went for something cool and offbeat because it was essential to get the ‘Big Six’. Also, players disliked having to trade in their items every few levels, which seemed like a videogame rather than the kind of stories found in books or films, where you just don’t see that happening. Also, one of the things we liked about 5E was that you could start a character with a powerful heirloom which he might keep for his career, or you could go for a Conan-style game where high level characters didn’t have magic items at all.

So I guess I wanted to ask – is there any OFFICIAL cure for this?

In all the various books and rules out there, is there any kind of alternate system that removes magic items from the equation, or some sort of ‘Unearthed Arcana’ book that offers alternate rules? If the need for items is baked into the rules, is there any way to reverse-engineer this? I recall 4E had something like that with their Dark Sun version.

I dimly recall there was some kind of ‘vow of poverty’ feat that offered bonuses instead of magic items, which might work for the Conan or Grey Mouser types?

Or the old ‘Weapons of Legacy’ 3.5 rules that allowed your items to ‘level up‘ with you so they weren’t constantly being replaced like some JRPG.

Are there any such options available at present? Is this something they may change with Pathfinder 2?

Thanks in advance for any input.


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I've run D&D in various forms from 2e, and the vast majority of the time, I did so with no magic items. In 3rd edition (and Pathfinder, which is an extension of 3rd edition), the only problems you face are:

1) What to do with the Wealth-by-Level system?

2) CR becomes meaningless

3) At the high end, spellcasters are even stronger

Solutions:

1) Just don't give excessive wealth. 100gp can feel like a lot at any level. As a consequence, don't use spells or abilities that create a permanent penalty of any kind (energy drain, ability drain, permanent curses, instant death abilities, etc.), as paying for removal spells/cures/etc. is a key money sink in place to control wealth. I also recommend, along with the removal of instant death abilities, that you remove resurrection abilities--death is supposed to be a revolving door to control wealth, so, with no wealth, it can be more impactful.

2) Eyeball it, basically. Nothing I can tell you, exactly, just, like every other RPG ever that isn't D&D, you have to make judgment calls about what the party can and can't handle. It gets easier the more you do it.

3) Discourage spellcasters if possible, ban them if not, head off BS like the snowcone wish factory ahead of time, etc. Or, make sure the games stay lower level. E6, E8, even just ending the game around 12th like PFS is probably sufficient.

Shadow Lodge

Well, Pathfinder is not too unlike 3.5. It was, but not really all that true any more designed to allow for all the old 3E products to be crossed over. It's still possible, but with the amount of PF bloat, a lot of it isn't really as functional as it could be. For good or ill.

PF has changed a great deal of some of the basics of the game, and a lot of the time you really need to read into things to spot it. Some of the big ones are that Prestige Classes are not very good most of the time, and have kind of been replaced with Archetypes, which are just the 3E variant Classes, or older edition Class Kits. They have the strength that they allow a class to better fit a concept from early on, but they also have the weakness that they are specific to a single class and start to step on other's toes, especially kind of ruining Prestige Classes.

Pathfinder tends to have a sweep it under the rug/band aid policy for a lot of rules issues, not really wanting to give definitive answers so that individual groups can rule on things as they want to.

The Skills system has been altered, both good and bad. It's simpler, but also a little bit less customizable at the lower levels where you kind of need it for classes with less skill points and Class Skills.

The wealth by level and Christmas Tree effect is still very present, but it also depends on hat exactly you mean. Having certain specific items is not required to play like it as in 4E, and in PF there are a lot of extra ways to make do, from the extra class features most classes and races get, to consumables. On the other hand, buying better gear is a part of the game.

For me, and I'm not really a fan of the setting at all, I think that 3.5 was a better overall game, more balanced and more customizable. I prefer WotC's Errata/Faq system to Paizo's, and in general I like the 3.5 system over the Pathfinder one. But, it's not too different, and Pathfinder has done some really good things. So I don't at all mean this to bash Pathfinder, just giving my honest point of view.

There are a few really important selling points for Pathfinder, though.
1.) Most of the Core Material is online for Free, HERE
2.) Buying a few of the Main PDF's is pretty cheap. The Core Book, Adv Player's Guide, and Bestiary 1, all you need to really play, are $30 (US), less then a single hardcover book for most games.
3.) You can still import a lot of 3.5 material wit a bit of work.
4.) It is a current product that is still being actively supported. This one kind of depends on just how you normally play. In a home group setting, this isn't that important. If you want to play at Cons or game stores or whatever, though, it's much easier to find a PF group than it is a 3E group.

I'm sure others might be able to point a few things out I've missed, too. I'd suggest, as a first step, just looking through the PRD and seeing what you think. If you are interested, and your group is at least willing to give it a try, pick up the Core book and APG, and give is a shot a few times. From there, I'd start looking at the Bestiaries, (which are much easier to try first and use from the online page).


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
MAJT69 wrote:
So I guess I wanted to ask – is there any OFFICIAL cure for this?

In a nutshell, no. And to a certain degree there can't be. The math that d20 predicates on pretty much "requires" the Christmas Tree effect. There are lot of ways to fine tune that to your tastes, but the raw mechanics are what they are.

Quote:
I dimly recall there was some kind of ‘vow of poverty’ feat that offered bonuses instead of magic items, which might work for the Conan or Grey Mouser types?

In 3.5's Book of Exalted Deeds, you'll find that. It's very strict and specific, but it's a reasonable inspiration as a basis for automatically granting the bonuses the game's math expects.

Quote:
Or the old ‘Weapons of Legacy’ 3.5 rules that allowed your items to ‘level up‘ with you so they weren’t constantly being replaced like some JRPG.

Again, these don't exist in an official fashion. There are at least a couple 3rd-party stabs at it. WoL's rules were kind of annoying because a lot was sacrificed to get the weapons to level up, but that's been changed in recent incarnations of similar rules.

Quote:
Is this something they may change with Pathfinder 2?

Well, maybe, but the very idea of such a thing remains over the horizon, still likely many years away. Pathfinder as it exists is basically six years old, and Paizo has said they'd expect the ruleset to survive ten or more, and we've got our product announcements out for the next year and a bit, so a new edition isn't something that's coming any time soon.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

While there is nothing yet officially out there for low magic games. There is a book of optional rules coming out called Pathfinder Unchained which will have rules on magic items 'leveling up' with you and might have rules on low magic campaigns.


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MAJT69 wrote:

Hi, after enjoying playing the new D&D edition for about 6 months, my group have expressed dissatisfaction with the way WotC will be developing the game going forward. While we are happy with the rules, it seems like D&D will mostly be represented by minis, boardgames and the MMO rather than the tabletop game. So we are looking for an alternative. Most of us have played 3.5, didn’t like 4E, and some of us have played Pathfinder about 3 years ago with various degrees of success. The one thing PF clearly has going for it is support from Paizo and plenty of monthly material. However, some of the players have reservations, so as GM I am coming here to voice a few concerns, tap into the experience of PFs many players and see if the game would be right for us, as opposed to 13th Age or something.

I’m not really looking to get into ‘edition wars’ or anything – just trying to get a handle on the state of play of PF three years after I last played it, and see it’s a fit for what we are looking for.

There seem to be two main sticking points, as we are all happy with the quality of production, art, supplements, etc. PF looks very healthy and well-supported, which is ideal. I played 3rd edition for years so I’m familiar with the pros and cons of d20 in general.

The problems are these: wealth-by-level, and the adventure paths. I’ll try and cover them separately as they really are two different things.

Here, I want to ask about the ‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’. One of the things that turned many of us off 3rd edition was the laundry-lists of magic items, because they had the combat bonuses required to function at given levels. This felt like everyone just ended up with the same items with little variation, and nobody went for something cool and offbeat because it was essential to get the ‘Big Six’. Also, players disliked having to trade in their items every few levels, which seemed like a videogame rather than the kind of stories found in books or films, where you just don’t see that happening. Also,...

Well, there is Pathfinder Unchained coming out in a couple of months which may solve some of your issues.

EDIT: Ninja'd by John.


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As for magic items, what my group has decided is that there's nothing wrong with magic items- we love them!...the problem is when you have to turn up your nose at an item because it doesn't have a necessary bonus.

This is the current way we're handling this- I should mention these rules are adapted from the house rules of another forum poster, but I can't remember which one, so I can't give them the appropriate credit.

1) Magical items do not grant enhancement bonuses to attack rolls, damage rolls, AC, natural armor, or ability scores. Magical items do not grant resistance bonuses to saves or deflection bonuses to AC. Any items that would do this simply do not exist or are altered at the GM's prerogative.

2) Characters gain untyped bonuses as they level up; these bonuses stack with all others.

Spoiler:

Level 2: +1 to AC and CMD and all saving throws.

Level 3: +1 to attack and damage rolls with weapons/natural weapons/unarmed strikes and +1 to CMB.

Level 4: +5 bonus to a skill, +1 to AC and CMD.

Level 5: +2 to an attribute.

Level 6: +1 to AC and CMD, +1 to all saving throws.

Level 7: +1 to attack rolls with weapons/natural weapons/unarmed strikes and +1 to CMB.

Level 8: +5 to a second skill (ie, not the same one increased at level 4), +1 to AC and CMD.

Level 9: +2 to a second attribute (ie, not the same one increased at level 5).

Level 10: +1 to AC and CMD and all saving throws.

Level 11: +1 to attack rolls and damage rolls with weapons/natural weapons/unarmed strikes and +1 to CMB.

Level 12: +1 to AC and CMD and all saving throws. The skill increased at level 4 gains another +5 bonus.

Level 13: The attribute increased at level 5 gains another +2 bonus.

Level 14: +1 to AC and CMD and all saving throws.

Level 15: +1 to attack rolls and damage rolls with weapons/natural weapons/unarmed strikes and +1 to CMB.

Level 16: +1 to AC and CMD. The skill increased at level 8 gains another +5 bonus.

Level 17: The attribute increased at level 9 gains another +2 bonus.

Level 18: +1 to AC and CMD and all saving throws.

Level 19: +1 to attack rolls and damage rolls with weapons/natural weapons/unarmed strikes and +1 to CMB.

Level 20: The attribute increased at level 5 gains another +2 bonus.

You can still gain inherent bonuses from wishes/tomes/etc. While at first glance it seems like characters using these rules get less bonuses to AC and attributes (ability scores), what we've found this system does is make buff spells more important, as they are allowed to stack with the bonuses granted by these rules.

Previously, we'd have spells like Bull's Strength become useless because the Barbarian has a +4 Strength belt, as an example.


I have gone to a 5e-pathfinder hybrid. I use the 5e rules for the players and for basic monsters. I use pathfinder stats for major encounters to give it a more epic feel. So far, it has been fun. Adventure Paths have become more challenging.


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Ugh. I've put it off for a while, but it's time for a pro-christmas tree rant.

/ranton

So let's start with the obvious. You aren't reading a novel or watching a film. You sat down to play a *game*. A game that has it's characters grow stronger and stronger at set intervals (ie. levels). A game that gives players new more powerful options as they increase in level. And part of that growth is your magical items. Getting new and better equipment is exact same kind of fun as gaining levels. It's the drive to increase your character's power and ability that makes RPGs (whether tabletop, MMO, J, or A) fun. Taking out the "christmas tree" effect is missing out on a huge part of the RPG fun. And for anyone who says 2nd Edition didn't have this "wealth of magic items", I invite you to sit down and a read module. Or two. Or all of them. Guess what? Progressively stronger magic items (by the cartload) are baked right in. Like it was intended.

/rantoff

I do sympathize with the "I can't use X in Y slot because I need to use Z issue though. But there are better ways to resolve that.


Thanks for those who mentioned 'Unchained'.

Sounds like the 'Unearthed Arcana' for PF, so I think we should definitely wait until we can see what that has to offer.

And I don't really care if Xmas Tree works for you; it doesn't work for us. It doesn't happen in most RPGs, even fantasy ones, and my players just dislike the whole 'vendor trash' thing.

Thanks to those who helped.

Sovereign Court

It's 3.5 without having to jump into prestige classes to feel viable, to be quite honest most pf prestige classes aren't a huge bump in power until 3.5 where you could go from being useless to incredible powerful with a few dips in prestige classes.

Multiclassing is there but to be quite honest, you are almost always better off sticking to a single class until the end, if your game goes to high level of course.

WBL is mostly a big issue in early levels, as the game often assume you have certain items to deal with some monsters. At higher levels, characters usually have all the tools they need. WBL is just a guideline and quite honestly if you don't want to buy it...just give them the items and be done with it.

"You helped a Treant, as a reward, he gives you a piece of bark that you can put around your neck, as an amulet of natural armor."

I mean stuffs like that are easy enough.

If you just don't want to play 3.5 anymore, you and your group might have to seriously consider what you are looking for, pretty sure there is system out there for you.


Artifact items can help. Just throw all the big 6 effects on an artifact that scales with level.

Another idea is to have WBL as points where players use those points upon level up to learn "stances" or "enchantments" that act like the big 6 items.

I recently had an idea that instead of big 6 effects, everyone gets a dodge bonus to AC equal to BAB. Good saves progress at 1 point per level. Bad saves progress at 3 points per four levels. Attribute increases happen at every even and scale like weapon training.

Now as far as official fixes go, the artifact suggestion is the only one that is RAW.


Some good suggestions, thanks. I didn't want to houserule if I could help it. 'Unchained' seems to suggest items that level up with you, so we should probably wait for that until making any choices.

The things the players hate more than anything is having to constantly swap out items and having bags of 'magic' vendor trash after every fight. That seems to purely be a D&D/PF or MMO thing; you don't really see it in other games.

A lot of what people dislike about 3.5 are things I can cope with or get around - we don't allow prestige classes anyway, so their reduced emphasis in PF is a boon for us.

But Xmas Tree is a deal-breaker for my guys, and ironically, D&D 5th actually solved it for us before it threw in the towel.


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After my iPad died while I was typing up a response, I'll do the short one here: instead of a Christmas tree effect, I just subsume the "big six" into a singular bonus.

I state that people have a natural magical field that interacts with items of exceptional quality: any masterwork item gains a magic bonus equal to 1/3 of the character's level.

I took this from Ashiel's post quite some time back, here and compared with with Evil Lincoln's here and split the difference.

I do apply it to more than the big six, however, encouraging things like crafting, performance, or profession tools as well.

As far as money goes, I just provide the sinks and my players consistently pour it down the drains (but for great in-world effect): armies, buildings, businesses, charities, churches, guilds, people, etc. - basically, my players like people and stuff, so they purchase people and stuff.

(I do the same, to the point where one GM I had despaired because we got a dragon's horde and all agreed that we'd divide the loot up among several local charities and donate the rest directly to the country. Heh.)

Magic weapons with bonuses retain their value to lower-level entities, while the party gets to keep the niftier abilities.

Hope this one goes through, and I hope this helps!


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Anzyr wrote:
And part of that growth is your magical items. Getting new and better equipment is exact same kind of fun as gaining levels.

Maybe for you, but for many, it is not the same at all. For one, new class features add to what you can do, while new magic items replace what you had before. For two, your character abilities are internal to you--you are getting better. Magic items are not a reflection of how awesome you are, they are only a reflection of how cool your stuff is.

Anzyr wrote:
It's the drive to increase your character's power and ability that makes RPGs (whether tabletop, MMO, J, or A) fun. Taking out the "christmas tree" effect is missing out on a huge part of the RPG fun.

Kind of a huge number of RPGs--practically all of them that aren't D&D--have no magic items, or if they do, they are integral to your character. Examples: in most free form point buy games, you pay for exceptional gear out of the same pool of points you use to buy magic, super powers, and regular skills. In Exalted, your magic items are purchased with XP via "backgrounds." I honestly cannot think of any game other than D&D that has loot provide power without paying for it in character points/xp/whatever.

Anzyr wrote:
And for anyone who says 2nd Edition didn't have this "wealth of magic items", I invite you to sit down and a read module. Or two. Or all of them. Guess what? Progressively stronger magic items (by the cartload) are baked right in. Like it was intended.

The core game did not assume magic items. However, modules were done differently back then, and D&D came with the assumption that you'd take your character from table to table, game to game. So, people sold modules by offering lots of magic items, so the characters who ran them could take awesome magic items with them to other games. It was like selling kids meals with added toys, or cereal because there's a prize inside.


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MAJT69 wrote:
Hi, after enjoying playing the new D&D edition for about 6 months, my group have expressed dissatisfaction with the way WotC will be developing the game going forward. While we are happy with the rules, it seems like D&D will mostly be represented by minis, boardgames and the MMO rather than the tabletop game. ....

Not sure PF is an alternate as they have even bigger range of non table top

Main difference will be lots power upgrades, lots new mini games that classes use, so lots new things for gm to cope with over last 3 years.

Lots choice c.f. to 5th BUT horrible lack mobility in combats is the one thing I struggled with most having played PF again after a run with 5e


thenovalord wrote:
Not sure PF is an alternate as they have even bigger range of non table top

Yes, but PF producing minis and card games ISN'T stopping them supporting their RPG.

Paizo treat Pathfinder RPG as its flagship, through the subscription method. The minis and card games came after.

WotC seem to put the RPG last, and push the brand mainly through their MMO, minis and boardgames.

I honestly can't see PF fans being happy if Paizo suddenly cancelled their RPG books, announcing that they wanted the core book to stand alone like Monopoly.


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mplindustries wrote:
The core game did not assume magic items.

Yes, thank you. That was what I was trying to say.

Aside from a few monsters needing magic weapons to hit them, AD&D didn't require certain levels of items at certain levels. It certainly wasn't baked into the maths, whatever they were.

They even had magic-poor campaigns like Lankhmar or the Conan/Red Sonja adventures. Caramon in Dragonlance was a 6th level fighter without any magic items.

To be honest, the whole 'looting' thing seems pretty rare outside of D&D and videogames. In most games, a magic item is for life, not just for a given level.

Hopefully the Pathfinder Unearthed Arcana rules will give us some variant options here.


mplindustries wrote:
So, people sold modules by offering lots of magic items, so the characters who ran them could take awesome magic items with them to other games. It was like selling kids meals with added toys, or cereal because there's a prize inside.

I remember Forgotten Temple of Tharidzun, and my mage got a +5 Wand of Force, and I was like:

"OMG, I CAN HAZ LIGHTSABER???!!"

:)

Liberty's Edge

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There is also the magic item treadmill: You're going to be running into problems because you need The Stupid Six (Magic Weapon, Magic Armor, Amulet of Natural Armor, Ring of Protection, Belt of Physical Stat, Headband of Mental Stat), and you'll need to blow most of your rather arbitrarily-decided-roughly-fifteen-years-ago (!) wealth by character level on improving The Sextet of Stultissitude just to keep up with the monsters' steady improvement. (So much for setting some money aside to buy your castle stronghold, hundred score magi to guard the dump, and the hottest cleric of some quasi-evil deity to serve as your consort, I guess, but that +4 corrosive burst dragonbane/aberrationbane katana's not going to pay for itself.)

This is Pathfinder, not Sailor Moon: Another Story. One point's difference in a stat should not make the difference between "Eh, it's just a small scrape, I'm perfectly fine" and "I'm holding my heart in place with the one hand the dragon didn't tear off while figuring out how to use my feet to replace Scorching Ray's somatic component." [Incidentally, if something like that actually happens in ANY d20-based game, that would be metal as hell.]

Fourth Edition had in (I think?) its Player's Handbook 3 a system to replace the ever-burgeoning magic item treadmill with inherent character bonuses. Such a thing could work, and could possibly scale down from 4e's thirty levels to PRPG's twenty. (Just remember that the best plus to a magic weapon or armor in Fourth was +6, while it's +5 under most circumstances in PRPG!)

Do not discourage spellcasters; this is fantasy Iron Age Finland, after all, and you're expected to have wizards/clerics/bards (hopefully not multiclassed like that, though.) join your valiant bands of fighters and thieves. Just... you know. Ban certain spells whose names rhyme with "fish" and "spherical" because Wish/Miracle, when not used to break the game across the caster's face, leads to horrifying jerkass moves/hilarity from the DM. (My personal favorite is Fifth Edition's "I wish the villain were dead!" "Okay, you are transported forward in time to a point where the villain is dead. Make a new character in the meantime." And yes, 5e skeptics, this is an actual listed consequence of Wish in the Fifth Edition Player's Handbook.) Spell resistance is going to suck, but... it's one of those things that you'll have to deal with, sadly. =(

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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My group is playing 5th Edition through the Rise of the Runelords AP. So far, so good. The DM just has to convert the monsters and NPCs from PF to 5th Ed.

We're also going through it VERY quickly because 5th Ed. combat is so much more elegant than PF.

One of the best parts of PF is how customizable the PCs are. You have lots of choices for alignment, traits, feats, skills, races, alternate race features, classes, class features, class archetypes, spells, and equipment.

Dark Archive

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I'm still somewhat a noobie... started a few games with PFS... was ok but seemed overly rule-ish.

When I finally found a 5th edition Excursions/Adventure League group... LOVED IT... but I have to admit... we have a great DM and some really good folks of similar backgrounds.

Yesterday I played my first post 5th Edition Pathfinder game at a PFS Gameday ... and I thought it would NEVER END.

Oh Lord... I have to seriously think about it if I'm going to PFS again...

Just the fun seemed all sucked out of it.

Shadow Lodge

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Snorb wrote:
There is also the magic item treadmill: You're going to be running into problems because you need The Stupid Six (Magic Weapon, Magic Armor, Amulet of Natural Armor, Ring of Protection, Belt of Physical Stat, Headband of Mental Stat), and you'll need to blow most of your rather arbitrarily-decided-roughly-fifteen-years-ago (!) wealth by character level on improving The Sextet of Stultissitude just to keep up with the monsters' steady improvement. (So much for setting some money aside to buy your castle stronghold, hundred score magi to guard the dump, and the hottest cleric of some quasi-evil deity to serve as your consort, I guess, but that +4 corrosive burst dragonbane/aberrationbane katana's not going to pay for itself.)

Honestly, a few simple tweeks could fix this. If you remove the rule that a cast needs to have their casting stat at a certain level to cast spells of a given level, and make DC's based on caster's HD rather than their Stat, that can remove a great deal of the "I need a Headband of ______".

Ring of Protection and Amulet of Natural Armor are also not at all required. They are just common due to their relatively cheap prices vs other more circumstantial rings and amulets. Especially the Ring of Protection, though, it' just a far too common bonus, so to me, it's not really worth it most of the time. I'd generally rather have other things like Ring of the Sublime, Feather Fall, or even Sustenance.

Very few things can compare to the amazingness of a Magic Carpet, so I'd rather just buy some backup weapons than try to maximize one main one, and even Fighters nw get bonuses for Weapon Groups to help out.

@ the OP, something that Paizo has changed and an official rule that may help are the Spell Masterwork Transformation and the ability for anyone (not just casters) to create Magical Items. So, to a certain extent, you can already do a limited form of Weapons of Legacy, especially if you view things like +1 and +2 items as less magical and more rare/uncommon.


If all you are looking for is a system with a lot of support, you should probably go with 3.5 over pathfinder. It still has considerably more support than pathfinder, unless Paizo ramps up their pace enourmously, that isn't likely to change for many years to come. The 3.5 core rules and some splats were reprinted pretty recently, so you should be able to get them for a relatively low price. And OBS is still selling all the splats as E-books, so availability isn't an issue. And, on the rare occasion that there is something in pathfinder that isn't in 3.5, it's really easy to convert it to 3.5.

Now, if you are looking for something other than "more support", you'll have to specify what it is you want. Obviously, if you want something like weapons of legacy from 3.5, then 3.5 has that. But there are other things which, say, 13th age handles better despite having less support/splats.

Liberty's Edge

"Devil's Advocate" wrote:
Snorb wrote:
There is also the magic item treadmill: You're going to be running into problems because you need The Stupid Six (Magic Weapon, Magic Armor, Amulet of Natural Armor, Ring of Protection, Belt of Physical Stat, Headband of Mental Stat), and you'll need to blow most of your rather arbitrarily-decided-roughly-fifteen-years-ago (!) wealth by character level on improving The Sextet of Stultissitude just to keep up with the monsters' steady improvement. (So much for setting some money aside to buy your castle stronghold, hundred score magi to guard the dump, and the hottest cleric of some quasi-evil deity to serve as your consort, I guess, but that +4 corrosive burst dragonbane/aberrationbane katana's not going to pay for itself.)

Honestly, a few simple tweeks could fix this. If you remove the rule that a cast needs to have their casting stat at a certain level to cast spells of a given level, and make DC's based on caster's HD rather than their Stat, that can remove a great deal of the "I need a Headband of ______".

Ring of Protection and Amulet of Natural Armor are also not at all required. They are just common due to their relatively cheap prices vs other more circumstantial rings and amulets. Especially the Ring of Protection, though, it' just a far too common bonus, so to me, it's not really worth it most of the time. I'd generally rather have other things like Ring of the Sublime, Feather Fall, or even Sustenance.

Very few things can compare to the amazingness of a Magic Carpet, so I'd rather just buy some backup weapons than try to maximize one main one, and even Fighters nw get bonuses for Weapon Groups to help out.

@ the OP, something that Paizo has changed and an official rule that may help are the Spell Masterwork Transformation and the ability for anyone (not just casters) to create Magical Items. So, to a certain extent, you can already do a limited form of Weapons of Legacy, especially if you view things like +1 and +2 items as less magical and more rare/uncommon.

We never really ran into the "Thine Wisdom must be thisith high to casteth this spell," mostly because we run the adventure paths and those generally end around level 15ish. Those of us who play casties usually front-load our casting stat way back at first level anyway. XD

(And you're tragically overlooking the Ring of Force Shielding, Advocate! Would that I could get one for my brawler in Iron Gods...)


137ben wrote:
Now, if you are looking for something other than "more support", you'll have to specify what it is you want. Obviously, if you want something like weapons of legacy from 3.5, then 3.5 has that. But there are other things which, say, 13th age handles better despite having less support/splats.

I think I own every 3.5 book ever made. And every single one of my players refuses to touch it.

13th Age seems to be favoured among them, but I've offered to sell Pathfinder as an improved and cleaned up version of 3rd edition. I have them interested in the idea, and wore down their objections to two areas: the wealth-by-level/Xmas Tree effect, and the perceived weakness of the premade adventures (which I asked about in another thread).

Here, I just wanted to know if there was some official way to escape the WBL thing, something like automatic bonuses or similar.

So as Devil's Advocate says above, they can spend their money on a Portable Hole or Flying Carpet instead of something that gives them a dull-but-essential combat bonus.

It seems that Unchained will have Legacy Weapons or something similar to that, anyway.


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Also Pathfinder has a lot of third party publisher support - I'm hoping your "vendor trash" comment was not referring to 3PP. Really the third party support for Pathfinder is of much higher quality than those products offered throughout d20, many of the 3PP authors are also authors for Paizo products, APs and modules.

While not yet released, the setting guide for the Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG) will include our own version of Weapons of Legacy that include more than just weapons. While these items level with the wielders there is no XP nor GP expenditure in the leveling process rather use of both an Honor mechanic requirement and an event trigger is used forcing PCs to engaging and winning some required activity at each item leveling - which becomes a story hook, more useful for creating adventures.

Rite Publishing offers many great products beyond settings, as well as many other 3PP companies. Pathfinder is greater than other systems because of both Paizo's efforts and the 3PP support.


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No, by 'vendor trash' I meant:

"Okay, the fight's over, you search the bodies and find 20 +1 items."

"Okay, stick 'em in the Bag of Holding and we'll sell them back at town.'

In other words, extraneous low-level magic items that exist only to be sold to shops. My players seriously think it undervalues the concept of magic. They want something other than 'Diablo' or similar games where trash loot is commonplace.


Magic items are integrated too much in the system, you can try to run your games without it but you are going to run to a few problems, the first one is that the CR system uses all of it's uses (even as a guideline) and can only cause you problems (if you use XP leveling instead of milestone leveling), that also means that you have to personally handpick/change each monster the PCs face in order to make sure that it's not going to hose them because they don't access to a significant part of the system, that becomes even more of a problem when you are running premade adventures where you have to vet everything before using it.

I am not familiar with 3.5 legacy weapons so i don't know if the rules are any good but if they are working good why not use those rules?


Okay, in that case, I recommend looking at pathfinder's One Bling to Rule Them All: Scaling Magic Items

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

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MAJT69 wrote:
The things the players hate more than anything is having to constantly swap out items and having bags of 'magic' vendor trash after every fight.

There's a simple house rule you can use to fix both of these problems:

Permanent magic items are user-specific. When the PCs loot an opponent, the opponent's permanent magic items become non-magical, but the PCs gain an amount of mana with a gp-value equal to the sales price of those permanent magic items. The PCs can spend their mana to upgrade their own magic items as if that mana was actual gp.

That gives you upgrading magic items without all the vendor trash.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Snorb wrote:

T

Do not discourage spellcasters; this is fantasy Iron Age Finland, after all, and you're expected to have wizards/clerics/bards (hopefully not multiclassed like that, though.) join your valiant bands of fighters and thieves. Just... you know. Ban certain spells whose names rhyme with "fish" and "spherical" because Wish/Miracle, when not used to break the game across the caster's face, leads to horrifying jerkass moves/hilarity from the DM. (My personal favorite is Fifth...

Actually I remmember that from First Edition AD+D when that was listed as one of the ways a GM could handle such a wish.

But seriously anyone expecting an instant I WIN! button from a wish is asking to be GM-spanked.

Shadow Lodge

MAJT69 wrote:
137ben wrote:
Now, if you are looking for something other than "more support", you'll have to specify what it is you want. Obviously, if you want something like weapons of legacy from 3.5, then 3.5 has that. But there are other things which, say, 13th age handles better despite having less support/splats.

I think I own every 3.5 book ever made. And every single one of my players refuses to touch it.

13th Age seems to be favoured among them, but I've offered to sell Pathfinder as an improved and cleaned up version of 3rd edition. I have them interested in the idea, and wore down their objections to two areas: the wealth-by-level/Xmas Tree effect, and the perceived weakness of the premade adventures (which I asked about in another thread).

Here, I just wanted to know if there was some official way to escape the WBL thing, something like automatic bonuses or similar.

So as Devil's Advocate says above, they can spend their money on a Portable Hole or Flying Carpet instead of something that gives them a dull-but-essential combat bonus.

It seems that Unchained will have Legacy Weapons or something similar to that, anyway.

Honestly, I'm not sure about Unchained, but I highly doubt it will be what you are looking for. It's ben said that it is NOT Pathfinder's Unearthed Arcana, and I don't know. The more I find out about it, (which really isn't much), the less it's what I was wanting. Similar to the Mythic thing (for Epic). However, what you might really be interested in, it's not "official" but it is a free houserule that's pretty in depth is the E6/P6 system.

The basic idea is that it takes the d20 system and limits it to 6th level(ish). E6 (Epic 6th Level) was originally done for D&D 3.5 and P6 (Epic Pathfinder 6) is just the Pathfinderized version. Because you never advance (in levels) past 6th, basically anything that is higher than a +2 doesn't exist. No one can make a +4 sword, (literally, no one can). 5th Level spells are basically nonexistent, though some can be done a rituals (of like 50 - 1 billion people). It heavily favors martial characters by design, as those are the level they are the strongest over all, but the stated intent is to make a more realistic, low-magic setting.


MAJT69 wrote:

No, by 'vendor trash' I meant:

"Okay, the fight's over, you search the bodies and find 20 +1 items."

"Okay, stick 'em in the Bag of Holding and we'll sell them back at town.'

In other words, extraneous low-level magic items that exist only to be sold to shops. My players seriously think it undervalues the concept of magic. They want something other than 'Diablo' or similar games where trash loot is commonplace.

well the game is designed to assume each fight gests you x wealth, but that wealth doesnt need to be in items, if you prefer you could flat out give them money, or you could have a treasure hord every so often to fill the gaps where they get no items for a while.

what i sounds like what you want though is a system that nolonger has gold or currency really, you want a game that runs off xp almost exclusivly and everything you need is to be provided along the way, which i will note is 100% doable, the DM just has to design the adventure that way, laying gear here and there and removing money as a thing, its not really that difficult i think


perhaps another way to put it is the wealth by level is mearly to represent how much power at any point a player should be getting from his gear, and a gears power is measured in gold, technically one never has to gain gold or anything liek that, a gm could say "and as you smite the boss down his magics flow over you and you feel your gear soak some of it in and you gain x amount of currency you can alot to the gear to power it up" in that cenario your sill gaining power that you can mesure in gold for the games purposes but in role play never once set your hands on actual gold. this game alows for alot, you just gotta imagin it

The Exchange

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MAJT69 wrote:

No, by 'vendor trash' I meant:

"Okay, the fight's over, you search the bodies and find 20 +1 items."

"Okay, stick 'em in the Bag of Holding and we'll sell them back at town.'

In other words, extraneous low-level magic items that exist only to be sold to shops. My players seriously think it undervalues the concept of magic. They want something other than 'Diablo' or similar games where trash loot is commonplace.

So you want a game that fixes the Christmas Tree Effect and the rampant magic items everywhere? That is 5E. I don't understand where you are getting that 5E is going to be mostly represented by MMOs and boardgames...they have slowed down with the supplement books a bit from their past, but they are focusing on good adventures and quality supplements. You have knee-jerked the system based on absolutely zero understanding of how the game is progressing...hit the forums and troll around and you will see more about the path forward, unless you already closed off your mind to 5E. It really is an awesome game for eliminating the magic mart/christmas tree syndrome.

Pathfinder is almost impossible to make work in the same way without massive houserules and such.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Has anyone ever played in a mid- to high-level game without the expected Wealth By Level? Does it totally break down, or is it just a bit more challenging?


mplindustries wrote:

Maybe for you, but for many, it is not the same at all. For one, new class features add to what you can do, while new magic items replace what you had before. For two, your character abilities are internal to you--you are getting better. Magic items are not a reflection of how awesome you are, they are only a reflection of how cool your stuff is.

How cool your stuff is, *is* a reflection of how awesome you are. Seriously, why would it not be? Compare a guy with an iron sword and the same guy with Excalibur. Obviously the guy with Excalibur is stronger/cooler/more awesome.

mplindustries wrote:

Kind of a huge number of RPGs--practically all of them that aren't D&D--have no magic items, or if they do, they are integral to your character. Examples: in most free form point buy games, you pay for exceptional gear out of the same pool of points you use to buy magic, super powers, and regular skills. In Exalted, your magic items are purchased with XP via "backgrounds." I honestly cannot think of any game other than D&D that has loot provide power without paying for it in character points/xp/whatever.

You do pay for them in 3.5/PF. Not out of your XP, but out or you WBL. This doesn't help your argument as both systems charge resources for them, just different ones.

mplindustries wrote:

The core game did not assume magic items. However, modules were done differently back then, and D&D came with the assumption that you'd take your character from table to table, game to game. So, people sold modules by offering lots of magic items, so the characters who ran them could take awesome magic items with them to other games. It was like selling kids meals with added toys, or cereal because there's a prize inside.

Not even remotely true. If the professional modules had lots of magic items, thats an indication that magic items are part of the system. The fact that the early version of the DMG didn't come right out and say "you should be using about this many magic items" is more proof that the game has helped GMs out in 3.5/PF to meet the same expectations, then that "no magic items is core".


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I just have magic items be replaced by blessings and items that become more powerful if you do epic things with them, by giving the players immaterial "Plot GP".


Anzyr wrote:
mplindustries wrote:

Maybe for you, but for many, it is not the same at all. For one, new class features add to what you can do, while new magic items replace what you had before. For two, your character abilities are internal to you--you are getting better. Magic items are not a reflection of how awesome you are, they are only a reflection of how cool your stuff is.

How cool your stuff is, *is* a reflection of how awesome you are. Seriously, why would it not be? Compare a guy with an iron sword and the same guy with Excalibur. Obviously the guy with Excalibur is stronger/cooler/more awesome.

When you cease to be the Mighty Thor, hero of Asgard, weilder of Mjolnir and wearer of the Belt of Strength (and that's it), and become Gear, the Magical Bag of Equipment (and oh, yeah, I guess there's a meatbag that carries him around, too; did he have a name? I can't remember), then your gear is not a reflection of you at all.

Example: Han Solo has a signature blaster. Over the years, he has modified and tweaked that thing maybe a quarter as much as he has his famous ship (that is to say, still a lot). But if he were to pick up a random stormtrooper blaster, it would still be a viable weapon in his hands. Han is not crippled by using substandard equipment.

That's the literature. And this is backed up in the game (well, SWSE, anyway). Can you prefer games to not reflect that literature? Sure. Some of us prefer that it does. Games made in accordance with that assumption please us, and games that require constantly upgraded/replaced equipment disappoint us. Are we playing someone else's idea of a heroic character? Probably. Just not ours.


You literally picked a guy who is *known* for his Magical Item and which he requires to be a valid threat to the high CR enemies in his story? I think that just proves my point actually. And Han dumped all his WBL into his ship, without which he would be much less effective.


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The Christmas Tree effect has been in play for a long time, not just in 3.0/3.5/3.75 It took a lot more effort to enchant magic items in older editions, but magic items and weapons were plentiful in any of the major campaign settings, Dark Sun included. Fighters wanted to gain belts of giant strength so they could do more damage, wizards wanted pearls of power and scrolls to gain spells, and so on. Skills and Powers/Combat and Tactics/ added in mastery, psionics (mTHACO is still rather silly then the Psionics 2nd ed Psionics handbook rules), variant rules for monsters via the high level campaign setting, etc. 2nd ed Kits were horribly underbalanced depending on what you chose (Stormwhistler bard vs Riddlemaster comes to mind.) The core of the original game was to enter into a dungeon or wilderness town, encounter some monsters, slay them, and use their treasure to help overcome a larger evil behind the monsters. Roleplaying came in later.

Also, you can control the flow of treasure to your group. If you want permanent magic items to become harder to get, requiring either story goals or defeating great foes for them, plant monetary and temp magic items such as potions, scrolls, wands, etc in your hoards. The tabletop game is about challenges and using what resources you gain or have in order to defeat them. I've run all three editions for the last 30+ years, and I've never had issues constructing decent roleplaying or combat related challenges with a group that had an average, low, or above average amount of magic items. In some settings like Eberron, magic becomes an everday commodity that is used to create grandiose constructs. As for systems that have loot that provides power for paying for them, any of the Palladium systems, any knock off of the D&D rules, Tunnels and Trolls, the new rules for Warhammer 40K RPGs, Star Wars d20 and supplements, Modern D20 and supplements..., etc

There are many "cool" items that people can pick up in addition to the Big Six. Most of my players pick them up to take care of situations that they may not be able to via their normal class abilities. Bands of Binding, or flying carpets, or boots of varied tracks to name a few. Pathfinder does a much better job with combat maneuvers like bull rush, grappling, etc, as well as creating feats for the martial characters to enjoy. Item creation rules are also far better then most of the other editions, rather than the 3 different ways TSR decided to parse the construction out over the 8 years 2nd Ed was out.

Moving on to the APs, Pathfinder APs are far better then 85% of the trash WOTC wrote throughout in 3.0 or 3.5 Kingmaker has the best kingdom building rules I have ever seen, and the entire story revolves around love and the inability for one fae to feel it. I know of only other adventure in all of 1st through 3rd ed that came close, and that was the Throne of Bloodstone series. Iron Gods asks you what is divinity while placing technology in a classic battle of super science vs the best that magic can deploy. The entire second AP of Rise of the Runelords is a murder mystery that takes characters from the sites of ghoul infested lumber mills, to a haunted house tainted by 4 generations of misoginy and failed ambition (very fall of the House of Usher) to a climatic battle with a lamia at the top of a crooked clock tower, 170 feet above the city below. What do we get with 3.0 or 3.5 adventures? Dude, there is this evil azer, and he is going to make a magic sword that makes him powerful. Dude! We should go stop him before he comes and invades our town! That's the plot summary of Master of the Iron Fortress. The only 3.5 adventures that were worth anything was the series set in Greyhawk, Ravenloft, or Sigil, three game worlds that the powers at WOTC left behind in their effort to constantly nuke the Forgotten Realms every two game years with yet another catastrophe.

And third party support. I have bought a ton of 3rd party stuff for both 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder, and the Pathfinder stuff outshines just about everything, with the exception of the Swords and Sorcery line from White Wolf (including Malhavoc Press and Frog God/Necromancer Games). Instead of the Savage Species guide, which had some problems with game balance, we get things like Rite's Publishing guide in the Company of Dragons, in which you can play a dragon that is balanced with the rest of the group. Or Rogue/Super Genius games classes like the time thief, a roguish class that can steal time in small or large chunks to aid them in all sorts of fun ways. Dreamscarred Press's rebuilds of the Tome of Battle, the 3.5 Psionics system, and Arcanum are second to none.

In conclusion, Pathfinder has a superior product, excellent 3rd and core support, brings a host of new classes and options that WOTC just doesn't get, and takes care of a lot of the holes 3.0 and 3.5 left. If you are looking for a system that isn't D&D for the same thing, I would try Iron Heroes or move onto Exalted or Ars Magica. The new Earthdawn is also suggested for that type of roleplaying.


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Tectorman wrote:
Anzyr wrote:
mplindustries wrote:

Maybe for you, but for many, it is not the same at all. For one, new class features add to what you can do, while new magic items replace what you had before. For two, your character abilities are internal to you--you are getting better. Magic items are not a reflection of how awesome you are, they are only a reflection of how cool your stuff is.

How cool your stuff is, *is* a reflection of how awesome you are. Seriously, why would it not be? Compare a guy with an iron sword and the same guy with Excalibur. Obviously the guy with Excalibur is stronger/cooler/more awesome.

When you cease to be the Mighty Thor, hero of Asgard, weilder of Mjolnir and wearer of the Belt of Strength (and that's it), and become Gear, the Magical Bag of Equipment (and oh, yeah, I guess there's a meatbag that carries him around, too; did he have a name? I can't remember), then your gear is not a reflection of you at all.

Example: Han Solo has a signature blaster. Over the years, he has modified and tweaked that thing maybe a quarter as much as he has his famous ship (that is to say, still a lot). But if he were to pick up a random stormtrooper blaster, it would still be a viable weapon in his hands. Han is not crippled by using substandard equipment.

That's the literature. And this is backed up in the game (well, SWSE, anyway). Can you prefer games to not reflect that literature? Sure. Some of us prefer that it does. Games made in accordance with that assumption please us, and games that require constantly upgraded/replaced equipment disappoint us. Are we playing someone else's idea of a heroic character? Probably. Just not ours.

It's also very rare in fantasy literature for that gear to be loot and it's almost unheard of for the protagonists to sell off their stuff to buy better gear or even switching up to a newer and better looted weapon.

Tolkien is actually a fairly rare case of looted gear and even there it was only the weapons (Orcrist, Glamdring, Sting and the barrow blades, arguably the Ring) and even then there was no trading up.

In one Amber game we played we had a child of Corwin, who inherited his sword - so we did have a running joke of villains crying out "It's Grayswandir and that guy who carries it around!"


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As a DM, I normally bake 3 weeks to a month of downtime into intermissions between each adventure path book (book 1 to book 2, book 2 to book 3, etc.). This time can be used to accomplish personal character objectives or to upgrade your magical items, normally done by hiring an NPC crafter.

When the samurai found an Elven Blade of historical make (+1 Elven Cured Blade) at level 3, she waited until level 7 to upgrade that same sword to a +2 bonus, then at level 11 she upgraded it to a +2 holy blade. She still remembers where it came from, and the fact that it was finely crafted by her ancestors 10 Elven generations ago is still in the character's mind, but it now provides the benefits she needs for it to "keep up".

Similarly, the Warpriest just found an ancient Thassilonian purple cloak which seems to slip out of your grasp (a cloak of minor displacement). When they get done with this AP book, I fully expect him to pay an extra 50% to add the effects of a cloak of resistance +2 or +3 to the cloak of displacement. This will allow him to keep the cool bonus and the ancient, mysterious nature of the cloak, while also getting the bonuses he "mechanically needs".

T;DR - With some baked in downtime and DM allowances for combined items (at the suggested 50% markup) you can add mechanical "big six bonuses" to acquired "cool, flavorful items" and get the best of both worlds.


Anzyr wrote:
You literally picked a guy who is *known* for his Magical Item and which he requires to be a valid threat to the high CR enemies in his story? I think that just proves my point actually. And Han dumped all his WBL into his ship, without which he would be much less effective.

So Thor got a hammer way back at the beginning of his career, found a better one, and scrapped the previous one? And wash/rinse/repeated this process ad stomach-cramping nauseum? When was this? The way I remember it, Mjolnir was Mjolnir and was never duplicated or replaced. The closest I remember is a similar hammer being made for Beta Ray Bill. And a hammer inspiring the construction of a similar hammer for another character is not the same thing as the Christmas Tree effect.

As for Han, yes, you're right. He got one ship, AND KEPT IT. That is my point; thank you for proving it. Did he replace it when he needed something better for the higher CR entities he was going to be facing? No, of course not, don't be ridiculous. And the only thing hampering Han's effectiveness when he was using the Imperial shuttle was the fact that it was Episode 6.


So you want people to get Artifact items at the start of thier quest? That's not how a progressive system of increased power works. Bringing up stories and movies is pointless, because you aren't reading a novel or watching a film. You are playing a game.


MechE_ wrote:

As a DM, I normally bake 3 weeks to a month of downtime into intermissions between each adventure path book (book 1 to book 2, book 2 to book 3, etc.). This time can be used to accomplish personal character objectives or to upgrade your magical items, normally done by hiring an NPC crafter.

When the samurai found an Elven Blade of historical make (+1 Elven Cured Blade) at level 3, she waited until level 7 to upgrade that same sword to a +2 bonus, then at level 11 she upgraded it to a +2 holy blade. She still remembers where it came from, and the fact that it was finely crafted by her ancestors 10 Elven generations ago is still in the character's mind, but it now provides the benefits she needs for it to "keep up".

Similarly, the Warpriest just found an ancient Thassilonian purple cloak which seems to slip out of your grasp (a cloak of minor displacement). When they get done with this AP book, I fully expect him to pay an extra 50% to add the effects of a cloak of resistance +2 or +3 to the cloak of displacement. This will allow him to keep the cool bonus and the ancient, mysterious nature of the cloak, while also getting the bonuses he "mechanically needs".

T;DR - With some baked in downtime and DM allowances for combined items (at the suggested 50% markup) you can add mechanical "big six bonuses" to acquired "cool, flavorful items" and get the best of both worlds.

I almost agree with this. It does technically work, though I found the process clunky.

Example: I was playing a Rogue in 3.5 (one of my first characters) and even though I could afford my short sword with my starting wealth, we made its acquisition a theft from my character's background. Effectively the same thing, but I liked the fact that my sword had an engraved signature of its previous owner.

Then I found out that only objects made masterwork from the get-go can be made magical. Realizing that my treasured blade would soon become a dunsel (and remember, 3.5 didn't have a Masterwork Transformation spell like PF does), I asked if I could have the blade smelted down and remade into itself, signature and all. The DM allowed it, and we moved on, but it always felt so cheap and left a figurative sour taste in my mouth.


Anzyr wrote:
So you want people to get Artifact items at the start of thier quest? That's not how a progressive system of increased power works. Bringing up stories and movies is pointless, because you aren't reading a novel or watching a film. You are playing a game.

"Frodo, you're going to be the guy bearing this Artifact Ring for this story, but it's way above your character level right now, so I'm going to have you do a whole bunch a level-grinding and become like unto a god, so it fits into your WBL."

And what does a game being a game have to do with anything? Examples of other games (that are not movies or novels but in fact are games) that do not feature WBL have already been listed. "This is a game. The characters get stronger over time. WBL doesn't even exist in this game." is a thing that already exists.

The OP is just wondering how to modify Pathfinder into one of those fortunate games.

A worthy goal, because if you read the literature, Pathfinder characters don't even suffer the Christmas Tree effect. In two story arcs of the Pathfinder comics, I saw 1 (one) magic item, and it was a scroll (Glitterdust, I think). In Master of Devils, Radovan gains about 15 levels of Monk and Varian Jeggare gains about the same amount. Between the two, they gain two magic items, the Shadowless Sword and a Monk's Robe (I think, it seemed more like Magic Cloth Armor from 4E), two masterwork daggers, and Jeggare had his magic spellbook replaced. That's it.

Yes, Pathfinder is a game, but one of the reasons we play games like this is to play out the characters and adventures that we see in other media of a similar genre. And it is laughable that the one thing you can't do in the Pathfinder game is play a Pathfinder character.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The Wealth by Level guidelines are guidelines. Things can go haywire later if they're not followed, so do not mess with them without a good plan--but if you do have a plan, and you're not running Pathfinder Society, who cares? Mess with things. The system's a good one, it can handle it.

Pathfinder difficulty is scaled so that characters are expected to have X GP worth of magical abilities per level. Magic items provide the easiest, most straightforward way to balance what GMs want to provide and what players want to acquire, but it's not the only way to provide the expected amount of power scaling. Remember that a player usually can determine where their money goes--some money can be spent on offense, some on defense, and some on other abilities, and it becomes a part of their build. A character with an archaeologist character is probably going to be more interested in skill or RP bonuses than a character with a fighter, so use the GP costs as a way of estimating equivalence between the options, don't just hand out combat bonuses and assume everyone's going to be happy. (You know that, right? But I'd be doing someone a disservice if they hadn't considered this and I hadn't pointed it out.)

The most straightforward rip-out-and-replace would be to use the magic item creation rules in the Core Rulebook, in combination with some other scheme, to allow the players to gain abilities about equivalent to what they would have gotten through gaining magic items. A treasured weapon might gain another + or ability, you could learn how to use your fathers' beaten-up breastplate to protect against critical hits, etc. Some traits and classes already provide similar abilities, so watch out for these, and work with your players to determine what benefit they might get from these abilities in your modified campaign.

You can also add equivalent abilities to classes in a roundabout way--for example, instead of handing out Rings of Protection and Amulets of Natural Armor, give out bonuses to natural armor, dodge bonuses to AC, and deflection bonuses to AC based on character level.

Another approach would be to stack archetypes. Typically, Pathfinder archetypes are not additive--you have to trade something out in order to get something new from the archetype. If you allow players to ignore the bits about giving up abilities to get new class abilities, you can stack more power in the class and the character, allowing you to reduce or eliminate abilities from magic items. Archetypes are not necessarily going to be equal--classes with relatively few abilities are going to have less exciting archetypes than classes with many abilities, and you'd have your work cut out for you balancing things up front. You also have to determine how you're stacking archetypes--do you have them all take effect immediately? Do you add a new archetype every 4 levels? Do you allow a choice after certain momentous events? After that, though, you might be mostly in the clear.

The fourth option that comes easily to mind is to use mythic levels. I haven't played with these yet myself, but I understand they ramped up power in the Wrath of the Righteous campaign a little too much in the latter half of the AP when run with the expected wealth by level. You might want to look into them and see if granting mythic levels would provide enough power to make up for a lack of Christmas Tree.

Remember that Pathfinder, like all tabletop RPGs, is a system that is balanced to operate within certain parameters--but as a GM, you are free to change or reskin any of the components of the system that you want. Reskinning coherently is going to be some extra work for you--at least upfront--but by reusing existing mechanisms, you can keep that additional work to a minimum.

Is it going to be worth it for you and your group? I can't tell you that. Maybe 5th is really the way to go for you! But if it's not, don't be scared off from Pathfinder just because of the Christmas Tree Effect. As someone who breaks things all the freaking time, I can tell you that it's a very robust system.

Disclosure: I've a ton of messing with stuff in 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder, and it hasn't been too hard to make them work. Kingdom building without the Kingmaker rules handy, crazy races, forcing everyone to start as first-level commoners, low-magic survival horror... it can be done. Just build a good replacement system and it'll work.

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