Losing My Edge


Gamer Life General Discussion

1 to 50 of 69 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>

Sorry for the Wall of Text and Wall of Whine. Just need to vent.

I used to write and run challenging encounters in my adventures. The last several, and by that I mean nearly everything in the last couple of years, has seen me work and work to come up with a BBEG or encounter that would be a fun event for my group of players only to have them defeat it in two or three rounds w/out getting a scratch.

Except for occasional "guest appearances" by friends who don't get to play very often anymore, my group consists of me (The GM), a Psion telepath, a Bard (investigator archetype) and a Pugilist (3PP class). The last is the only combat oriented character in the group.

Last night's game was the end of a three session arc where they were supposed to go up against an Arcanist who had been sending assassins after them and their sometime benefactor. Rather than outright fighting him, they spent a nearly 5 hour session planning a character assassination of him that would ultimately see him disgraced and run out of town by the city council (he was the mayor of a large trading city).

That's all well and good. I don't mind when the game takes a turn like this. But then there was a fight. The Bard and Pugilist, under cover of an Invisibility Sphere, get the jump on the guy and take him down in a surprise round and then one actual round of combat. He never got a chance to cast a spell or use an SLA. All characters, the BBEG included, were 9th level. After a 5 hour session and weeks of planning, this was how the story arc ended. I hated it.

I applaud my players for thinking of discrediting him before the city council. I didn't see that coming. They constantly challenge me by doing Option Q out of Options A,B, and C. But I can't challenge them anymore, and it's really wearing on me, no matter what I do.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Most GM's have a certain way they GM. If you have smart players they have likely adapted to your style of GM'ing. At the same time you may also need to adapt to your players.
You also need to be ready for "game/combat enders".
As an example invisibility and flight are two ways to own an encounter if the opposition has no counter. I understand not wanting to have every enemy being able to counter it, but for important fights the bad guys should be able to avoid auto-shutdowns. Going over your player's character sheets occasionally helps a GM from getting caught off-guard. I consider it fair game because you are only one person, and they are 3 people or more, so they have access to more ideas than the GM does.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

For one group, I could never plan out a boss encounter simply because they would change course at the drop of a hat. I don't mean "let's use diplomacy instead of war", but rather "let's leave and do something else". My fault because I enabled them, but I'm glad to not have that responsibility anymore. Fortunately, their habits taught me to plan for the worst. For a normal group, I keep a backup build or a completely hidden villain tucked away for emergencies.

(Example)
Let's say that the group decides to eliminate a thieves' guild and succeed in completely scouting out the membership. They think they know what to expect. They outfit themselves perfectly. The combat gets under way and the group manages to quickly work through their opponents. The "boss" fight is over in a few rounds and they're feeling godlike. Then that fat little messenger boy runs in scolding the group and otherwise acting very unlike a street urchin. It turns out that the messenger boy houses a tsochar warpriest/magus/other-kind-of-caster-fighter-hybrid and things really heat up. Make sure that the "red herrings" can double as "omg we should have seen this coming" if needed.

You may end up not using the contingency plan, but that means you can refit it for a future campaign.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

And not to be debbie downer, but part of the problem might be if you're using pathfinder... It does have a rocket tag problem that I've personally found takes a lot of the climactic out of a fight. Only a problem if you're used to playing in other systems where the hit point stack outstrips the damage stack, giving a thing a few more rounds of fighting chance. At the end of the day I'd argue that pathfinder is in fact a far more lethal system than 2e in some regards.


I am using PF. This is the system we've decided to "retire" with eventually. After decades of gaming and spending collectively thousands of dollars on different editions and games we just don't get together enough anymore or have the free income to spend like we used to. So I'll have to figure out something within confines of the system.

Sovereign Court

Hmm, perhaps hero points for BBEGs or sticking to E6 could help.


What is E6? You kids and your new slang.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
What is E6? You kids and your new slang.

E6 has been around for a long time. Basically you do not level up anymore after level 6, but you continue to get feats.

Some people play other E's such as E8.


Ah, thanks. These guys wanna go to Level 20, though.


I'll probably bring the BBEG back at some point, his cohorts having rescued him. I worked too hard on him. But for now they want to spend a session or two developing the trade network they've been building between three very distant cities. That idea came about after a teleportation mishap in last night's game. So I guess instead of studying spells I need to brush up on economics. Oy.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Can you give more information about the whole encounter?. BBEG single bosses just don't work in PF, they are not strong enough and get murderized quickly or they are just too strong and TPK.

Try to use lots of minions if you want your fight to be longer.


Well, while the city council held an emergency meeting to discuss what the PCs found out about him (they didn't know he was an ex convict and murderer, among other things) the Bard and Pugilist went to see if they could find him as he didn't appear at the meeting. They found him in his private chambers preparing to flee. I will admit that his minions were not present and that's my fault because I was distracted by pain (I have chronic pain in my leg and back and it was VERY bad last night and the minions escaped my attention).

So they, using a carpet of flying and the spell Invisibility Sphere, flew to the window of his chambers, they Bard launched Magic Missiles at him with a wand while the Pugilist leaped from the carpet and got the drop on him, doing an ungodly amount of damage to him in the surprise round. The initiative round came up, the BBEG lost the initiative to the other two and more Magic Missiles and pounding by the Pugilist brought him to below 0 hp before he could do a single thing.

By this time I remembered his cohorts through the haze of pain I was in and they were pounding on his door, but before they could get in the PCs grabbed him, tossed him onto the flying carpet and whisked him off to the council chambers where they bound, gagged, and blindfolded him, leaving them to deal with him.

But even in prior encounters with the assassins he sent after the PCs and their benefactor the players just waded through equal CR and higher adversaries like they were wheat before the scythe. I sent fighters, slayers, Red Mantis assassins, and scores of mooks. The Psion manages to stop most of them while the Bard buffs and supports, and the Pugilist just beats everything to a pulp before I can do anything. Often it's the fault of bad initiative rolls on my part and the PCs get to go first, but I can't seem to throw anything at them to challenge them, no matter what it is.

I think part of my problem is even though we only play every 2-6 weeks depending on schedules I'm the ONLY one who GMs because no one else will. Period. I'm burned out after decades of this. Once or twice a year we'll play Call of Cthulhu as a one shot and I get to be a player in that instead of GM. But it's not enough.

Anyway, that's a whine for another day. I wasn't looking for advice initially, just griping. But the input you guys have offered, as always, is welcome.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

I think part of my problem is even though we only play every 2-6 weeks depending on schedules I'm the ONLY one who GMs because no one else will. Period. I'm burned out after decades of this. Once or twice a year we'll play Call of Cthulhu as a one shot and I get to be a player in that instead of GM. But it's not enough.

Have you tried PbP?


I haven't, but I've thought about it. Just not sure how it works. I'm so used to face to face gaming I don't know if it would be my thing.

For a very brief time last summer I got to play a bit. One of my friends had moved back to the area and we started in Serpent's Skull. But as is his typical MO, we played 3, maybe 4 sessions and he lost interest in running and moved away again. It felt so good to be a player with the guys I've been with for so many years. And a couple of years before that I tried to sit in on some games with another friend, but his game turned into the Magic Mart in a PF Spelljammer Campaign and that, as hard as I tried to like it, just wasn't for me.


Well, you should try it IMHO. The good thing about playing a PBP is that you don't have to dedicate it hours a day, even 10 minutes every day or so could be enough (depending on the campaign of course)


Nicos wrote:
Well, you should try it IMHO. The good thing about playing a PBP is that you don't have to dedicate it hours a day, even 10 minutes every day or so could be enough (depending on the campaign of course)

I'll give it some thought. I appreciate the encouragement to give it a shot. Do you know any PbP's that are accepting new players or any that are starting up from scratch?


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Well, you should try it IMHO. The good thing about playing a PBP is that you don't have to dedicate it hours a day, even 10 minutes every day or so could be enough (depending on the campaign of course)
I'll give it some thought. I appreciate the encouragement to give it a shot. Do you know any PbP's that are accepting new players or any that are starting up from scratch?

You could always look here

http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/campaigns/recruitment

Unfortunately you would have to submit a character and there is always more players than spots.

But, you could try

here
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2s5fz?MrSandmans-Danger-at-Dagger-Rock
here
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2s581?Motteditor-module-madness-PBP-recruitment

or here
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2s586?Retribution-A-Gothic-Adventure-for-1st-le vel


Excellent. Thank you, Nicos. I'm going to bed now (the pain I've had for days has worn me completely out) but I'll take a look at those links tomorrow.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

Well, while the city council held an emergency meeting to discuss what the PCs found out about him (they didn't know he was an ex convict and murderer, among other things) the Bard and Pugilist went to see if they could find him as he didn't appear at the meeting. They found him in his private chambers preparing to flee. I will admit that his minions were not present and that's my fault because I was distracted by pain (I have chronic pain in my leg and back and it was VERY bad last night and the minions escaped my attention).

So they, using a carpet of flying and the spell Invisibility Sphere, flew to the window of his chambers, they Bard launched Magic Missiles at him with a wand while the Pugilist leaped from the carpet and got the drop on him, doing an ungodly amount of damage to him in the surprise round. The initiative round came up, the BBEG lost the initiative to the other two and more Magic Missiles and pounding by the Pugilist brought him to below 0 hp before he could do a single thing.

By this time I remembered his cohorts through the haze of pain I was in and they were pounding on his door, but before they could get in the PCs grabbed him, tossed him onto the flying carpet and whisked him off to the council chambers where they bound, gagged, and blindfolded him, leaving them to deal with him.

But even in prior encounters with the assassins he sent after the PCs and their benefactor the players just waded through equal CR and higher adversaries like they were wheat before the scythe. I sent fighters, slayers, Red Mantis assassins, and scores of mooks. The Psion manages to stop most of them while the Bard buffs and supports, and the Pugilist just beats everything to a pulp before I can do anything. Often it's the fault of bad initiative rolls on my part and the PCs get to go first, but I can't seem to throw anything at them to challenge them, no matter what it is.

I think part of my problem is even though we only play every 2-6 weeks depending on schedules I'm the ONLY one who GMs...

You might want to look at gaming online. Roll20 is nice to use, and easy to learn. It normally takes me no longer than 15 minutes to teach someone the basics. If they want to do more complicated things they can.

You might also want to post how they win so easily in the advice area along with some of their tactics. That way you can get some ideas to counter them.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Nicos wrote:
Well, you should try it IMHO. The good thing about playing a PBP is that you don't have to dedicate it hours a day, even 10 minutes every day or so could be enough (depending on the campaign of course)
I'll give it some thought. I appreciate the encouragement to give it a shot. Do you know any PbP's that are accepting new players or any that are starting up from scratch?

If you want to try PbP instead of online gaming it seems new ones are starting up all the time. There is normally a lot of competition to get in so don't feel bad if you do not get picked on your first attempt.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

Sorry for the Wall of Text and Wall of Whine. Just need to vent.

I used to write and run challenging encounters in my adventures. The last several, and by that I mean nearly everything in the last couple of years, has seen me work and work to come up with a BBEG or encounter that would be a fun event for my group of players only to have them defeat it in two or three rounds w/out getting a scratch.

Except for occasional "guest appearances" by friends who don't get to play very often anymore, my group consists of me (The GM), a Psion telepath, a Bard (investigator archetype) and a Pugilist (3PP class). The last is the only combat oriented character in the group.

Last night's game was the end of a three session arc where they were supposed to go up against an Arcanist who had been sending assassins after them and their sometime benefactor. Rather than outright fighting him, they spent a nearly 5 hour session planning a character assassination of him that would ultimately see him disgraced and run out of town by the city council (he was the mayor of a large trading city).

That's all well and good. I don't mind when the game takes a turn like this. But then there was a fight. The Bard and Pugilist, under cover of an Invisibility Sphere, get the jump on the guy and take him down in a surprise round and then one actual round of combat. He never got a chance to cast a spell or use an SLA. All characters, the BBEG included, were 9th level. After a 5 hour session and weeks of planning, this was how the story arc ended. I hated it.

I applaud my players for thinking of discrediting him before the city council. I didn't see that coming. They constantly challenge me by doing Option Q out of Options A,B, and C. But I can't challenge them anymore, and it's really wearing on me, no matter what I do.

He needed mooks, he needed "blockers" and the arcanist should have been able to deal with invisibility. If he was a master of assassins (or just used them a lot) some should be his bodyguards, so that fighting him means you are guaranteed to be ambushed while you are trying to take him out.

They cloaked and choked him, very Klingon of them, but if they fight like Klingons then you need to counter that to make it a challenge. I'm glad they took him down socially before the combat, kudos to them, but you could have made it harder with just a few different decisions.

If the pugilist beats everyone to death, tie him up with mooks and throw some str drain at him. Don't allow them to work together without threats and obstacles.

Good luck next time, don't feel bad. I once made a combat wombat athach fighter. Meant to be a challenge for their level they killed it in one round (then a player got killed afterwards by setting a trap off like a fool). We prepare and sometimes they don't get to shine - the Dm's burden.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

I'll add in my voice to the "pro-PBP" thing. I'm a stay-at-home caregiver and I don't get to play as many tabletop campaigns as I'd like, but I'm currently in.... well, way too many PBPs, and I've found them to be very enjoyable overall.

I will say that PBPs have a high rate of attrition. I've been in several where the GM just disappeared. I'd advise looking for a short one rather than, say, an entire AP, to get your toes wet. PFS scenarios are good for this, as usually the GM is very invested in finishing and they can be completed in 1-3 months realtime.

Anyway, PBPs aside...

I too often worry about challenging my players. I'm running a campaign where I let players roll for stats and they wound up fairly strong, stat-wise; combine that with some really solid builds including a life oracle who dispenses TONS of healing and I've always felt it was a struggle to give them anything they didn't mow down in two rounds.

The two fights I've run that have given that party a run for their money have both been ambushes. One included an invisible spider-like creature with spells that grappled a PC on surprise round and absconded with her; the rest of the party had to avoid nuke spells/effects for fear of hitting their friend, and the fight was at least satisfying, though the PCs mopped up with some crits.

The second fight was one that I was initially going "oh no, this is going to be a cakewalk" -- as I was using a pre-written team of baddies from the module who were extraordinarily underpowered compared to the PCs. Then, I gave the pre-written bad guys a second look.

The cleric bad guy leader had knowledge domain, and lots of "combat useless" spells like clairvoyance, speak with dead, stuff like that. I started to ask myself 'okay, what if I ran these guys like actual PCS and had them aggressively gathering info on the party, and using that information intelligently...'

So my bad guys set up an ambush that included a glyph of warding triggered to release a silence spell on the party in a narrow hallway, with the bad guys more or less hemming them in. Never underestimate silence and proper positioning! Unless your PCs took Silent Spell, you've largely shut down spellcasting.

I had the bad guy rogue already invisible, waiting for the melee guys to run forward so he could step out and sneak attack the party healer. I used my bad guys' tricks like vanish and glitterdust well, to keep the PCs constantly struggling to find foes and clear conditions.

My PCs are level 7; at level 9, your PCs will have a few more tricks up their sleeve, but everything in the game is counter-able with proper cunning.

Your PCs steamrolled your Big Bad encounter because they planned, and your bad guy got taken unawares. You can do that with your bad guys, to your PCs, just as well.

-How's that pugilist's will save? What does the party do if you Dominate him and turn him against his friends? Remember that protection from evil/etc won't apply against a neutral caster, or against things like Confusion.

-One BBEG against a party (even only a party of three) is a recipe of fail, due to action economy. They simply get more turns to shut you down.

Ways to combat this: minions, of course, but most people I see make the error of making too-weak minions. Your minions should be solid foes, a little lower than the party's CR, while you have someone doing control effects who's substantially higher. In my experience, most parties that are built solidly have no trouble with CR+2 fights. You need to get into CR+3/+4 to really give them a challenge.

Aside from minions: terrain, terrain, terrain. Illusory walls over pits. Preponderance of certain elemental hazards, with your baddies buffed in advance against that element. One of the most challenging, AND fun, fights I had in recent memory, took place in a largely underwater environment. Add in murky water, and you've killed line of sight-- your spellcasters are suddenly a lot less powerful. Do not give them places to fight in that play to their strengths.

Aside from minions/terrain: consider things like free actions/auras/etc to maximize what your Big Bad can do on his/her turn. I had an amazingly challenging fight the other night in Wrath of the Righteous, for 11th level characters. I won't spoil it, but the fight ran for 19 rounds, and included one PC death, as well as our fighter going into negatives multiple times. And we were a party of four against one big bad. How did the big bad keep us busy that long? Things like a free action dominate person, and on inflicting endless status conditions on us. That fighter's badass 4 attacks a round isn't so great when he's nauseated, etc. At higher levels of gameplay, which 9th starts to qualify as, you're playing a chump game if you try to outmatch the PCs on things like "My to-hit versus their AC"-- inflict conditions instead, preferably things like blinded, nauseated, and staggered. Play nasty.

Create a wizard with the foresight school. You'll get to go, at least once. Once is enough to cast a Persistent Heightened Glitterdust, or a wall of force to split the party and deal with one foe at a time.

/spam of advice

I think the real problem is not that you've lost your edge, just that you're feeling burnt out and need to recapture the fun of being a player. Playing PBP might let you connect with some different gamers, and get exposed to different styles and tricks. Good luck!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I often triple the HP for monsters or NPCs that are intended to be faced alone.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Lessee:

Rule #1 of BBEGs/Bosses: Do NOT let them be alone. Ever. If the party jumps them in the bathtu there should be a cadre of ninjas to fight them off while the guy figures out a plan. Pathfinder is not, in any way shape or form equipped to handle the "Single big bad dude who takes on the 4 slightly less bad dudes".

Rule #2: They are not the same level as the party. They are at a minimum 2 levels above. More HP, more tricks (that the party cannot have access to yet), higher chlenge.

Rule #3: It's okay to "fudge" a bit on buffs. If your guy has some 10 min/level buffs, always assume they're going to be up when the party faces him, and deduct the slots from his list. Good candidates are See Invisibility, Stoneskin, and Resist Energy. Min/level buffs go up if he's informed of the PC's presence in the area.

This ensures the guy won't be cheaped out by ambush tactics, though he will be WEAKENED (some of the most powerful buffs are the min/level ones). This lets a well planned ambush have an effect without making the fight an utter steamroll.

Rule #4: Templates. Use them. Love them. There's a lot of cool templates you can mix together to make fun, thematically together bosses. I recently made a fairly standard level 5 Arcanist into a terrifying dream hopping nightmare creature simply by adding the Nightmare Lord and Shadow Lord templates to it. S@~! in an actual fight still, but gave the party some trouble before they caught him in person.

Rule #5: build the BBEG, and any other tough NPCs the same way you would a PC. Optimize the s+#! outta them. Use good tactics. Don't give them random handicaps or fluff Feats like Paizo is prone to do ("Ah, he has Skill Focus: Profession for flavor, and despite being a Two-Weapon Fighter his highest stat is Con" HEM HEM SKULL AND SHACKLES HEM HEM").

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Are the player's complaining?

If not, I wouldn't worry about it too much.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

Are the player's complaining?

If not, I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I think the GM is not having fun because his encounters(the ones he intends to not be roll overs) are getting trounced.


Should have opened with dispelling traps and assassins throwing buckets of rot grubs on the players.

Rot grubs, it's what's for dinner.

He he he...

Seriously, use poison more (against everyone without a high fort). Bad guys should use poison, spit poison, be poison. Hired assassins should come with archer-snipers using poison as a matter of course, like a common special deal (maybe the assassin guild offers a hitman plus poison archer special).


DM Under The Bridge wrote:

Should have opened with dispelling traps and assassins throwing buckets of rot grubs on the players.

Rot grubs, it's what's for dinner.

He he he...

Seriously, use poison more (against everyone without a high fort). Bad guys should use poison, spit poison, be poison. Hired assassins should come with archer-snipers using poison as a matter of course, like a common special deal (maybe the assassin guild offers a hitman plus poison archer special).

And then the GM starts wondering why his players have double their WBL in poisons alone.

I wouldn't argue if the guys I was going up against had tonnes of poison. Either the poison is so weak it isn't a threat, or it is so expensive that the gold inflow from selling poisons can keep the entire party supplied (or, more likely, both).

Liberty's Edge

Seconded pretty much what Rynjin has posted. In my experience I have had to double if not triple the go of certain Mocs. At one point the semi-optimized Gunslinger was one shotting the weaker variety of giants in my game.

If your running AOs. Rynjin #5 post is correct to damn correct. The bbegs are sonetimes so poorly designed it's not funny IMO.

As well the CR system for the most part does not work well either. A group of four characters even slightly optimized can defeat most encounters IMO.

Liberty's Edge

It should read triple the hp of certain npcs.


Snowblind wrote:
DM Under The Bridge wrote:

Should have opened with dispelling traps and assassins throwing buckets of rot grubs on the players.

Rot grubs, it's what's for dinner.

He he he...

Seriously, use poison more (against everyone without a high fort). Bad guys should use poison, spit poison, be poison. Hired assassins should come with archer-snipers using poison as a matter of course, like a common special deal (maybe the assassin guild offers a hitman plus poison archer special).

And then the GM starts wondering why his players have double their WBL in poisons alone.

I wouldn't argue if the guys I was going up against had tonnes of poison. Either the poison is so weak it isn't a threat, or it is so expensive that the gold inflow from selling poisons can keep the entire party supplied (or, more likely, both).

Those that are poisoned to death don't have to worry about such things. Shhhh, let the ability score drain sink in.

Shadow Lodge

DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Those that are poisoned to death don't have to worry about such things. Shhhh, let the ability score drain sink in.

I laugh at your paltry poison DCs. They make good flavor shots for my ale.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
All characters, the BBEG included, were 9th level.

My apologies if this has already been covered, but... you planned a CR8 encounter for a CR9 party, which is literally the definition of "easy", and expected it to be dramatic? What?


It would've been a better encounter if I'd also been on my game, but wasn't because of intense chronic pain. But the problem I've been having isn't just this encounter, but every encounter I've had them face for two years now.


Is it wrong to suggest perhaps tailoring the encounter to specifically oppose the characters in question? Built to focus on the key abilities that they regularly use. Apologies if this has already been suggested, or indeed thought of, but perhaps you have to, at least initially, take a "me versus them" stance, and work to defeat them, as opposed to challenge them. If your challenges are regularly overcome, and too easily, then this change of tactic is in order I think.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I suggest pillaging stat blocks others have posted in their campaign journals. There's some highly unpleasant ones out there that'll give your spoiled brats players' characters a run for their money. ;)

Dark Archive

I found what VincentTakeda said very interesting. I am going to ask, players if they want to try something like double HP for both PCs and NPCs.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I did not even notice the NPC was the same level as the party. That is not what Pathfinder counts as a boss fight. With only 3 players I would count their APL as 8, and depending on how good they are a CR 11 or 12 fight is in order, unless it is a miniboss fight to which I say go to CR 10.
If you let us know the flavor of the next fight I will try to PM you with something. H

PS: If you do this, in order to avoid overkill let me know approximately what their stats are. AC, attack bonus saves, perception, DC an enemy needs to save against spells.....


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I've had the same problem for years. Buidling an engaging adventure, customising the big baddie, complete with stat blocks and all that jazz (a task that takes hours. HOURS I say! Just generating the stat block) and then my party waltzes in and takes him out. Most of the time, he can't even dish out all the good stuff I gave him. Hours spent over agonising over every feat, spell, etc. gone wasted. Every. Single. Time. It doesn't even help much if the BBEG has some minions around. If you don't plan to have him sticking around all the time, with all those funky "you fight him several times, but he always escapes, returns, yada yada *yawn*" stuff it gets boring real fast.

And even if he is an ongoing part of the campaign, at some point you have to prepare, have to stat him out and the effort is most of time... time ill spent. At one point, I just hated it. I could have spent that time much better planning another adventure or preparing another story. But I rarely felt the effort was worth it. Even if (and that's a big if) the fight was awesome and memorable.

What I did was, in effect, after meddling around with the rules for endless months: I changed the ruleset. For 25 Euro I bought the 13th Age Core Book, everything you need for that game, something even I with my tiny budget could afford. The system is a D20 variant, easy to learn and with some practise stat blocks, even for bigger foes, are generated in a fraction of the time. And easier to play with, too boot.

I know you and your players don't want to change, but talking from own experiences, if you don't have fun anymore and it's more work for you, ESPECIALLY for you, maybe a change would be a good idea. If you can afford it.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Raymond Lambert wrote:
I found what VincentTakeda said very interesting. I am going to ask, players if they want to try something like double HP for both PCs and NPCs.

Increasing the PC pool of HP just makes monsters/NPC's feel less threatening unless you increase their damage. Creating players and adversaries using the exact same rules leads to a never ending arms race. I don't recommend doubling ALL monster HP. Rather, just double monsters/NPC's that are solitary and otherwise wouldn't be a significant challenge.

The CR system works fine for encounters with multiple targets, it's the single targets that it often requires either massive amounts of planning to make effective, or simple changes to rules.


Irontruth wrote:
Raymond Lambert wrote:
I found what VincentTakeda said very interesting. I am going to ask, players if they want to try something like double HP for both PCs and NPCs.

Increasing the PC pool of HP just makes monsters/NPC's feel less threatening unless you increase their damage. Creating players and adversaries using the exact same rules leads to a never ending arms race. I don't recommend doubling ALL monster HP. Rather, just double monsters/NPC's that are solitary and otherwise wouldn't be a significant challenge.

The CR system works fine for encounters with multiple targets, it's the single targets that it often requires either massive amounts of planning to make effective, or simple changes to rules.

Also, boosting hps is the equivalent of cutting damage, which makes battlefield control and SoL magic even better. You're nerfing martials and effectively boosting casters.


TOZ wrote:
DM Under The Bridge wrote:
Those that are poisoned to death don't have to worry about such things. Shhhh, let the ability score drain sink in.
I laugh at your paltry poison DCs. They make good flavor shots for my ale.

Some characters and builds laugh at poison (most of the time), but if other party members start dropping to poison, well the pressure is on. Healers, offensive spellcasters, these don't like a lot of poison in their ale or diet (especially while combat is going on).


Randarak wrote:
Is it wrong to suggest perhaps tailoring the encounter to specifically oppose the characters in question? Built to focus on the key abilities that they regularly use. Apologies if this has already been suggested, or indeed thought of, but perhaps you have to, at least initially, take a "me versus them" stance, and work to defeat them, as opposed to challenge them. If your challenges are regularly overcome, and too easily, then this change of tactic is in order I think.

I like to create encounters to challenge the players, especially by putting in counters for specific builds.

Just something to remember, don't pick on the same character all the time and have them always run into their counter.

Don't counter the whole party often, that makes it too much of a slog and the players will feel on the back foot and weak frequently.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hey Cal, long time no talk! Running encounters after level 5 is hard. I got one of my campaigns up that high and played for another few months going from level 5 to 6 and I have to say designing all the fights from levels 1-5 combined weren't as bad as going from 5-6.

The PCs finally had 3rd level spells and could afford 4th level one-off resources. They had magic weapons, ridiculous damage per round for their level and the ranger had an insane initiative so he was going first all the time. I did a couple things to at least slow the party down which I don't know if they'd work for your guys or not but here goes:

1. If the BBEG was going to have potential buffs (spells, SLAs, etc.) I'd just start them off with most of them already running. For example I had a mite wizard with Mage Armor, Invisibility and a scroll of Mirror Image. When the PCs encountered him he was already armored with Mirror Image running and after 2 rounds he cast invisibility (which ended up not meaning anything because of a readied Glitterdust, but whatever).

2. Minions, LOTS of minions. Seriously if the party is level 5 I just grabbed CR2 monsters and added enough of a mob to make them a CR5 threat in and of themselves. Such creatures won't really do much to the PCs, even en masse; they'll just distract enough from the BBEG to pull something epic together.

3. Use weird terrain. I had another fight with mites take place in a brewery where the floor was flooded with molasses and wart mash. For the non-flying PCs it was like moving in a swamp. Add in that there were non-combatant insect swarms like worms and cockroaches in the goo - no damage but Distraction and major difficult terrain and at least it made the fight memorable.

The last thing I will say is this: make sure you're feeling the material you wrote. If your heart's not in it as the GM, whether you're in pain, you've had writer's block or you're just plain burned out behind the screens, then no matter how much prep you've put in the game just won't pop.

Part of this could be the players too. I've got 2 gaming groups right now. One is playing short, weekly sessions so by necessity when we get to the table everyone's gotta be invested if we are going to get anything done. The other meets monthly for one long session; we tend to play like big, rumbling beasts who take a while to get going and spend so much energy at one thing we miss out on others.

As a GM I vibe better off the weekly gamers. They are really engaged and ask a lot of good questions so the energy level stays up. Not surprisingly with 5 engaged players and a decent energy level I've been able to muster some really impressive fights as well as trick them with a couple sub-plots.

My best advice for you Cal: don't GM for a good stretch. I know you and your boys rarely play and when you do no one wants to run, but there's gotta be SOME way for you to get out of the GM's seat for a bit. Play another system, have someone else run your game or just stop playing RPGs at all. Certain things, medically speaking, will always be there and seriously dude that sucks but sometimes constantly running the game can be an energy sink in itself and you just need to recharge.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

How does a guy, especially a BBEG, in a Pathfinder-esque fantasy world reach level 9 and still stay in a room with an expose window, no guards, and no form of trap ready to stop (or at least catch) enemies?

The PC's shouldn't be the only people that think like PC's. The NPC's should have this sort of thing going on, too. If one dude fooled an entire trade town, he's got a backup plan. And if he's the sort that doesn't, then he'll have a 2nd whose JOB is to think up the backup plans and work accordingly.

Furthermore, even if the PC's did 'discredit' them, did they have the legal authority to apprehend him in his tower? Or will the people they are trying to build their own trade empire with suddenly start to question if it's a good idea or not to work with people who will not hesitate to abduct them should they find themselves in disagreement?

Brooch of Shielding is a thing. At the levels you're working at, everyone who can cast the thing does 5 missiles. Give any non-Wizard bad guy one of these with half the number of charges (at half the price) and you're good to go, especially if they are a caster who doesn't like being interrupted. Costs a pittance. Even makes sense logically if the BBEG knows the PC's prefer the spell, as he'll just get someone to dip to the "used magic item market" source to nab one for the boss.

There's plenty of non-magical ways to handle this, things that work in the real world. Body doubles, for instance. Someone with a really high Disguise skill dresses himself or another up to look like the target, then leaves them in that room. Whether or not it can fight is up to you. Could be some lowbie 2nd level nobody, a captured PC ally, or even a city guard or something, and that initial 'burst damage' from the party kills him messily. Then BBEG can use the corpse and local witnesses to butcher the PC's reputation, pointing out that they're really just thugs and assassins. Perhaps he's even willing to pay to have Speak with Dead or a Raise Dead spell cast on the individual (of course, he'll have approached him/her in such a way so that it won't look bad for the BBEG).

A magical approach uses Illusions to disguise another third person as the target. Again, someone weak but 'prickly', or someone strong. Or a decoy while a real attacker waits to ambush the party. Could even be some Scent-capable beastly monster that's had some Sleep variant cast on it that wakes up from the initial damage barrage (it's not a coup-de-grace) and proceeds to maul anyone who gets close.

Finally, whether the thing there is alive or not, the place can be trapped. In 3rd Edition there was this nasty spell called Ghoul Glyph (which I use in my hybrid campaign) that was notorious for a round or two of paralysis even if you make the save. A great chokepoint-maker in dungeons, and fairly commonly used in places where powerful dudes need a way to stop intruders. More Pathfinder-friendly methods are mechanical traps, or even spellcasting traps that combo up something nasty (Mind Fog followed by another Will save-or-suck). Or even an enemy spellCASTER who's got readied actions going.

In all honesty, though, it sounds like your main problem is physical and mental. Insufficient sleep and a constant state of pain can make easy problems like this quite difficult to solve, and the morale hit from getting your encounters routinely trashed makes you less enthusiastic about continuing. I agree with those who say you should take a break.


Mark Hoover wrote:
My best advice for you Cal: don't GM for a good stretch. I know you and your boys rarely play and when you do no one wants to run, but there's gotta be SOME way for you to get out of the GM's seat for a bit. Play another system, have someone else run your game or just stop playing RPGs at all. Certain things, medically speaking, will always be there and seriously dude that sucks but sometimes constantly running the game can be an energy sink in itself and you just need to recharge.

Thanks, Mark. A guy who used to be a regular player is moving back (at least temporarily) and he runs sometimes. So I'll get a chance to play PF occasionally. We did play our Vampire/Cthulhu mashup game the other night and we're hoping to finish that adventure up this coming weekend. I'm a player in that, so for a couple sessions I'll have a break.

It sounds like your groups are going really well. Glad to hear from ya!


Arturius Fischer wrote:
How does a guy, especially a BBEG, in a Pathfinder-esque fantasy world reach level 9 and still stay in a room with an expose window, no guards, and no form of trap ready to stop (or at least catch) enemies?

Well, like I'd said earlier, there were several factors involved, from burnout to chronic pain. I used to be a lot more on the ball than I am now, and even the obvious sometimes escapes me. I've been working on something really big for my campaign lately and I really hope to be more on target than I have in a long time.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

If you need help fine-tuning some encounter or hook, feel free to PM me. Working on "boss tactics" and escape routes is something I spend a lot of time on anyway. ^_^


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kalindlara wrote:
If you need help fine-tuning some encounter or hook, feel free to PM me. Working on "boss tactics" and escape routes is something I spend a lot of time on anyway. ^_^

Thanks! I will!


Are they having fun outmaneuvering the opposition you present?

There very well should be times when they have to struggle, but there's no need to work hard to present a challenge all the time.

I suppose my question to you would be- why are you not having fun? Are you in the GM seat to try to bring your players to the brink of death and create drama, or to RP the world around your players however that may pan out?

Trying too hard to make the game hard seems stressful in my book. These are heroes, they have their struggles now and then but it's understandable if they have it easy when they get the opportunity to plan out their attack in advance.

EDIT: Disclaimer- there's nothing wrong with making creating drama and putting your PCs in a pinch your objective, it just seems difficult and stressful to me.

1 to 50 of 69 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Gamer Life / General Discussion / Losing My Edge All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.