Possible Disturbing Trend


Pathfinder Society

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

I have noticed that almost every single time a Season 4-6 adventure has been played where the party was just barely forced to play up with the 4 person adjustment (example, a Tier 3-7 mod played by 2 5ths & 2 6ths or by 5 5ths) there has been at least one death and frequently mission failure. I am not sure of all the causes but it seems at least some of these have to do with ineffective 4 person adjustments (giving the young template to non strength-based monster, nerfing the guard standing in front of the powerful wizard rather than nerfing the powerful wizard, etc.)

Is anyone else seeing this?

Grand Lodge 4/5

Not around here, no. At least, not at the tables I've been running.


I think of a few reasons you might be experiencing trouble at higher tiers.

#1) Low rolls by the party, high rolls by the GM.
#2) Bad party composition. A chain is after all only as strong as its weakest link.
#3) The party may not be as properly geared.
#4) The party may just simply be under-leveled for the encounters in a higher tier within a scenario.

The Exchange 5/5

trollbill wrote:

I have noticed that almost every single time a Season 4-6 adventure has been played where the party was just barely forced to play up with the 4 person adjustment (example, a Tier 3-7 mod played by 2 5ths & 2 6ths or by 5 5ths) there has been at least one death and frequently mission failure. I am not sure of all the causes but it seems at least some of these have to do with ineffective 4 person adjustments (giving the young template to non strength-based monster, nerfing the guard standing in front of the powerful wizard rather than nerfing the powerful wizard, etc.)

Is anyone else seeing this?

the group I have been playing with lately noticed that, but now we just avoid playing up (switching to different PCs) or swap to bigger PCs (Play a higher level PC to push us up even higher).

Grand Lodge

Playing up when you're barely making the threshold is generally something that goes quite badly in all seasons I find.

EDIT: Well, sometimes it just causes fights to drag on way too long with neither side really being able to decisively make progress for quite a few rounds, which is altogether a different (and arguably worse) problem, because it's not fun.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

So, you're noticing that when you play the game on the hardest possible setting, that it's difficult. Um... working as intended. Unfortunately they removed the choice to play down for those who don't like the challenge, so now your only option is to change to different level PCs to make the apl work out to where you're comfortable.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

I'll point out that your first example could play down if they choose. When the average is X.5 the group decides if they want to round up or down. This is the once case that you don't always round up. So if they're seeing a trend of playing up with 4 player adjustments they should probably decide to play down if it's X.5

Around here the adjustments seem to be pretty spot on. It's usually hard, but I don't know that we've had any deaths because they've played up for 4. Possibly it could be the GM is forgetting the adjustments? I do that occasionally and fix it as soon as I remember if I can.

Sovereign Court 4/5

In my experience, this happens (though not nearly as deadly as your experience) about as often as the opposite, parties just barely playing down and facing no significant challenge whatsoever. As a player I'd much rather die at the struggling table.

While both results can be unfortunate, putting the decision in the hands of the formula does seem like a wise decision to me as it puts the blame for bad play experiences (excessive difficulty or lack thereof) or bad rewards (lower gold for going down, mission failure for going up) out of anyone's hands, so nobody feels like a GM or another player pressured them into the result. It's entirely math's fault.

Part of the issue with later seasons might be that not all 4 player adjustments are created equal, and occasionally I've seen a four player party that would benefit from some encounters being run without the adjustment (particularly when the encounter is adjusted to include a greater number of weaker creatures).

Liberty's Edge Venture-Agent, Online

Currently playing Golemworks Incident (tier 5-9) over pbp with a party of level 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9. Being exactly APL 7, we were forced to play 8-9 with the 4 player adjustment.

I'm a bit anxious to see how this will turn out now that we've discovered...

Spoiler:
The antagonist can cast 7th level spells and has all the time in the world to buff himself.

4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka Gwen Smith

I see similar issues, but mainly in tier 5-9. There's a big power jump around CR 8-9 (e.g., monsters' AC and two good saves go up by 2, DR goes up to 10, casters get 5th level spell slots, even 3/4 BAB martial bad guys all have at least two attacks, etc.), and level 5-6 characters aren't usually equipped to deal with it.

(There's a similar power bump in tier 3-7 as you cross the 3rd level spell and BAB 6 boundary, but it's nowhere near as big a difference.)

The problem becomes playing up with the 4-player adjustment. The 4-player adjustments don't often address the power jump: a caster who's already used some of his spells for the day can still toss empowered fireballs onto 5th level parties, and a fatigued monster can still have 5 attacks and DR 10/-. And the fame boundaries for gear restrict players from having what they need to survive a lot of these encounters consistently.

Since the 4-player adjustment is supposed to make the encounters easier for lower-powered parties, it bothers me that people blithely call it "the hardest possible setting" and tell players to just get over it. That's the whole point: it's not supposed to be the hardest possible setting.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

Due to the nature of published scenarios having to be designed for a level range , if you play at the low end of the range it will be harder than playing at the high end. It's not practical for scenarios to be written with a tier for every possible apl. When you have a range of 4-5 and you can play that with a group of level 3,4,4,4 or a group of 5,5,5,5, well clearly one will be harder than the other.

To compound the problem, pathfinder is super customizable. Two people make 6th level martial characters. One has +7 to hit, AC17 and does 1d6+2 damage. The other has two attacks at +14/+9, AC24 and does 2d6+18 damage. So two different authors writing the same encounter will easily assume very different levels of adjustment will be necessary to go from 4 to 6 players.
I don't think you should "get over it," I think you should be aware of it and adjust your group accordingly so that all can have a good time.

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

gnoams wrote:
So, you're noticing that when you play the game on the hardest possible setting, that it's difficult. Um... working as intended.

To me there is a difference between consistently difficult and constantly deadly.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

In my experience, the 4 player adjustment often adds the young template to high CR enemies, which I have never believed to be a template that should lower the CR of an enemy.

The Exchange Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Austin aka countchocula

Yes playing up is more deadly but I believe it is intentional and part of the high rewards high risk system and as a player and gm I would have it no other way but when I gm and the party is playing up I do warn them of the potential of death is much greater and give them plenty of opportunities to run if needed.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Nevada—Las Vegas aka kinevon

Michael Hallet wrote:

Currently playing Golemworks Incident (tier 5-9) over pbp with a party of level 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9. Being exactly APL 7, we were forced to play 8-9 with the 4 player adjustment.

I'm a bit anxious to see how this will turn out now that we've discovered...
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Considering that there is a 1-7, with a 9th level caster in the 6-7 sub-tier, who opens the dance with an empowered fireball...

Edit: Given that that means you could, possibly, be playing with a level 3 PC in the party, that is really ugly. Pretty much auto-death if the save is failed, and long before enough PP for a Raise would be earned.

Grand Lodge

kinevon wrote:
Michael Hallet wrote:

Currently playing Golemworks Incident (tier 5-9) over pbp with a party of level 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9. Being exactly APL 7, we were forced to play 8-9 with the 4 player adjustment.

I'm a bit anxious to see how this will turn out now that we've discovered...
** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **

Corncerning your edit, no a level 3 couldn't be in a 5-9 so that isn't really a concern.

Liberty's Edge Venture-Agent, Online

BartonOliver wrote:
kinevon wrote:
Michael Hallet wrote:

Currently playing Golemworks Incident (tier 5-9) over pbp with a party of level 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9. Being exactly APL 7, we were forced to play 8-9 with the 4 player adjustment.

I'm a bit anxious to see how this will turn out now that we've discovered...
** spoiler omitted **

** spoiler omitted **
Corncerning your edit, no a level 3 couldn't be in a 5-9 so that isn't really a concern.

He was talking about a different 1-7 adventure.

Grand Lodge

Totally get it now, I shouldn't try and read while waking up. Thanks

Grand Lodge 5/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Florida—Melbourne aka trollbill

countchocula wrote:
Yes playing up is more deadly but I believe it is intentional and part of the high rewards high risk system and as a player and gm I would have it no other way but when I gm and the party is playing up I do warn them of the potential of death is much greater and give them plenty of opportunities to run if needed.

You do realize that when the issue is between subtier characters, they don't actually get greater rewards, right?

1/5

Well, they do get midtier cash, and occasionally something shiny to purchase on the chronicle. Of course, since the guys that are "supposed" to be playing in that subtier often have less risk and get greater rewards...

I've eaten a Blasphemy before in this same situation - my only in-tier character was level 5, and the subtier calculations said we *had* to play up. No choice about it, and the response was about what gnoams said - "well, you shouldn't have played up".

Shadow Lodge 4/5

It's a problem inherent in the system. The only real solution would be to write a lot more subtiers, but that's not particularly practical. The thing is you never "have to" play up. If the PCs' levels average to putting you in an undesirable tier, then change characters. While hypothetically you could have a group of 4 players in a 5-9 all who only have one character levels 7,7,7,8, I've certainly never seen that happen. If you've played enough to get a character to 6+, then you've made multiple characters. It does happen for 1-5 games on occasion, but then someone can always pull out a new level 1. Everyone refusing to change characters is the same as deciding to play up. It's like playing with a party of 4 fighters and complaining that nobody can heal, or make knowledge checks, or diplomacy etc. You should have been aware of that when you chose to use those characters.

Every table I've played or GMd at the players discuss what characters they have in tier and pick which ones to play based on what the other players are bringing. Apl is just another thing you have to take in to account when choosing which character to play with.

1/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.
gnoams wrote:
If the PCs' levels average to putting you in an undesirable tier, then change characters. While hypothetically you could have a group of 4 players in a 5-9 all who only have one character levels 7,7,7,8, I've certainly never seen that happen. If you've played enough to get a character to 6+, then you've made multiple characters. It does happen for 1-5 games on occasion, but then someone can always pull out a new level 1. Everyone refusing to change characters is the same as deciding to play up. It's like playing with a party of 4 fighters and complaining that nobody can heal, or make knowledge checks, or diplomacy etc. You should have been aware of that when you chose to use those characters.

I've got a Seeker, two level 10s, a level 5, a 4, two 2s, and two level 1s. I've got plenty of characters, but the games run locally leveled everyone else out of range.

Not everyone has multiple characters for every subtier, and playing a high-level pregen could be worse than playing your "real" character.

I'm not necessarily saying the subtier determination needs to be changed, but I *am* saying that "you chose to play up" is neither helpful nor accurate.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber

shaventalz is right. Most of us don't tend to have characters at every level, or even every other level. And, we haven't always brought every character with us to every gameday. And, some of us play PbPs, so some fraction of our characters may be "locked" in games.

Grand Lodge

nosig wrote:
trollbill wrote:

I have noticed that almost every single time a Season 4-6 adventure has been played where the party was just barely forced to play up with the 4 person adjustment (example, a Tier 3-7 mod played by 2 5ths & 2 6ths or by 5 5ths) there has been at least one death and frequently mission failure. I am not sure of all the causes but it seems at least some of these have to do with ineffective 4 person adjustments (giving the young template to non strength-based monster, nerfing the guard standing in front of the powerful wizard rather than nerfing the powerful wizard, etc.)

Is anyone else seeing this?

the group I have been playing with lately noticed that, but now we just avoid playing up (switching to different PCs) or swap to bigger PCs (Play a higher level PC to push us up even higher).

Except for the last time you played up with 3 players. :)

Liberty's Edge Venture-Agent, Online

I think the solution would be to change the rule about being in the middle of the subtiers.

Why not just play the lower subtier without adjustment? Personally I'd rather be on the upper end of the subtier and have an easier time than get shredded because the author didn't write the 4-player adjustment with the idea that lower tier PCs could be forced to play up/

Grand Lodge 2/5

The one time that's happened when I've played. We had a party of seven, and had to play up. The sheer number of us overwhelmed the enemies. One encounter was supposed to have half low/have high tier NPCs for the adjustment, GM forgot and we either had all low or all high..I don't remember which. Something had the young template applied when all it did was buff him. And the last encounter didn't have any adjustments at all. The first fight took longer than anticipated, but other than that, the only near death we had was the hunter's gorilla walking into an ooze.

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