Seriously now, how do you fix martial / caster disparity and still have the same game?


Homebrew and House Rules

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Jiggy's current post about the disparity is a good one, but it provides no solutions.

So, without fighting about what the disparity really is (please!?!?), how can it be fixed?

One common solution is to chop the top off of the game. E8 or E6, etc. Just stop leveling before casters get their ultra power. But that's only half a solution (many "disparity" spells fall within those levels, such as flight or invisibility). And, when you get down to it, you're no longer playing the same game. It's vastly different. A whole BUNCH of material becomes inaccessible and whole APs are impossible to finish.

Another common solution is to turn every martial into a wuxia superhero who farts fireballs and barfs acid, who flattens armies with the stamp of a boot and shrugs off every natural disaster like Superman shrugs off bullets. While that might be fine and dandy for an actual superhero game, or for a supernatural game where all the heroes are Greek gods or other immortals running around a mundane world, it's very much out of place in this game system as published. Wuxia martials is simply not Pathfinder.

A third common solution (the one I think the devs are trying to achieve) is to recognize and accept this disparity, work as a team with each guy doing his part (sometimes Aquaman just has to make the sandwiches for the real superheroes: "Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, Aquaman uses his super powers to summon a can of tuna fish..."). Theoretically a good GM and/or a good campaign writer can create situations where the caster Superman types can do their awesome stuff and the martial Aquaman types can support that and not feel useless.

I personally think that many groups play mostly in line with this third solution (especially those guys who don't think the martial/caster disparity exists, or don't think it's a problem). And it seems that the material published by Paizo tries to achieve this, at least somewhat.

But obviously not everyone agrees. For some, this disparity is ruining the game. Some people are desperate to fix it.

So given the parameters already established by Paizo, how can we fix the disparity?

Those parameters are: this is NOT a superhero game, it's not a demigod game, it's not a vampires game, it's not an immortal game. It IS a game where normal people learn how to do cool stuff but magical people learn how to do cooler stuff than non-magical people. It is a game where a guy can walk off of his farm, grab a weapon of some kind, explore dungeons and kill monsters, gain power, become a figure of song and story and legend, regardless of whether his weapon of choice is a spellbook or a sword - but obviously it's easier to rock the world with the spellbook.

Is it possible to fix this disparity without rewriting the entire game? If not, can we rewrite it so it's the same game with the same feel and follow those parameters but with greatly reduced disparity?

And the most important question of all, can we even discuss it without degenerating into madness and mayhem?


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If your parameters are "what the wizard is doing must be cooler than what the fighter is doing" then no, you cannot fix the disparity.

Sovereign Court

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Two easy and pretty substantial fixes. (not claiming they fix it on their own - but they do a lot)

1. Ban the most obvious spell game-breakers. (Simulacrum & Blood Money - I'm looking at you!)

2. Make all spells level 2+ take a full round action to cast. This makes the casters much more reliant upon their martial buddies to protect them while to cast. It has the secondary benefit of making counter-spelling viable since you have time to counter after they start casting.

Honorable mention -

Have more mundane methods of beating standard caster tactics. For example: make a thin layer of lead beat not just Detect Evil - but also Teleport.


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Perhaps one easy way to accomplish this is to create a new book called
"Martials Unchained"

Go through the mechanics that entail martial classes, and put in or adapt new parts that give martials some kind of ability to adapt or be diverse. Allow characters to be able to get 1 attack off as a swift action, as long as they have more then 1 attack. A quickened strike if you will.

There could be many other examples, but that would be how I would propose to insert changes to martials.


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A good GM will approach running a game like writing a story. Every character needs to have agency. Said good GM will write in scenes where the poor Aquaman will be able to shine and not feel like a sandwich maker. This might be backstory quests, roleplaying with certain NPC's, facing down a baddie in a duel, etc. The story needs to move forward without the player party's wizard's magic being the most pivotal thing. The emotions of the npc's and player characters should be defining, then the feelings of martial inadequacy are lessoned. Magic doesn't make a player heroic, what the player's doing that does. At the crux though, Pathfinder is a game about magic. It's everywhere. It's really hard to try and limit it/work around something that's inherent in the system and not cut large parts of the game out (e6/e8/spells).


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
DM_Blake wrote:
It IS a game where normal people learn how to do cool stuff but magical people learn how to do cooler stuff than non-magical people.

That is the caster martial disparity. You can't fix it without abandoning this assumption.


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Spheres of Power changes the disparity by requiring the casters to spend a feat-like resource to gain their powers. Casters can gain high-level tricks, but they won't necessarily gain quite as many which cuts down on the Swiss Army Knife effect and makes classes with other skills much more useful to have around.

Dark Archive

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DM_Blake wrote:
Sometimes Aquaman just has to make the sandwiches for the real superheroes: "Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice, Aquaman uses his super powers to summon a can of tuna fish..."

Somewhat off topic, but this very much annoys me and this is why:


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DM_Blake wrote:


Another common solution is to turn every martial into a wuxia superhero who farts fireballs and barfs acid, who flattens armies with the stamp of a boot and shrugs off every natural disaster like Superman shrugs off bullets. While that might be fine and dandy for an actual superhero game, or for a supernatural game where all the heroes are Greek gods or other immortals running around a mundane world, it's very much out of place in this game system as published. Wuxia martials is simply not Pathfinder.

It's odd. I started a thread a while back examining this specific solution, and no one actually said that there was anything wrong with it. Lots of people objected to almost anything, but never on their own behalf, always in support of unnamed and absent third parties.

I don't think wuxia Pathfinder is a genuine problem.


deinol wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
It IS a game where normal people learn how to do cool stuff but magical people learn how to do cooler stuff than non-magical people.

That is the caster martial disparity. You can't fix it without abandoning this assumption.

The disparity is partially the magic thing, but in reality it is more to do with the fact that casters get a vast assortment of items and feats that make their weaknesses less pronounced and harder to deal with for every class.

Martials don't have this luxury the vast majority of the time. Their only ability to prevent or stop the bulk of bad things happening to them is investing significantly more gold in armor and weapons. Which still doesn't help with their lack of ability to varied situations.


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Well, there are plenty of things you can chop rather than doing E6/E8.
- No full-casters. (Often including Summoner as "close enough".) Sure, you've still got some disparity, but Fighter vs. Bard is a lot different than Fighter vs. Wizard.
- No pure martials. If everybody has to have at least 4/9 casting, it's also less of a disparity. Sure, a Bloodrager's spells aren't going to be much next to a full caster's, but they can fly and cast Mirror Image.
- All 6/9 casters. Hey, they're considered a good middle-ground.

Martials could get access to Leadership while casters can't take it. It's one of the most powerful and varied options in the game; tweak the power until it seems properly balanced for your game.

Urban-heavy game with casting in public being the rough social equivalent of pulling out a gun and firing it in the air. Doesn't miraculously balance things out, but casters tend to not have a lot of consequences for casually casting.

Get rid of or restrict metamagic. Doesn't balance narrative power one bit, but it does cut back on some combat stuff a little.


You could also give the people without magic a meta-game resource that allows them to tweak the narrative so that they can compete without magic.


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I think you have to do away with mundane martials entirely. Make everything magic, like how Earthdawn did its adept classes. Warriors were really good at hitting or grappling stuff, but they also had magic talents that let them do a few other tricks and (I really liked this) there was a magical justification for crazy HP, everyone had varying degrees of magical reinforcement of their bodies. Swordmasters, as I recall, could use social abilities to debuff, control, and maybe pull aggro.


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You can't get rid of it entirely, but you can reduce it a lot, maybe enough to get through to 12th level or so.

* Ban some spells and SLAs
* Compress feat chains
* Unchain fighters, and unchain Rogue/Monk/Barbarian some more
* Make rogue talents good (Unchained made them barely OKish)
* Martials get more skill points and unlocks
* Higher-DC skill checks allow one to do incredible things (how incredible depends on taste, but the higher the level you want to match, the more incredible they have to be)
* Many Personal spells should be Creature Touched instead. This allows martials to get a lot more use out of potions.
* Conjuration should be affected by SR (and/or lots of Conjuration spells should be evocation, alteration, etc)
* Make spells like Scry and Teleport harder to get right and easier to block.

edit : AND FIX STEALTH !!!!


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There is no need to fix the disparity. People should recognize that different classes will end up feeling different in narrative. The GM should account for this when making combats and adjusting them. Martials will never dominate, but they can hold their own with casters even at high level if there's decent design.

However, there are certain feels that GM might want to evoke. And when it comes to sparse low-magic campaigns I full acknowledge you will need more robust house rules. However, Pathfinder can still be challenging and fun no matter the party composition if the GM adjust encounters and narrative to recognize this. There aren't really worlds, there's plenty of room in your story construct to give martials and casters their due inside and outside of context while maintaining agency.

The GMs job is to actually characters. But the players also have to recognize is that being a martial is a different sort of heroics and experience.


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To me it feels like giving the martials their own way to feel epic really requires some sort of special maneuver system, such as Path of War or Book of Nine Swords.


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Stop seeing it as a problem and see it as just a difference. It is acceptable for people to have different roles in a party. Specialisation is not a bad thing. In no particular ofder...

Encourage the casters not to duplicate roles of other players in the group - so as not to upstage them.

Encourage casters to buff other party members and solve problems as a team.

Enforce the need to communicate with summoned creatures.

Enemies use dispel magic, invulnerability sphere, spell turning, resist energy, shield etc.

Prevent casters being able to avoid situations. E.g. The caster can escape but everyone else is screwed by making sure such behaviour is strongly disincentivised. Or the caster gets across the chasm but that doesn't solve the problem for everyone else.

Make the caster need the rest of the party because going off alone is dangerous.

Strictly limit material components - I would consider removing Blood Money/Eschew materials

Make clerics / Druids work for their magic by worshipping a deity rather than the ethos variant.

Ensure that some thought goes into which spells are available in spell books through treasure and loot. Make spell books available in towns not all spells. Make acquiring them an adventuring exercise.

Control access to materials for crafting. No need to remove them just control access. Consider using item recipes that can be given out as treasure or rewards, or researched like in AD&D

Require laboratory and quiet place for crafting.

Make sure when writing adapting adventures that magic is not required to succeed and that there are straightforward alternatives. Give players a reason to take them.

Create situations that allow non casters to shine - one on one fights for the Martials, scouting or trapfinding for rogues. Even better create situations that require all party to cooperate to succeed.

Give out magic items with consideration to correct imbalances.

Remember the demographics. Populate the world with Martials as standard - not every boss should be a wizard. Also wizards should be busy - they didn't get where they are by getting involved with everything that goes on under their nose.

Prevent magic mart of wands and scrolls. Select items available in towns available to buy

See the magic item settlement figures as guidelines not rules.

Ask players to refrain from using spells that dramatically change the flow off he game to emergencies only. I.e. A magus win mirror image.

Consider asking players not to buy or pray for spells that cause problems - rope trick, or even teleport (shock horror). In our shackles game I asked the sorcerer not to take fly or dimension door. He was fine with it.

Use things that have spell immunities - undead, constructs, oozes etc.

Reduce prep time before encounters - if you get a three round intro to every encounter more spells will be cast.

Ensure casting spells has consequences. Using mind control could easily be considered a form of assault and be illegal. Think how the populace feel about summonings, undead, flashy destructive spells etc.

Use space to frame encounters in interesting ways. Think about ceiling height, multiple room entrances, distance between enemies and parties. All these things affect spell effectiveness.

Increase time between encounters so 10 min durations don't last a who dungeon.

Have adventures with time-bound narrative drive. Most Shakespeare plays last no more than three days. Keep the pressure on.

Increase encounter numbers per day.

Use cryptic Divinations

Occasionally remind casters they can't take everything for granted by targeting spellbooks, holy symbols, dead magic areas, wild magic areas, interrupted rest.

We normally have 1 or 2 casters, at least one full martial and one other, maybe bard or magus. I don't think the party has ever felt powerless or overshadowed except by a gunslinger, magus or paladin.

In short, don't make magic the get out of jail free, access all areas pass it sometimes seems to be.

These are just some methods that have worked for us. We do different things at different times as we feel like it. Our group of five takes it in turn to DM. No doubt many of these will be an anethama to some people but they are tools to use or not depending on how you want to play the game. I fully expect a line by line rebuttal by someone but as I said, it works for us.


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The Sword wrote:

Stop seeing it as a problem and see it as just a difference. It is acceptable for people to have different roles in a party. Specialisation is not a bad thing. In no particular ofder...

Encourage the casters not to duplicate roles of other players in the group - so as not to upstage them.

Encourage casters to buff other party members and solve problems as a team.

Enforce the need to communicate with summoned creatures.

None of these are really a problem to do in a run game as a DM. If your players are okay with having this be the norm of play for casters, more power to ya. But the thread is more about what to do to get martials Up, and not necessarily what to do to get casters Down.

For me personally, I would despise having a martial character feel important because the caster is going out of their way to limit their spells and choices so they don't stomp the encounters and story.

So a lot of these are great suggestions for general balance of an adventure (Such as summon communication, material components, spell book consciousness), but maybe not really what's needed for martials.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Nohwear wrote:
To me it feels like giving the martials their own way to feel epic really requires some sort of special maneuver system, such as Path of War or Book of Nine Swords.

This statement reduces the disparity to a combat problem, which is Argument #1.

==Aelryinth


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First let me say im one of those that will go for the third option every single time without a doubt, a fighter is a fighter and a wizard is a wizard, i wont be applying rules, using systems or whatever to change this , if someone didnt want to play a fighter to begin with , they shouldnt have selected the class. Devs did listen to people and gave them options of "caster martials" , like the warpriest,inquisitor...

The fighter/rogue... are classes meant to be more "on the ground", they are meant to be incredible people , but for the most part they are quite "realistic" , then you got magic , which only explanation possible of why it works is "because it is magic" , it is meant to do impossible things , like turning you invisible or allowing you to fly... there is no way in hell they would be "even".

I will say to you that i dont think you can get what people seem to want without rewritting the system OP, and greatly dimish what a spellcaster is in pathfinder to make it similar to a fighter or you would need to make fighters far , far more like comic heroes to equal the current wizards.

And i just stand here quite happy with this whole "issue" , which to me is just a feature of the system , as long as the players also agree to go for the option 3 and everyone just tries to work together instead of competing , the game works just fine to me.


Fair enough Icy Turbo.

To balance the disparity, you either bring Martials up or tone caster down. Either achieves the result.

I think bringing Martials up would be the preferred method, but it is very hard to do in a normal pathfinder game because it means making up new rules instead of pruning problem areas.

To approach it from the other side I would port across a few 5th ed ideas.

Remove the full attack action - all attacks are full attacks and can be taken with a move.

Remove iteratives - at +6 BAB you get a second attack st full BAB at 11 you get a third etc.

Allow healing after a short rest - spend your HD to regain Hit points after a short rest. Regain all hp after a long rest.

[Edit] Add hero points for fighters

They would be fairly easy to do and house rule.


Aelryinth wrote:
Nohwear wrote:
To me it feels like giving the martials their own way to feel epic really requires some sort of special maneuver system, such as Path of War or Book of Nine Swords.

This statement reduces the disparity to a combat problem, which is Argument #1.

==Aelryinth

This was why I was really underwhelmed by the Path of War, personally; it just boosted what martials could already do and the options for doing anything new took a very long time to come online if they came online at all.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Here is one more DM trick that has worked well with my players. Have problems come to the players, not players got to the problems. This is related to the above suggestion of keeping time frames tight, but with the added aspect of you do not know what you are getting into in advance. A lot of the issues with caster disparity come from a mindset and playstyle of being prepared for everything, the same sort of person who would only play control decks in magic the gathering. Force the players to react not act and you are reliant on what you can do vs the unknown. It is not a sure thing, I have had skillmonkey ROGUES be the dominant force in a campaign because of the ready for everything mentality.

Other than that, consider adding a "spotlight" mechanic to the game. Either an arbitrary "let everyone solve one problem before someone solves a third one" or a smart opponent who learns who the party problem solver is and focuses more effort on nerfing that party member the more they solve things.

I do like the "slow down spellcasting" idea listed above, although have had trouble actually implementing it with players because of how different it feels from normal for the players. It fell by the wayside in a campaign with too many other house rule experiments going on at once.


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I usually grind the edges off the spell casters and give disadvantages (extra time for casting, etc) to them, while working out how to give martials more narrative power.

That said, my idea of Pathfinder doesn't always mesh with those shown on these threads; I'm not interested in having fighters cleave dimensions as a class ability or Hulk-jump across the continent or whatnot.

It comes down to what game you are interested in.


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Personally I like Spheres of Power, but if youre dead set on keeping Vanecian the easiest way is to remove scrolls and increase the cost of wands dramatically. Without scrolls and wands the casters have to actually prepare/choose their utility spells, and thus are either left without them or with less combat focus. Therefore, they are no longer answers to everything every time.


Baval wrote:
Personally I like Spheres of Power, but if youre dead set on keeping Vanecian the easiest way is to remove scrolls and increase the cost of wands dramatically. Without scrolls and wands the casters have to actually prepare/choose their utility spells, and thus are either left without them or with less combat focus. Therefore, they are no longer answers to everything every time.

That doesn't work, and actually hampers martials more.

With scrolls, the martials do nothing and feel bored.

Without them, everyone does nothing and the game stops dead.


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The question asked by the thread defeats itself.

If you make changes to fix the game's problems, well... you no longer have the same game.

There are no easy fixes. There are some ways to cover it up, or drag out how many levels you have til the balance breaks down, but there's no way to tackle the root without some serious changes.

I agree with deinol. It is an issue that requires people to abandon the mindset that casters get to be inherently more awesome then martials. And that martials level 7 and up need to follow the physics of our low level world. How can a martial character teleport 30 ft? They trained really really hard to slip into nonexistence for a second. No magic. Just Skill.

Of course my personal solution would be to bring the casters down a bit (mostly major problem areas and reign ins some of the narrative power) and bring martials up significantly increasing options both in and out of combat. No longer should a martial have to move and single attack! They should be able to move and hit everyone they pass by, sometimes multiple times! I'd also make skills way more awesome then they presently are. Got 15 Ranks in Heal? You can bring back the recently deceased (similar to revivify). Got 15 Ranks in Escape Artist? Force Walls are no trouble to slip through! Etc.

Dark Archive

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My personal thoughts on fixes? The biggest would be Spheres of Power, which would go a long way in diminishing the martial/caster disparity. Admittingly there isn't any support for the Investigator or Alchemist, nor the Occult classes... not yet anyway, I hope that changes.

The benefit of SoP also is that martials can gain access to spehres through feats, so they can use magic.


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I came to this thread to suggest Spheres of Power, but I see that has already been done! Good job.

Basically:

Spells cost talents. You can spend a feat to gain a talent. Spellcasting classes gain a talent every level or so. Spells are fueled by spell points, which are based on your level and casting stat, and regained by resting.

You can take drawbacks to gain more talents and spell points.

A fighter could take a bunch of drawbacks such as making their buffs target themselves only, attack spells require weapon attacks, and a bunch of other fightery-themed things, and end up with a hell of a lot of magic for less than a wizard would pay for it.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The easiest way is to ramp down the power of casters, by forcing more specialization, revising/getting rid of problematic spells, and implementing some of the variant rules for magic in Pathfinder Unchained.

On the martial side, more skill points, and maybe revision of combat feats so they are more condensed, freeing up space for feats that can shore up out of combat issues.

I think the above things would reduce disparity issues while still keeping Pathfinder "Pathfinder", and still keep most of the material relevant.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:


Another common solution is to turn every martial into a wuxia superhero who farts fireballs and barfs acid, who flattens armies with the stamp of a boot and shrugs off every natural disaster like Superman shrugs off bullets. While that might be fine and dandy for an actual superhero game, or for a supernatural game where all the heroes are Greek gods or other immortals running around a mundane world, it's very much out of place in this game system as published. Wuxia martials is simply not Pathfinder.

It's odd. I started a thread a while back examining this specific solution, and no one actually said that there was anything wrong with it. Lots of people objected to almost anything, but never on their own behalf, always in support of unnamed and absent third parties.

I don't think wuxia Pathfinder is a genuine problem.

Agreeing with OQ here, now. and as I did in that thread, which was fantastic.

Not sure how you can definitively determine that "Wuxia martials is simply not Pathfinder."

Pathfinder's ruleset may be perceived as engendering certain mechanics or playstyles, but where the published word ends leaves only room for...more published words.

Also if folks can't agree on what the "disparity" is, how could they begin to "fix" it.

I am of the opinion that QWLF (quadratic wizard, linear fighter) exists in the CRB and I'm quite ok with that. And I tend to play martials or 3/4 BAB characters. I have no problem with "inequality".


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DM_Blake wrote:

Jiggy's current post about the disparity is a good one, but it provides no solutions.

So, without fighting about what the disparity really is (please!?!?), how can it be fixed?

It's become clear that if the problem does exist, it does not exist in the same way for every campaign. So the question can't be answered until it's actually asked.

In other words, if the problem exists for your campaign, you need to precisely define the particular manifestation or manifestations of your problem to ask the question. Only in properly asking the question can an answer be found, it it will most likely not be an answer that addresses some other campaign's problem.


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Honestly, we don't even need a major system overhaul. Some fine-tuning could work.

- Revise or remove the more game-breaking spells and casters would be okay, even if they stayed more powerful. Just taking a second look at stuff like Maze, Planar Binding, Gate, SoL effects and so on would do wonders for game balance without harming casters...

- Make sure spell effects are gradient instead of binary. This allows players to have fun with casters without instantly killing/neutralizing a whole character because its player rolled poorly once. Hell! You could even make save DCs harder if failing a single saving throw didn't meant you're dead or at least neutralized for the rest of combat.

- Martials should also get some buffing. In fact, I think this is more important than nerfing casters, since you can always tune down a strong character but can't always tune up a weak one.

Give them more mobility and a greater diversity of effective options both in and out of combat. Remove feat taxes and make sure feats are both effective and interesting. Allow combat maneuvers to work effectively without requiring major investment. stop punishing martial characters for trying to do anything other than stand still and full attack. Allow skills to do cool stuff (Skill unlocks are a good start, but pretty underwhelming, specially when they cost you a feat). Forget the stupid idea that classes should get as few skill points as possible.

The most extensive work would be revising spells and spell-lists.


Hm...bold, or italic?


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Alright, I settled on bold. This thread has been added to the Index. I was actually pleasantly surprised here—this thread is much more constructive than I was expecting. I actually got to add a Creative thread to the Index! We've had three Argumentatives since the last one.


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Lemmy wrote:


- Revise or remove the more game-breaking spells and casters would be okay, even if they stayed more powerful. Just taking a second look at stuff like Maze, Planar Binding, Gate, SoL effects and so on would do wonders for game balance without harming casters...

- Make sure spell effects are gradient instead of binary. This allows players to have fun with casters without instantly killing/neutralizing a whole character because its player rolled poorly once. Hell! You could even make save DCs harder if failing a single saving throw didn't meant you're dead or at least neutralized for the rest of combat.

I don't see this as needed, or -- frankly -- even helpful. I don't think that Maze is game-breaking. Yes, it's an instant-lose spell unless you have something in hand to protect you from it, but so is a vorpal scimitar in the hands of a crit-fisher at that level.

I think this keeps coming back to the cliche that Pathfinder is a different game at level 15+ than it is at level 1-5. We don't expect a level 16 wizard to play the same as a level 6, or a 6 as a 1. But we're still expecting a level 16 fighter to play pretty much the same (only with more bonuses) as a level 6 fighter.

The solution is not to deprive high-level wizards of encounter-ending powers; the solution is to grant fighters their own set of powers that can end encounters. And if you don't like the idea that characters can be neutralized instantly -- by anyone -- then play at lower levels, as PFS does. The problem right now is not that a 16th level sorcerer can neutralize anyone with no save, but that a 20th level monk can't.


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Well, D&D 3.0 is called "caster edition" for a reason. You're not going to eliminate the disparity while making it still the same as it was; there's way too much favoritism for magecraft baked into the rules to establish equality with minor tweaks.

I've noticed some things martials do in D&D 5th edition that got me thinking about why they're so much more fun to play in that edition than they are in this one, and some thoughts came to me.

1.) Actions. When you picture a mage fighting, you're usually imagining them being fairly still, concentrating on the awesome powers they are shaping with force of will. When you picture a warrior fighting another warrior, the battle likely ranges all over the place, over tables, onto chandeliers, up and down stairs, the works. 3.0 class design is a complete reversal of the concept in that martial combat is nearly immobile and ceases working properly if you move around too much while you fight, while magic is a high-flying free for all where everyone's sprinting around slinging one spell after another into the fray. Fire and forget at will.

In 5th edition, martials don't get as many attacks as they do in 3rd (except for the fighter, whose attack progression is the same to make him a true combat master) but full-attacking is a standard action and you're allowed to move around freely while you attack. Immediately, this makes combat feel more like it does in books and movies where martial artists are moving around while they fight a lot more. Then you can add some more action into this in that martial classes tend to get a lot of use out of their swift (or bonus in 5e) action while mages often don't; the fighter can, once per resting period, take two standard actions in a single turn, while the rogue can hide, increase his speed, or withdraw from combat as a swift action where others need a standard, letting the rogue hit and run or shoot from hiding, move, and vanish from sight again in a way no one else can.

Eliminating "stand still or suck" from the equation and making martial combat feel fast and dynamic rather than awkwardly bunny-hopping up to someone and clonking them with your sword is one step towards making your fighty guys feel more dynamic and interesting to play.

2.) Feats and fighting styles. In 3.0 magic is a buffet table, where you get what you want when you level up by virtue of leveling up. You don't have to qualify for spells, and you're under no obligation to theme your spell list rather than build a useful well-rounded one that responds to most of the challenges you're likely to go up against. Martial combat, on the other hand, has grown increasingly reliant on feats and being able to qualify for them. Feat taxes and chaff that don't do anything great for the game besides eat up useless page count on options that trick new players and annoy older ones by wasting their time are a real problem, and while spells get better automatically as you level, one of the ONLY feats that scales with character level is Power Attack. Everyone feels feat starved because there are often chains and trees you have to build your entire character around where there often should be a single feat and a couple supplementary ones. Getting good at TWF costs a ton of feats. Getting good at combat maneuvers costs a ton of feats. Getting good at archery costs a ton of feats. Being able to sword and board costs everything TWF costs AND THEN SOME. They design like we've got feats coming out of our ears, and won't get mad we're being scammed into taking Feat/Improved Feat/Greater Feat when people would riot if you had to learn a spell three times for it to stay relevant.

I feel like 5e had the right idea here again, in that feats are designed to be something you can operate without but each one is a powerful, flexible reward that makes your character feel a lot more powerful. Fighting styles, meanwhile, such as great weapon fighting or two weapon fighting or dueling, are class features martials get to give them the basic toolbox to do all right with their weapons of choice. Feats are an ENHANCEMENT, not a requirement.

Let's just say I think a lot more people would take Vital Strike if it scaled into Improved Vital Strike and Greater Vital strike with BAB, but few people see the appeal of a feat chain where each new feat renders the one before it obsolete but unable to be retrained.

3.) OK, so let's say feats were better and martials had more ways to use their actions that made them feel fast and dynamic rather than sluggish and repetitive (full attack full attack full attack is it dead yet? no? full attack!), what else?

Well, how about cool things martial characters can do that magical characters can't?

For example, all of the full BAB classes are in really great shape compared to their casting counterparts, fluff-wise. Wouldn't it kind of make sense that after a certain level martials have natural climb and swim speeds while magic-users need to spend spell slots to be able to acquire one? The wizard might be able to use magic to take to the air, but the fighter can naturally scale even treacherous cliffs in bad conditions with no trouble by virtue of his great strength and endurance. You can even poke at the supernatural a little here in that the skill of the martials moves into the uncanny; what if the fighter's gut instinct is so well-honed over his long career of warfare he can use an ability similar to augury to get a usually-accurate "good feeling" or "bad feeling" about a course of action and give the group advice accordingly? What if the brawler or monk becomes so light on their feet they can gain further momentum pushing off on the smallest of things when jumping, massively increasing the distance of their leaps while the untrained eye only sees them kicking off thin air?

The rogue gets blindsense in a short-ranged area in 5e. Doesn't that kind of make sense in PF as well, that the cunning thief with his uncanny sense for danger gradually gains the senses to automatically notice even invisible enemies so nobody can just sneak up on them under magical cover?

I also like the idea of rogues gaining skill masteries that go even further than skill unlocks. While invisibility can make anyone stealthy, what if the rogue who gained Stealth Mastery was so stealthy they can even sneak up on creatures with advanced senses without being detected? It's not "crapping fireballs and acid," it's a master of stealth learning, without magic involved, to conceal their presence so well that even things that can automatically spot invisible characters walking around still have to roll perception as normal against the rogue's stealth check to notice that anyone's there. Combine this with the rogue's ability to move around and hide as a swift action, and you can have high level fights where the wizard might be teleporting around, hurling fireballs, and changing the landscape, but the rogue seems to step out of thin air, slays one foe, and vanishes in the blink of an eye, disappearing and reappearing almost at will as he scythes down one enemy after another with his sneak attacks. Even the mage who had the presence of mind to cast invisibility on himself and flee catches a fatal dagger to the back as he runs, unable to fool the rogue's ears.

Also, what about legendary weapons? Right now any chucklehead with a level in warrior can take any +5 Holy Heartseeker Adamantine weapon your mighty hero wields and still be able to use it. Why does the Arcanist, a class that never goes into melee, get a special, unique magical sword only they can use that automatically grows in power as they level instead of say, a fighter or a slayer? Really, some variant of the keep reward system might be nice in that when they level enough, a martial is entitled to some sort of "proof of heroism", whether that simply be a weapon unique to them they find around that level, a powerful mount, a castle, or some other reward that increases their narrative power but remains relevant to their main job?

4.) Well and good, but now let's discuss an elephant in the room; are we so sure magic shouldn't be giving some stuff up in this conversation?

In 5e, certainly, mages need much better concentration when casting, as you can't just load up a dozen long-duration spells anymore and call it a day. Buffs and debuffs both compete of the one spell at a time you can concentrate on, and if you take any damage at all, you need to make a save (and not a save most mages are good at) to keep the spell going or lose it. You have to be careful not to fill up too much on options that are going to eat up your concentration, and avoid being hit at all when you can, even if you can take the damage. One opportune shot from a minion might cost you the spell you're using to hold down the BBEG!

PF might stand to learn a little from that, as "stand still for three rounds making myself godly" is a liiiiiiittle too common for my taste. In 3.PF, you can fly, be invisible, be buffed, have your magical armor and what have you up, and be harming your opponents all at the same time. In 5e, you can be doing one of those things, maybe two, at a time. It's far more sporting, in my opinion.

Simulacrum and Blood Money should probably not be options anyone has access to, and some things like teleport could probably stand to be a little higher level. But...and this is going to get a LOT of controversy...I also feel like we really need to take an axe to the summoning and polymorph sub schools of magic.

Think about it. What do you have martial characters around for? Front-line combat, being really strong and doing lots of damage, right?

So why does the druid have a tiger that does all that, the ability to turn into a tiger that does all that, and the ability to summon still more tigers that ALSO do all that? I feel like mages will appreciate their martial buddies a LOT more when you can't just snap your fingers and throw tyrannosauruses at someone who pisses you off, or mutter a few nonsense words, turn into a dragon, and ask the guy who called you noodle-arms to say that to your FACE.

These might sound like some pretty dire changes, but I think they'd improve things. They certainly wouldn't "fix" the disparity in the game completely, though. This is an old, old issue better nerds than I have lost a lot of time working on.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Baval wrote:
Personally I like Spheres of Power, but if youre dead set on keeping Vanecian the easiest way is to remove scrolls and increase the cost of wands dramatically. Without scrolls and wands the casters have to actually prepare/choose their utility spells, and thus are either left without them or with less combat focus. Therefore, they are no longer answers to everything every time.

That doesn't work, and actually hampers martials more.

With scrolls, the martials do nothing and feel bored.

Without them, everyone does nothing and the game stops dead.

How exactly? Without scrolls, spellcasters can still cast their spells, they just cant have every spell in the book available all the time. Which means if they come to a large cliff and the wizard didnt prepare fly, they might actually have to have the rogue break out the pitons and climb it. And if the Wizard did prepare fly, then thats one less combat spell to fight the Ogre at the top. Either way the martial gets to act more.

Or how about this: the players activate a trap and find themselves shifted to the plane of fire. Theres a city nearby, but the heat is crippling. Without being able to just whip out a scroll and solve the problem, the fighters high HP strength and fort saves will allow him to bear the heat long enough to drag the rest of the party to safety. Suddenly hes the big hero because hes tough and strong, and the wizard isnt because he wrote down a spell he didnt want to prepare on a piece of paper for later.

Sovereign Court

Orfamay Quest wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:


Another common solution is to turn every martial into a wuxia superhero who farts fireballs and barfs acid, who flattens armies with the stamp of a boot and shrugs off every natural disaster like Superman shrugs off bullets. While that might be fine and dandy for an actual superhero game, or for a supernatural game where all the heroes are Greek gods or other immortals running around a mundane world, it's very much out of place in this game system as published. Wuxia martials is simply not Pathfinder.

It's odd. I started a thread a while back examining this specific solution, and no one actually said that there was anything wrong with it. Lots of people objected to almost anything, but never on their own behalf, always in support of unnamed and absent third parties.

I don't think wuxia Pathfinder is a genuine problem.

I think it would be.

I'm not inherently against that kind of system & characters - but Pathfinder has an entirely different vibe which wuxia combatants go against rather gratingly.

I'd much rather have casters have weaknesses which the martials protect them from than just have the martials have super-powers.


+1 Charons little helper

I don't chose to play a Wuxia/super heroes kind of campaign. I'm not saying I wouldn't as a one off, but that isn't where my fantasy roots and inspiration comes from. I don't want to see fighters flying or punching people 30ft to smash into a wall. I think improving combat and giving fighters an edge (hero points) is sufficient.


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I think that seeing "mundane fighter does anything interesting" as Wuxia (or superhero) is part of the problem.

So part of resolving the disparity comes down to perception.

Silver Crusade

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Scythia wrote:

I think that seeing "mundane fighter does anything interesting" as Wuxia (or superhero) is part of the problem.

So part of resolving the disparity comes down to perception.

This is really what I see more often than not. Anything that surpasses human bounds by even a little bit is treated as 'wuxia', so even feats that traditional european legends have accomplished are considered silly by this crowd.

The reality reigns on mortals is held so tight that it's hard to get new and interesting abilities into things. Even some of their mythic abilities feel tame compared to what normal mages can do, which only furthers the gap.

I myself would like magic to be less point and click for problem solving with longer casting times, as well as the stated removal of things that just STOP encounters (glitterdust, black tentacles, blindness/deafness) and lead to just 'fighter clean up time.'


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The change that I'd most like to see and doesn't require the game to change too much is for 'mundane' characters to actually be better at mundane things than magical characters.

I really don't mind the idea that different classes play very differently, and I'm happy with the idea that some classes can change the world in some ways and others primarily react to it. But I really don't like that the wizard who spends so much time and energy studying magic usually ends up with a substantially broader range of skills than the fighter can get.


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Scythia wrote:

I think that seeing "mundane fighter does anything interesting" as Wuxia (or superhero) is part of the problem.

So part of resolving the disparity comes down to perception.

The root of the problem was identified long ago: That martials have to be realistic (to whatever degree) and casters don't. Martials are (apparently supposed to be) in an arms race with each other over piddling bonuses to attack rolls and AC:

A: "I have Dodge!"
B: "Well I have Anticipate Dodge!"
A: "I still get a net bonus to AC here because I also have Mobility!"
B: "No you don't, because this level I took Counter Reflexes!"
A: "Oh. Well in that case, I won't try to move out of your threatened square."

This conversation (assuming they are Monks or Brawlers) takes place at a level when casters learn how to fly.


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Several people have suggested "remove the most game-breaking spells".

I have two questions:

1. Does anybody have a good list? Even just a top-20 most troublesome spells list would be a good place to start.

2. Would the CR system become a problem if casters got a heavy nerf? By this I mean, what if nerfing the casters makes certain monsters too hard to defeat? Does the system already build in that casters are expected to go nova on some encounters just to make it possible to beat them? For this, I'm mostly looking at published adventures - can anyone think of an adventure you've run where caster-nova (or other super-caster tricks like major crowd control or even non-combat super tricks like flight or underwater spells or planar spells, etc.) were necessary just to get through the encounter(s)?

Silver Crusade

DM_Blake wrote:

Several people have suggested "remove the most game-breaking spells".

I have two questions:

1. Does anybody have a good list? Even just a top-20 most troublesome spells list would be a good place to start.

2. Would the CR system become a problem if casters got a heavy nerf? By this I mean, what if nerfing the casters makes certain monsters too hard to defeat? Does the system already build in that casters are expected to go nova on some encounters just to make it possible to beat them? For this, I'm mostly looking at published adventures - can anyone think of an adventure you've run where caster-nova (or other super-caster tricks like major crowd control or even non-combat super tricks like flight or underwater spells or planar spells, etc.) were necessary just to get through the encounter(s)?

1. I almost think we could do a google search of spells mentioned a ton in the forums.

Maybe this thread could help get a handle on these spells, have someone keep track of them and try to adjudicate the list to help newer GMs as well when they see people talking them.

2. I don't think so myself, I mean there's a few non combat spells (simula/blood money) that are out of combat nukes, and then some (glitterdust/hold person that are in combat nukes, and both need to be accounted for with this. Really, anything that makes an opponent wonder if it's worth rolling should probably be taken out.


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Blake, it is very simple to keep the same game and fix the "disparity" and those of us who play games where the "disparity" does not exist, or is such a minor issue that it doesn't matter, have been telling people how we do it for a while now... I'll go over how I do it.

Note:
I do not believe in the "disparity" but I do believe that there are always certain things, if done by the GM, that can lead to imbalances.

Item 1:
Don't play at "Epic Level"

This is a major thing. In early iterations of D&D, which Pathfinder is based on, most characters couldn't go beyond level 11. Humans were an exception to this (they were the only race that had no level limitations in any class) as, oddly, was the thief class.

It is also at these levels that play, even in Pathfinder, starts to break down. I don't see this as a disparity, so much, as every class can become insane at these levels, though non-magical classes usually do it through gear.

The biggest offenders of "problem spells" tends to be things like Planar Binding (Earliest level entry is 12th). So running games around the "PFS level" seems to be the easiest way to handle it. I tend to soft cap at level 15, that is about when my stories end anyway.

In older editions, anything beyond 11 was Epic level, so that is the terminology I am using.

-----

Item 2:
Do not allow your players to rely on the 15 minute adventuring day.

This is a big one. Your players need to have a reason to press on when spells get low. This, if instituted early, causes characters to start conserving spells, which reduces the perceived disparity considerably.

There are a lot of ways to accomplish this in a narrative-driven game. You could have to accomplish something by a certain time. There could be imminent danger that the PCs must present. Maybe they have to destroy the Death Star before it can come into range of Yavin IV (sorry... Star Wars is on my brain tonight). I tend to always have a looming threat when I run, something is going on and the PCs are under the hammer to stop it.

In a sandbox game this becomes far more difficult. That doesn't mean it is impossible though. You simply have to come up with reasons for the PCs to push on based on what they want to do. If the PCs are trying to buy a spot of land and are trying to earn money to do it, then have an NPC make a more expensive counter-offer and have the land owner tell the PCs that they have until X day and Y time to get it in.

Item 3:
Have the world react to the reality that you see as being prevalent.

If you see that there is a disparity in your game, and you see that as a fact, then remember that the rest of the world should too. If the evil warlord is really believing that enemies will just teleport through, fly over, pass through, or invisibly slip past his or her defenses then have him spend almost all of his funds on guarding against those things rather than the mundane threats.

Suddenly it becomes far easier to pick a lock, bribe a guard, and stealth into the enemy fortress than it does to magic through. If there is a chance that magic will fail, with very real consequences, then magic starts to feel weaker and mundanes get a lot more useful.

Note: I have done the above a few times and it works out really well. The Warlord spent a lot on hiring a Mercenary Mage who could lay down a lot of permanency Teleport Traps and the like. His guard towers each were equipped with items that could see invisible. Each Guard Tower had a low level mage equipped with dispel wands.

The Mage tried to invisibly fly the party over the wall only to get shot down by the dispels. They managed to come down safely but then were beset on by guards. One of them tried to teleport away but got snagged by the teleport trap and found himself in a cage with guards. He did manage to teleport successfully out but when the party regrouped they ended up thinking it over. They hired an NPC Rogue to help them get in because the Warlord didn't really focus too much on mundane security measures.

Much like in real life though, if the PCs start using more mundane methods, then the enemies will start shifting their focus back to that. Just like the point and counter-point of software security.


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The groups I've played in have always fell squarely into camp #3. It's never been a huge issue for us, although I still contend that the abandoning of the more esoteric "restrictions" of spellcasting from 1E/2E AD&D was a mistake, when spells were more easily interuptable and some were slightly dangerous or had a drawback. Also our group (including our main DM) is really good at spotlighting, which solves a good portion of this potential issue before it even gets out of the gate.


HWalsh wrote:


Don't play at "Epic Level"

This is a major thing. In early iterations of D&D, which Pathfinder is based on, most characters couldn't go beyond level 11. Humans were an exception to this (they were the only race that had no level limitations in any class) as, oddly, was the thief class.

It is also at these levels that play, even in Pathfinder, starts to break down. I don't see this as a disparity, so much, as every class can become insane at these levels, though non-magical classes usually do it through gear.

Really good point. Pathfinder still retains major artifacts from those early D&D days of Tomb of Horrors, strange traps that didn't really have solutions, Wish spells etc that you basically had to cheat to have access to. Nothing was balanced -at all-. It's amazing that it's as playable as it is at high levels when you put it in this perspective.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:

Two easy and pretty substantial fixes. (not claiming they fix it on their own - but they do a lot)

1. Ban the most obvious spell game-breakers. (Simulacrum & Blood Money - I'm looking at you!)

2. Make all spells level 2+ take a full round action to cast. This makes the casters much more reliant upon their martial buddies to protect them while to cast. It has the secondary benefit of making counter-spelling viable since you have time to counter after they start casting.

Honorable mention -

Have more mundane methods of beating standard caster tactics. For example: make a thin layer of lead beat not just Detect Evil - but also Teleport.

The thin layer of lead does block teleport, or at least Scrying so that you know where to teleport. But those are some good options :D

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