How to hurt PC who have too much AC


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In the campaign I'm playing in, my DM complained that my AC was too high and I was rendering mooks worthless. I looked up some alternative attack modes he could drop into modules easily.

I notice that this is a topic that DMs complain about a bit on the forums so I figured I'd put up a blog post with what I found.

Check it out.


Touch attacks usually hurt.


Hard to know without knowing what kind of character you built. Swashbucklers and other dex-based characters tend to have high AC but pretty abysmal CMD, so anything with a grapple can really ruin your day.


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can hit players with spells that make you roll a save or area of effect spells that dont hit players but a spot on the board like fireball or spells similar. or he could sick incorporeals after you which ignore armor.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

5 mooks surround you, GM has 4 use Aid Another, attack vs AC 10 and get a total of +8 for the one who attacks you.


Arachnofiend wrote:
Hard to know without knowing what kind of character you built. Swashbucklers and other dex-based characters tend to have high AC but pretty abysmal CMD, so anything with a grapple can really ruin your day.

Exactly - it entirely depends on where your AC is coming from as to what other attack forms will work.

Force armors (bracers, rings, shield, mage armor, etc) grant both a high standard AC and a high touch AC, and they also apply to your CMD. Throw in good DEX and/or ways to add other stat bonuses to your AC (insight bonuses, etc) and you become untouchable.

Regular enchanted heavy armor and shield makes for a high standard AC but your touch AC and usually your CMD are still vulnerable.

Additionally, you have to worry about saving throws, and again, depends on the type of character you have, and in particular how much gear they can afford at any given level (which is of course a campaign specific variable).


There are multiple "defenses" in Pathfinder. A group of enemies that only targets your best is almost destined to fail.

AC
Touch AC
CMD
Will Save
Reflex Save
Fort Save

It is very hard to protect all of these areas. If you have a high AC character, chances are (but not guaranteed) that your will save is low. Always try to target the weakest defense.

My advice to your GM would be to try enchantment on you, a charm person or perhaps a suggestion.

Scarab Sages

If all else fails, Toppling Magic Missiles will hit anyone that doesn't have a shield spell up.


MichaelCullen wrote:
It is very hard to protect all of these areas.

Dex-based monk says hi.

Scarab Sages

Avoron wrote:
MichaelCullen wrote:
It is very hard to protect all of these areas.
Dex-based monk says hi.

Still weak against flat-footed AC.


Avoron wrote:
MichaelCullen wrote:
It is very hard to protect all of these areas.
Dex-based monk says hi.

I said hard not impossible ;) the thing about most dex based monks is they are usually not the biggest threat on the map.

If the high defense PC is not causing much trouble, sometimes it is best to just target someone else.


Feh.

Tell the GM there's always a 5% chance to hit and to stop complaining because those odds are just fine. A mere 95% chance of failure is hardly reason to complain.

Feh.


MichaelCullen wrote:
Avoron wrote:
MichaelCullen wrote:
It is very hard to protect all of these areas.
Dex-based monk says hi.

I said hard not impossible ;) the thing about most dex based monks is they are usually not the biggest threat on the map.

If the high defense PC is not causing much trouble, sometimes it is best to just target someone else.

Unless the dex-based Monk is a Sensei who's turning the party's martial into a veritable terror you can probably just walk around the Monk and not care.


Imbicatus wrote:
Avoron wrote:
MichaelCullen wrote:
It is very hard to protect all of these areas.
Dex-based monk says hi.
Still weak against flat-footed AC.

That reminds me. I've always wondered why Uncanny Dodge was not considered a Monk ability...

Sovereign Court

Maybe some of it is that the rest of the group's ACs are far too low. I've seen a disturbing # of characters who virtually ignore their AC in favor of marginally more offense.


quibblemuch wrote:

Feh.

Tell the GM there's always a 5% chance to hit and to stop complaining because those odds are just fine. A mere 95% chance of failure is hardly reason to complain.

Feh.

I am playing a Stalker from Path of War. I have an ability that lets me spend a ki to make attackers roll twice and take the lowest for 1 round per point of wisdom modifier I have.

So not quite 5% :p

The rest of the party has 20+ ac, and we are level 4.

Sovereign Court

Knight Magenta wrote:


I am playing a Stalker from Path of War. I have an ability that lets me spend a ki to make attackers roll twice and take the lowest for 1 round per point of wisdom modifier I have.

So not quite 5% :p

I don't know the class as I generally avoid 3pp.

However - while the mooks might have virtually no chance of hurting you - they are apparently forcing you to use up a limited resource. (unless you have a 3pp way of recharging ki points efficiently)


Dex-based, poor fort save. Yep, targeting pretty much anything other than AC could be potentially disastrous for your character, depending on what you've done to shore up those other defenses.


Foes who do really big damage are still pretty scary for PCs with very high AC since just a few hits or a lucky crit might end the fight. I think it is probably the forced re-roll power which is most significant here rather than the high AC.

Another trick which some DMs might be too proud to pull is just using True Strike, which you can get with even a single level in a caster class. True Strike can make wights or vampires really scary. Magus levels could be terrifying. An Alchemist who has Potion Glutton (or an ally with it) might be effective too.

If your AC is so high that +20 still can't hit it then maybe you really have gone too far...


Arachnofiend wrote:
Dex-based, poor fort save. Yep, targeting pretty much anything other than AC could be potentially disastrous for your character, depending on what you've done to shore up those other defenses.

Ya, that was basically my response :) he was running a module and after a few fights where I cheerfully tanked 5 mooks and then a boss character with lots of attacks at a low bonus he was a little put-out with me.


A good trip attack or flank would give a solid boost. Together that's 6 points of difference.


One of the players in my current game (7th level) is rocking AC 36+ with buffs, and that number wasn't that much lower when they all were 3rd level. The character is a Paladin/Summoner with lots of Charisma-dependent abilities, plus Evasion. We are playing a hexcrawl with a variety of monsters, but a lot of mooks and not-so-serious threats, and your standard bite'n'claw monsters haven't been a serious threat to this character for some time now. Same with area effects. At first I was a little upset, but I learned my lesson and stopped trying to raise every encounter's CR specifically for this character.

And that's ok, really. Because some monsters are clever and leave that character alone after a try or two, to sneack on the weaker party members. Others like bandits use Aid Another, like Val'bryn2 mentioned above, to help their leaders bring down the hurt. Or the challenge is not one of AC and hit points but Reflex saves, skills (this character has an atrociously small amount of skills), or an ability that only another party member has. Or something else...

- difficult terrain: not just your regular gravel/sand/mud that forces Acrobatics checks or just generally halves movement rates, limited visibility from smoke also helps to mitigate the dominance of a high-AC character.
- saving throws. not every character is good at every type of save, not even monks, so throwing in the odd effect that targets a vulnerability ca spice things up again. Just don't overdo it just to spite the high-AC character.
- area effects (like breath weapons), which ties in with saving throws.
- stationary effects and effects that trigger conditions, like evil altars that bestow negative levels to all goody two-shoes within 30 ft. or something. It might no specifically render the high-AC character more vulnerable, but it conveys the message that there are nasty things out there that might kill you no matter what your AC is.

Also, on a final note, the OP mentioned his GM complaining that mooks become worthless against such a character. So what? I mean seriously, so what? Is that really a problem? Because the answer is so obviously no. Let that character have his moments when the party is swarmed by mooks, it's fine.


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Sundering armor is an option... tanglefoot bags...

Don't sweat it too much, high AC isn't the end of the world. Let the martial shine.

:D


Antariuk wrote:
not every character is good at every type of save, not even monks

Honestly Paladins can be pretty good at all saves and sport a great AC too. I think that having a tough to kill PC can actually be kind of helpful for avoiding accidental TPKs though.

Due to Divine Grace my Bard/Paladin made most saving throws on a 2 or higher, but that was a good thing when the rest of our 3 PC party (and their pets) failed some saves and got petrified. The same PC had a very high AC when using Smite Evil, and that's the primary reason why the party wasn't wiped out by a random encounter with multiple dragons. If mooks don't need a nat 20 to hit you then a dragon will probably tear you apart.

A PC who can actually survive the challenges in a campaign instead of relying on the DM to make monsters suddenly turn stupid or let the party off the hook doesn't seem like a bad thing to me.


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(1) Mooks attack rest of party. (2) Mooks aren't worthless. (3) Player choices are allowed to matter. (4) Profit.


Devilkiller wrote:
Antariuk wrote:
not every character is good at every type of save, not even monks

Honestly Paladins can be pretty good at all saves and sport a great AC too. I think that having a tough to kill PC can actually be kind of helpful for avoiding accidental TPKs though.

Due to Divine Grace my Bard/Paladin made most saving throws on a 2 or higher, but that was a good thing when the rest of our 3 PC party (and their pets) failed some saves and got petrified. The same PC had a very high AC when using Smite Evil, and that's the primary reason why the party wasn't wiped out by a random encounter with multiple dragons. If mooks don't need a nat 20 to hit you then a dragon will probably tear you apart.

A PC who can actually survive the challenges in a campaign instead of relying on the DM to make monsters suddenly turn stupid or let the party off the hook doesn't seem like a bad thing to me.

This. So much of this.


Paladins can have excellent saves and a great AC, but they tend to have relatively low touch ACs. The Iroran Paladin archetype helps this issue significantly.

Sovereign Court

Antariuk wrote:


- saving throws. not every character is good at every type of save, not even monks,

My Dwarf Dex Monk with Steel Soul begs to differ.

Scarab Sages

Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Antariuk wrote:


- saving throws. not every character is good at every type of save, not even monks,
My Dwarf Dex Monk with Steel Soul begs to differ.

I have a dwarf monk with steel soul. The saves are great, but less so against SU effects that aren't spells. I got down to one cha in Bonekeep from supernatural disease.


Friends and family.


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Bardarok wrote:
Friends and family.

That'll teach players not to make their PC anything but an orphaned loner.


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Player Agency is a good thing. The goal is not to have players pick one thing to specialize in, then constantly hit them in ways that make their choices meaningless. Ideally, there should be some times when they're able to survive well because of their choices (showing the value of what they've picked), and other times where they're challenged to find a more creative solution because the enemy acts in a different way (which, by the way, encourages balance and versatility over narrow specializations - this is basically never a bad thing).

The DM's job isn't to beat the player by throwing nastier foes at them, it's to help guide the story and make sure everyone has a good time. ^^ My suggestion to DMs in situations like this would be to keep that in mind, and ask themselves what the best balance would be.


Quickened true strike + enervation (or ray of enfeeblement, or some other really ugly ranged touch) can wreck your day.


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Swarms. Environmental effects. Theft.


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Vanykrye wrote:


Force armors (bracers, rings, shield, mage armor, etc) grant both a high standard AC and a high touch AC, and they also apply to your CMD. Throw in good DEX and/or ways to add other stat bonuses to your AC (insight bonuses, etc) and you become untouchable.

No they don't. All they do is provide AC. They apply to flat footed AC and to incorporial touch attacks. They absolutely do NOT apply to touch AC or to CMD.

The only one that applies to touch AC and CMD is the Ring of Protection, which grants a Deflection bonus as opposed to the armor and shield bonuses of the others.


GM Rednal wrote:

Player Agency is a good thing. The goal is not to have players pick one thing to specialize in, then constantly hit them in ways that make their choices meaningless. Ideally, there should be some times when they're able to survive well because of their choices (showing the value of what they've picked), and other times where they're challenged to find a more creative solution because the enemy acts in a different way (which, by the way, encourages balance and versatility over narrow specializations - this is basically never a bad thing).

The DM's job isn't to beat the player by throwing nastier foes at them, it's to help guide the story and make sure everyone has a good time. ^^ My suggestion to DMs in situations like this would be to keep that in mind, and ask themselves what the best balance would be.

What he said.

Ideally, there should be a few encounters that showcase the character's abilities. And, conversely, there should be a few encounters that highlight weaknesses. E.G. Every so often the gunslinger should encounter something like a dragon or golem with retarded AC, but low touch AC. And occasionally he should find a monk with retarded touch AC and Deflect Arrows.


thorin001 wrote:
Vanykrye wrote:


Force armors (bracers, rings, shield, mage armor, etc) grant both a high standard AC and a high touch AC, and they also apply to your CMD. Throw in good DEX and/or ways to add other stat bonuses to your AC (insight bonuses, etc) and you become untouchable.

No they don't. All they do is provide AC. They apply to flat footed AC and to incorporial touch attacks. They absolutely do NOT apply to touch AC or to CMD.

The only one that applies to touch AC and CMD is the Ring of Protection, which grants a Deflection bonus as opposed to the armor and shield bonuses of the others.

Incorrect.

From the PRD:
A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD.

When you are the target of a touch attack, your AC doesn't include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. All other modifiers, such as your size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) apply normally.

Luck, insight, and most miscellaneous AC boosts apply to both touch and CMD.


quibblemuch wrote:

Feh.

Tell the GM there's always a 5% chance to hit and to stop complaining because those odds are just fine. A mere 95% chance of failure is hardly reason to complain.

Feh.

A one in twenty chance will never work, but a one in a million chance will always work.


Only if it's exactly one-in-a-million odds, though.


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Indeed. Thus, you must get your AC to one million.


Bracers/mage armor is an armor bonus. Shield spell is a shield bonus. Neither of those apply to CMD. That was his point.

Force effects apply to touch AC under certain circumstances (incorpereal creatures) but not always.

Edit: bah, semi-ninjas.

Grand Lodge

Calth wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
Vanykrye wrote:


Force armors (bracers, rings, shield, mage armor, etc) grant both a high standard AC and a high touch AC, and they also apply to your CMD. Throw in good DEX and/or ways to add other stat bonuses to your AC (insight bonuses, etc) and you become untouchable.

No they don't. All they do is provide AC. They apply to flat footed AC and to incorporial touch attacks. They absolutely do NOT apply to touch AC or to CMD.

The only one that applies to touch AC and CMD is the Ring of Protection, which grants a Deflection bonus as opposed to the armor and shield bonuses of the others.

Incorrect.

From the PRD:
A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD.

When you are the target of a touch attack, your AC doesn't include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. All other modifiers, such as your size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) apply normally.

Luck, insight, and most miscellaneous AC boosts apply to both touch and CMD.

Yes, but look at the items or spells listed.

Bracers of Armor = armor bonus, so not to CMD
Rings, as mentioned, give a deflection bonus that counts.
Shield, as it is a shield bonus, does not.
Mage armor, as it is n armor bonus, does not.

So, his post was correct for the items listed. The list did not include many of the things that add to CMD as well as AC.

Most of the Big Six that add to AC do not add to CMD, like shield, armor, and the amulet of natural armor. Ring of protection does. Weapon does not, usually.


Brutal high damage Orc Boss
+Orc Mooks (Aid Another)
+Orc Mooks with Spears (2nd Rank of Aid another)

Even if the PCs manage to hold rank and keep from getting surrounded you can get at least 5 mooks Aiding giving the boss +10 to hit.

If you can surround the PC you can get something like a dozen or more mooks aiding


Calth wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
Vanykrye wrote:


Force armors (bracers, rings, shield, mage armor, etc) grant both a high standard AC and a high touch AC, and they also apply to your CMD. Throw in good DEX and/or ways to add other stat bonuses to your AC (insight bonuses, etc) and you become untouchable.

No they don't. All they do is provide AC. They apply to flat footed AC and to incorporial touch attacks. They absolutely do NOT apply to touch AC or to CMD.

The only one that applies to touch AC and CMD is the Ring of Protection, which grants a Deflection bonus as opposed to the armor and shield bonuses of the others.

Incorrect.

From the PRD:
A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD.

When you are the target of a touch attack, your AC doesn't include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. All other modifiers, such as your size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) apply normally.

Luck, insight, and most miscellaneous AC boosts apply to both touch and CMD.

Yes those do, but they were not on the list given.


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Knight Magenta wrote:

In the campaign I'm playing in, my DM complained that my AC was too high and I was rendering mooks worthless. I looked up some alternative attack modes he could drop into modules easily.

I notice that this is a topic that DMs complain about a bit on the forums so I figured I'd put up a blog post with what I found.

Check it out.

The best answer. Don't.

The GM should learn better.


Knight Magenta wrote:

I am playing a Stalker from Path of War. I have an ability that lets me spend a ki to make attackers roll twice and take the lowest for 1 round per point of wisdom modifier I have.

It is not good AC that is the problem here.

It is good AC combined with a forced reroll (VERY strong even by itself!) for effectively the whole combat. The synergy between these two blows it over the top.

The reroll is the source of the problem. If you try to fiddle around with the AC system you will get into a whole slew of unintended consequences. For you and your groupmates.

Swap out the overpowered 3PP forced-reroll-power and yor DM's problems will be eased.


A few months back, I was running a low-level game. The paladin (as happens in such games) had a very high AC, and the kobolds' attacks were bouncing off his shiny armor. I let him feel invincible for a couple encounters ... and then the kobolds started using aid another.

The player said, "Ack!! These kobolds are smart!! They're helping each other!! I don't like this!!!"


I had a similar thing pop up with shield focused paladin. Turns out that they aren't that great at acrobatics checks and a grease spell worked to hilarious effect.


Well, the mooks could surround you and simply go on total defense...


RealAlchemy wrote:
Quickened true strike + enervation (or ray of enfeeblement, or some other really ugly ranged touch) can wreck your day.

Good point about true-strike. I thought about it but then thought "naa, too clunky." But now that you mention it, a hit every other round when the alternative is no hits at all is actually pretty good.

Ashiel wrote:

The best answer. Don't.

The GM should learn better.

That was sort of the point of the exercise. My GM is new, so I am helping him diversify his tactics.

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