Plot agency: for the martial character


Homebrew and House Rules

51 to 100 of 186 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>

One problem with a discussion like this is that a martial character is, effectively, someone who can do stuff ... that anyone else can do, just not as well. Even 'hit monster' is something that can be done by the wizard without any spells. Not very well, again, but it's still something that can be done. Similar with skill-based classes: they can do it better but ultimately that Disable Device can be attempted by almost anyone who invests in it.

Even the ones with special abilities? Paladin spells aren't going to change the world. Barbarian rage makes them better at 'hit things' but if you're already denying its relevance that won't help.

And there's one last issue: PLOT agency. The storyline is NOT a game mechanic. Once you're trying to determine whether a spell or other ability can alter the plot or storyline or world, you're introducing mechanics and concepts that are external to the ruleset.

This kind of discussion ultimately leads to tail-chasing or people who have different definitions passing each other in the night firing broadsides that they can't aim.


Qaianna wrote:


And there's one last issue: PLOT agency. The storyline is NOT a game mechanic. Once you're trying to determine whether a spell or other ability can alter the plot or storyline or world, you're introducing mechanics and concepts that are external to the ruleset.

This kind of discussion ultimately leads to tail-chasing or people who have different definitions passing each other in the night firing broadsides that they can't aim.

That's fair enough. Honestly I'm not hoping for a huge amount of progress on the whole, just a few neat ideas for my campaign.

This all started because when I was playing in a campaign, one of our players rolled up a fighter. The fighter was an absolute monster when it came to taking and dishing damage, but often times the player would complain (not during the session, me and him are friends and hung out sometimes.) about not feeling like they're able to have any real relevance to the story as a whole, since they used all their resources on combat.

If I get a martial character like that, I'm hoping I'll have at least one or two ideas by the time this thread dies off for how to handle making sure whoever decided to play the fighter, doesn't feel like they're being put in the dummy corner every time the party wants to visit a city.

edit:

he had talked to the DM as well, it's just that the DM didn't really have a solution for it either.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

My honest to go suggestion is homebrewing them additional class features. It's very likely that if someone feels that way they are playing an underpowered class.


Slapping on free Leadership and increasing the capacity might help: give him a bunch of mercenaries who can collect information for him/do side jobs/provide plot ideas and hooks, etc.
If allied with the city, the mercenaries are aided or cooperate with the city guard. If against the city, the group is a bunch of leg-breakers and act as mafia.
Treat Fighters as warlords and warrior's guildmasters, basically. If homebrewing isn't you thing--otherwise, check out the Mythos Compendium for the fighter class, and suggest that he takes an Exploit in place of a Fighter Bonus feat.

Of course, this isn't Fighter only, unless the GM adds, 'you can add your Fighter level, being fightery as you are.'


I love how a martial who gets buffed, or drinks a potion or what have you is 'relying on a mage' yet a wizard who summons a fighty thing to melee for him isn't in essence 'relying on a martial.

To put it more completely - earlier someone mentioned having an organization as a class ability which might include mages and clerics and the like. And the response was 'well, they would still be 'relying on a spellcaster!!!'. But if a different class ability is used by a caster to summon something to fight for them it isn't somehow 'relying on a martial'

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
RDM42 wrote:
I love how a martial who gets buffed, or drinks a potion or what have you is 'relying on a mage' yet a wizard who summons a fighty thing to melee for him isn't in essence 'relying on a martial.

Two things:

#1: If the martial could self-buff somehow or brew his own potions, they'd be more comparable. A Wizard doesn't have to rely on magic items or other people to Summon.

#2: Almost all the high level things you summon to fight have spell-like abilities, so even by this logic you're relying on other spell-casters, not martials in the normal sense.

RDM42 wrote:
To put it more completely - earlier someone mentioned having an organization as a class ability which might include mages and clerics and the like. And the response was 'well, they would still be 'relying on a spellcaster!!!'. But if a different class ability is used by a caster to summon something to fight for them it isn't somehow 'relying on a martial'

#1 wouldn't apply here (since both summoning and the organization are class features), but #2 still would. A Wizard can get by never summoning or relying on a non-caster. A martial can't get by very well never having a caster available.

Now, I'm not sure you can completely fix that without a radical system overhaul. Most of my fixes are more geared towards narrowing the gap than they are to eliminating it completely.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
werewolf435 wrote:

This all started because when I was playing in a campaign, one of our players rolled up a fighter. The fighter was an absolute monster when it came to taking and dishing damage, but often times the player would complain (not during the session, me and him are friends and hung out sometimes.) about not feeling like they're able to have any real relevance to the story as a whole, since they used all their resources on combat.

If I get a martial character like that, I'm hoping I'll have at least one or two ideas by the time this thread dies off for how to handle making sure whoever decided to play the fighter, doesn't feel like they're being put in the dummy corner every time the party wants to visit a city.

One option is to discourage players from playing a character like that. A stealthy Ranger or charismatic Swashbuckler or knowledgeable Inquisitor can be pretty good at dishing out damage, while having far more out-of-combat utility and class agency (i.e., some) than the standard optimized Fighter.


werewolf435 wrote:


he had talked to the DM as well, it's just that the DM didn't really have a solution for it either.

Its going to come down to what you as an individual considers as getting enjoyment from playing the game.

I have two people playing fighters in my campaign, they both participate in out of combat roleplaying, the shared story telling, overcoming skill challenges (I do make 4 skill ranks/level the minimum), and combat.

Over the course of multiple game sessions, they're getting more than their share of time interacting with the story some nights and others less (mechanics and role-playing). On average though they're equally active in the playing of the game whether I measure it by rolling dice, or action economy, or role playing opportunity. I pay attention to the kind of things every player enjoys doing and include those opportunities over the sessions. (problem solving, rolling dice, role-playing, getting a chance to use a cool feat, exploring their back story or the setting, etc)

If I had a group with all casters I'd have to do the same thing to try to provide the in game opportunities that the individual player's thought were fun. The mechanics of the game itself don't and can't account for player personality likes/dislikes and the dynamic of the group and GM.

The level of fun any individual has relies significantly more on the group dynamics and GM story arcs put before them than mechanics of the system itself or the class they're playing.

Unless you won't have fun w/o using magic to do something in game (a mechanic), then don't worry about not having fun with a fighter.


Matthew Downie wrote:


One option is to discourage players from playing a character like that. A stealthy Ranger or charismatic Swashbuckler or knowledgeable Inquisitor can be pretty good at dishing out damage, while having far more out-of-combat utility and class agency (i.e., some) than the standard optimized Fighter.

It can help to have the first session (call it S:0 if you like the term) to discuss the type of long story arc you're going to run, where in the world (climate/terrain/races) it'll be etc.

GM should also lay out expectations about their style here too. IE: I'm going to make you roll a skill check for roughly 75% or more of anything you try to do (even if you just say you're taking 10) or I don't like to slow down most times just to "roll for it", so I may be more free form and most of the time not make you roll a skill check if failing doesn't add to the story.

How much RPing do you plan to have in the game as a GM, how much access to magic, fast or slow progression, lots of loot/gold or starving artists, etc. High death potential or low? A long campaign pushing beyond 10th level, or one that'll end below that etc.

Session zero with a new group is even more important to ensuring you don't pick a class/race or design a backstory that doesn't fight the campaign style or playing habits of your other players. If you're more of a 75% rping type, and the GM style is more power-gamer and spends more like 75% rolling dice there might not be -any- class you can pick that'll actually make you feel like you're having enough fun to stay with that group.

I think knowing in advance what your GM, the campaign, and your peers are going to be doing will give you the best chance of having fun in the game, regardless of what class you play. At the very least it should help you identify classes on the "avoid" list, for that groups set of variables.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
RDM42 wrote:

I love how a martial who gets buffed, or drinks a potion or what have you is 'relying on a mage' yet a wizard who summons a fighty thing to melee for him isn't in essence 'relying on a martial.

To put it more completely - earlier someone mentioned having an organization as a class ability which might include mages and clerics and the like. And the response was 'well, they would still be 'relying on a spellcaster!!!'. But if a different class ability is used by a caster to summon something to fight for them it isn't somehow 'relying on a martial'

A summoned monster is a class feature of the wizard (spells). A potion is gear and explicitly not a class feature of the fighter class. A couple classes I can think of have gear as an actual part of the class but fighter is not one of them.

As for the relying on the spellcaster comment, as I think I made clear later I meant "stand around while you wait for the spellcaster to do something important". Let me find it.

RECURSION! wrote:
the fighter stepping aside and waiting for the magic user to do something

So you're right, reliant is probably not strong enough. Hopelessly dependent? Impotent without them? Neither of those seem particularly flattering but you're right, they are more apt.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:
RDM42 wrote:

I love how a martial who gets buffed, or drinks a potion or what have you is 'relying on a mage' yet a wizard who summons a fighty thing to melee for him isn't in essence 'relying on a martial.

To put it more completely - earlier someone mentioned having an organization as a class ability which might include mages and clerics and the like. And the response was 'well, they would still be 'relying on a spellcaster!!!'. But if a different class ability is used by a caster to summon something to fight for them it isn't somehow 'relying on a martial'

A summoned monster is a class feature of the wizard (spells). A potion is gear and explicitly not a class feature of the fighter class. A couple classes I can think of have gear as an actual part of the class but fighter is not one of them.

As for the relying on the spellcaster comment, as I think I made clear later I meant "stand around while you wait for the spellcaster to do something important". Let me find it.

RECURSION! wrote:
the fighter stepping aside and waiting for the magic user to do something
So you're right, reliant is probably not strong enough. Hopelessly dependent? Impotent without them? Neither of those seem particularly flattering but you're right, they are more apt.

Wealth by level is a class feature of all classes. Things you buy with it count.


Matthew Downie wrote:
werewolf435 wrote:

This all started because when I was playing in a campaign, one of our players rolled up a fighter. The fighter was an absolute monster when it came to taking and dishing damage, but often times the player would complain (not during the session, me and him are friends and hung out sometimes.) about not feeling like they're able to have any real relevance to the story as a whole, since they used all their resources on combat.

If I get a martial character like that, I'm hoping I'll have at least one or two ideas by the time this thread dies off for how to handle making sure whoever decided to play the fighter, doesn't feel like they're being put in the dummy corner every time the party wants to visit a city.

One option is to discourage players from playing a character like that. A stealthy Ranger or charismatic Swashbuckler or knowledgeable Inquisitor can be pretty good at dishing out damage, while having far more out-of-combat utility and class agency (i.e., some) than the standard optimized Fighter.

The Swashbuckler doesn't actually have any more out of combat agency than a Fighter, it just has a built in (albeit very weak) reason to invest in charisma.

Liberty's Edge

Arachnofiend wrote:
The Swashbuckler doesn't actually have any more out of combat agency than a Fighter, it just has a built in (albeit very weak) reason to invest in charisma.

And 4 skill points per level.

Admittedly, with Advanced Weapon Training that's less of a big deal than it once was, but it does matter, especially at early levels.


That's true but I generally don't consider 4+INT skill points to be a skillful character unless you have means of artificially boosting your number of ranks or you're a class that casts off INT like an Alchemist. I mean, nobody would consider the Barbarian a skill class.


As a GM who smugly insists that all characters have plentiful agency in his games, my assumption is that half the problem here is caused by the idea that only characters with Diplomacy skill can be allowed to talk to NPCs. A Swashbuckler has half-decent Charisma, Diplomacy as a class skill, and two more skill points per level than a Fighter.


Matthew Downie wrote:
As a GM who smugly insists that all characters have plentiful agency in his games, my assumption is that half the problem here is caused by the idea that only characters with Diplomacy skill can be allowed to talk to NPCs. A Swashbuckler has half-decent Charisma, Diplomacy as a class skill, and two more skill points per level than a Fighter.

This is... absolutely not the case. All of my characters are capable of one social skill or another. This includes my Arcanist, who thanks to Clever Wordplay has a higher diplomacy modifier than I would ever expect out of a Swashbuckler.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
The Swashbuckler doesn't actually have any more out of combat agency than a Fighter, it just has a built in (albeit very weak) reason to invest in charisma.

And 4 skill points per level.

Admittedly, with Advanced Weapon Training that's less of a big deal than it once was, but it does matter, especially at early levels.

+1

If you're going to use skill challenges (tends to be more early game relevant to mechanics) giving everyone (not just fighters) a minimum of 4/lvl + Int will expand your options as a GM.

If you're going to be more narrative in skill events it might not matter, but each GM has to decide where they'll fall in the mass of grey space between never requiring skill checks (a method) and always requiring one (a method). From the players side, knowing where your GM is on this will help you know if investing in them will come up enough during play to matter to you.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

As a DM who doesnt lowball DCs just because lil timmy wants to pretend to be a face, you don't want the guy who can only pass on a 15+ making the roll.


Yeah, I hate that guy too. I mean, he didn't max out Charisma on his Monk! And for some reason he still wants to participate in character interaction? Screw you, Timmy. I'm not compromising the sacred Diplomacy DCs for the sake of letting the entire group have a good time.

Liberty's Edge

Arachnofiend wrote:
That's true but I generally don't consider 4+INT skill points to be a skillful character unless you have means of artificially boosting your number of ranks or you're a class that casts off INT like an Alchemist. I mean, nobody would consider the Barbarian a skill class.

True, but it's better than Fighter until at least 5th level, and possibly much later.

Of course, I agree that Swashbucklers are kinda screwed and use House Rules to help them a lot, and incidentally give them a significantly greater Charisma focus (making them a solid choice for party face), but even RAW, they're better off than the Fighter is at low levels.


Not just outright giving Swashbucklers Divine Grace (Stylish Grace?) ranks towards the top of Paizo's bad design decisions... the fact that a 7 charisma swashbuckler is something you can even consider is criminal.


Matthew Downie wrote:
As a GM who smugly insists that all characters have plentiful agency in his games, my assumption is that half the problem here is caused by the idea that only characters with Diplomacy skill can be allowed to talk to NPCs. A Swashbuckler has half-decent Charisma, Diplomacy as a class skill, and two more skill points per level than a Fighter.

That's because agency/narrative engagement/plot relevance, pick a term isn't actually measurable or definable. Its what makes these discussions like trying to hold down a mercury drop.

Someone makes a statement about lack of agency in a situation. If you provide actual of examples from your game applied to that situation or point out where the player is actually "playing and enjoying the game", you're going to be told its not agency, or not enough agency.

Its why I was trying to clarify peoples definition last night, and then apply that definition to their examples. I'd like to see some definitions taken to their logical conclusions in game play examples over more than one session.

The only common thing I seem to keep coming across is that you're only valuable "enough" if you're doing things only with magic. It doesn't appear to be enough agency to pass a skill check by taking 10 or making it with a d20 roll or to just role-play in some games. But again...since definitions have been some what lacking, its very hard to actually know when players in these other games are getting agency, or getting enough agency to be relevant in the poster's eye.

Liberty's Edge

Arachnofiend wrote:
Not just outright giving Swashbucklers Divine Grace (Stylish Grace?) ranks towards the top of Paizo's bad design decisions... the fact that a 7 charisma swashbuckler is something you can even consider is criminal.

Yep, basically. My version's a little different than that, but it's very much along the same lines. You can even keep calling it Charmed Life.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Matthew Downie wrote:
Yeah, I hate that guy too. I mean, he didn't max out Charisma on his Monk! And for some reason he still wants to participate in character interaction? Screw you, Timmy. I'm not compromising the sacred Diplomacy DCs for the sake of letting the entire group have a good time.

And there we have it! Your post 100% admitted that there is a narrative agency problem in the rules of Pathfinder. Thank you for agreeing with me on that issue even if we disagree on how to solve it.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Yeah, I hate that guy too. I mean, he didn't max out Charisma on his Monk! And for some reason he still wants to participate in character interaction? Screw you, Timmy. I'm not compromising the sacred Diplomacy DCs for the sake of letting the entire group have a good time.

...no need to get crazy. I don't agree with Insain's assessment of when someone has done enough to be called participation either. IE I don't think he defined how you get credit for participation, and then applied that to the other possible classes in the discussion about the dragon hunt.

But he's at least pointing out his style of GMing leans toward more mandatory skill rolls vs narrative - something as a player I'd want to know before I made a character.
I presume there is lots of narrative also, up to a point and then you have to roll more often than not. As long as everyone in the group is held to that standard (fighter, caster, rogue) and as long as any thing you have on your sheet is allowed to be added including devices you invested in -knowing- his style of GMing tends to mandate more skill rolls then that's the rules at that table.
By my assessment if I was playing in that game, the fact that I'm allowed to interact with his NPCs, the other players, and still try to make the roll its having fun and playing the game. If that isn't participation, agency, narrative control, I need a better understanding of other peoples definition.

A specific example from my son's game last weekend. My druid (3d level) did actually memorize spider climb so when the monk we were trying to question ran and went up a wall I was able to gain a little ground in the chase. However...when it came to the 30' leap between buildings....and my +2 acrobatics bonus....I knew I was in trouble. The DM and other players didn't say, you can't participate, you don't have agency, or enough agency. DM said - roll your check. I rolled to make the leap....and got a Natty 20. The crowd went wild, and I landed on the far wall just short of the roof. Scrambled over the edge and continued in hot pursuit....I knew the odds of making the next on were horrid, I kept yelling at her to stop before she fell and killed herself..she yelled back I'm a fool if I leap again. I rolled a 13 and lawn darted on the next gap. When my wolf showed up to lick the wounds, and the paladin laid on hands there was no discussion about "enough participation, narrative etc". It was fun, the spotlight was on my character briefly - I failed, yet it was a really fun session.

If I was playing a fighter, I also would have made chase, climbed, and ultimately failed the leap - same actions, same engagement with the NPC and the challenge in front of me, same outcome, and I would have had the same enjoyment. If what I was doing doesn't count as participation or agency, or does it count because I was playing a caster, but if I was chasing as a fighter it wouldn't? If it doesn't count, I'm still not doing bad because apparently nobody in our party had agency or participation that night then.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Narrative agency in pathfinder is 90% decided by player choices, not player abilities.

What is being quibbled over here is the 10% of times where a specific spell is required to overcome an obstacle or challenge.

If the PCs decide to go and see the King, that choice represents 90% of the narrative agency. Now if they persuade the guard to let them in, or show him the severed head of the bandit Lord plaguing the kingdom, or bribe the guard or enchant the guard... The main part of the decision has already been made.

If the DM writes encounters that require them to have a particular spell - then the DM is removing agency from the game. This is just as effective against casters as it is against fighters.

Player: "Wait I'm a cleric/Druid so don't have charm person"
Player: "wait I don't know how to charm people I'm an Abjurer"
Player: "wait isn't charming the guards the same as an assault upon the Kings person, I'm not sure that is a good idea!"

By artificially setting the definition of agency to require the use of class abilities is artificially creating a problem where none exists.
Fighter: "So I'm going to persuade the guard to let me in because I defeated the river bandits".
DM: "Yes but the wizard can say the same thing and be better at it"
Fighter: "but I came up with the idea, and I killed the damn bandits, why can't I say it?"
DM: "er because I set the DC at 30 to see the King"
Fighter: "what even though I helped his kingdom"
DM: "Erm, ahh, erh"

Incidentally most of he major campaign falling outs our group has had, is where one player decides they are going to affect the plot in the way they want irrespective of the rest of the party. What is important is party agency not player agency.


GM 1990 - I think the issue people have is that at 10th level, the theoretical fighter would have the same options he had at 1st level. Acrobatics. (Actually, he wouldn't even have that, because he never got up on the roof using spider climb in the first place...) What would your druid be able to do to stop the chase at 10th level? Turn into a air elemental and scoop the monk up, spike stones, or just shut the whole thing down with a wall of thorns (no rolls needed!).

The Sword - It sounds like you don't bother using the diplomacy skills in your game, because you don't like how they work.


Incidentally most adventures I have read, or written have NPCs capable of assisting you overcome the challenges you face (providing potions or spell casting). Interacting and making decisions about what resources is a source of plot hooks or player agency.

You need to visit the local temple if a character dies and you want to res them if you are too low to cast the spell. The same goes for removing the disease or the curse at low levels. Clever DMs provide magic items to introduce an element of resource management and decision making into encounters.


The Sword wrote:

Narrative agency in pathfinder is 90% decided by player choices, not player abilities.

What is being quibbled over here is the 10% of times where a specific spell is required to overcome an obstacle or challenge.

If the PCs decide to go and see the King, that choice represents 90% of the narrative agency. Now if they persuade the guard to let them in, or show him the severed head of the bandit Lord plaguing the kingdom, or bribe the guard or enchant the guard... The main part of the decision has already been made.

If the DM writes encounters that require them to have a particular spell - then the DM is removing agency from the game.

By artificially setting the definition of agency to require the use of class abilities is artificially creating a problem where none exists.

Incidentally most of he major campaign falling outs our group has had, is where one player decides they are going to affect the plot in the way they want irrespective of the rest of the party. What is important is party agency not player agency.

Concur completely for my style of play.

Its often a double standard with the mechanics. If the -only- way to get somewhere before disaster happens is teleport, some people's argument is this proves fighters don't get enough agency (as I've noted, that's not defined or measurable when applied). For some reason, some people don't consider it railroading? But if you can't teleport to the location or enforce the various metrics built into the spell that make teleport less than guaranteed success, its railroading or punishing the casters. See this thread for actual game discussions about teleport and how GMs have really seen it used.

Providing only 1 way to accomplish something is railroading, or favoring that player, or risking a TPK or a complete story derailment when the only method fails. Something most people really don't like.


Fergie wrote:

GM 1990 - I think the issue people have is that at 10th level, the theoretical fighter would have the same options he had at 1st level. Acrobatics. (Actually, he wouldn't even have that, because he never got up on the roof using spider climb in the first place...) What would your druid be able to do to stop the chase at 10th level? Turn into a air elemental and scoop the monk up, spike stones, or just shut the whole thing down with a wall of thorns (no rolls needed!).

The character didn't need spider climb to get on the roof - it helped by a few extra rounds, but the fighter could have climbed the drainpipe or into the house and out of the attic window.

We are limiting problem solving to in game mechanics and saying if there is no obvious mechanic I'm stuck rather than saying what do you want to do, right these are your options. James Bond manages many many chases without spider climb. Does he affect the narrative?

I use diplomacy checks where a diplomacy check is required, but I set the difficulty based on how reasonable the request is and give bonuses for clever ideas - or sometimes remove the need for the roll entirely. If you rescue the innkeepers daughter from bandits you don't need to make a diplomacy check for her to let you spend the night in the busy inn.


There is only one ultimate removal of agency from Martials as far as I am concerned and that is removing afflictions/curses and ability damage. Everything else can be overcome in some other way.

If you are turned to stone, or feeble minded or blinded then you are screwed. That said without the right spell on your list or level the same applies to wizards and clerics etc. Luckily NPCs can be paid to either cast the spells that remove these conditions or put the. Into potions / oils / wands etc for players to use.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:

Narrative agency in pathfinder is 90% decided by player choices, not player abilities.

What is being quibbled over here is the 10% of times where a specific spell is required to overcome an obstacle or challenge.

If the PCs decide to go and see the King, that choice represents 90% of the narrative agency. Now if they persuade the guard to let them in, or show him the severed head of the bandit Lord plaguing the kingdom, or bribe the guard or enchant the guard... The main part of the decision has already been made.

If the DM writes encounters that require them to have a particular spell - then the DM is removing agency from the game. This is just as effective against casters as it is against fighters.

Player: "Wait I'm a cleric/Druid so don't have charm person"
Player: "wait I don't know how to charm people I'm an Abjurer"
Player: "wait isn't charming the guards the same as an assault upon the Kings person, I'm not sure that is a good idea!"

By artificially setting the definition of agency to require the use of class abilities is artificially creating a problem where none exists.
Fighter: "So I'm going to persuade the guard to let me in because I defeated the river bandits".
DM: "Yes but the wizard can say the same thing and be better at it"
Fighter: "but I came up with the idea, and I killed the damn bandits, why can't I say it?"
DM: "er because I set the DC at 30 to see the King"
Fighter: "what even though I helped his kingdom"
DM: "Erm, ahh, erh"

Incidentally most of he major campaign falling outs our group has had, is where one player decides they are going to affect the plot in the way they want irrespective of the rest of the party. What is important is party agency not player agency.

That's a complete strawman.

Casters can affect the plot much more frequently and meaningfully than martials not because "a specific spell is required", but because most situations can be affected by spells in a variety of ways.

And character abilities certainly count for far more than "10% of what agency is"... In fact, it probably counts as 90%, since you'll fail to do anything if you don't have the ability to do it...

Using your example, you can decide to do persuade the guard... But if you don't have the means to do so, you can't do it. That's no real agency, that's just hitting your head against a wall.

The world doesn't lower the difficulty of all its challenges just because a character is incompetent... If it does, then it's the GM who is giving you agency, not your class. Which means your class did indeed fail to give you the means to meaningfully interact with the plot.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:
We are limiting problem solving to in game mechanics and saying if there is no obvious mechanic I'm stuck rather than saying what do you want to do, right these are your options.

I disagree completely.

1) There are things that any character can do equally, often these don't have mechanical aspects and are often player choices.

2) There are things that only some characters can do, or things that some characters are just clearly better at then other characters.

The issue is that IF you play by the rules, it is usually the casters who fall into the second category, while the martials are stuck in the first group. If you handwave the rules, then you shouldn't really care what the rules say, because you are not using them.


The whole claim that agency is based on character abilities is a straw man.

What way does the mage have to persuade the guard that the fighter doesn't have? The fighter has a tongue and a brain .

The world doesn't exist outside of what the DM says exists. The DMs responsibility is to set challenges appropriate for the party so everyone has a good time. Appropriate challenges mean challenges that have a chance of being overcome - in a game world the DM does give players agency. Agency is the power to affect the world around you in a meaningful way.


Fergie wrote:

GM 1990 - I think the issue people have is that at 10th level, the theoretical fighter would have the same options he had at 1st level. Acrobatics. (Actually, he wouldn't even have that, because he never got up on the roof using spider climb in the first place...) What would your druid be able to do to stop the chase at 10th level? Turn into a air elemental and scoop the monk up, spike stones, or just shut the whole thing down with a wall of thorns (no rolls needed!).

The Sword - It sounds like you don't bother using the diplomacy skills in your game, because you don't like how they work.

So what are the objective rules for measuring agency, narrative interaction, etc then?

I don't know what the real issue in peoples games are with agency/narrative interaction, (pick any term off the threads), because rarely is there an in game example used to demonstrate their point and its never proposed with a definition and measurement when some says none/little/not enough. On the flip side, anyone providing in game examples as close as possible to the nebulous definition of "agency" etc is then told - that's not agency, but again without actually defining what it is. So again, I don't know what people's issue is but would like to see the definitions so we could logically discuss it.

I gave an actual example played out at our table so it has the context of personalities, the campaign style, the WBL etc. I can't tell you how this scenario would have played out at 10th level, because there is no context, and there is no way to know what each of our PCs abilities/items/decisions that night/dice outcomes or the NPCs would be. And even so, if the definitions aren't clear up front, my guess is what ever I'd propose as actions each class could use to participate via mechanics and roleplaying would somehow not fit agency/narrative interaction, or if it did it wouldn't be enough.

I can tell you...if over the next few levels I had a fighter and we were always ending up in a lot of vertical chase scenes, I'd be investing in things to improve my chances of catching anyone. Same way the caster would ensure they always kept specific spells memorized for those circumstances...because neither get an innate ability to climb better. Spell slots are innate, having the right spell memorized isn't.

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:
The whole claim that agency is based on character abilities is a straw man.

Uh...not if you actually follow the rules.

The Sword wrote:
What way does the mage have to persuade the guard that the fighter doesn't have? The fighter has a tongue and a brain .

Dominate Person. Or Charm Person. Or Suggestion. All of which work even after a failed Diplomacy roll.

The Sword wrote:
The world doesn't exist outside of what the DM says exists. The DMs responsibility is to set challenges appropriate for the party so everyone has a good time. Appropriate challenges mean challenges that have a chance of being overcome - in a game world the DM does give players agency. Agency is the power to affect the world around you in a meaningful way.

Yes, the GM needs to give the players a chance, sure. But in a group with a Fighter and a Wizard, unless the GM is specifically denying the Wizard's ability to do what the rules say he can (ie: use spells) the Fighter has a much smaller set of things he can do, or even attempt to do. And being able to do things is agency in a very real sense.


Fergie. It is certainly true that a wizard can sneak better if she casts invisibility on herself, or climb better with spider climb, or persuade better with the friends spell. However if the DCs are set appropriately then the wizard doesn't need to waste precious spell resources doing that.

In parties without a rogue or mountain climber it is useful to allow casters some flexibility, it allows the DM to keep these challenges without mandating the party contain a rogue.

We have played adventures without clerics, and mages and we are still able to overcome challenges. If you are playing with wizards who feel the need to solve every challenge singlehandedly the you have a problem player.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:

The whole claim that agency is based on character abilities is a straw man.

What way does the mage have to persuade the guard that the fighter doesn't have? The fighter has a tongue and a brain .

Exactly, both characters have "a tongue and a brain". That is the first category.

However, the rules exist for diplomacy, and the wizard has several times more skill points. He also has ways to increase his skills like heroism. He also has ways to talk to the guard if the guard doesn't speak common. He can even bind or summon creatures to help him, etc. If the caster is a bard, he has glibness, and a variety of other ways to affect things.

Again, if you don't use the rules, hey, that's great. But please don't complain that people who do use the rules should not experience problems.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:
If you are playing with wizards who feel the need to solve every challenge singlehandedly the you have a problem player.

I would express it differently. Last time I played a wizard, I had to actively try NOT to overshadow the other characters.

Also, when I GM it is difficult to create a boss caster who doesn't just mop the floor with the party, while it is difficult to make a boss bruiser who last more then a couple of rounds.


Deadmanwalking wrote:


Dominate Person. Or Charm Person. Or Suggestion. All of which work even after a failed Diplomacy roll.

Enchanting the Kings guards is a spectacularly bad idea and in many cases the wizard (because Druids and clerics don't get these spells) won't have one of those memorised.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Yes, the GM needs to give the players a chance, sure. But in a group with a Fighter and a Wizard, unless the GM is specifically denying the Wizard's ability to do what the rules say he can (ie: use spells) the Fighter has a much smaller set of things he can do, or even attempt to do. And being able to do things is agency in a very real sense.

What I'm saying is in the grand scheme of all choices a fighter can make outside of combat, the average wizard has 10% more. That is not a precise percentage.

For example... You have just finished the fight with the dragon and are badly wounded you can.

A - carry on
A1 - scout ahead to get an idea of what immediate challenges you face
B - head back to town (2 day journey)
C - rest for a short time
D - rest overnight
D1 - erect a barrier to fortify the room you are in and try and make the enemy come to you.
E - drink a healing potion
F - apply the heal skill
G - get out your sword and shield to make yourself harder to hit
H - drink a protection potion to make yourself harder to hit
I - use a wand to heal (UMD)
j - have the cleric use channelling or cast a spell
K - have the cleric / wizard cast a spell to protect you
L - have the wizard teleport you back to town

All these choices are available to a well rounded party of the appropriate level. A to I are usable by Martials with the right skills and equipment. J, K & L can only be done by specific casters (note wizards can do J and clerics can't do L) However JKL can still be achieved just not as efficiently.

Edit: added a few more options


GM 1990 wrote:


A specific example from my son's game last weekend. My druid (3d level) did actually memorize spider climb so when the monk we were trying to question ran and went up a wall I was able to gain a little ground in the chase. However...when it came to the 30' leap between buildings....and my +2 acrobatics bonus....I knew I was in trouble. The DM and other players didn't say, you can't participate, you don't have agency, or enough agency. DM said - roll your check. I rolled to make the leap....and got a Natty 20. The crowd went wild, and I landed on the far...

So they ignored the rules in favor of facilitating fun. Man I'm surprised the Monk(Unless the monk was 5th level) made the jump! Thats a DC 30 Acrobatics! Even a Natural 20 doesn't quite make it.


Fergie wrote:
The Sword wrote:

The whole claim that agency is based on character abilities is a straw man.

What way does the mage have to persuade the guard that the fighter doesn't have? The fighter has a tongue and a brain .

Exactly, both characters have "a tongue and a brain". That is the first category.

However, the rules exist for diplomacy, and the wizard has several times more skill points. He also has ways to increase his skills like heroism. He also has ways to talk to the guard if the guard doesn't speak common. He can even bind or summon creatures to help him, etc. If the caster is a bard, he has glibness, and a variety of other ways to affect things.

Again, if you don't use the rules, hey, that's great. But please don't complain that people who do use the rules should not experience problems.

So this argument seems to turn PF into a video game where its the high score that counts and presumes that's how people measure their fun, agency, and participation? It doesn't account for any of the human dimensions of the game and group dynamics and additional context of actual game play.

"better" is also a nebulous definition and if applied to many circumstances (like a group full of casters), it becomes "better than your PCs stats because you built a worse caster than I", or when applied to various game realities like environments it becomes "better for this situation".

At what point does "better" get you enough to make you happy playing the game?


Some general observations:

To have plot related agency character (or his player) must have abilities that make it possible for him to influence his surroundings in such a way that his opponents or even teammates won't be able to completely shut him down.

For player it's either some leverage over DM or simply real world charisma that allows him to sway everyone onto his chosen path. Even if his character doesn't have any relevant abilities.

For character that's skills, spells or other abilities that have chance of working of around 70% in most situations - character can use these abilities and get reliable results.

What abilities do fighters or similar characters have ?

1. They can fight.
2. They can use skills.
3. They can use magic items.

Current situation:

1. Fighters are equal in combat with other characters and sometimes worse.
2. Fighters have bad and restricted skills.
3. Due to number 2 they are also not really that good at using magic items.

Variants of what they need to be able to affect plot:

1. The most "fighty" option - they should have overwhelming advantage in combat. So big an advantage that even thinking about fighting a fighter one on one (maybe even a small group on lone fighter)should make other characters tremble in fear.

Fighter is an unbeatable metal sledgehammer and for him every problem looks just like a nail. He may not be able to use skills meaningfully or get more than others out of magic but he always can just kill or destroy anything that stands in his path.

2. Making fighters good at skills. Maybe giving them a small number of signature skills that get really big numbers at around mid levels. Add some unique skill related abilities and fighters at least will be able to carve themselves a small niche out of combat.

Even if most other classes will have much more broad skill lists fighter will be able to beat them at his few chosen shticks.

3. Give him ability to use magic items much more effectively than other characters.

Frankly I don't like that option because it doesn't have much in common with how I envision fighters. That's much more in line with tropes for a rogue.


The rules for diplomacy specify that the DC is based on the reasonableness of the request and the reasonableness will depend on what the player says not on his Diplomacy skill.

Incidentally the fighter has as much chance of making diplomacy a class skill as the wizard does and almost all wizard skills are Int based. Not all Martials dump intelligence or charisma.


Scavion wrote:
GM 1990 wrote:


A specific example from my son's game last weekend. My druid (3d level) did actually memorize spider climb so when the monk we were trying to question ran and went up a wall I was able to gain a little ground in the chase. However...when it came to the 30' leap between buildings....and my +2 acrobatics bonus....I knew I was in trouble. The DM and other players didn't say, you can't participate, you don't have agency, or enough agency. DM said - roll your check. I rolled to make the leap....and got a Natty 20. The crowd went wild, and I landed on the far...
So they ignored the rules in favor of facilitating fun. Man I'm surprised the Monk(Unless the monk was 5th level) made the jump! Thats a DC 30 Acrobatics! Even a Natural 20 doesn't quite make it.

It was a 5th, +19 acro bonus. I was really hoping the dice came up in our favor on the 2d leap, I think a 1, 2, 3 and she'd have failed - about the inverse of my chances.

We caught up with her and her crew later the same day and our mounted paladin cut her in 1/2 in 2 hits (almost 60 damage) - crazy rolls including a max damage crit with spirited charge.

...that encounter was her chance to shine. Its a group game, the GM's job is to facilitate fun encounters that let everyone have their moments, and we cheer for our fellow players when the success or failure is on them.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:
The whole claim that agency is based on character abilities is a straw man.

So... Would you say that a commoner has as much agency as, say, a Ranger? The only difference between those classes is their abilities.

The Sword wrote:
What way does the mage have to persuade the guard that the fighter doesn't have? The fighter has a tongue and a brain .

Spells. And far more skills due to being Int based. Those are not infallible, of course... But they are still very useful and, more importantly, an option that Fighters simply don't have. If a Fighter can do X do persuade the guard, then the Wizard can do X + much, much more. Therefore, the Wizard has more real agency than the Fighter.

The Sword wrote:
The world doesn't exist outside of what the DM says exists. The DMs responsibility is to set challenges appropriate for the party so everyone has a good time. Appropriate challenges mean challenges that have a chance of being overcome - in a game world the DM does give players agency. Agency is the power to affect the world around you in a meaningful way.

Sure... But unless the GM is cheating (i.e.: giving your characters abilities they don't have), then the variety and quantity of what constitutes an appropriate challenge is greatly diminished.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:
The rules for diplomacy specify that the DC is based on the reasonableness of the request and the reasonableness will depend on what the player says not on his Diplomacy skill.

But no matter the DC, the Fighter will have a more difficult time reaching it.

The Sword wrote:
Incidentally the fighter has as much chance of making diplomacy a class skill as the wizard does and almost all wizard skills are Int based. Not all Martials dump intelligence or charisma.

Yup... But while the wizard can safely assign skill points to 6+ skills due to being Int-based and having spells to compensate for whatever other skills he doesn't have (who needs Climb when you have Fly, Spider Climb or Levitate), a Fighter has to sacrifice his combat efficiency if he wants to have more than 2~4 skill points per level... Every point added to Int is a point didn't go into Str, Dex, Con or Wis, which are all far more important for the class.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Sword wrote:

The rules for diplomacy specify that the DC is based on the reasonableness of the request and the reasonableness will depend on what the player says not on his Diplomacy skill.

Incidentally the fighter has as much chance of making diplomacy a class skill as the wizard does and almost all wizard skills are Int based. Not all Martials dump intelligence or charisma.

Generally it's not a very reasonable request to secure an audience with the king in a short amount of time, even if you killed some bandits.

A low check in my game would involve the guard sending you to the local sheriff to discuss compensation for bandit slaying. A high check would result in the guard doing his best to get you an audience. An astronomical check would have the guard march you straight to the king, even if it meant risking his job to do so.

GM1990 was correct in assessing that in my games I do narrative and roleplay up to a point. I require a skill check when players desire an outcome to their rollplay.

Wanna party at the tavern? Sure I'll rollplay the heck out of some wasted peasants and barmaids. Maybe I'll have you roll for alcohol tolerance for fun.

Wanna party at a tavern and convince some drunk peasants to make a ruccus somewhere then use them as a distraction to rob a store while the guards break them up? Bluff, stealth, perception checks incoming and of varrying difficulty.

In this situation I would consider the agency as "being able to accomplish the desired outcomes" so while possible for any class, some classes would have a disadvantage to accomplishing the task and therefore having agency.


werewolf435 wrote:

So, feel free to take this how you want, since I know it can be a rather unpopular option (for good reasons, covered in many places over many posts.)

But coming from a particular thread discussing caster/martial disparaty, one of the main complaints that I feel is being made, is that martial characters lack the ability to influence the over-arching plot in any meaningful way, since they have to specialize so heavily in smacking things in the face.

Given that, I was thinking of putting up using leadership as something of a way to make up for it.

In this way, the level 10 fighter can throw around the weight of his organization to get his party in to see the king, rather than standing around while the party sorcerer baps him/herself with a few +cha spells and sweet talks the guards into letting them in.

It gives the fighter (using fighter only as an example) an interesting way to interact with the world through attempting to build the relevance of his given organization (whatever that may be) and also gets him some levels of fame, and social clout.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

What do you guys think?

I give out the leadership for free in my to Fighters and Rogue if they build a strong hold. It's something I remember from 2E and AD&D that I liked. Leadership allows for it but few take it. Other classes get couple of apprentices and that's it. Leadership can be still taken as feat. In the case of the fighter and rogue they get a second cohort.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

@GM1990

For the dragon session I guess it would be broken down into four chances for agency

1. Gathering useful information about the upcoming Dragon fight: Sure everyone knows it's big and red, but only someone with a strong knowledge check can infer its age category and tell you whether this would be a deathtrap for the party.

2. Traveling to the Dragon fast enough to save lives: Several spells could do this, but you don't necessarily need someone to cast this. I would allow the party to convince a nearby researching wizard to teleport them, give them a scroll, or sell them a scroll depending on how well they rolled. In this situation the Fighter could have a chance for agency if they have a strong enough skill bonus.

3. Actually finding the location of the dragon's nest: In this challenge the goal would be to find the Dragon while it's nesting. Success would be determined by finding the location within X hours. Failure is seeing the Dragon leave its nest. From there the players have the option of chasing or setting ambush. Chasing makes the fight harder while setting the ambush will result in dead innocents. This one is more complex so I would say a player has agency in this situation if A. They could find the nest for the group quickly B. They could enable chase of the dragon C. If they could prepare for the ambush in a way that would significantly increase chance of success

4. Fighting the Dragon: Agency if they are capable of doing something that assists in making the Dragon unable to kill innocents again.

That's only a measure of whether agency is 0 or non-zero. We could argue about the magnitude of agency all day and that's subjective. I think it's mostly objective to determine whether actions had an effect on the narrative of "plan-travel-find-kill"

If I understand you correctly GM 1990 the fighter will have counted as having agency for
1. Wanting to kill the dragon
2. Coming up with the plan
3. Attempting the challenges, even if they failed

Which I disagree with because I don't believe the first two have anything to do with being a fighter and anyone around the table could have done it. Three I don't agree with because I consider success to be a marker of agency.

51 to 100 of 186 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Homebrew and House Rules / Plot agency: for the martial character All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.