Helping a "scared" player


Advice


I'm going to start running a homebrew soon. 3 of my 4 players have characters in mind, but one does not. He almost exclusively plays Melee rogue-types, but is too afraid of taking hits to stay in combat. He typically delays his turn or stealth/hides until everyone else has set up, then spring attacks and runs away (he did this at level 1 in another campaign against rats, even though his high Dex gave him the party's best AC). He'll normally get 3-5 hits in while everyone else is getting 10+, and gets frustrated when his character "can't" do more.

I'm trying to advise on something to fit his playstyle. He is strategic and meticulous, and plays at a slower pace, always looking for the edge or advantage. He's the type who will 100% video games and learn the full boss' AI to perfect fights on the hardest difficulties.

The party is currently Paladin, Arcanist, and Rogue. I've been looking at an Inquisitor, but am really not sure. Any ideas/advice?


If he likes being strategic and meticulous, rather than going for a striker character he might want to think about taking the support role. Being the commander of the forces, rather than one of the main melee guys himself.

Your group could really use someone in the support role anyway, it cries out for a Bard or (even better probably) Evangelist cleric. I would go with a reach build to help the rogue get in more flanking.

This is of course a long way from a melee rogue type, but it is a very effective character, not so much that it does a huge amount of damage directly itself, but it will make everyone else hit more often and harder and when something goes wrong will likely be able to fix the problem with a quick condition removal spell.

Liberty's Edge

I'd advise he play a ranged character. The 'meticulous and strategic' bit indicates an offensive spell-caster might be a good call, but an archer would also work.

Inquisitor does poorly as a primarily offensive spellcaster, but does make a great archer. Another option would be a Witch, caster-Druid, or Oracle for full offensive casting and some helpful condition removal.

Does he really enjoy the whole skill element of Rogues? If he realy likes the whole thing, the Inquisitor might be the best choice. Just make him an archer and go to town. If he likes skills, but doesn't care which ones, Witch might be a better call. If he just likes social skills, Oracle might be the right choice. If he likes stealth and scouting particularly, Druid might be the way to go (few things are better scouts than a Druid shapeshifted into something tiny and innocuous).

EDIT: A support character is also an excellent suggestion. Really, just something other than straight melee damage. Though even in that case I recommend avoiding melee, a Caster Evangelist or Archer Bard.


This player might do well with a Bard or Arcane Trickster.

I always liked the Ninja Vanishing Trick. Take 4 levels in Monk and be a Quinngong Drunken Master with Scorching Ray. Scorching Ray is a Ranged Touch Attack for 4d6. While Vanished, you deny opponents Dex bonus to AC, locking in your Sneak Attack damage and now you are targeting Flatfooted Touch AC. Take the Potion Glutton Feat, and replenish your Ki Drunkenly as Swift Actions. Some levels in Arcanist or Wizard or something might be good, so as to be able to acquire and use a Wand of Scorching Ray and cast Acid Splash and Jolt cantrips, maybe acquire a Robe of Needles, all ranged touch attacks. This character might also build to become an Arcane Trickster or just keep gaining levels in Ninja, accumulating Sneak Attack Damage, and spamming ranged touch attacks and Vanishing.

Another possiblilty would be Alchemist. Vivisectionsists do Sneak Attack Damage, Grenadiers shoot exploding arrows. Explosive Missile, Deadly Airm, and True Strike seem like a worthy combo to try.

Either platform supports a lot of skills and sneaky and roleplaying stuff for the character to do.


Well not to pick on him, but running away solo may not always be the best idea.
He doesn't necessarly know what he is running into... e.g. another patrol, hidden enemy, whatever.
If he gets away with that consistently then you are just pandering to him.

Emphasize to him that Rogues are built to synergize with Flanking, which needs teamwork and more
importantly to be fighting simultaneous with allies vs. the same enemies.

If he's so strategic and meticulous he might even be interested in the fact that
advanced players would find his strategies described (battlefield actions and build choices e.g. spring attack)
extremely sub-par and MORE likely to lead to party death and individual character death, than more effective builds.
Fact is, playing on normal CR curves, the game is just flat out tilted in PCs favor,
so playing in such a "scared" manner is flat-out ridiculous... The only reason really to do so is "roleplaying",
but that doesn't seem the isue... And if "roleplaying" is relevant, the other PCs may just as well kick him out "in character".

Dark Archive

If he wants to keep playing the 'safe' way but do more then a Ninja is an excellent suggestion, Vanishing Trick will work wonders for keeping him in melee to attack more but also keeping him safe.

If he's at all willing to move out of his comfort zone then, even though you already have one, another Paladin might be ideal for him. With all the armour, saves, defences and self healing they have it's incredibly hard for one to go down. Perhaps pick a very different style from the other one (ranged if he's 2 handed, etc) but even a few levels in Paladin will give him a huge survivability boost and maybe allow him to feel 'safer' getting stuck in more. Hell, depending on his system mastery Paladin 4/Archaeologist Bard 1/Dragon Disciple 4/Paladin X with a few feats spent on Extra Lay on Hands will give him an almost indestructible powerhouse of a character than can self heal, make any save ever, hit like a truck and still have a few utility powers as well.


He's rather partial to Dex builds in every game, ever, and likes to focus on speed and evasion, and mechanics like steal. I'm not sure I could convince him to go caster (I'd love to get him to go cleric).

As far as the rogue-type, he likes having a ton of skills, really highly ranked. He likes auto-win scenarios. As little risk as possible. Bard would be good because of performances boosting all his stats and checks...


If he wants tons of skills, Bard is a great option. A round of inspire courage and a buff spell followed by archery tends to be pretty effective.

Your party would mostly lack the ability to do condition removal beyond what the Paladin had for mercy's, but that can be fixed if your party buys scrolls and the bard or rogue max out UMD (Bard probably has better CHR for it, but Rogue actually gets a bit more out of it since the Bard can use a fair amount of magic without any skill investment.)


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I was exactly the same once, and stayed away from anything not-rogueish. Dabbling in oracle for a bit at low levels was horrible, and I kept coming back to rogue.

What helped me out? AM BARBARIAN. Specifically, a tiefling barbarian (this was long before the days of bloodragers, if i wanted demonic flavor, the race had to do the work.)

Now this may seem counter intuitive to a player that doesnt like to take risks, but throwing yourself into the bloodcrazed mindset of a raging barbarian is great, its very easy to roleplay, even if your character becomes a bit 2d, but it will allow him to experience the game from the other side of what he knows.

Ever since doing so, i've felt much more comfortable branching out and trying weird and wonderful classes and builds, and you do come to realise that you dont NEED to be so careful, and neither do you need to have skill points for every situation. There's plenty of classes and archetypes out there for any player to make any style of character.

He may always have an recurring itch to play roguish characters, and that's fine, most recently i took care of mine by rolling up a snakebite striker brawler, they arent as skilled, but they punch hard and still get sneak attacks.


Go wisdom-based Guided Hand Warpriest with the Glory or Charm Blessing. They're like the spell Sanctuary, where an enemy has to make a Will save to even attempt to attack you in any way - except that where Sanctuary ends when you attack something, they only stop working against the target you attacked while remaining in force against everything else. Also, the DC of those blessings scales with level. Once you're able to take Quicken Blessing, you can even restore your Sanctuary effect with a swift action if an enemy knocks it down.

It's an extremely potent defensive ability, but it doesn't cost a ton of resources or prevent you from also being hard to kill in more mundane ways. Warpriest has enough feats and class features that you can do pretty much whatever style of melee character you want to do, even if you're aiming to take Guided Hand at 7.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Investigator... not really an in-your-face melee, but can do a few things to make his infrequent toe-to-toe encounters rather rewarding for himself as well as the party. Plus, he gets to be a skills monkey, disarming traps, bluffing, whatevering he wants, etc.

Full disclosure: Investigator has recently been my favorite class, and I'm playing one as a helper PC in the GS campaign I'm running. I love him, even though I don't fully utilize his abilities (he's a helper, not the guy that shines except for disarming traps).

Liberty's Edge

Everyone has their own style. As long as he contributes something to the group, I would generally let him play the way he wants. If, however, he does not participate at all in the group's battles, or leaves before he has taken any damage, then this becomes a serious issue. Rogues contribute to the group by flanking and non battle skills such as finding secret doors, trapfinding (especially magical traps),and other perception based skills. The group should not expect a rogue to stand in the heat of combat for long periods unless the circumstances are dire. Also, if the party does not have a strong healer, this increases the risk to all party members and the rogue would feel even more threatened since he has fewer HP. The rogue should be aware,however, that leaving the group during a battle has the potential to put himself in an alone and exposed position. Finally, the notion that a group can never all retreat in order to regroup or plan new tactics can be a serious or sometimes fatal error.

Liberty's Edge

Makknus wrote:

He's rather partial to Dex builds in every game, ever, and likes to focus on speed and evasion, and mechanics like steal. I'm not sure I could convince him to go caster (I'd love to get him to go cleric).

As far as the rogue-type, he likes having a ton of skills, really highly ranked. He likes auto-win scenarios. As little risk as possible. Bard would be good because of performances boosting all his stats and checks...

Archer Bard sounds perfect, then. Tons of skills, ranged attacks to avoid the melee issues, and party-buffing to stack things in the PCs favor.

taks wrote:

Investigator... not really an in-your-face melee, but can do a few things to make his infrequent toe-to-toe encounters rather rewarding for himself as well as the party. Plus, he gets to be a skills monkey, disarming traps, bluffing, whatevering he wants, etc.

Full disclosure: Investigator has recently been my favorite class, and I'm playing one as a helper PC in the GS campaign I'm running. I love him, even though I don't fully utilize his abilities (he's a helper, not the guy that shines except for disarming traps).

Investigator is one of my favorite classes as well. I'm playing one in Mummy's Mask at the moment and it's amazing. Definitely works for any skill-monkey stuff the party needs and loads of fun.

However, it's the wrong choice for this player. Investigator is an excellent melee combatant, but isn't actually gonna do much better at the listed fighting style than a Rogue and doesn't have any good way to break that pattern. In short, it doesn't solve this particular issue.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Ranger?

Full BAB, Stealth Skill, early access to or prerequisite-less archery feats, particularly Shot on the Run.

Or if he wants to go spell-less, slayer. Full BAB with skills and sneak attack and bonus feats and talents.

Also, 1d10 HD and Good Fortitude saves, so he will feel less fragile.

Dark Archive

if he don't learn and adapt to know play style, and only plays the same thing everytime, ditch him

try to have your bad guys immune to sneak attack or just have high preception. repeatedly crush his hopes and dream, make him learn.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I think it's nice when the DM/GM considers the play style of his players when designing encounters.

That way, everyone can have fun.

The Exchange

No one gives a damn when a wizard hides behind his beatsticks all day long ^^ Invisibility beats putting ranks into stealth.

All you need to do is throw out an ocassional glitterdust, summon monster, and spend the rest of your day drinking coffee.

Or maybe witch, deception patron. Witches don't run out of hexes, so he could be hexing all day long...


What is he afraid OF, exactly? Character death?

It may sound cruel but killing a character or two could help if nothing else does. Rip the Band-Aid in one shot.

Once the first character falls, the others don't hurt as much.

Liberty's Edge

Sundakan wrote:

What is he afraid OF, exactly? Character death?

It may sound cruel but killing a character or two could help if nothing else does. Rip the Band-Aid in one shot.

Once the first character falls, the others don't hurt as much.

This advice is really dependent on what type of game you're playing.

I hate my characters dying. Hate it. I put a lot of investment into my characters, from history to personality to who their families are. I really don't like seeing them die and have no desire to ply in a game where permanent death is common. I've lost characters and this attitude has never changed even a little bit.

Now, that attitude doesn't work for all types of games, but if you're playing in a game where frequent death isn't typical suddenly killing a PC to 'teach the player a lesson' (which is what this amounts to) seems pretty inappropriate, given that that's not the kind of game they signed up for, and it's not necessarily super likely to make a difference in their attitude

Now, I'm pretty sure that's not what you're advocating, and there are also very definitely styles of game where killing a character or two to get the player used to the idea would work fine, but it seemed worth noting that it's gonna vary by the nature of the game.


Yeah, it's iffy (hence why I only suggested it if absolutely nothing else works).

If he plays every class, every build as though he's terrified at any moment he'll die though...maybe showing him it's not such a big deal can help.

"So you're a few thousand gold out, big whoop. Take some risks, have fun with it. It doesn't matter."


How often has this person played with ranged styles? A shooty sort (even if it's a bard or cleric or druid or oracle?) might be interesting. It might be a little difficult to bring online, archery eats feats almost like two-weapon fighting, but it could be something.

And it means he doesn't have to hit and run anymore. Just hit from wherever he's got a good sightline from.

I will admit, I like having skill points, though. Between that and rage, it's why I went barbarian instead of fighter for my current campaign. (Who thought 2 points per level was good for anyone?) And it can feel frustrating when the rolls come out wrong. (Like the few times when I out-roll Knowledge against our bard.) Still ... something to consider.

Dark Archive

This advice is really dependent on what type of game you're playing.

I hate my characters dying. Hate it. I put a lot of investment into my characters, from history to personality to who their families are. I really don't like seeing them die and have no desire to ply in a game where permanent death is common. I've lost characters and this attitude has never changed even a little bit.

ME to i hate when my PC dies, but that why i make sure they are optimized (not minmax) in doing their thing,

the guy that hit things with a big stick hits things like he's be best one that ever hit things with a stick, the stealther makes sure he is never notice.

because i believe if i do my job right, that greatly decrease the chance of me/the groups' death.

by cowarding and not doing anything actually increases the chance your own death in an advanterering world.

THAT IS WHY YOU NEED TO KILL THAT GUY AND MAKE HIM LEARN THE HARD COOL TRUTH! ITS CALLED ADVENTURING, NOT TAKING A WALK IN A PARK.
ITS A DANGEROUS WORLD OUR THERE AND EVERYONE SHOULD PULL THEIR OWN WEIGHT.

Liberty's Edge

The enigma archetype mesmerist might be a good bet. He gets invisibility at will against one enemy, that eventually turns into greater invisibility. That way, all he has to do is a swift action to activate stare and the BBEG doesn't see him.

It also gets sneak attack and has 6x skills, which will probably feel comfortable to him if he plays rogues.

Finally, the class is still a 6th level caster, with lots of fun stuff.


As always, you guys and girls are all awesome. So many possibilities I'd never considered that would both be fun to play and help balance out the group.

There was a small discussion about character death, and yes, that is what he's afraid of. The GM for the adventure we're both PCs in right now has a personality and outward appearance of mercilessness (for reference his favorite race is full-orc), which scares the guy I've been talking about. The GM has thus far been quite lenient, though, when we could've had several character deaths otherwise (mostly mine), but my buddy is still overly cautious.

In that campaign I play a ranger and he's an unchained rogue that will not train disable device, because of RP reasons. His character is basically a boisterous swaggering swashbuckler type (but still a rogue) that uses poisons and daggers. He likes to run in first and announce he's the "Great Levi" who can take on any challenger and win.

But when combat starts he delays turns, hides behind everyone else, and does spring attacks when he can get them in flank (but proceeds to leave threatened space afterward and deny the other party members a flank bonus on their turn, which makes us other melee a little angry.) That actually makes sense for an "all talk" kind of character, but he's spoken to me outside of the adventure that he wishes he could play his character as imagined, but is too scared of the GMs "ruthlessness" to do so, wishing there was "plot armor" so he could do so without fear of a character death (even with the town's leader being a high level cleric who Could revive him).

Long story short - When I start my campaign I want him to have fun playing a character, not lament that he isn't comfortable playing it as intended. He's a RL friend and there's a small group of us that play, but we're all still very new to Pathfinder. Lots of great suggestions, though. I'm liking the archer idea, especially bards. I don't think I can get him to play a full caster.


I seem to recall there being a Druid Archetype that auto-ressurects.

Another solid choice might be Summoner, allowing him to participate in melee by sending in minions and not risking himself.


Makknus wrote:


he's spoken to me outside of the adventure that he wishes he could play his character as imagined, but is too scared of the GMs "ruthlessness" to do so, wishing there was "plot armor" so he could do so without fear of a character death (even with the town's leader being a high level cleric who Could revive him).

Have you considered playing with Hero Points? One of their uses is to allow a character to survive something which would otherwise be certain death (Cheat Death, 2 Hero points).

"Oh no, that critical took you to -2000 HP!"

"Luckily, with my Hero Point, that means I'm only mostly dead."

Coming up with a justification is then your job.

Likewise there are some interesting house rules I've seen floating about. Black Flag rules, I think they were called?

As I recall the gist of it is that PCs never die when they're knocked unconscious, they're just at negative whatever until revived, basically meaning death doesn't happen unless the party TPKs or the character had raised hi "black flag" meaning "If my character dies, this would be an appropriate story point for it to happen and I would be okay with it", and normal death rules apply.

Essentially, nobody dies unless they WANT to.

It's a little more involved than that, but that's the basic idea.


One of the games i played we were all already undead, but trapped inside a giant country sized bubble, we could only get knocked out, dragged away and re-imprisoned in a dungeon, but we could choose to walk to the edge of the bubble and have it obliterate our souls. The goal was to kill the BBEG creating this purgatory realm, but when half of the party turned on eachother (and one of them was literally ripped apart by demon wolves that knocked him out -perma death was the player's request) my rogue snuck off and submitted himself to the soul obliterating edge of the bubble as the sun set. He's the only one that wasnt trapped for eternity in a bleak hellscape, so i'm counting that as a win, and remains my favorite "character death" i've ever had.

I'm not suggesting you do that, but I thought i'd share because "nobody dies unless they WANT to." came up.

Dark Archive

Sundakan wrote:


As I recall the gist of it is that PCs never die when they're knocked unconscious, they're just at negative whatever until revived, basically meaning death doesn't happen unless the party TPKs or the character had raised hi "black flag" meaning "If my character dies, this would be an appropriate story point for it to happen and I would be okay with it", and normal death rules apply.

Essentially, nobody dies unless they WANT to.

It's a little more involved than that, but that's the basic idea.

Also a very good choice, we play with something similar. I introduced 'Fate Points' (stolen whole sail from Warhammer Fantasy RPG) to my players when I ran Kingmaker for them and they loved it, allowing them to take risks they might otherwise not and have a safety net in place made the game a lot more fun for them and as those players have gone on to run other APs for the group they've all used a similar mechanic adapted to the game they're running.


Give him a Slayer.

Rogue Talents, Sneak Attack, decent skills, with Fighter HD, BAB, and Medium Armor.

Alternately, give him a Melee Hunter with a Flanking Companion.

Or, a Dervish Dancing Archaeologist Bard.

Skills, Dex, Minor Spellcasting, with a scaling bonus that he can use to actually do damage.


Ranger is a bit tougher than a rogue, but can go dex-based (archer builds) and has quite a lot of skills.

I like the archer/bard combo -- it gives him something to do with his "figure out what's going on and strategize" rounds.

Both classes have some magic, but don't depend on it the way full casters do.


Bard or inquisitor with ranged weapon. They both have a skill list that shares ground with the rogue type he loves so much.


Makknus wrote:
He's rather partial to Dex builds in every game, ever, and likes to focus on speed and evasion, and mechanics like steal. I'm not sure I could convince him to go caster (I'd love to get him to go cleric).

What aspect of dex build? Dex to attack/damage is just a mechanical thing, after all. Is it mobility in combat? Avoiding damage?

Makknus wrote:
There was a small discussion about character death, and yes, that is what he's afraid of.

How about summoner? He can play a melee combatant with great battlefield mobility (via Pounce), Evasion, no (heavy) armor, and the ability to charge in and totally stomp the enemy - without actually putting the character in danger, because that's the eidolon. The actual Summoner is save in the background, quite possible even invisible, far from any danger. If the Eidolon dies, it can simply be resummoned the next day. Summoner doesn't have many skill ranks, but most skills can easily be replaced by spells.

Otherwise, I think one of the player's problems is that he thinks he has to play a Rogue to play a rogue. It's something I see quite a lot. The thing is that the Pathfinder Rogue is pretty much the opposite of a rogue. A rogue is a bit of a loner, stealthy, good at many things, and a master fo precice, deadly attacks. A Pathfinder Rogue is extermly dependent on teamwork *, is not particular good at skills (and especially not at the stuff you want to use skills for) **, way worse at stealth than almost any arcane caster, and can't hit the broad side of a barn without an ally on the other side of it saying "strike this way" **.

*) Flanking is the best way to get Sneak Attack, and Unchained Rogue's main Debilitating Injury is only really a good thing if others profit from it.
**) Sure, a Rogue has a lot of skill ranks, but I presume that a big number in "total skill points" in the character sheet is not the ultimate goal - the ultimate goal is to be good at many things. Yes, he has more skill points to put in climb, stealth etc. than a Sorcerer, but that guy can simply use Spider Climb/Fly and Invisibility. Also, he doesn't have the attributes for a good charisma without crippling his combat capability, so he'll never be as good a suave, charismatic guy as for instance a bard.
***) Despite the main damage source being "precision damage", the rogue is extremly geared towards many inaccurate attacks. Even more so for Unchained Rogue (which is a straight upgrade but doesn't really fix the problems).

The Exchange

Makknus wrote:

...He almost exclusively plays melee rogue-types, but is too afraid of taking hits to stay in combat.. He'll normally get 3-5 hits in while everyone else is getting 10+, and gets frustrated when his character "can't" do more... He is strategic and meticulous, and plays at a slower pace, always looking for the edge or advantage...

Have you integrated Occult Adventures or the Advanced Class Guide into your campaign? The spiritualist (from the former) or the hunter (from the latter) can both maximize their loyal companion's melee potential, then stay in back and cast/shoot. With certain builds the spiritualist or hunter can even funnel healing to their companion. There's more to manage than for most classes, but from the sound of your player, he wouldn't mind doing a little extra book-work.

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