When RP choices shouldn't also be mechanics choices


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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I realized I was accumulating a decently-sized list of things I wanted to officially and definitively houserule (instead of just ignoring them with some predictableness) as not having required connections between flavor descriptions and game mechanics, and it got me wondering about other people's opinions and if they had any more ideas for things that shouldn't have stats dictated by roleplaying-based decisions.

For example, and to list my own:
- Weapons. I keep seeing players in my group debating whether they want the one that looks cool and fits their mental image of their character... or the one that's statistically just like it but with a better crit range. If you just want a two-handed 2d6 martial slashing weapon, I really don't care whether it's described as being a greatsword or a poleaxe or a sharpened dragon bone, as long as I know what to describe it as and what DR to apply. In fact, I'd rather it not be a greatsword, because that's long become boring. Go for the dragon bone and have a cool story as well as good damage dice.
- Starting outfits. Given my druthers, I'd just say your character starts out wearing whatever they would be wearing, for free, and if you want one of the bonuses (say, the one from the Pickpocket's Outfit), picking whichever one you want costs a couple gold pieces or so. Don't abuse it for that one trait, don't sell it and adventure in your undies instead, don't make the GM facepalm.
(This was inspired because I was debating putting the Noble's Outfit in one character's starting inventory, and was quickly annoyed by the realization that I would be giving up half my starting gold to represent that my character was rich, which just seemed silly.)
- Alternate favored class bonuses. They don't seem to actually be intended to balance out class/race combinations, or at least don't do so remotely effectively in my experience, so why are they tied to race at all? I don't see any particular reason to reward summoners for being half-elves, and while it might in some cases amount to a little more enforced flavor, it seems to me that enforcing flavor is best done on a personalized basis or not at all. Players who want to disregard it will do so anyway, like it or not, and players who pay attention to it on their own don't need to be pigeonholed into doing so a specific way.
So yeah, I think I'd rather just let people choose a single alternate favored class bonus to have access to, instead of further encouraging choosing races for the stat bonuses (and in many cases encouraging rather cliche race/class combinations).


I agree on on the alternate FCB and race. I see the FCB as a nice little extra way to customize your character so all options are open. If there is one option that is clearly better than the others then why is that for that race. Enforcing race restricted options (as well as feats archetypes and prestige classes) seems backwards and seems like casual racism (i know they are actual different races but without actual orcs and elves to compare them to they tend to end up as slightly different humans)

Spells known for spontaneous casters. Sometimes there is a spell where i think "if i were a sorc, i would definitely know that spell" even though it isnt optimized. examples would include mages magnificent mansion, heroes feast, secret chest. There are others and im sure everyone has their favourite spell that they feel the justification to include.

Weapons too. I dont care as a GM what the weapon looks like as long as mechanically its balanced. I wish the weapon creation rules were more solid (really more weapon points for measly cash increase? who wouldnt add that on? no points for light weapons? break even on racial weapons vs traditional weapon?)


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Apraham Lincoln wrote:
I see the FCB as a nice little extra way to customize your character so all options are open. If there is one option that is clearly better than the others then why is that for that race.

The biggest problem is that the one race that gets the grand majority of the useful FCB combinations... is human.

There was a concern back with D&D that because you could play elves and dwarves and everything, nobody would want to play a boring old human. And so a lot of the editions had different ways to punish people for not being human, ranging from only letting humans be the best classes, to placing limits on how high nonhuman characters could gain levels, to the 3.5 and PF system of throwing extra skill points and a bonus feat at humans, things that you can never have too many of, and options most races can't even compare with.

And then they gave them the best FCB too? Everything about humans make you wonder why you would play any other race; I've seen constant character build discussions on these forums that amount to "I could play this one race that fits my character concept perfectly, looks fun to roleplay, and has its abilities line up in the right places. Or I could play human, so I can get extra spells known and get the feats I want two levels early. Meh, guess I'm going human."

I know they were trying to stop the Mos Eisley cantina effect, but now we have the White Bread Alliance... not exactly an improvement. PCs are supposed to be unique and different special snowflakes; that's why they're adventurers and not farmers.

I'll get down from the soapbox now.


Kaladin_Stormblessed wrote:


- Alternate favored class bonuses. They don't seem to actually be intended to balance out class/race combinations, or at least don't do so remotely effectively in my experience, so why are they tied to race at all? I don't see any particular reason to reward summoners for being half-elves, and while it might in some cases...

Favored class bonuses are pretty much purely mechanical. The game is designed so you have to make tradeoffs when building characters, that keeps things interesting and encourages you to build to a theme.

Say you want to build an enchanter sorcerer, there are two top options: Kitsune and human. If you go Kitsune, your DCs will be over the top and the FCB accentuates that, but you'll be a lot less flexible due to spells known constraints. If you go human, your DCs will be lower, but you'll have more flexibility. So, the mechanics of your class help specialize your play style. (And by play style, I mean, how you use the mechanics of your character, not how you roleplay.) The FCB is meant to work with the mechanics of the race.

Allowing races to take any FCB is not the same as allowing a "Greatsword" to be flavored as a sharpened dragon tooth. It's like allowing a greatsword to pick up the Falchion's crit range and become a 2d6 18-20/x2 martial two hander.


Other races have plenty of advantages. Getting +2 to 2 useful stats and -2 to a stat you don't care about is very powerful.


johnlocke90 wrote:
Other races have plenty of advantages. Getting +2 to 2 useful stats and -2 to a stat you don't care about is very powerful.

There's also the +1 DC to enchantments and +1/4 to DC of enchantments as a Favored Class Bonus. That's what makes Kitsune the top enchanters.

But whether or not those are the two best races for an enchanter is beside the point. The point is that the game is designed to force you into making tradeoffs as you build and progress your character. FCBs are part of the tradeoff you make when you choose a race. It's a mechanical thing, not a fluff thing, which was the OP's point.


That is true, but it's worth noting that sometime those FCBs exist as part of the race's package. Wayangs, for instance, have a particularly good and interesting Oracle FCB but otherwise don't really have stats or racial features that make them compelling choices for oracles. Throwing that FCB on a race with better stats and features might suddenly make things problematic by comparison.


If there were signs that there was conscious effort applied to making FCBs part of the race balance I'd accept that, but really they're assigned by flavour or at random. Balance does not appear to have been an overriding concern when generating and assigning racial alternate FCBs.


Akerlof wrote:
Favored class bonuses are pretty much purely mechanical. The game is designed so you have to make tradeoffs when building characters, that keeps things interesting and encourages you to build to a theme.

See, I agree with avr on the lack of actual balance going on here. If you ask me, if FCBs are purely a mechanic, they're a crappy one.

If they just encouraged specialization, like the several half-orc Intimidate bonus ones matching the racial bonus to Intimidate... yeah, sounds fine. What about all the weird random stuff, like elf bards? "Add +1 to the elf's CMD when resisting a disarm or sunder attempt." Doesn't sound like it reinforces any particular strength or specialization of either elves or bards. Also, it's terrible.

If they just balanced out powerful/weak combinations, such as giving better options to races that take a penalty to that class's primary stat, that would be great. Instead we get stuff like dwarf sorcerers. "Add +1/2 to acid and earth spell or spell-like ability damage." Wow, real impressive. It makes the -2 CHA not look so bad, huh?

Heck, if they even made an attempt to distribute them evenly. Dwarf paladins, human inquisitors, and some other combinations iirc get multiple options, while apparently the encouraged way to play a tiefling ranger is "lol don't."

So... yeah, how exactly does this "keep the game interesting"? I personally find the game more interesting when people don't just stick to the same combinations game after game. Human and kitsune sorcerers can get boring after a while. But that's just my opinion on it.


I divorce FCB choice from race in order to prevent specific races from being the obvious choice for each class. Otherwise the systems suggest that the majority of a particular class in a world ought to be of a particular race, because they are innately superior to others. That makes for boring world design.


-In my opinion, weapons could use some better balancing, making them more useful in comparison to other weapons. For example, every martial with a ranged option is going to use a +1 Composite Longbow (probably with Adaptive property), because it's mechanically the best ranged weapon ever (highest range, ability to add an attribute to your damage roll, best damage dice, etc). Nerfing those "best options" is a real big and unnecessary detriment, because nothing in those options makes them absolutely toxic, it's just that compared to other options, there's no reason (outside of maybe proficiency) to use them.

Implementing special features for those "lackluster" weapons are perhaps the best ways to balance them. For example, if we took a Shortbow, and allowed a player to add three arrows instead of two for the Manyshot feat, it really changes the power dynamic between those two options; do I want the extra benefit from that feat, or do I just say screw that feat, and stick with the extra range and damage dice? Simple things like that really do make a difference between players choosing other options.

I'm not saying that the game shouldn't have obviously worse choices (because not everything needs to be equal, especially since not every class has the same or similar proficiencies), but that there should be more than one "absolutely good" choice.

-Starting outfits aren't really a major thing, and a lot of games that I've played usually handwave that sort of stuff (because we assume players aren't absolutely stupid and forget to purchase things like clothes and rations and such). On top of that, there really aren't any outfits who are cheap and offer a mechanical edge. If they do exist, most players won't pick them because they'd rather not compromise their adventuring equipment of armor and weapons. (I know I wouldn't.)

-Favored Class Bonuses in and of themselves can be helpful, but as far as Racial FCBs are concerned, very few of them are really worthwhile (and fewer still can actually be taken at 1st level). I mean, the only Racial FCBs I'd take over a hit point (or more likely, a skill point) are the ones that let you learn more spells as a spontaneous spellcaster with a limited set of spells known, because that's the only benefit that is worth the hit point (or skill point) you'd end up gaining anyway.

There's also the matter of players who multiclass, and they may not actually get the benefit of their FCB, or if they do, it's not always there for every character level they acquire. Not to mention that Racial FCBs are there in a flavorful sense as well (even though most everybody wouldn't even take certain race and class combinations, such as Dwarf Sorcerer, unless they took a bloodline that gave Wisdom as their main attribute).

A simple solution to this would be to abolish the Racial FCBs entirely, but then FCBs altogether become a simple linear scale that is exactly the same for every character, and becomes boring that way too.

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