Dealing with spellcasters


Advice


So spell's like air walk, pass wall, legend lore and teleport can cause significant issues in how adventures play out and can provide instances where spellcasters easily overcome mundane classes in areas where those mundane classes have invested significant resources. The easiest way to handle these spells is to stop using certain story elements in higher level adventures. Here's my small list.

Locked doors should not have a DC greater than DC 30. They become a nonissue between 7th and 9th level.

Indoor or underground climb checks should not surpass DC 25. They stop being a meaningful issue between 9th to 11th level.

Difficult terrain should stop being a tactical element in combat between 9th and 11th levels as it becomes a nonissue between these levels.

Travel difficulties should stop being a major plot point between 9th and 13th levels as it becomes a nonissue between these levels.

Gathering information checks should not surpass DC 25. They stop being a meaningful issue between 11th to 13th level.

What other problem spell's exist and what are some ways people have dealt with the Most?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
The easiest way to handle these spells is to stop using certain story elements in higher level adventures.

I severely disagree with this logic.

Not liking spells and so removing obstacles those spells help with is self-defeating. What if your group doesn't have them? Or worse, what if your caster does take them, and then your remove the obstacle they were meant to help with, leaving the caster with a worthless spell now?

Removing obstacles just because your party can overcome them is... not a very good way to go about things.


Rysky wrote:
Removing obstacles just because your party can overcome them is... not a very good way to go about things.

Ceasing to expect certain challenges to actually be challenging isn't a bad thing. Take climb checks for example, air walk and flight pretty much run for the whole adventuring day once you get to a certain level. Likewise locked doors can be quite a challenge at level 1, but aren't worth the time come level 9. The only thing a DC 50 on a locked door achieves is remind the party rogue how irrelevant they are and make the wizard feel cool for a brief moment at the rogue's expense. Same issue super high gather information checks. Once the role of the rogue, it becomes irrelevant by 13th level as the party wizard can simply magic the information into being discovered.

I'm not advocating the removal of these challenges. Simply listing when they stop actually being a challenge. Too many poorly thought out adventures have failed to take into account the core spell's which can nullify the entire adventure before it starts. Without taking these spell's into account, any gaming session prep can be easily made moot.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A DC 50 lock also makes a level 1 Barbarian feel cool for a brief moment at the Rogue's expense.

And what magic makes acquiring information irrelevant at 13th level?

John Lynch 106 wrote:
Too many poorly thought out adventures have failed to take into account the core spell's which can nullify the entire adventure before it starts.

I have yet to see this happen at all. Apologies if it's happened in your group and ruined the experience for you though.


Rysky wrote:
A DC 50 lock also makes a level 1 Barbarian feel cool for a brief moment at the Rogue's expense.

Assuming the door can be beaten down and there are no negative consequences for it.

Rysky wrote:
And what magic makes acquiring information irrelevant at 13th level?

Vision.

Rysky wrote:
I have yet to see this happen at all.

Cool to hear you have never had a spell ruin a night of gaming or even an adventure. Given your perspective I'm not sure what you can contribute to the thread beyond "magic is never a probkem!" Which (anyone whose been around on these forums as long as you have) should realize is far from a common situation.

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
A DC 50 lock also makes a level 1 Barbarian feel cool for a brief moment at the Rogue's expense.
Assuming the door can be beaten down and there are no negative consequences for it.

The same assumptions can be put forth for dealing with it magically as well.

John Lynch 106 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
And what magic makes acquiring information irrelevant at 13th level?
Vision.

*looks up spell*

That's not really gamebreaky, it's about on par with gather information, and depending on the spellcaster they may rather the party talk with people than blow through all their level 7 spells.

John Lynch 106 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
I have yet to see this happen at all.
Cool to hear you have never had a spell ruin a night of gaming or even an adventure. Given your perspective I'm not sure what you can contribute to the thread beyond "magic is never a probkem!" Which (anyone whose been around on these forums as long as you have) should realize is far from a common situation.

Wow, seriously, wtf? I've never had magic ruin something so I'm allowed to be part fo the conversation? I've also never said magic is never a problem, thank you very much.


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John, don't bash Rysky for answering. Like in his original reply, I thought you were advocating removing those encounters entirely.

Letting players know that you expect skill checks to handle the things you listed is a good idea. It means spellcasters won't take those spells generally, so the skill monkey can continue to solve them.

Fly vs climb, on the other hand, will still get bypassed by casters.

At higher level, there is indeed an expectation that eg travel will be handled by teleport or other spells. This does not mean that it is a problem, but it does need to be planned for by the GM.


Rysky wrote:
The same assumptions can be put forth for dealing with it magically as well.

Most magic will simply bypass the door, not be as loud as a barbarian and take a standard action. But sure, totally the same thing.

John Lynch 106 wrote:
Rysky wrote:
And what magic makes acquiring information irrelevant at 13th level?
Vision.

*looks up spell*

John Lynch 106 wrote:
That's not really

I didn't say it was gamebreaky, I said it represents a shift in the game where gather information becomes a non-challenge. Sure, the wizard will let the party faces gather information. But if it becomes super hard, they'll simply take a standard action and do the same job, but better, on a non-adventuring day (thus losing no meaningful resources).

Rysky wrote:
Wow, seriously, wtf? I've never had magic ruin something so I'm allowed to be part fo the conversation?
You came in waving your stuff around with passive aggressive comments like:
Quote:
I have yet to see this happen at all. Apologies if it's happened in your group and ruined the experience for you though

Apologies if I misread you, but you've been acting like a jerk from your first post.

Quote:
I've also never said magic is never a problem, thank you very much.

Thanks again for your contribution to the thread. Seriously, I'm sorry if I ran over your cat or peed in your Cheerios. Not looking to have a fight here with you.


As you said, and I aggree, magic can ruin poorly thought adventures. But I don't think that you can solve that by making things being more accessible to everybody as it would ruin most of the fun anyway.
The solution as you put it? Better thought adventures. Every now and then your players will come with something you hadn't think about (magic or not) and as a GM you'll have to think a way of dealing with it without ruining the story, but it has IMO more to do with the competence of the GM in dealing with issues than with magic itself.
I've had GM who had big trouble dealing with basic strategies. I had a GM who quit because he wasn't able to deal with powerful magic like enlarge person and with OP items like caltrops. Anything can be a big issue if you don't know how to deal with it. The solution? Know well what your players can do, try to predict their strategies and if everything goes south, be ready to improvise.


Kileanna wrote:
I don't think that you can solve that by making things being more accessible to everybody as it would ruin most of the fun anyway.

How do you handle it? If the reality of the game is "X stops being challenging at Y level" it seems like the effort is better spent challenging the players with things that will actually prove challenging. Don't put an object at a hard to reach location (due to being high off the ground) and expect the players to struggle to reach it. Put it in a location that is difficult to reach for other reasons.

Gilarius wrote:
Letting players know that you expect skill checks to handle the things you listed is a good idea. It means spellcasters won't take those spells generally, so the skill monkey can continue to solve them.

I've done that in the past. However a better solution seems to me to be to know they're available and plan accordingly.


I deal with it by knowing what my players can and cannot do. If they have access to teleport spells I expect them to teleport so I think of a good reason so they want to travel by foot or completely remove the traveling part. But there's a posibility that their specific party composition wouldn't allow them to teleport, so I can plan a nice travel for them.
There's not something that works for all groups, so I'd rather deal with each individual rather than making overall mechanic changes that can or cannot fit the group specifics.


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By this line of reasoning all skill DC of 25 or higher should not be used after 10th level. You can get a +25 with almost any class skill by simply having a 14 in the stat and taking skill focus and a feat like alertness that give a you a +2 bonus with two skills (+4 with 10 ranks). This does not even factor in skills that certain classes or races get bonuses in.

Just because a spell is able to easily overcome the obstacle does not mean they should not be used. For one thing they force the spell caster to use one of their spells. These are usually their higher level spells so it actually significantly reduced the resources of the caster. When the 9th level wizard uses teleport to get the party where they need to be, that leaves him 1 less 5th level spell. That is one less cloudkill, or one less summon monster V he will be able to cast. An obstacle that uses up 1/2 of the wizard’s highest level spells does not sound like a trivial obstacle.

By doing what you are doing you are actually increasing the power level of the casters at the expense of the martials. By keeping these obstacles you force the casters to reduce their power to deal with them.


I think it's fair and reasonable to handwave the PCs past anything they can do trivially. Rolling dice when you have a 95% chance of certainty of succeeding when the difference between success and failure is "you have to try again" is kind of a waste of time.

You can let Wizards feel cool by using their new spell to trivialize something that was previously challenging is something you want to do a few times, but don't treat it as an actual challenge to be overcome, just something to create attrition (they spend spell slots) or something to let them feel cool. The challenge is to keep the wizard from feeling so much cooler than everybody else.


Another issue with travel difficulties, unless the party is out in the wilderness anything that can challenge a level 9 party is not likely to be a random road hazard. Bandits of this power could take over a county, and monsters would have shut town trade/travel.


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Except for every one of those, something is being spent. Whether it's a spell slot, some gold, it doesn't matter. If they use resources to overcome a challenge, that's what they're supposed to do. If you remove challenges or change them to something new because the party can bypass the challenge, you're negating the resources they spent to be able to overcome those challenges. Not everything has to be a challenge (in that it's actually difficult), but if the Fighter only flies with Winged Boots anything that requires them to fly is by definition a challenge (in that they need to spend one of their 3/day Fly to bypass it). And that's not including the rest of the world, who likely doesn't have any of the resources of the party (and is likely lower level) for which those things are still challenging. Maybe the DC 30 locked door is to keep out low-level thieves.

And some of those "solutions" only come up if the party has certain classes in it. Clerics don't get Vision or Teleport, for one. You say bypassing locks is easy but the only thing that does just that is Knock (Wiz/Sorc or Inquisitor only, would be d20+17 at level 7, not guaranteed at all). Everything else has downsides (can't carry the party, opens an obvious hole, etc.) similar to just smashing the door (which you say "might have consequences"). Not every party is Wizard/Cleric/Rogue/Fighter. Assuming every party will have full access to the Wizard and Cleric lists is an assumption you can't make.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:
By this line of reasoning all skill DC of 25 or higher should not be used after 10th level.

I disagree. Unless your party wizard has taken on the role of <insert something here> forcing him to trivialize something another character has spent significant resources excelling at by giving them DCs they cannot reach. That's not fun for the other player.

Mysterious Stranger wrote:
You can get a +25 with almost any class skill

I'm not talking about any class skill. I'm talking about the ones I listed.

by simply having a 14 in the stat and taking skill focus and a feat like alertness that give a you a +2 bonus with two skills (+4 with 10 ranks). This does not even factor in skills that certain classes or races get bonuses in.

Mysterious Stranger wrote:
For one thing they force the spell caster to use one of their spells. These are usually their higher level spells so it actually significantly reduced the resources of the caster.

Vision is cast on a non-adventuring day and so no meaningful resources are lost. The reason it's a non-adventuring day is because gather information checks take 1d4 hours to get, per check. Your party has already accepted the consequences for spending the day gathering information.

Shape stone and dimension door are 4th level spell's and have enough uses that the wizard can easily scribe them on a scroll with confidence they will be used.

Air walk has sufficient other uses that it will often be running most of the time anyway.

Mysterious Stranger wrote:
When the 9th level wizard uses teleport to get the party where they need to be, that leaves him 1 less 5th level spell. That is one less cloudkill, or one less summon monster V he will be able to cast. An obstacle that uses up 1/2 of the wizard’s highest level spells does not sound like a trivial obstacle.

So here's a question: How often do you punish your players for not teleporting to a location and instead traveling overland? What happens if the wizard dies? Do you still punish them for not teleporting? How tight do you run the timetable of your adventures so that waiting even 1 day means significant hardship for your PCs?

If the answer is you don't, then the party almost always has the luxury of teleporting to a nearby location, staying the night, and then traveling the rest of the distance by foot. The fact most published adventures assume overland travel reinforces the idea that PCs can afford 1 whole day to not be down a significant resource.

As for unusual party compositions, that might work for your group. Our group typically has the major spell's covered one way or another. These aren't exotic spell's after all.


Perhaps a better way of phrasing it is "have level appropriate challenges by Xth level" where there isn't a major incentive for the spellcasters to overshadow other PCs who have taken on a core role (gathering information, opening locked doors). Climb checks and overland travel isn't really a core role. But it is something that ceases being a meaningful challenge.

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