What happened to magic items? Are they useless?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Claxon wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Claxon I have banned the big six and not moved to APB before.

It's not so bad.

Players can adapt. It gets the min-maxers up in arms, but that is about it.

Yeah....I wouldn't have played with you.

The game is built around having those big six items, though not necessarily at the levels some players would like to have (such as funneling all their money into a +5 weapon at the earliest level possible).

If you remove them and don't compensate players for that somehow they will be pretty significantly disadvantaged against CR appropriate creatures, especially at higher and higher levels. This sort of thing can work okay if you only play up to about level 6, but would fall apart afterwards.

It requires a bit of extra prep work on behalf of the GM but it worked fine when I did it.

Take weapons, for example:
If you remove the ability for players to get the +1's and +2's then spells like Magic Weapon and Greater Magic weapon see a lot more use. It alters a Wizard's role somewhat though.

Most of my players tended to optimize a bit though so usually they were swinging with bonuses higher than Paizo intended anyway that the to-hit loss wasn't a big deal.

It did have the added bonus of players picking up different kinds of magical items. Also it was possible to get the abilities though.

So you could get a keen edge, or you could get a shocking weapon, etc.

The utility items were interesting. The game didn't run too far into the teens. Usually I wrap campaigns between 13-16. I think that one ended a couple sessions after they reached 13th level.

That was a "classic four" game. A martial (or mostly martial), an Arcane caster, a Divine caster, and a skilled character.

I think it was a Paladin, an Arcanist, an Oracle, and an Investigator.

As I said, it worked fine. There were a few times I had to look at an encounter and decide not to use a monster I had planned to, but it wasn't that bad.

Mid teens, like I said, aren't usually hit that often. I don't usually do the 1-20 campaign. I've done it in 3.5 but not even tried it in Pathfinder as a GM.

Edit to add:

Remember, a CR appropriate encounter for a party of 4 PCs is, according to Paizo, 1 creature at APL.

So for 4 level 7 PCs in a typical 4-5 encounter day might face:

1 CR 7 opponent.
3 CR 5 opponents.
2 CR 5 opponents while at some kind of disadvantage.
1 CR 5 opponent with 2 CR 3 henchmen.

As long as the party isn't swinging over its weight class too high (no more than APL+1 to APL+2) they likely can handle it.


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I find that in order to make players use 'quirky' magic items you have to:

(1) Add automatic bonus progression of some sort.
(2) Remove standard magic item shops from the game. Magic items can't be sold, and can't be bought unless the GM decides to make specific items available.
(3) Put quirky items into your campaign as loot for the players to find.
(4) Design your campaign so that these items will have actual uses.

I'm not sure it's worth the effort. A lot of players enjoy finding magic 'junk', and selling it to upgrade their gear.


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I agree with Matthew. Just because something is magical that doesn't make it interesting.

What I have done before is give variant effect to items that are already in the book.

Maybe a shield can apply its shield bonus to your touch AC X/day. That makes the shield interesting.


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I hate wands.

Mostly because they are just the exact wrong balance of scarcity and utility. Usually they have enough charges to not to run out, but still not enough to actually depend on them. Which usually means they got spells in them that are kinda useful but still not very powerful.

I always saw wisdom in Numenera's cyphers. If something truly is consumable in that you only get one use out of it, it allows that one use to be really powerful. I'd rather give my players single use grenades they really want to use rather than wands of magic missile they dig from the bottom of the haver sack only after they got no better option.


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I really like wands, but not as a weapon but as a tool. Having wands of cure spells or of lesser restoration allows characters to focus their spells in a more wider range of options and leave the wands as a backup. I'm still carrying a wand of cure light wounds with my lvl 17 witch and I use it a lot.
I like to keep some magic items: useful ones (mainly enhancenents, scrolls, rods, etc.) And cool ones. Most magic items are not good or cool enough to keep them, so I sell them. But I don't see anything wrong about it. Having a thousand items is annoying, so it's logical that players sell most of them but the most important ones.

Sovereign Court

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On the subject of wands and scrolls. What if they functioned at the level of the character using it? A lvl 1 wizard using a magic missle scroll would do d4+1 while a lvl 9 wizard using the same scroll would do 5d4+5.
Granted, the prices would have to be altered a great deal, but if the idea is to make scrolls and wands useful again like they were in 1st and 2nd edition then this might work.


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Question- big six?


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Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?

The Big Six refers to a set of items that the game assumes you would have (at some degree) at given levels so as to overcome given challenges. This refers to having Magic Weapons, Magic Armor/Shields, Cloaks of Resistance, Stat Belts/Headbands, Rings of Protection, and Amulets of Natural Armor.

The reason why it's called the Big Six (even though there can be as much as 8 items that you'd need) is because certain classes just don't need certain items, and that Six is usually the minimum number of required items in order to actually function in the higher levels.

In my opinion, having the game require the Big Six in order to simply succeed is just bad design. That isn't to say that specific classes requiring specific items isn't in itself bad, but when you take specific requirements, make them universal, and then apply it as a universal requirement, regardless of player/character choice, it transforms the game into a "Numbers Game or Die" scenario, which I can assure you, not everybody finds to be fun.


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Thanks


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


In my opinion, having the game require the Big Six in order to simply succeed is just bad design. That isn't to say that specific classes requiring specific items isn't in itself bad, but when you take specific requirements, make them universal, and then apply it as a universal requirement, regardless of player/character choice, it transforms the game into a "Numbers Game or Die" scenario, which I can assure you, not everybody finds to be fun.

This was, I believe, less of an initial intent as it was a byproduct of allowing magic items to be so easily constructed or bought. PCs were expected to pick up some of the Big 6 here and there, not necessarily advance all of them as soon as they could. Players often do that but that's an effect of the bonuses being so constantly effective coupled with the ability to buy virtually any magic item they want when they have the cash to do it. That, in turn, drives the perception that GMs need to keep pushing at the limits as well to keep PCs challenged.

Contrast with D&D games before 3e. We wanted to get magic weapons, armor, rings/cloaks of protection, girdles of giant strength, gauntlets of ogre power, gloves of dexterity, bracers of armor, and so on. But without a reliable way to make them (item construction before 3e was... a bit unstructured and quirky), we had to rely on treasure we gained. Eventually, we might eventually get much of that stuff, but we couldn't count on it and we certainly couldn't plan for it. It meant a lot more making do with what we got rather than deciding to sell just because it was a situational magic item and a more consistent one would be better.

Grand Lodge

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Eberron had Eternal wands, they never ran out of juice but they were a twice a day, they were a bit more expensive but more thematic and flavourful.

You could even have it that you can boost the caster level, either sacrifice a spell slot of your own or take a point of temp con dmg. I know that seems a bit much but it does seem more interesting.

Even go so far as to say Eternal wands anyone can use but if you are a non caster it uses some of your life force (temp con dmg) to power the wand.


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Raltus, wouldn't non-lethal hp damage be better than temporary Con damage?

Grand Lodge

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Non-lethal can be cured with a healing spell or just resting in general.

I do like the idea I just think that the Eternal wands are something that are powerful and should require power to use. How much non-lethal damage would you give them? I am just thinking 1 point of temp con damage to a max of 2 total since you can only use the wand twice a day.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?

I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.


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Raltus, Good points, perhaps treating it like Kineticist Burn might be better if you want it a bit harder to recover from. With the recalculations needed from Con drains, that venue is irritating to me.


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Bill Dunn wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


In my opinion, having the game require the Big Six in order to simply succeed is just bad design. That isn't to say that specific classes requiring specific items isn't in itself bad, but when you take specific requirements, make them universal, and then apply it as a universal requirement, regardless of player/character choice, it transforms the game into a "Numbers Game or Die" scenario, which I can assure you, not everybody finds to be fun.

This was, I believe, less of an initial intent as it was a byproduct of allowing magic items to be so easily constructed or bought. PCs were expected to pick up some of the Big 6 here and there, not necessarily advance all of them as soon as they could. Players often do that but that's an effect of the bonuses being so constantly effective coupled with the ability to buy virtually any magic item they want when they have the cash to do it. That, in turn, drives the perception that GMs need to keep pushing at the limits as well to keep PCs challenged.

Contrast with D&D games before 3e. We wanted to get magic weapons, armor, rings/cloaks of protection, girdles of giant strength, gauntlets of ogre power, gloves of dexterity, bracers of armor, and so on. But without a reliable way to make them (item construction before 3e was... a bit unstructured and quirky), we had to rely on treasure we gained. Eventually, we might eventually get much of that stuff, but we couldn't count on it and we certainly couldn't plan for it. It meant a lot more making do with what we got rather than deciding to sell just because it was a situational magic item and a more consistent one would be better.

And more importantly, pre 3e the "Big Six" wasn't a thing because those items and stats in general worked in a substantially different way from how they work in 3e.


Someone remind me what the "Big Six" are. I forget what it means.

Grand Lodge

Daw wrote:
Raltus, Good points, perhaps treating it like Kineticist Burn might be better if you want it a bit harder to recover from. With the recalculations needed from Con drains, that venue is irritating to me.

Ok, so the UC Barbarian gets Temp hit points, what if your loose Temp hit points from your cap that cannot be regained until you rest for a 8 hours.


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I don't think Burn is affected by temporary HP.

Burn (Ex): At 1st level, a kineticist can overexert herself to channel more power than normal, pushing past the limit of what is safe for her body by accepting burn. Some of her wild talents allow her to accept burn in exchange for a greater effect, while others require her to accept a certain amount of burn to use that talent at all. For each point of burn she accepts, a kineticist takes 1 point of nonlethal damage per character level. This damage can't be healed by any means other than getting a full night's rest, which removes all burn and associated nonlethal damage. Nonlethal damage from burn can't be reduced or redirected, and a kineticist incapable of taking nonlethal damage can't accept burn. A kineticist can accept only 1 point of burn per round. This limit rises to 2 points of burn at 6th level, and rises by 1 additional point every 3 levels thereafter. A kineticist can't choose to accept burn if it would put her total number of points of burn higher than 3 + her Constitution modifier (though she can be forced to accept more burn from a source outside her control). A kineticist who has accepted burn never benefits from abilities that allow her to ignore or alter the effects she receives from nonlethal damage.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Someone remind me what the "Big Six" are. I forget what it means.

From here:

Joe M. wrote:
Troodos wrote:
Sorry if I sound stupid but what are the "big six?"

No worries. :-)

The Big 6 are where most of most characters' money goes:

1. magic weapon +X
2. magic armor +X
3. stat-boosting item +X
4. cloak of resistance +X
5. amulet of natural armor +X
6. ring of protection +X

You can also follow the link in Alzrius's post above.


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Thanks, Joana! So it looks like I've given 'em the Big Six already. Wait, that sounds.. umm.. er.. yeah, that have those things.

Shadow Lodge

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Alzrius wrote:
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?
I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.

That's a really good set of articles on magic item design. The different forms of item costs are a good guideline for why players pass over flavourful items, and cover points mentioned in this thread:

1) GP cost - is there something more useful I could buy with the gold?

2) Item slot cost - is there something more useful I could be wearing in the same slot?

3) Action cost - is there something more useful I could be doing with my actions in combat?

Grand Lodge

Daw wrote:

I don't think Burn is affected by temporary HP.

Burn (Ex): At 1st level, a kineticist can overexert herself to channel more power than normal, pushing past the limit of what is safe for her body by accepting burn. Some of her wild talents allow her to accept burn in exchange for a greater effect, while others require her to accept a certain amount of burn to use that talent at all. For each point of burn she accepts, a kineticist takes 1 point of nonlethal damage per character level. This damage can't be healed by any means other than getting a full night's rest, which removes all burn and associated nonlethal damage. Nonlethal damage from burn can't be reduced or redirected, and a kineticist incapable of taking nonlethal damage can't accept burn. A kineticist can accept only 1 point of burn per round. This limit rises to 2 points of burn at 6th level, and rises by 1 additional point every 3 levels thereafter. A kineticist can't choose to accept burn if it would put her total number of points of burn higher than 3 + her Constitution modifier (though she can be forced to accept more burn from a source outside her control). A kineticist who has accepted burn never benefits from abilities that allow her to ignore or alter the effects she receives from nonlethal damage.

I don't own the occult books so I don't have this class yet, I do like the idea. It is basically a way to over tax yourself at the cost of fatiguing yourself.

It would also be interesting if they added in the Fatigued condition and such, other than the burn will allow you to know yourself out.


Weirdo wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?
I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.

That's a really good set of articles on magic item design. The different forms of item costs are a good guideline for why players pass over flavourful items, and cover points mentioned in this thread:

1) GP cost - is there something more useful I could buy with the gold?

2) Item slot cost - is there something more useful I could be wearing in the same slot?

3) Action cost - is there something more useful I could be doing with my actions in combat?

The problem is that it comes down to poor game design.

If you design a game where there is really only one logical choice then, by that extension, you make that the only choice.

What is weird is that we KNOW WotC is aware of this and we know Paizo is aware of this. In "Magic: The Gathering" (WotC) they'll ban cards when they start popping up in every single top tier deck. Paizo worked closely with WotC.

They have to be aware that this is a huge issue, and they keep making magic items aside from the big six that literally 99% of players *do not* use.


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HWalsh wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?
I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.

That's a really good set of articles on magic item design. The different forms of item costs are a good guideline for why players pass over flavourful items, and cover points mentioned in this thread:

1) GP cost - is there something more useful I could buy with the gold?

2) Item slot cost - is there something more useful I could be wearing in the same slot?

3) Action cost - is there something more useful I could be doing with my actions in combat?

The problem is that it comes down to poor game design.

If you design a game where there is really only one logical choice then, by that extension, you make that the only choice.

What is weird is that we KNOW WotC is aware of this and we know Paizo is aware of this. In "Magic: The Gathering" (WotC) they'll ban cards when they start popping up in every single top tier deck. Paizo worked closely with WotC.

They have to be aware that this is a huge issue, and they keep making magic items aside from the big six that literally 99% of players *do not* use.

Yeah, that's why they came out with Automatic Bonus Progression, as other people have mentioned. You don't seem to want to use that for some reason.


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thenovalord wrote:

There is a throw away item feel in PF. Loads magic items are really over priced for basically doing X once/day

Magic items became so clinical for me in 3 onwards they lost their magic, so I can see where the OP is coming from

Agreed - although I actually took this in the exact opposite direction.

While I don't do this every game (there's something to be said for the fun of vender-trashing tons of magic items - it's a special kind of fun every so often), in many games, I eliminate magic items entirely and replace them with inherent bonuses.

Basically, the "big six" get wrapped into standard level-ups, with each player getting to chose where to invest. How I fluff this varies (in one case, each time the party killed a monster, they got both XP and "soul points" - with soul points equal to the gp value of the monster. They could spend their "soul points" at shrines by praying, and the gods would grant their prayers in the form of inherent bonuses. To get a +1 to saves cost the same number of "soul points" as it would GP to buy a cloak of resistance +1. To get a +2 bonus to Str cost 5,000 (half of a +2 to two stats belt). Etc.

Once I've done that, I then either run a no- or low- magic universe where magic items either don't exist at all or are incredibly rare and special - and those items never do "mundane" things like grant a +x bonus to something.

I sometimes make an exception for some sort of thematic one-use item (like potions or scrolls) - and sometimes I don't.

One nice thing about doing it this way is that it makes magic items feel more special and rare - and it gets players to use them more (since they don't have to worry about the "big six"). People end up using those weird magical items because they have no reason not to.

And yes, often people rely on their class features - which I actually like! It makes the characters themselves feel special.

Edit: On Automatic Bonus Progression
It's a neat idea, but I find it too restrictive. Some classes might not want to get those bonuses in that order. I prefer the more ala carte method I use.


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_Ozy_ wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?
I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.

That's a really good set of articles on magic item design. The different forms of item costs are a good guideline for why players pass over flavourful items, and cover points mentioned in this thread:

1) GP cost - is there something more useful I could buy with the gold?

2) Item slot cost - is there something more useful I could be wearing in the same slot?

3) Action cost - is there something more useful I could be doing with my actions in combat?

The problem is that it comes down to poor game design.

If you design a game where there is really only one logical choice then, by that extension, you make that the only choice.

What is weird is that we KNOW WotC is aware of this and we know Paizo is aware of this. In "Magic: The Gathering" (WotC) they'll ban cards when they start popping up in every single top tier deck. Paizo worked closely with WotC.

They have to be aware that this is a huge issue, and they keep making magic items aside from the big six that literally 99% of players *do not* use.

Yeah, that's why they came out with Automatic Bonus Progression, as other people have mentioned. You don't seem to want to use that for some reason.

I've used it before as well. I simply offered an alternative. ABP has a problem of being way too restrictive and linear. You *can* get by without ABP and the Big Six. It is *totally* possible.

It doesn't break the game. It adds a little extra work for the GM and does require a balanced group but it works fine.


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HWalsh wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
Davia D wrote:
Question- big six?
I know the question was already answered, but here's the first time the term was ever used, almost exactly ten years ago in an article on the WotC website by Andy Collins: Big Hero Six.

That's a really good set of articles on magic item design. The different forms of item costs are a good guideline for why players pass over flavourful items, and cover points mentioned in this thread:

1) GP cost - is there something more useful I could buy with the gold?

2) Item slot cost - is there something more useful I could be wearing in the same slot?

3) Action cost - is there something more useful I could be doing with my actions in combat?

The problem is that it comes down to poor game design.

If you design a game where there is really only one logical choice then, by that extension, you make that the only choice.

What is weird is that we KNOW WotC is aware of this and we know Paizo is aware of this. In "Magic: The Gathering" (WotC) they'll ban cards when they start popping up in every single top tier deck. Paizo worked closely with WotC.

They have to be aware that this is a huge issue, and they keep making magic items aside from the big six that literally 99% of players *do not* use.

I agree with HWalsh and declare that the bias toward the big six is even more extreme. Looking over the magic items of 13th-level NPC bloodrager in my Iron Gods game, I see that she is sticking strongly to the big six without effort on my part. I have deliberately minimally outfitted this character in order to keep her out of the limelight. Her magic items are:

Big Six
+1 adamantine Sawtooth Saber
+1 Firedrake Pistol
Cloak of Resistance +1
Amulet of Natural Armor +1
Ring of Protection +1
Headband of Alluring Charisma +2

Not in the Big Six
Robe of Arcane Heritage
Bottle of Air
8 Potions of Cure Light Wounds
6 Potions of Cure Moderate Wounds
3 Potions of Cure Serious Wounds

Everything except the +1 adamantine Sawtooth Saber was a found item, pulled from a chest or dead body. The saber she crafted herself and paid a wizard to enchant. She also crafted the mithral armored coat that she wears over her Robe of Arcane Heritage, but did not enchant it. The GM, i.e., myself, declared that the robe works on bloodragers, too, or else she would be wearing more commonplace enchanted armor, such as her old +1 studded leather armor. The Headband of Alluring Charisma is not as useful for her as a Belt of Giant Strength, but the party did not find a belt.

Checking over the most recent treasure list, I see that the party sold off a +3 chain shirt, +1 chainmail, +2 spell storing long sword, +1 frost longbow, +1 unholy spiked chain, +1 falchion, Cloak of Resistance +1, Major Crown of Blasting, Bracers of Armor +4, Longarm Bracers, Handy Haversack, Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, four potions of Delay Poison, and several scrolls. They also found several technological items, but sold them off except for the firearms. One third of those items I planted in side encounters; and apparently, the module writers favor the big six on NPC foes much more than I do. (This might be to keep the NPCs easy to play.)

The party is adequately equipped. As an NPC, my bloodrager takes last pick of the magic items, so others in the party have Rings of Protection +2 and Cloaks of Resistance +2. Some have crafted their own stat belts and headbands +6 in their downtime. The party was in a CR 13 combat in yesterday's game session and did not receive a scratch. CR 13 is an easy encounter for a 13th-level party, after all. My bloodrager could have suffered from a failed Fortitude save against a CR 13 haunt, but she was raging at the time, so succeeded at the save and would have succeeded even without the Cloak of Resistance. Two party members with Cloaks of Resistance +2 and headbands +6 did suffer.


Bill Dunn wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


In my opinion, having the game require the Big Six in order to simply succeed is just bad design. That isn't to say that specific classes requiring specific items isn't in itself bad, but when you take specific requirements, make them universal, and then apply it as a universal requirement, regardless of player/character choice, it transforms the game into a "Numbers Game or Die" scenario, which I can assure you, not everybody finds to be fun.

This was, I believe, less of an initial intent as it was a byproduct of allowing magic items to be so easily constructed or bought. PCs were expected to pick up some of the Big 6 here and there, not necessarily advance all of them as soon as they could. Players often do that but that's an effect of the bonuses being so constantly effective coupled with the ability to buy virtually any magic item they want when they have the cash to do it. That, in turn, drives the perception that GMs need to keep pushing at the limits as well to keep PCs challenged.

Contrast with D&D games before 3e. We wanted to get magic weapons, armor, rings/cloaks of protection, girdles of giant strength, gauntlets of ogre power, gloves of dexterity, bracers of armor, and so on. But without a reliable way to make them (item construction before 3e was... a bit unstructured and quirky), we had to rely on treasure we gained. Eventually, we might eventually get much of that stuff, but we couldn't count on it and we certainly couldn't plan for it. It meant a lot more making do with what we got rather than deciding to sell just because it was a situational magic item and a more consistent one would be better.

The root cause lies in the system trying to build magic item acquisition into the systems progression (and therefore balanced with CR) at all. While the intent was to try and remove the unbalancing effect that giving magic items out randomly tended to have in older systems (similar to how the CR system was created to better inform about what threats are reasonable for the party) the result was removing the openness and mystery of many magic items (since they had to all be quantified into values/costs).

The trade offs for such user friendliness is a system that does have expectations of what items a character needs to be functional, and creating methods to allow players to customize the items needed to be viable for their characters. To try and not remove the potential for random treasure, magic item creation and costs become necessary (as do wealth limits/minimums). Which ultimately leads players to seek to get those out of the way quickly (and to do so in the manner they perceive to be most advantageous to them).

This is why the only real way to bring the wonder back to magic items is some form of built in level system to remove the expected items from being used/required. Unfortunately, this is likely to make most players just move on to the next tier of the best min/max items unless additional effort is made to restrict the easy access channels that were also required by the expectation of magic items (now that player's don't have to have any to be viable, they don't honestly need to have such ready access to the purchase and creation of any non-consumable item). Once players get used to not thinking about magic items as necessary for the viability of their character overall (as the system unintentionally encourages that view by having such required items), most of them will likely begin seeing magic items the way that most of us did back in prior editions (where the best table to find out rolls were being made on was always the Misc Magic Item table....at least imo).

If you don't like the idea of the level systems, the next best option is to swing more toward common minor magic items (as others have already suggested) that have no true effect on wealth while still providing flavor (I might even suggest ignoring the cost of some of the existing items that fit this description but are priced ridiculously high for providing no real benefit to the character's overall viability in the CR system). I would also suggest adding such traits to the "standard" magic items you provide them to make them feel more novel and unique without requiring more items to be given to the players (perhaps that cloak of resistance always makes the character feel like they are wrapped in a warm blanket by the hearth on a cold evening, or the weapon they had made always hums slightly when out of its sheath, etc).


Matthew Downie wrote:

I find that in order to make players use 'quirky' magic items you have to:

(1) Add automatic bonus progression of some sort.
(2) Remove standard magic item shops from the game. Magic items can't be sold, and can't be bought unless the GM decides to make specific items available.
(3) Put quirky items into your campaign as loot for the players to find.
(4) Design your campaign so that these items will have actual uses.

I'm not sure it's worth the effort. A lot of players enjoy finding magic 'junk', and selling it to upgrade their gear.

I think a way to get 'quirky' magic item into the mix is to add a second WLB that can't be used on the big six. If people know that esoteric bauble isn't going to count against there survivability, they'll likely keep it. The normal WBL might need adjusted.:

Secondly, you could remove the big 6 from slots. For instance, moving Resistance bonuses to cloak pins that attach to cloaks, weapon/armor enchantment bonuses on augment crystals, ect. That way even interesting non-magical equipment can shine.


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Mathmuse wrote:
CR 13 is an easy encounter for a 13th-level party, after all.

Actually, it isn't supposed to be.

Easy is APL-1
Normal is APL
Challenging is APL+1
Hard is APL+2
Epic is APL+3

"Challenge Rating (or CR) is a convenient number used to indicate the relative danger presented by a monster, trap, hazard, or other encounter—the higher the CR, the more dangerous the encounter. Refer to Table: Encounter Design to determine the Challenge Rating your group should face, depending on the difficulty of the challenge you want and the group’s APL."

How to determine what CR the enemies should be.

A 13th level party vs a CR 13 enemy is a "normal" encounter. If your players are doing it "easy" that is a clue, right there, that the big six aren't really needed.

And I can point it out, my characters have done this too, and my players have done this. Even moderate optimization puts PCs far beyond what Paizo actually intended for PCs.

There are people who repeatedly post in these forums that they expect their characters to kill any equal CR opponent in 1 attack, no more than 2. Even a Fighter player claimed that they expect to kill an equal CR enemy in 1 full attack.

Quote: Able to do 75-100% of the target's health in 1 full attack.

An equal CR enemy is expected to be a normal challenge for an entire party of 4 characters with an APL equal to the enemy's CR. That is in the book.

If this is "easy" then the game is kind of broken by Paizo's own definition.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Chengar Qordath wrote:


And more importantly, pre 3e the "Big Six" wasn't a thing because those items and stats in general worked in a substantially different way from how they work in 3e.

In many ways, they were better in 1e/2e than in 3e-family games because they took you to values you couldn't attain any other way (giant strength), with bonuses that were better (giant strength again, also rings/cloaks of protection since saves were tightly bounded), covered more options (cloaks and rings of protection raised by AC and saves), or allowed you to do things you absolutely couldn't without them (magic weapons allowed you to damage things only hit by magic weapons). Most of these issues are toned down in 3e games like Pathfinder. The really key difference was their availability.


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HWalsh wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
CR 13 is an easy encounter for a 13th-level party, after all.

Actually, it isn't supposed to be.

...
A 13th level party vs a CR 13 enemy is a "normal" encounter. If your players are doing it "easy" that is a clue, right there, that the big six aren't really needed.

Oops, I unconsciously adjusted the system for the experise of my players. They use teamwork and information gathering effectively to defeat foes as if they were two levels higher than they are. Right now, at 13th-level, they jumped ahead to the middle of the 6th module, for a 15th-level party, just for the challenge. The CR 13 haunt in the middle of a CR 13 combat was supposed to be a single CR 15 encounter, but they finished the combat in one round before triggering the haunt. Usually, they handle combat more slowly while trying to negotiate with opponents, but they are ruthless against undead.

They know that their party does not need the advantages of wealth. They often let not-so-evil opponents surrender and keep their gear. They return stolen goods to the heirs of the original owners. They ignore non-plot side quests in the adventure path that mostly provide XP and wealth. They charitably donate money to help people they rescued from a disaster. One newbie player does have the usual greed, but the other players view his attitude as not really understanding the game. Roleplaying wins encounters more than equipment.

Thus, unusual and memorable magic items are a little more fun in my games than standard big-six gear. The players get a laugh out of the weird item and maybe even try it out of curiosity before selling it off.

HWalsh wrote:
If this is "easy" then the game is kind of broken by Paizo's own definition.

My players have fun playing their way, so to them, it is not broken. But yes, they know that optimizing gear can trivialize encounters, so they avoid optimizing gear that way.


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And really, a "normal" CR encounter is supposed to be pretty easy for most minimally competent parties, since the game system is designed for the PCs to win battles so there won't be campaign-ending TPKs every other battle.

That's why an evenly matched battle against an equal number of PC-classed opponents with PC-level wealth is a CR+4 encounter (AKA off the CR scale).


Have you seen how Paizo builds "PC classes opponents with PC level wealth" in reality?

They are TERRIBLE with regards to optimization. One of the ones I remember is a fighter with the weapon focus feat twice. Once for a sword, and once for a dagger. Who has a 14 strength and a 12 con wearing medium armor, and a +0 dex bonus.

It is clear, when you look at Paizo's NPCs they they expect players to be sub-optimal.


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HWalsh,
Modules are easy because a killer module mostly kills sales.
They also have to take into account that there are as many customers who do not want every character to be murder specialists. This creates a problem in that it is hard for them to balance against players whose default is not attack.

Magic items can encourage non standardized tactics, a bane to some, and the strength of others.


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The game is distinctly not built on the highest level of optimization.

Think of it as a bell curve you have lowest level of optimzation on one end (wizards with 8 int, fighters taking meta magic feats, etc. ) on the other end your max optimized I am barbarian, god wizards etc.

now if we shoot for the game to be playable by the most people we put the balance in the middle of the bell where you have larger numbers of players playing at a middle ish area every step towards one of the outliers you effect less and less people. This would be easier with a graph but let see if i can get this to work

1.....2.....3....4....5...4....3....2...1
................|....................|........
if you balance the game this way the two lines being your target and the balance being in the middle you get more people that are in the balance parameters. So you get more people that can play the game happily.
1.....2.....3....4....5...4....3....2...1
....................................|..........|

However if you balance it for people on one extreme you are leaving out a lot of your audience.

for the outliers you may have to adjust aspects of the game to suit your play style buffing or nerfing encounters. however if its balanced around the second graphs parameters its much harder and more people have to adjust the system for it to work for them.

That is my theory anyways.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:
The game is distinctly not built on the highest level of optimization.

No argument there. In fact it is what I've been saying.

Thus the idea that the "big six" are, in fact, required is false. Not only are they not required, but a group with even moderate optimizers can play, perfectly well, without them.


There is definitely no absolute requirement for the big six to be able to play the game.

However there are somethings I would say are expected.

1. Most combat characters are going to expect a magic weapon and armour.
2. Most casting characters are going to expect something to improve their casting
3. Most characters are going to want to improve stats - it may be not always be their primary stat - if that is high enough already.

Beyond that...

Rings of protection, amulets of natural armour and cloaks of resistance are definitely not required, partly because to hit rolls and saving throws go completely out of whack at higher levels anyway and party because there are so many other ways of increasing these scores that didn't excist at the launch of the game. Instead they are just very efficient items for what they cost... that doesn't make them essential.

The solution is to remove magic mart and free-form magic item crafting and ensure the DM keeps a tighter rein on things, to ensure players get good items but not the same old boring six.

I do find myself agreeing with hWalsh that the CR system as designed is trivially easy for most characters with any kind of system understanding (or the ability to type in a search engine.)

We play without the big six as standard and the difficulty of written modules has to be increased dramatically pretty much from levels 5 onwards.


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Daw wrote:

Modules are easy because a killer module mostly kills sales.

They also have to take into account that there are as many customers who do not want every character to be murder specialists. This creates a problem in that it is hard for them to balance against players whose default is not attack.

Exactly this. Most modules are written assuming nothing more than basic competence, with a little extra padding tossed in so the PCs can survive a bit of bad luck. Generally it's much easier for a veteran GM with veteran players to tune up the encounters than it is for a new GM with new players to tone them down.


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removing the big six can destroy potencial builds tho as certain classes/archetypes depend on them to be viable

Dark Archive

I dm for a group of people that are not the best lets say. A cr=apl encounter is easily able to tpk with them. If they didnt have the big six in gear they would be dead. One is a monk so i balance for a 3 man party and they still lose someone every 3 adventures or so.

Cutting the big six or giving them less good items would just kill them faster.


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Opposite extreme of my graph^ (doodle, w/e you wanna call it.)


Lady-J wrote:
removing the big six can destroy potencial builds tho as certain classes/archetypes depend on them to be viable

Which builds?

Also, define viable.


Halek wrote:

I dm for a group of people that are not the best lets say. A cr=apl encounter is easily able to tpk with them. If they didnt have the big six in gear they would be dead. One is a monk so i balance for a 3 man party and they still lose someone every 3 adventures or so.

Cutting the big six or giving them less good items would just kill them faster.

This is a hard to believe claim. This is only because of base mechanics.

Monks also aren't bad enough, even pre-unchained ones, to literally not be calculated. However let us analyze the situation:

Your 4 players, you only counting 3, facing an equal CR monster is CR 4. Random selection is... The Minotaur.

Minotaur

AC 14
With a +2 in attack stat a Martial will hit it, without any other bonuses, on a roll of a 7.

That same Martial will deal, without Power Attack or anything else, around 3-10 damage. Average around 7.

A 5th level Magic Missile will hit for 6-15 an average of 11.

A 5th level non-unchained Monk with a 2 in relevant attack stat will hit it on a 9. Without anything helping it for 3-8 damage. Equalling an average of 5-6 damage, if both hit, around 10-12.

Just these three completely unoptimized characters aren't going to lose to that thing 3 v 1.

Now, let's slightly optimize just the Fighter.

Give him a great sword and a +4 strength, give him power attack, weapon specialization, and weapon focus.

He's going to hit with a power attack on the Minotaur on a 6 or better. He's going to do between 14-24.

Add that to the Wizard and Monk for 23 combined and the Minotaur goes down in round 1-2. The Fighter could kill it in 2 alone.

And as the game goes on? That doesn't change. The base stuff, alone, is enough to overcome proper CR opponents. Most groups think an average challenge is 4 equal CR opponents, but no.

It's very hard to actually gimp yourself in PF.


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HWalsh wrote:
It's very hard to actually gimp yourself in PF.

Yet I have seen players do it.

The most explicit example was a D&D 4th Edition scenario, but the same tactics could occur in Pathfinder. The party is hired to take out goblins who live in two caves on either side of a waterfall. Our party moved up to one cave in formation, sent scouts ahead to check the cave for traps or ambushes while leaving some martials to guard the spellcasters. Thus, they were ready when a horde of goblins poured out of a secret cave behind the waterfall. We handled that mission smoothly and professionally. A year later, I was at the game store and observed other players in the same scenario. Their martials raced ahead to both caves, leaving the spellcasters scattered. The horde from the secret cave quickly reached the undefended spellcasters. It was a rough battle for that party.

In the game with my bloodrager NPC, the newbie player took Leadership at 9th level. His fighter gained a wizard optimized for crafting. The wizard made a Headband of Vast Intelligence and a Belt of Strength. The player gave the headband to the fighter and the belt to the wizard. Why? Because he had a notion that a good PC should be good at everything. His Int 14 fighter (the high Intelligence made sense given the tech-heavy setting) was not succeeding at Knowledge skill checks to identify weaknesses of rare monsters, so he needed higher Intelligence, right? The wizard needed Strength to join them in melee, right? I have come close to killing that wizard many times, without even trying, though the player quickly learned that the wizard needed to fight with spells rather than a dagger. And he learned to give the belt to the fighter and the headband to the wizard.

The 4th-level party fighting a minotaur could mess up by ignoring the high damage dealt by a minotaur. A fighter could go unconscious in two blows with good rolls. The party rogue slowly sneaking around to flank the minotaur might then decide not to close in on the minotaur. The cleric could exclaim that he needs to heal the fighter rather than fight. This leaves the wizard against the minotaur, which should work but would be scary for the player.

A few scares like that and the PCs will load up on gear to try to make themselves invulnerable. And most defensive magic items are boring.


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Bill Dunn wrote:
also rings/cloaks of protection since saves were tightly bounded), covered more options (cloaks and rings of protection raised by AC and saves)

Though it's certainly worth saying that magic items giving better saves was less valuable in AD&D/BD&D because character saving throws became very good anyway. They weren't part of 'keeping up with the DC'. Also, the AC bonus from a Ring/Cloak of Protection didn't stack with the bonus from magic armour or shields. When I played A- or B-D&D I saw far more people without an 'X of Protection' but with something quirkier in the place it would occupy than I ever did with later versions.


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One thing that I have found helpful is to really add flavor to items.

Instead of having an item be about stats, have it be about story.

I'm playing a caster with "craft wondrous items" in an intrigue based game.

When ever I make an item, my DM likes it when I get really descriptive in the crafting process. That +5 bluff necklace is not just a stat boosting item. It's a Necklace of Timely Lies it senses the moment when those nearby are most susceptible to trickery and lightly stings the wearer in the chest with a hornet's stinger.

Another character in the game wanted a backpack of fly, it could have been a simple transaction of him paying money and me spending time. Instead I told him in order to make it, in addition to the cost, I would need some butterflies. Due to some limitations, he himself was unable to catch them. So had to enlist the help of the other player to catch and bring back the butterflies for the item creation. This little bit of extra work turned the item from something a little cheesy to something pretty cool.

Dark Archive

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The monk has a negative strength modifier and boosted charisma. He throws axes in combat. Not throwing axes just battleaxes. He effectively cant hit. His ac is 13 +2 from dex +1 from wisdom. Now he has skillpoints from boosting intelligience but he spreads them out into every skill evenly.

The sorceror has no directly related to combat spells. Suprisingly this has worked out ok since chucking grease and web is not the worst thing he could do. However only having a sling as a ranged option is terrible.

So a supbar but not useless battlefield controller.

The cleric has both a wisdom and charisma of 13. The rest of his points went into constitution and intelligience. All of his spells prepared are healing spells. Not the worst character of the party. The reason most of them are alive and also the one consitent charactet

So a healbot that sometimes downs a potion of bulls strength and goes to town.

Then we have the rogue. Dex of 18 strength of 8. Use a rapier. Does not have weapon finnesse. She follows the skill point strategy of the monk. Acrobatics isnt high enough to not get hit with attacks of oppurtunity and favors throwing daggers. She is small size and has a negative strength modifier.

They are aggresively terrible at figthing. Now they do have all the skills covered so there that.

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