Advice: Pitfalls of a new DM to Pathfinder?


Advice


Just looking for some tips to someone who will be running a new PF game as the DM. I'm not new to gaming (over 30 years worth) but PF is still pretty new as a system to me. I'm more familiar with the really old versions of D&D than Pathfinder.

So I was just hoping people could share some tips on what to avoid or what helped them when they first started.


To clarify: in your experience what talents, traits, feats, class combos caused you problems to start with (or still cause you problems). Depending on what incentives the players pick up the characters should be starting between levels 1-3.

By incentives I mean I reward XP to players for coming up with some backstory and creative character concepts.


Are the players also new to Pathfinder?


some are some aren't


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Don't allow the players unrestricted access to everything. For instance, don't let them just pull up Pathfinder OGC and select any traits, feats, or options that show up. A lot of them are meant for specific campaigns, settings, or adventure paths (You can see where they originate only by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page and that still may not clear things up.) You will easily get overwhelmed (and there are players who will try and sneak things past, it may not be malicious, but they'll still try.) Make sure you keep it simple (for you) at first.


My advice is: be a player.

Try to find as many PFS games as you can (online or otherwise.) That will get you a lot of exposure to many different character builds, types of encounters, and (hopefully) mechanically correct GMing.

Also, delegate the rules. If you don't know how you are supposed to resolve a situation, make something up to keep the action moving but tell a more experienced player "look this up so we can play it correctly next time."

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

You might want to start with a CORE campaign, since there is less a GM needs to know up front and fewer books to buy. Just the original core rulebook for players to choose races, classes, feats, and gear from.

GM some PFS scenarios, to get systems experience. Stick with seasons 1-3, at first. Again, fewer books, fewer odd rules, fewer classes to master. The challenge level is also lower for the players who are new.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Sycophant wrote:

To clarify: in your experience what talents, traits, feats, class combos caused you problems to start with (or still cause you problems). Depending on what incentives the players pick up the characters should be starting between levels 1-3.

By incentives I mean I reward XP to players for coming up with some backstory and creative character concepts.

I can understand wanting to reward players for things such as backstory, but giving a 2 level spread is going to be really rough.


PF is a different animal than older D&D versions. If you played 2E with all the kits for the PCs, this can be kind of like that. Pathfinder is a game geared towards customization for both players and the GM.

As to what stuff can give you problems... all of it can. By that I mean if you just dive right it with so many options it can either be a nightmare or a candy store.

I'd second 2 things other posters have said. Immerse yourself as a player to understand the kinds of mechanical challenges your own players will face and perhaps consider restricting your players to the Core Rule Book at the start.

Don't underestimate the power of Level 1 and the lessons it teaches. In my opinion levels 1-3 are a great equalizer, showing players just how valuable their resources are and how useful other solutions besides killing and looting can be.

Even starting at level 3, skills will likely play a roll. It might be very handy to familiarize yourself in the mechanics of using Diplomacy, Intimidate, and the various Knowledge skills in or around combats and encounters. Knowledge for learning about monsters can be a very murky area for inexperienced GMs.

Finally, one thing PFS taught me was what players should expect to face at a variety of levels. At level 1-3 for example, players should be aware of and have some rudimentary strategy for dealing with swarms. At mid levels they should understand invisibility. At all times they should consider ranged attacks to deal with flying opponents. Playing Pathfinder Society games yourself can help you with all of the above.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I would echo some others about the dangers of varying experience levels at an early stage.

I would suggest perhaps using the hero point system from the APG to give you and your group a kind of safety net to the dangers of jumping into the system and maybe award hero points for a solid backstory.

Definitely jump into some PFS scenarios and get the player feeling and get some of the game under your belt. I still do it from time to time to try and both learn new tactics and to understand what kinds of stuff the player base has started breaking build-wise.

As far as things that consistently GAVE (I say gave because I banned them in my game) me trouble there are a few things:

(Disclaimer: YMMV, IMHO etc.. These things are a huge school of near constant debate on these boards. So I won't go into WHY these things are problematic for me as the search function is your friend.)

Trait
Fortune's Favored

Classes
'Chained' Summoners
'Chained' Rogues
Kineticists (This one is a huge debate and it's personal taste on my part and a difficulty of challenging them that made me ban them.)

Archetypes
Dual Cursed Oracles
Primalist Bloodragers
Synthesist and Master Summoners
Zen Archer Monks

Feat
Leadership (Doable but maybe not the best choice in a starting game)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you all for chiming in. To address a couple of points raised:

1) PFS isn't feasible out here currently due to distance, time, and travel. The closest PFS game right now is about a half hour away and when things are tight and you don't know any of them, running games out of your own home is probably for the best for now. I tend to do a lot of my own research anyways for games that I've run so I'm not opposed to doing it here either.

2) I understand the concern over rewarding XP but it's something I tend to do in all of my games. But I do appreciate the concern and suggestions

3) Thank you for the suggestions on what to watch for mechanics-wise (like the classes rkotitan suggested and the skills Mark mentioned). I am limiting what books they can draw from just like I do in any game I have that has a fairly massive library of content. I'm also going to keep it simple storyline wise. I have some content I have created and planned to have in the background but the first series is going to start off with Master of the Fallen Fortress and then on to Rise of the Rune Lords both scaled up some depending on what levels we have and how many players.

I've also given myself ample prep time as this game isn't starting until the beginning of December.

I'm mostly looking for cheesy, broken, beginning character types, or rules/mechanics that cause some concern and/or sometimes subject to abuse.


Sycophant wrote:
I'm mostly looking for cheesy, broken, beginning character types, or rules/mechanics that cause some concern and/or sometimes subject to abuse.

The Leadership feat is often banned. It becomes a real offender when players start to customize NPCs as cohorts as they need them, for example as crafting bots. If you design these NPCs based on story considerations, it will be less of a problem.

Crafting itself can have a serious impact on balance, at least if players have a lot of downtime (days without adventuring). Not only do the PCs get the items for half the price, but also it's customized to their wishes.

Full casters (who max out at 9th level spells) can become extremely powerful later on, but that assumes the campaign lasts long enough and the player knows what they are doing. I have an ambitious wizard player who is no expert in the game but spends a lot of time on reading guides - which is enough to trivialize some encounters (e.g. by fly or black tentacles). On the other hand, the full casters in the hands of less ambitious players don't do much harm, in my experience.


It's been awhile, but I remember about hearing half elf oracles using the spell paragon surge to gain the feat expanded arcana to gain access to the entire cleric spell list.

Pouncing barbarians with the beast totem line, perhaps mounted with lance. The superstitious rage power line can be potent with rage cycling cheese (early access to immunity to fatigue allowing 1 per rage abilities to be used every turn.) Very strong, perhaps not broken.

The spell blood money. Remember hearing broken combos, possibly nerfed.

Half orcs with the trait fates favored and the sacred tatoo alternate racial trait gains +2 luck bonus on all saves with little investment, very powerful.

Dazing spell metamagic dazes opponents on failed saves. Persistent spell metamagic causes spells to require two saves instead of one. Probably anything that reduces the spell increase with metamagic.

Oracles with Charisma to basically everything with a combination of feats and class features. Charisma to initiative, attack & damage (with a star knife), armor class, reflex saves. Probably not broken, perhaps cheesy.

Some sorcerer bloodlines deal massive damage especially when crossblooded, for example orc/draconic bloodlines.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Here are some initial tips that I have:

- Start at level 1. Skipping early levels won't do you or the players any favors in learning.

- Don't slow down the game with in depth rules issues. When something complicated comes up, make a reasonable decision and move on. Focus on the game and the story. Make a note and figure it out later and talk about it prior to the start of the next session. If you look at the Rules forum here, you will see that there are a lot of things that don't have agreement. Just establish a rule for your game and stick to it.

- When your players level up, take some time to look over their class abilities and ensure you understand them. That will head off a lot of rules complications in game.

- Do not use truly random encounters; do not run an encounter you have not prepared. If there is a chance for random encounters on a table, pre-roll or just pick good ones and prepare them. This will save hassle of reading through a random monster stat block and trying to figure out its abilities, and then getting things wrong (e.g. doh, I completely forgot about the DR5, etc.)

- Don't use XP if you are playing through an Adventure Path. There are a lot of good reasons. Some of the best are (a) you won't need to insert pointless encounters just to get PCs to level; (b) PCs won't feel the need to kill everything to get XP; (c) similar to b, they will feel more empowered to solve problems creatively, or do what their characters might actually do, without fearing missing XP; (d) you don't have to slow things down mid-game giving out XP or leveling.

- Go through the adventure and mark up DCs for everything that you think will likely come up. Common ones I do are all the Spellcraft DCs to identify items, Perception checks for things not called out in the text, etc.

- Use the Combat Pad or make note cards with various conditions, and encourage your players to do the same for bonuses they can give from spells or class abilities. That will help everyone remember what penalties/bonuses they have each time it is their turn.

- Pre-script significant NPC initial text / monologue rather than trying to wing it on the fly. Then wing it once the PCs start interacting.


I understand it has already been pointed out, and you have dismissed it, but I have to say giving higher levels to players for background is a really bad idea. Some game systems are more forgiving of this sort of thing, but in Pathfinder a level is a really big deal. At fist level, anything that is a challenge to a 1st level character is probably a walk in the park to a third level one (and a challenge to a third level character absolutely deadly to a 1st level one.) This diminishes, but never goes away at higher levels. I'd assume that those who are more 'into' the game will be the ones that will do more to contribute, which means that those who are less focused on the game will also end up with characters that are less able to contribute meaningfully and will consequently be having less fun. If you want a reward system that will give a bonus but not unbalance things too much I'd suggest a small amount of additional starting money. 100 or 200 gold would be a nice early advantage, but wouldn't throw things completely off and wouldn't be a long term unbalancing factor.

As far as things to avoid, while there are some specifically powerful options and things I ban in my games, I'd expect your biggest problem not to be a specifically 'broken' builds, but rather unbalanced characters. An unoptimized build by someone without experience will be considerably less effective than a fairly optimized build, even if the optimized build doesn't have anything 'broken' about it. Not being experienced in the system yourself, you won't easily be able to spot these differences, at least not until they become apparent in game play. I'd suggest having more experienced Pathfinder players help those who have less experience so every character is roughly equally capable.


Dave Justus wrote:
I understand it has already been pointed out, and you have dismissed it,

I haven't dismissed anything here. I asked for advice and people are chiming in with some. It's all good advice. It doesn't mean all of it I agree with and/or is usable. But that doesn't make it any less good or appreciated by me.

I don't mind if people disagree with my methods. But when you say I dismissed it sounds like you think I'm not listening, when I am.

Whether someone starts off 1st level or 3rd or whatever that won't change potential game mechanic breaks and/or potentially abusive or troubling character types or combos as others above have indicated. If people chime in with stuff I didn't ask about I'm not going to blow it off. I'll definitely listen because I think they are honestly trying to help. There is a bunch of stuff being listed here I'll likely use and there is some I won't. But it isn't any less appreciated.


Sycophant wrote:
Whether someone starts off 1st level or 3rd or whatever that won't change potential game mechanic breaks and/or potentially abusive or troubling character types or combos as others above have indicated.

Almost no amount of combos can make a difference that two levels make. That is what we are trying to tell you. Like many people who played older editions of DnD you make that mistake.


I would say my biggest problems have been with the party being unbalanced in power relative to one another than anything else. So long as most of the party is reasonably optimized together you can still challenge them. Note for XP distribution more than 1 level apart is absolutely ridiculous to try and balance for

Unchained classes are great. I can't recommend using them enough. Rouge in particular needed the love

Specific Iffy things
-fates favored- sounds ok till your realize how easy it is to get luck bonuses
-wayang spellhunter+magical lingeage- fine seperately. Arguably to powerful to be a trait but I've had no balance issues from that
-paragon surge
-leadership- fine if the dm manages and builds the cohort. Otherwise it gets cheesy
-Lv17+ full casters- Generally immortal unstoppable gods without just going open dm fiat. Things get silly leading up to this but here is critical mass
-dazing spell- rather boring for everyone involved. Powerful but it makes fights very very dull
-blood money


I don't see the point in banning entire books (e.g., sticking to Core,) personally. Sure there are an unknowable number of options, but the only ones you need to learn are the ones your PCs take. You don't need to learn 2,000 feats, you only need to learn 10 feats. That's more than doable. Just make sure they send you an FYI when they are taking a new ability or hoping to buy some item so you can look it over.


RumpinRufus wrote:
I don't see the point in banning entire books (e.g., sticking to Core,) personally. Sure there are an unknowable number of options, but the only ones you need to learn are the ones your PCs take. You don't need to learn 2,000 feats, you only need to learn 10 feats. That's more than doable. Just make sure they send you an FYI when they are taking a new ability or hoping to buy some item so you can look it over.

That's why I limited the scope of the books I'm using (Core, APG, Ult. combat and magic, no 3rd party books). I'd like them to have some variety but not so much that I'm having to constantly ask for book and page for whatever supplement they pulled out of the cracks :) I'm looking forward to the learning experience.

Could it be though that PF is that balanced at beginning levels that there isn't any more inadvisable/banned traits/feats/racial abilities? Like in Vampire (V:tM) is was common to see things like the Unbondable merit or the Child flaw banned or severely limited in various games among others.

But in either event the info will be helpful. Watch for leadership issues, some potentially high powered racial trait combos, paragon surge, blood money, etc.


Sycophant wrote:

Could it be though that PF is that balanced at beginning levels that there isn't any more inadvisable/banned traits/feats/racial abilities? Like in Vampire (V:tM) is was common to see things like the Unbondable merit or the Child flaw banned or severely limited in various games among others.

But in either event the info will be helpful. Watch for leadership issues, some potentially high powered racial trait combos, paragon surge, blood money, etc.

I would say generally yes, PF is well balanced such that it's difficult to make a truly overpowered character. But, it is very very possible to make an underpowered (bordering on useless) character. As long as the whole party is at a similar power level, you can balance to fit them. The danger comes when you have a mix of optimized and underpowered characters, that's when it starts to ruin the fun.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I only use core and house rules myself. I've never been big on splat books, but if someone wanted to use something in a non-core book, I'd hear their request and make a call on it case by case.

You're the DM. Make up your own rules. Use what you want, but don't do it in a silo. If I don't like a rule, I tell my players. I explain why. I get their feedback. If they agree, -we- change it.

As an example: I don't like sneak attack. I told my players. We come from the old school. I said I liked backstab and how it worked. I don't like sneak attack, because it's in normal combat. Why should a rogue be able to hit vital areas in combat when a fighter who specializes in just fighting can't. It doesn't make sense to me. I want to use backstab instead. If they don't know you're there, you can backstab for all of that extra damage. [Agreement reached with players.] However, I know that's a downgrade, and I would like backstab to be more desirable and meaningful. Therefore, I propose rogues get d12 instead of d6's. [Again agreement with players.]

Don't worry about getting sunk by a rule or feat combo or magic item or spell. Adjudicate. That's why tabletop beats MMOs. You're a real person who can deviate from the code and use common sense AND have a conversation with your players about it.


I'm not worried about the latter. I have at least two players who have experience playing PF so between them and myself I'm sure that part will be fine. I've owned my books for a couple of years now but I'm going back through them since I'm finally getting the chance to use them.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
justaworm wrote:


- Don't slow down the game with in depth rules issues. When something complicated comes up, make a reasonable decision and move on. Focus on the game and the story. Make a note and figure it out later and talk about it prior to the start of the next session. If you look at the Rules forum here, you will see that there are a lot of things that don't have agreement. Just establish a rule for your game and stick to it.

This might be good advice for a game in general, but since you're relatively inexperienced with Pathfinder, I'd relax this guideline. You're going to encounter rules you don't know well and haven't specifically prepped before a game session. Your inexperienced players will too. When that's the case, spend a few minutes working through them so you come to a common understanding as a group. Make it a collaborative process. Then, when the rule comes up again, you'll be able to breeze through it.


Bill Dunn wrote:
justaworm wrote:


- Don't slow down the game with in depth rules issues. When something complicated comes up, make a reasonable decision and move on. Focus on the game and the story. Make a note and figure it out later and talk about it prior to the start of the next session. If you look at the Rules forum here, you will see that there are a lot of things that don't have agreement. Just establish a rule for your game and stick to it.

This might be good advice for a game in general, but since you're relatively inexperienced with Pathfinder, I'd relax this guideline. You're going to encounter rules you don't know well and haven't specifically prepped before a game session. Your inexperienced players will too. When that's the case, spend a few minutes working through them so you come to a common understanding as a group. Make it a collaborative process. Then, when the rule comes up again, you'll be able to breeze through it.

I'm gonna side with justaworm here. No need to grind the action to a halt to consult rulebooks. 1st time it comes up, make something up and move on, and either get one of the players to look it up while they wait their turn in initiative, or else just write a note to look it up between sessions. You don't need everything to be precisely correct the first time, you just need to make sure you are learning as you go.

The Exchange

My biggest advice for you is understanding how the game changes at different levels.

Low levels, there's not a huge disparity in what an be done with characters. You're style of story is pretty unlimited.

Level 6 or so and you start getting fly and invisibility popping up in the game far more frequently. Overland travel becomes pretty trivial, especially if the various hut spells come in to play. At this point heavily optimised casters with unlimited access to material can become obscene at what they do compared to other classes.

Level 10 onwards and the game has changed to the point where you can't really play standard fantasy trope stories. You're now moving into high magic and looking at things like world of Warcraft game setting for the types of settings that can challenge these guys.

The other thing, don't let them use feats or magic that you don't have the physical books for (or official PDFs). There's a ton of material that has limiting fluff from the setting, but it gets lost when put into the various wiki websites out there. They can't reproduce anything Golarion specific due to copywrite. So they happily just transfer the rule without the setting limitations.
Blood Money (mentioned above) is a perfect example. It comes from the Rise of the Rune Lords adventure path. It appears in only one part of that module and is used by a group of mages who,were trapped in time and it isn't available for the players to even access. Yet folks who just build their characters using sites like d20pfsrd make use of it like every second wizard in the world has it.


Some of these will be a bit redundant, but I hope that should enforce these suggestions:

* If your player wants to play a Core Rulebook Rogue, steer him towards the Unchained Rogue.

* If your player wants to play a Core Rulebook Monk, steer him towards the Unchained Monk.

* If you have your heart set on bonus XP for backstory (and potentially a 1-3 level range), then beware of pet classes. A 3rd level Summoner's Eidolon, Druid or Hunter's Animal Companion, or Spiritualist's Phantom will not be competitive with a 1st level Fighter; they will completely eclipse a 1st level Fighter.

* Don't consider nerfing the Fighter because of how combat-effective he is. Either you've got some team players boosting his effectiveness, or your casters are really behaving themselves.

* If you have a Witch with the Sleep hex (Wizard with Color Spray, Sorcerer with Sleep, etc.) then prepare accordingly --
Don't risk your bossfight on one Will save.

* Magical size increases do not stack.

* Magical size increases do not affect polymorphed targets.


A lot has already been covered, but here is my take.

Start at level 1, and don't be too concerned when there is a disparity. Alchemist, Summoner (Chained and Unchained), Druid, Fighter, Barbarian, Gunslinger (If permitted, otherwise Bolt-Ace for flavour) are very effective, by level 3 the balance swings the other way towards full casters when they have better spells and more slots. (I also had 1 optimizer in a group of newbies).

Shared xp is my preferred system, everyone contributes, everyone gets a piece of the xp. Otherwise my Clerics stop buffing to get some kills in, my rogue takes a stupid risk to get a kill, etc. Rewarding with treasure or consumables seems a more balanced tool, for my party at least. I also had a bad experience with 2 lvl1's partying with 2 lvl 2's and 1 lvl3, the lvl 3 Druid and his companion outshone the entire party with just him and his big cat, and the spell-casters couldn't contribute much to early xp farming.

Partial cover, total cover, prone, ranged distance, corners, soft cover, firing into melee, height advantage, concealment, total concealment, falling damage, falling object damage (yes, different), improvised weapon rules, non-proficiency rules, KNOW's + Linguistics, vision ranges (darkvision and trying to read scrolls for example) (low light is another weird one).

General skill checks too, what does heal do? Did you know it requires tools to accomplish almost anything? When are you allowed to stealth? (Cover or concealment). What KNOW's affect what checks?

Skill rank placement and the one time +3 for first rank into a checked skill (listed on the class sheet), * skills are trained only, meaning must have a rank to utilize. Most DND players I have met have trouble with skill use in PF and don't tend to use them the same way.

From my understanding these penalties are new to pathfinder or are otherwise changed from older systems. These situations also come up often and the GM needs to control for them, both for and against the players.

Leadership is broken, and very, very easy to abuse. Crafting is also broken, and just slightly less easy to abuse. (I tend to limit this to potion/Scroll making, other crafting is on a case by case basis).

I like the alternate poison/disease/drug/alcohol rules, worth looking up even though only alcohol really comes up before lvl 3.

Grappling!!! Do yourself a favour and learn it now!!! It's good you have time, because the grappling/combat maneuvers rules are bulky, effective, but very bulky. And at some point your players will want to capture a large creature together using a combination of nonlethal +grappling +heavy and light weapon attacks +tripping +aid another and a rope no one has retrieved yet.
Grappling! (Love it or hate it, it is a great tool).


I'll join the chorus of "start everyone at first level". Third level characters are really a lot more powerful than first level. If you and your players are all cool with it, okay, but be aware that it could really blow up on you.

Otherwise, at low levels you have a lot fewer things to watch out for -- leadership, for instant, isn't an issue until at least level 6. General notes for low levels:

-- Rogues are somewhat underpowered right out of the gate. This is already noticeable at level 1, and gets much worse as you level up. The Unchained Rogue somewhat fixes this. If you have someone who really wants to play a rogue, great, but consider using Unchained.

-- The standard Summoner is somewhat overpowered from the beginning, and this gets much worse. I just ban Summoners, but some people are happy with the Unchained version. Oracles are also rather abusable even at low levels -- Heavens Mystery oracle + color spray is particularly notorious. (That one becomes a dead end after level 6 or so but oh, man, can it throw things out of balance early on.)

-- Certain classes are more finicky and homework-intensive than others, while others are just easier to play. The "pet" classes -- Druid, Summoner, Ranger -- get a lot of their power from creatures that accompany the PC, i.e. eidolons or animal companions. This requires the player to have second sheet with the creature's stats and powers. The druid also really needs yet a third character sheet for when he's Wild Shaping. So, disorganized or careless players shouldn't play these classes. Similarly, a couple of the APG classes -- the Inquisitor, for instance -- require the player to know the class well in order to play it effectively. "Oh, which judgment should I use here... darn, I forget what judgments I have..." [stares at charsheet for several minutes while other players begin to fidget].

-- Easy classes to play at low levels include the barbarian, fighter, paladin, unchained monk, rogue, sorceror, and wizard. (Emphasize _at low levels_ for the wizard. At higher levels wizard buildouts can get really challenging.) Slightly more complex but still not too hard: alchemist, bard, cavalier, cleric, oracle, paladin. Talk to the player and make sure he knows what he's getting into: druid, summoner, ranger, inquisitor.

Good luck!

Doug M.


You could give benefits for backstory, without it being a whole level or 2: a few hundred XP, some gold, extra HP or a feat could encourage them without destroying the power curve.


qaplawjw wrote:
You could give benefits for backstory, without it being a whole level or 2: a few hundred XP, some gold, extra HP or a feat could encourage them without destroying the power curve.

^ this.

Or a basic magic item, or the favor of a powerful patron NPC (which, hey, can also be a plot hook).

Doug M.

Dark Archive

Dont let anyone play a vannilla figther. One you get to fifith level "pure" martial classes just stop providing anything usefull. Watch out for players being a drag on the party.

Ask yourself. If we replace the character with a well built bard can the party function better?.

Take the standard party of cleric rogue wizard and figther. The wizard and cleric provide spells from different lists and different focuses. The rogue provides non spell skills and the figther is a sack of hitpoints.

Avoid having the players make sacks of hitpoints.

Dark Archive

That might have been harsher than i intended. Classes that dont provide any out of combat utility are best left for npcs. Lack of skills and other class features hamper any hope of meaningfully contributing past low levels. Some examples are figther gunslinger swashbuckler.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
qaplawjw wrote:
You could give benefits for backstory, without it being a whole level or 2: a few hundred XP, some gold, extra HP or a feat could encourage them without destroying the power curve.

^ this.

Or a basic magic item, or the favor of a powerful patron NPC (which, hey, can also be a plot hook).

Doug M.

I give extra traits for backstories. I could be talked into giving out free feats as well if they really worked for it. But yeah, not levels, that's overboard IMO.

Halek wrote:
That might have been harsher than i intended. Classes that dont provide any out of combat utility are best left for npcs. Lack of skills and other class features hamper any hope of meaningfully contributing past low levels. Some examples are figther gunslinger swashbuckler.

I just don't think this is true... I've played a swashbuckler up to level 11 and he was kind of a big deal. I don't want to say he ran the show, but... actually I do, he ran the show. And gunslingers are at their sweet spot from 5-12ish.


Also, a LOT of this advice depends on the campaign. An old-school campaign where you hack monsters in a dungeon, go to town to cash out, and then head back to the dungeon? Hell yes, a vanilla fighter can do great there and be tons of fun to play. A super-social campaign full of complex NPC plots and skill checks, where the default enemy is an enchanter throwing save-or-sucks that target Will? Less so.

And also: new players, new campaign, low levels. "This class starts to suck after level 10" is just not an issue right now.

Doug M.


Halek wrote:

Dont let anyone play a vannilla figther. One you get to fifith level "pure" martial classes just stop providing anything usefull. Watch out for players being a drag on the party.

Ask yourself. If we replace the character with a well built bard can the party function better?.

Take the standard party of cleric rogue wizard and figther. The wizard and cleric provide spells from different lists and different focuses. The rogue provides non spell skills and the figther is a sack of hitpoints.

Avoid having the players make sacks of hitpoints.

Maybe it's just my inexperience with the class, but I'm not sure how an Investigator is supposed to contribute in combat before level 4.


Kitty Catoblepas wrote:
Halek wrote:

Dont let anyone play a vannilla figther. One you get to fifith level "pure" martial classes just stop providing anything usefull. Watch out for players being a drag on the party.

Ask yourself. If we replace the character with a well built bard can the party function better?.

Take the standard party of cleric rogue wizard and figther. The wizard and cleric provide spells from different lists and different focuses. The rogue provides non spell skills and the figther is a sack of hitpoints.

Avoid having the players make sacks of hitpoints.

Maybe it's just my inexperience with the class, but I'm not sure how an Investigator is supposed to contribute in combat before level 4.

I believe that a martial class dip helps the investigator, swashbuckler is probably popular (especially the inspired blade archetype) dip to increase their early combat ability (often called the swasshtigator).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, ChaiGuy, I didn't know if there was some secret build magic that made a pure Investigator combat-viable. That brings up a good point...

Sycophant -- if most of your experience is with 2nd ed AD&D and earlier, you'll want to familiarize yourself with 'dipping', which is taking one/few level(s) of a class to get its 1st level benefits. Some builds are so feat-intensive that a dip is almost required (Dexterity to damage, for example).

In the above example, 1 level in Inspired Blade Swashbuckler gives Weapon Finesse and Weapon Focus in Rapier (usually 2 feats). This allows a character to take Fencing Grace for Dex to damage (with a rapier) at level 1.

As an aside, most people seem to consider this fair play, from what I can tell.


Kitty Catoblepas wrote:
As an aside, most people seem to consider this fair play, from what I can tell.

It's fair play in part because it ganks your BAB and weak save progressions. ("What do you call a 6th level character with a +1 Will save?" "Mind Slave is good.") If you use the fractional BAB optional rule, dipping becomes a lot more attractive, and clever dips can become unbalanced and OP.

Doug M.


To begin, if you're confused by the terminology: Chained and Unchained is a reference to the Pathfinder book Patfinder Unchained. Along many other alternate rules, there were redesigned base classes. The Theif, the Monk, the Barbarian, and the Summoner. So if people refer to a chained class, they mean the original version. An unchained (class) refers to the version from the unchained module.

(To sum up the changes briefly: Rogue and Monk got buffs, Summoner got nerfs, and the Barbarian was a sidegrade/slight nerf?)

I'd disregard much of the advice on which classes to allow and not allow/suggest away from. System mastery and what/how everyone else is playing is more often the deciding factor in such things.

For instance, if a new player picks a fighter, he's probably not looking to do much else other than hit things with swords. And in that regard, the fighter does his job competently. Let people play what they want. If they start to seem disappointed that their character isn't able to contribute much, then suggest either rolling up a new character or retraining if they're attached to the one they have.

The main exception is the Summoner. The basic (Chained) Summoner was considered overpowered. Not just because of spell selection and useful class ability in the Eidolon, but also because it was very easy to break the game. (Mostly as you were playin a good spellcaster, while your class ability was a good melee combatant, meaning you were essentially playing two character classes at once.) While the Wizard is still considered the most powerful class, that takes good system mastery to really pull off. The Summoner could break games by accident. So I would not allow the core Summoner in that regards.

The rogue is also one you may consider suggesting away from. More that it takes a lot of patience and strategy to play one, and even then the rogue can mostly aim to be competent, at best. In short: Lots of skill points don't matter much, and many can be invalidated with low level spells, and the rogue doesn't get any actual bonuses to these skills, barring Perception and Disable Device relating to traps. As well, a rogue is poorly designed, needing to get up close to deal good damage in combat, but doesn't have the defenses needed to stay alive up close and personal. If a person wants to play a Rogue, either suggest the unchained Rogue, or suggest either a Investigator (If they want to play a skill focused Rogue) or a Slayer. (If they wanted to play an agile combatant style Rogue.)


Sycophant wrote:

Just looking for some tips to someone who will be running a new PF game as the DM. I'm not new to gaming (over 30 years worth) but PF is still pretty new as a system to me. I'm more familiar with the really old versions of D&D than Pathfinder.

So I was just hoping people could share some tips on what to avoid or what helped them when they first started.

Character building has become muuuuuuch more elaborate in Pathfinder than it ever was in 1st or 2nd edition. I recommend you have your players map out several levels in advance what levels in which classes (Multiclassing rules have become so freewheeling as to become unrecognizable.) and which Feats they plan on taking at which levels. Have them walk you through how each of their characters will work. Character building has become a very a la carte process where a player can put together a Feat here, a Spell there, and sprinkle in some Class Abilities to create unexpected synergies and powerful effects. This will have the added benefit of letting you see the players' expectations and flavor preferences and let you sculpt a campaign out of your ideas to give your players the best possible experience.

Pathfinder was published under the auspices of the d20 Open Source Gaming License, and so there is a lot of character-building material out there that was not published by Paizo that might conceivably be used for Pathfinder characters. In particular, Pathfinder began as a supplement/alternative to 3rd and 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons, so the 2 systems have a lot of rules in common. However, I strongly advise you exercise great caution before you allow other rules sources into your game. They can be extremely unbalancing. If I were playing in your campaign, and you allowed me to create a Pathfinder Character that could use 3.5 and 3.0 Feats, I could put together a character what could inflict thousands of points of damage/round by level 9. In addition, some 3rd party rules were written with peculiar interpretations of the rules, or introduce whole new game mechanics into the game. The Butcher Character Class, for instance, has class abilities centered around limb-lopping, and the Core Rulebook does not consider that.

The fact that you have a wide range of player experience in your group is kind of a big deal. You can expect a wide range in skill in character building and a wide range of effectiveness. I'm not sure what to tell you. Your more experienced players will be full of helpful advice to the newbies, but if they interject too much of their own advice into the new players' builds, those characters won't be authentically their own. Encourage the party to help each other, but defend the new players' fantastic visions. Try not to let anyone hog the glory.


Halek wrote:

Dont let anyone play a vannilla figther. One you get to fifith level "pure" martial classes just stop providing anything usefull. Watch out for players being a drag on the party.

Ask yourself. If we replace the character with a well built bard can the party function better?.

Take the standard party of cleric rogue wizard and figther. The wizard and cleric provide spells from different lists and different focuses. The rogue provides non spell skills and the figther is a sack of hitpoints.

Avoid having the players make sacks of hitpoints.

I disagree that vanilla fighters and pure martial classes will be a drag on the party. The last time I played a vanilla fighter, it was in 3.5, and he was the most effective character in the game, and I played him up to level 12.

But, while I don't agree that fighters are the weakest or the least effective characters in the Pathfinder, they are the hardest to play. That didn't use to be true in 1st and 2nd edition, but it is true now. When it comes to building a character and guiding from level 1 to level 20, Fighters are the hardest to do a good job of that. Clerics are the easiest, Wizards are the 2nd easiest.

You might do a good job of levelling the playing field between your experienced and inexperienced players if you make your inexperienced players play Clerics and Wizards and your experienced players play martial characters--like Fighters, maybe--and skill monkeys like Rogues.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Advice: Pitfalls of a new DM to Pathfinder? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.