Need advice on how to fight one of my players


Advice


For a bit of background, I'm a fairly new GM leading a game (ROTRL) with a party of 3 very very very experienced players. The problem is that one of the players I just can't hit or damage, so there's never really a challenge to any fight. Let me give a specific example.

We're fighting Aldern Foxglove (Skinsaw man), Level 7 CR8. The 3 party members are all level 6, giving an APL of 4.5. By the book this should have been a challenging, if not down right hard, fight. It turned out to be extremely easy and took only a couple rounds to wrap up.

Here's what happened:

Round 1:
-Foxglove attacks PC. His weapon is +12, but the PCs AC is 25, so Foxglove has only about a 30% chance of hitting, which he fails to do (Note, if he succeeded, he'd have done a max of 9 DMG to a PC with 53 HP).
-PC attempts sunder on Foxglove's weapon. PCs Greater Sunder is +13 against Foxgloves CMD of 27. Unfortunately, my players have a habit of rolling inexplicably well (without cheating) and the sunder is successful. As Foxglove has a light weapon, it is shattered and gone.
-Others add armor buff to the PC

Round 2+:
-Foxglove can now only use his melee attacks at +11, which gives him only about a 20% chance of hitting (because of the slightly reduced attack and increased armor). Meanwhile the party pretty much just quickly chops him up.

Now, I could have ignored that PC and gone after the others, since I could definitely tear them up, but it didn't seem right to me that Foxglove would ignore the big guy bashing him with a sword and go after the others - maybe I was wrong there.

In the end, I'm not trying to kill the party, but in epic fights that are supposed to be very challenging, I should be able to at least hit the PCs - and that doesn't seem to happen now.

How should I deal with this?
Thanks


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Firstly, let's deal with the title. If you are trying to fight your players, you're doing it wrong. You, as the DM, are not the antagonist to their story; you're the author. Or one of the authors, as the players have a creative role, too. In the short term, don't worry about it if a few big fights are overcome by the PCs having great match ups against them. Sooner or later, they won't have that great advantage.

That said, high AC characters can definitely stifle a lot of the physical damage that can be dealt. It sounds like your high AC PC is a fighter type. If you want to challenge that person, use things like touch attacks (which targets a much lower number) or Will saves (which a fighter just won't have).

Just remember, it's only fun for people if it's challenging, not deadly. Don't nuke the fighter to death over and over. Let him have his day, too. Let the high AC player avoid damage a bunch, but have those couple of fights that make him sweat it out.

Silver Crusade

If you want the adventure more hard just give advanced template to foes, +2 to all.

You also/
or can rebuild the enemies, but its more time and skill needed.


Craig1234 wrote:

How should I deal with this?

Thanks

Learn from it, and change up your tactics.

As a self-described fairly new DM, your players might be counting on you to play it by the book (especially if one or more of them have already been thru the adventure and know what to expect).

Change the fights to feature more opponents; roll randomly to determine which PC gets targeted; add difficult terrain/weather conditions to the encounter; If the villians know the fight is coming, have them pre-buff with spells or items; etc.

These are all tactics that you'll pick up with experience. For now, treat every encounter that they steamroll thru as an opportunity to adapt your tactics for the next encounter. Eventually, you'll figure out a weakness in the PCs gameplan that you can exploit when they least expect it.

The one thing I'd tell you not to do is turn it into a personal vendetta against the "tank" character. If suddenly every single enemy can bypass his AC or chooses to ignore him for squishier targets, it'll cause unwanted tension and drama.

Liberty's Edge

Touch spells/touch attacks. Hell, spells in general. If they're focused on their physical stats, chances are they probably lack in the mental stats department for saves and whatnot. Eventually it'll be reasonable for NPCs to have access to dominate person, which could be a fairly nice lesson to teach them not to put all their eggs in the 25 ac basket.

Going further into spells, AOE spells would encourage them to not all swarm and "chop him up".

Alternatively, look into his CMD. Certain combat manoeuvres could be particularly punishing whilst not seeming like complete BS. Grappling can lower his AC considerably, as can trip. Sundering his armour can also lower his AC. If you're particularly open as a DM then using dirty trick to cause nausea or blindness (pocket sand style) would also prove helpful.

As a final bit of combat, firearms act against touch AC within their first range increments. With pistols this could be used in conjunction with Sword and pistol to avoid AOOs or just outright point blank mastery for the same effect with just a pistol/2 pistols. With muskets/rifles you could introduce cover, ambushing and elevated positions to make it so that it's a whole lot harder to just swarm the guy and also make it harder to hit him (cover).

Outside of combatants themselves, consider introducing traps in the combat environments or anti-magic fields to deal with the armour buffs.


A big bad strength-based fighter is much less big and bad after being struck by reduce person and ray of enfeeblement :)


Keep in mind that the CR rating system is only a crude scale. Use it as a starting point, but always look over your encounters. Some creatures are noticeably stronger, or weaker than the CR rating. Even templated creatures can vary in power. Take for example the vampire template. If you add the vampire template to an alchemist you get a fairly decent opponent. But add the vampire template to an antipaladin of the same level and you get a much tougher foe. Both will have the same CR, but the anitpaladin vampire will be an absolute beast.

The other thing to be aware of is that most of the published adventures were designed for a low point buy. I think the standard is 15. If your campaign uses a higher point buy you will probably need to make some adjustments.


You could just give it a few levels and see what happens. Do you expect the fighter's AC to keep improving? Or will it plateau in a few levels? Some builds peak early, resulting in characters who are powerful at low to mid levels but not at high levels. In which case let him enjoy his moment in the sun while he can.


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You have to play to the strength of your villains.

Foxglove isn't a frontline damage dealer. Instead of immediately attacking, he should have started a Chase, or ducked into cover and used Stealth.

Then he turns the encounter into a hit-and-run scene where the PC's try to find him (in a place where he knows well). Familiarize yourself with the Perception rules regarding distance and low-light conditions. Play up the paranoia. Have Foxglove reset or move traps (or lay new ones. Beartraps are cheap). Have him hit your PCs while they are dealing with traps.

He has +14 Stealth and Slight of Hand, and he knows the PCs are coming. Have him steal things from the party before he reveals himself. Discovering that a spell component pouch or holy symbol is missing because they failed their perception checks while walking by where Foxglove is hiding is a pretty dramatic moment.

Also, the War Razor is crap and makes his attack sequence less effective. Foxglove is much better off using a Claw/Claw/Bite natural attack routine (all at +9) to force as many Paralysis saves as possible. (If you want to give him a serious upgrade, add Conductive to his weapon)

Finally, since he's a Rogue, he really should be converted to Unchained. Giving him his Dex to damage with natural attacks would make him a lot more dangerous.

Silver Crusade

With only 3 PCs, a single failed save can leave them in a desperate situation.


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For a 6th-level PC, an AC of 25 is pretty good, but not absurdly high. There's a good chart all about viability right here, and PCs who focus in an area generally want to be between blue and green in that area. (Note: The chart is not about how to make an optimal character - it's how to make a viable one.)

For help with making challenging encounters, I suggest reading this guide. It is full of outstanding advice, and it will help you.

Sovereign Court

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Childeric, The Shatterer wrote:
Craig1234 wrote:

How should I deal with this?

Thanks

Learn from it, and change up your tactics.

As a self-described fairly new DM, your players might be counting on you to play it by the book (especially if one or more of them have already been thru the adventure and know what to expect).

Change the fights to feature more opponents; roll randomly to determine which PC gets targeted; add difficult terrain/weather conditions to the encounter; If the villians know the fight is coming, have them pre-buff with spells or items; etc.

These are all tactics that you'll pick up with experience. For now, treat every encounter that they steamroll thru as an opportunity to adapt your tactics for the next encounter. Eventually, you'll figure out a weakness in the PCs gameplan that you can exploit when they least expect it.

The one thing I'd tell you not to do is turn it into a personal vendetta against the "tank" character. If suddenly every single enemy can bypass his AC or chooses to ignore him for squishier targets, it'll cause unwanted tension and drama.

Hmm.. one thing about 'tank' characters. They -should- be ignored. This isn't a computer game with silly aggro rules. If the NPC sees a highly armored person, the correct response, in most cases, IS to ignore them.

It's a flaw a lot of computer gamers have, thinking that 'tanking' as you see it in computer games, exists in RPGs. Most of the time, it doesn't. Unless the enemies are mindless, or have no acceptable way to get by the armored character... Ignore him. That's not bad role-play, or a bad GM. It's poor expectations on the PC's part. Intelligent NPCs (meaning have an int score, period, not meaning a high int score) are not computer programs. They aren't going to mindlessly attack someone they have a very low chance of hitting.


Not sure if it's much help, but in order to make your bad guys truly evil... and in turn making them challenging, have them go after the "weaker" members first. Maybe, grapple the mage, pin him (or her) and put a knife to his throat. I ran the Curse of the Crimson Throne and when the group fought a sea hag and her pet shark, they were much more than a match. She was able to drop the rogue when he was flanking her for sneak attack damage, but he was still alive. She told them to leave and they didn't, so with her first attack, she attacked the paladin and missed. Second attack which was only +6 I think, she hit the floating rogue and killed him, then tried to get away. She died, of course, but it was a significant enough battle that the party changed their tactics after that. I'm not saying to kill your players and I don't normally do that, but the hag was particularly ruthless. I'm just saying to make your bad guys fight dirty and use every party weakness they can exploit. If the wizard is bleeding out, that takes out the wizard and the cleric as they rush to save the wizard.


GM Rednal wrote:

For a 6th-level PC, an AC of 25 is pretty good, but not absurdly high. There's a good chart all about viability right here, and PCs who focus in an area generally want to be between blue and green in that area. (Note: The chart is not about how to make an optimal character - it's how to make a viable one.)

For help with making challenging encounters, I suggest reading this guide. It is full of outstanding advice, and it will help you.

These are really nice advice for beginners. I will be saving them to distribute as appropriate. Thank you.

Back on topic and for the original poster, Lanchester's Laws are worth learning when it comes to the CR system. This will help you think about how abilities that affect the action economy will affect your party. So let me start with a question: how much stronger is a 6 person party than a 4 person party?

Common sense says 150%, but no. It's more, though how much more depends on a choice in the model (traditionally, numbers count twice, and Lanchester's Law uses a square). The 6-person group are taking more actions, and thus have 150% of the offense. They also suck up much more damage or status effects and remain combat effective. Not only that, but multi-target buffs and abilities become even more effective.

You're in the opposite scenario. You have a three person group. This means you have to pay special care to abilities that take out a character from the action economy. In this scenario, the effect is much greater on the party than you would predict by linear math. A party that loses one PC to an effect out of a three person group is about 50% as effective. So keep that in mind as you think about the action economy.

Edit: Also, well, long-term removal from the action economy is rarely fun for a player. If the success of your game is "my players had fun," you may want to think about that.


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If you're trying to fight your player, I recommend jujitsu. It's surprisingly easy to set up a rear naked choke from something as innocuous as a handshake.

For challenging his character, I would recommend rebuilding a limited selection of encounters to target very specific mechanics. A well-built unchained monk, for example, could provide a reasonable challenge to a sunder-based character while leaving relatively few targets for the sunder itself. There's a minor encounter from Hell's Rebels for which I did exactly that. The original enemy was a pretty poorly built core monk with no archetype, but the rebuild at similar wealth ended up being a truly challenging but winnable encounter - they had to think outside the inquisitor's bow for once because it was suddenly 15' away and the inquisitor was prone.

A lot of encounter design is done out of the CRB, especially in an AP as old as RotRL. Pull in mechanics that are from outside sources in your rebuilds. Perhaps an enemy fighter becomes an archer that uses Disheartening Display to cause enemies to flee. Intimidate DCs are remarkably easy to hit and you can take the Dazzling Intimidation advanced weapon training to make a single character frightened as a full round action (move action intimidate, standard action Dazzling Display). Sending your sunder focused frontliner running for 2-4 rounds while the archer full attacks the other members of the party should drastically shake up typical tactics.

Other rebuild options: Gunslinger in place of a Rogue, updating all major encounter Rogues to Unchained Rogues, just one random Master Summoner, updating spell lists to use more problematic spells, Kensai Magus (monstrous AC) in place of a one-hand weapon fighter, etc.


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Also: action economy, action economy, action economy. Single BBEGs just don't work (and Aldern Foxglove is a particularly bad example) -- you need some other enemies who can attack around the tank, occupy other players, do various things, so players don't just have one player soak up attacks while the others annihilate the enemy, and don't just gangpile on one enemy till he dies very fast. Minions make the combat last faster; effective ones can attrit the PCs somehow and even ineffective ones can absorb attacks. PCs feel good about mowing down mooks and they can't just ignore them as long as the occasional mook has an impact (noticeable damage, trips or grapples or disarms a PC, casts a supporting spell or two.)

That said, keep in mind that save-or-suck abilities like, oh, ghast paralysis, can make for very swingy encounters -- one bad die roll and a PC is out of action, which makes a BIG difference in how the combat goes. (particularly, mooks + paralysis is a nasty combo since now the BBEG can paralyze someone and a mook then coup-de-graces them!) High-crit weapons can have similar effects (x3 crit with power attacking greataxe can really take down PCs, even at this level -- let's not talk about the ugly ugly stuff that x4 crit-fisher builds can do!)

Giving Aldern a rat swarm or three (maybe an undead one that fed off his flesh) might be an effective way of making it difficult for back-rank players to do things while they're being covered by biting rats...

Bigger bosses later on might want to think about this sort of thing -- have minion guards, have reach weapons + trip to stop PCs from getting in their faces, have supporting spellcasters to help protect them or harass the PCs, maybe an archer or two in the background to shoot at the PCs. It'll make for more memorable encounters, but you need to be careful not to overdo it; sometimes the dice WILL go against the PCs. (Net-wielding minions trying to capture the PCs might be fun... particularly if, say, the lamia or the giant has an Obviously Evil Altar in the background...)

Liberty's Edge

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Was this the encounter you just finished in ROTRL?

Sounds like a Sword and board fighter type. Heavy Shield, by level 6 likely a heavy armor.

High AC's are not hard to do for a character but they do make it hard to hit a character.

On average you'll want to boost base Attack to a +14 to hit your highest AC in the party.

Try this Encounter in coming chapter with this change

Justice Ironbriar

Stats:

Male Elf Cleric of Norgorber 6/ Oracle of Bones 2
NE Medium Humanoid (ELF)
Init: +6, Senses: Low-Light Vision, Perception +13
AC 26 Touch 20 Flat 19
HP 61
Fort: +6 Ref: +8 will: +10 ;+2 against Enchantment
DA: 1/DY: Evasion, Immune:Sleep
Melee: +1 Short Sword +14 (1d6/19-20)
Ranged: MWK Hand Crossbow +14 (1d4/19-20 Plus Poison)
Special Attacks: Channel Negative Energy 4/dy (DC 16, 3d6),
Bleeding Wounds (SU): 1
Spells Prepared - Per book
Str 8 Dex 22 Con 12 Int 14 Wis 15 Cha 13
Bab +5 CMB +4 CMD 22
Feats-
Dodge, Improved Channel, Selective Channel, toughness, Weapon Finesse

Skills-
Bluff +11, Diplomacy +7, Intimidate +8, Knowledge [local]+10
knowledge [Religion] +10, Linguistics +7, Perception +13, Stealth +17

Gear-
Add boot's a lucky Step [1/dy Evasion, only tends to work once per day, but a handy item to make up for the lack of rogue levels]

Combat
Before combat - same as before
First Round of Combat and every other round there after - Channel Negative energy, will save DC 16 for half, but even passing triggers the Bleeding Wounds effect from the
negative energy causing each round in combat the opponents to take 1 point of bleed damage until healed or they take the time to perform a DC 15 Heal check.

Summon monsters to keep the party busy as he Channels, if you want him to appear more cruel, you can change Selective Channel for Extra Channel and allow him to channel even on his summoned Allies.

Silver Crusade

Also you can add extra low cr enemies as minions.


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You could try talking to your player out of the game and tell him about the issues that you're having with his character (albeit in a non-accusatory way). Then ask that player if there's a way you can work with him to tone that character down a little while still keeping them true to the player's vision.

Most people are reasonable folks who want the everyone to have fun, I find.


Greg.Everham wrote:
Firstly, let's deal with the title. If you are trying to fight your players, you're doing it wrong.

Not really trying to fight them, just trying to make sure a challenging fight is actually challenging. I've got my role down pretty well, just having trouble with the tactics part.


Doomed Hero wrote:
You have to play to the strength of your villains.

Wish I had thought of that, it would have made things much more interesting.


The King In Yellow wrote:


Hmm.. one thing about 'tank' characters. They -should- be ignored. This isn't a computer game with silly aggro rules. If the NPC sees a highly armored person, the correct response, in most cases, IS to ignore them.

It's a flaw a lot of computer gamers have, thinking that 'tanking' as you see it in computer games, exists in RPGs. Most of the time, it doesn't. Unless the enemies are mindless, or have no acceptable way to get by the armored character... Ignore him. That's not bad role-play, or a bad GM. It's poor expectations on the PC's part. Intelligent NPCs (meaning have an int score, period, not meaning a high int score) are not computer programs. They aren't going to mindlessly attack someone they have a very low chance of hitting.

OK, I was in video games long before RPG, so I may be very off here. It's always seemed to me that you would logically go after the squishy one first, but it just seemed wrong somehow in actual practice.


When I ran Reign of Winter the group included a fighter whose AC was so good he was almost unhittable and a barbarian whose DR was so high few opponents could damage him. What did I do?

Nothing.

The players had fun and every now and again the AP threw up encounters that really challenged them.

You've only got three players. At some points they are likely to struggle. Push them too hard and you'll end up with a TPK. And unless you're happy to end the game there and then that may prove an even bigger headache than the fighter with the high AC.

So be a bit nastier with your villains, but I wouldn't make them tougher if I was you.


will have to give this rebuild a try


Wow, so much help, and so many great ideas. First, let me say thanks.
Second, here's what I think I learned from all this:

1) The tactics I used for Foxglove were just plain wrong
2) It is appropriate for the "boss" to go after anyone and everyone, not just the "tank"
3) If I have only 1 NPC, I should consider adding a couple of small helpers (rats, goblins, etc) who can spread the party's attention a bit.
4) If the "boss" has the ability, I should go ahead and try to sunder back at the PCs
5) I should feel free to rebuild the "boss" characters to be a challenge to the party

I should say, because its been mentioned a couple times, my games are always a success because we all do have a great time. I just want to be sure they don't turn stale or too safe. I've actually only ever killed one PC, and it was ok because she hated her character - so I gave her the ability to create a new one.

Silver Crusade

Mind in add monsters or npc as minions.

Try low cr with a bit of danger but easy to clean.

For example if you need touch attacks add 2 lvl 2-3 alchemist working for ironbriar.

Also simple things like terrain or a grease spell can put dificults to a heavy armored guy.

Try to put things to give flavor and fun to the combats, without make it so hard to be imposible or too much


When my character fought Aldern Foxglove back in 2011, my character was only 4th level. That was in the D&D 3.5 edition of Rise of the Runelords, adapted to Pathfinder rules, so perhaps the order of encounters changed in the Anniversary edition written for Pathfinder. But I doubt it.

Your PCs have more levels than the adventure expects. That makes the encounters too easy.

One solution is to rewrite the encounters to raise their CR by 2. I usually do that, but I am an experienced GM. Another solution is to skip some material and send them immediately against threats at their level. A third solution is to switch to a slow level progression, see Table 3-1 on page 30 of the Core Rulebook.

Reaching AC 25 at 6th level involves either heavy armor or special class abilities, such as a gunslinger's nimbleness. Heavy armor has weaknesses. It does not help against touch attacks, such as ray spells or a firearm at close range. And it messes with Dexterity- and Strength-based skills. I remember a slippery spiral ramp beneath Foxglove Manor. Our characters had several bad Acrobatics rolls and could not keep our footing, so we slid down to the water. A heavy-armor character has penalties to Acrobatics and Swim skill checks. That player will have a challenge.

And your goal is not to win against your players. Nor is it to fight against their characters. Instead, your job as a GM is to provide them with challenging encounters that they can win and that will make them feel like they earned those victories.


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A lot of bad advice in my opinion.

Sounds like there is nothing wrong with the PC and people are doing the standard thing of suggesting a player be punished and weaknesses be exploited.

Unless there is more to this he seems like a standard front line fighter type that took down a lesser melee foe higher CR or not.

If a challenge comes up that targets will saves or touch AC then he could suffer for it, but that's part of the game. Fights being tailored to exploit weaknesses is not.


There can even be narrative reasons for not going after the big warrior. Our DM had him targetting my extremely weak cleric, cause he was the bf of Foxgloves obsession.

Other than that as a DM I dont mind if the occasional fight is cut short. Last session swashbuckler got crit in the first round, knocked BBEG unconcious and coup de grace. Player felt amazing so all good. As long as it doesn't happen every fight enjoy :)


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If you really feel the need to fight your players, I suggest a controlled, legal environment with proper safety gear. Many gyms and most dojos are perfectly valid venues for sparring and practice, at whichever degree of seriousness you choose.

Then go back to the table and play Pathfinder once the swelling dies down so the PCs and NPCs can fight.


Adventure Paths typically don't throw impossible encounters at players, they do seem to linger on a softer touch when it comes to encounters.

Keep all the stats the same, but add more enemies; even doubling the number of enemies.

- Less homework to do because the stats are the same
- More action economy
- Difficult to focus fire
- Better and more complex tactics available

Alternatively, you could have enemies engage in one place and then 'call for help' and have other enemies arrive from another room or offscreen as the fight progresses. Let us say 3 thugs engage the PCs, but the PCs easily dispatch them, oh well 6 thugs came to help them. It's a great way to temper the difficulty on the fly if you feel you can never seem to get fights to be challenging.

Of course, you should let players steamroll enemies. It just feels so good as a player to basically get the D&D equivalent of A+ PERFECT RANK after a fight.

Sovereign Court

When combats don't seem to be going "right", consider what the enemy was trying to do in the combat.

Was he hunting down the PCs to kill them? Did the PCs corner him in his lair and give him no choice but to fight? Is he trying to go after an NPC but the PCs are unexpectedly in the way? Does he just want to cause misery?

If his goal is to kill all the PCs but there's someone he can't hit, then he should try to escape and come back later. Later as in, when the party is relaxing, the fighter is on the toilet with his pants down and his armor off.

Sane and intelligent opponents don't keep fighting if they can see they can't win. They can try to escape or surrender. Of course plenty of enemies are insane or mindless; that basically makes them easier enemies because the heroes can use that weakness to lure them into an unwinnable fight.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

OK. It looks like the next step is to discuss the next BBEG encounter your PCs will be in.

I played in a 5E conversion of RotRL, but that was a couple years ago, so I'm a little rusty. What is the next big combat encounter the PCs will have? What are your other PCs like? How can we help you with the next encounter?

In RotRL, I played a dwarf cleric with full plate and heavy shield, so I was the PC the DM had trouble hitting. He compensated by targeting my Dexterity saving throws (Reflex in PF), since I also had good Wisdom and Charisma saving throws (Will saves in PF).

You can also de-buff the PCs. A lot of conditions lower AC and/or make it easier to be hit, like entangled, fatigued, grappled, or prone.

For fun's sake, you probably don't want to apply conditions on the PCs that turn the players from participants into observers. Paralysis, hold person, petrification, even stunned and nauseated, SUCK. The player just sits there and watches his friends play while he just sits there. They do a lot of sitting. One house rule I instigated when I still played PF was allowing a new saving throw at the end of the character's turn; that way they at least have a chance of being able to do something.

If you HAVE to add a little something-something to a monster or NPC to make them tougher, in addition to adding the Advanced Template (which is super quick and easy), a slightly less quick and easy thing to so is add a few levels of Warrior. 3 levels of Warrior adds +1 CR, but it adds +3 BAB, +3d10 hit points, +3 Fort, +1 Reflex and Will, and a feat or two. Weapon Focus, Toughness, Iron Will, or Improved Initiative are nice and easy static feats for ease of use. More complex feats can make the encounter more complex and fun.


Alternately, Simple Class Templates are a lovely thing.

EDIT: Also, when deciding how to play a monster, there are two things to consider. First, many stronger creatures have a Tactics section that provides some guidance. Second, take a look at all of their options and abilities and assume the creature will want to use them if they can. That can help a lot for figuring out a good 'style'. ^^


NoTongue wrote:

A lot of bad advice in my opinion.

Sounds like there is nothing wrong with the PC and people are doing the standard thing of suggesting a player be punished and weaknesses be exploited.

Unless there is more to this he seems like a standard front line fighter type that took down a lesser melee foe higher CR or not.

If a challenge comes up that targets will saves or touch AC then he could suffer for it, but that's part of the game. Fights being tailored to exploit weaknesses is not.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that OP completely work to negate the PC. Providing punctuated challenges to standard tactics is very reasonable, particularly when it's a major encounter. The PC should certainly feel that their primary tactics generally work if they're effective tactics, but steamrolling every encounter with those tactics should not be a typical experience or even a desirable one really.

My advice before about rebuilding included one of the most satisfying and talked about encounters of the entire AP, where the PCs started pulling out every random trick and item to defeat the encounter. Horns of Blasting that they had previously found but not sold were suddenly popping out and other PCs than the inquisitor archer found themselves being the primary means of dealing with the opponent. The inquisitor started taking unusual steps (literally, with Slippers of Spider Climb) to go retrieve her bow. The players felt better about the encounter because it provided a reasonable challenge, but didn't feel unfair - everything could be dealt with, but it required something other than "buff the archer" for the first time in a long time. The flying telekineticist was effectively immune to that rebuilt monk's whole schtick, the cleric was relatively unscathed, but the frontline occultist and inquisitor archer really struggled, which was just a good experience for them.

A lot of APs have minimally varied encounters. In Hell's Rebels, there's a book-to-book transition with the same enemy type practically adjacent. One of them could have been differentiated, but they just weren't and it created a really odd scenario where the fights felt very same-y. There are also a lot of APs with "major" encounters that feel incredibly anticlimactic because they're just not built well - single opponents with tactics that are easily thwarted by the PCs, leaving a really poor feeling about the encounter. The final encounter of Hell's Rebels was completely obliterated before it could act. That's kind of a terrible feeling for the PCs, who had some reasonable struggles on the way up, but by and large felt like the encounters were weak unless I had jazzed them up with templates.

Like I said, the PC's tactics shouldn't be outright invalidated by rebuilding or retooling every encounter. They should feel successful with their character as long as it's well built. I agree that there's nothing out of the ordinary that I'm hearing about it, too. That said, players need to be challenged or the game rapidly becomes boring and tedious.


Serisan wrote:
NoTongue wrote:

A lot of bad advice in my opinion.

Sounds like there is nothing wrong with the PC and people are doing the standard thing of suggesting a player be punished and weaknesses be exploited.

Unless there is more to this he seems like a standard front line fighter type that took down a lesser melee foe higher CR or not.

If a challenge comes up that targets will saves or touch AC then he could suffer for it, but that's part of the game. Fights being tailored to exploit weaknesses is not.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that OP completely work to negate the PC. Providing punctuated challenges to standard tactics is very reasonable, particularly when it's a major encounter. The PC should certainly feel that their primary tactics generally work if they're effective tactics, but steamrolling every encounter with those tactics should not be a typical experience or even a desirable one really.

My advice before about rebuilding included one of the most satisfying and talked about encounters of the entire AP, where the PCs started pulling out every random trick and item to defeat the encounter. Horns of Blasting that they had previously found but not sold were suddenly popping out and other PCs than the inquisitor archer found themselves being the primary means of dealing with the opponent. The inquisitor started taking unusual steps (literally, with Slippers of Spider Climb) to go retrieve her bow. The players felt better about the encounter because it provided a reasonable challenge, but didn't feel unfair - everything could be dealt with, but it required something other than "buff the archer" for the first time in a long time. The flying telekineticist was effectively immune to that rebuilt monk's whole schtick, the cleric was relatively unscathed, but the frontline occultist and inquisitor archer really struggled, which was just a good experience for them.

A lot of APs have minimally varied encounters. In Hell's Rebels, there's a book-to-book transition with the...

Except they are. There are many comments saying to build encounters to exploit weaknesses.

That your pre-built fight worked out well is anecdotal. The DM himself admits they are new. They should wait until they are familiar with the system.


NoTongue wrote:
Except they are. There are many comments saying to build encounters to exploit weaknesses.

Yes, I am recommending that the GM target the high-AC character's weaknesses.

One player in my game had an 17th-level rogue/duelist whose AC was 44. He had put a lot of effort into achieving that. His character would lead the attack and distract the enemies while the other PCs set up battlefield control. God-like abilities are fine for high-level campaigns.

But Craig1234's 6th-level AC 25 PC is 6th level. PCs are vulnerable at that level. In fact, high-strength monsters such as ogres can reliably hit AC 25. An ogre barbarian could attack with a +1 Great Club +18/13 (2d8+16). My character fought those ogre barbarians in the next Rise of the Runelords module.

What will happen when the AC 25 character faces those ogres? Maybe he will have AC 27 by then, but it still won't be enough to defend him. He needs teamwork with the other PCs to survive.

It is best that the PC practices teamwork now, against opponents that do not deal 2d8+16 damage per hit. A single challenging foe like Aldern Foxglove would have been a good opportunity, but the PC's defense let him laugh at Foxglove's attacks. Without a high CR, the only way to put the PC at risk to show the merits of teamwork is by targetting his weaknesses. That has the further advantage that the other PCs won't be as weak against the foe and will clearly be able to save the PC.

The risk does not have to be death. The encounter could instead risk social embarrassment or risk messing up the party's current caper. But those encounters are more difficult for a GM to set up. Fortunately, the module has once such encounter coming up: the slippery spiral path. My party had to pull clumsy PCs out of the water and set up ropes to help them.

The other side of training teamwork is to let the high AC PC save his teammates. Give him some encounters were solid front line (meat shield is the standard term, but is derogatory) protects the party. Those are best set up by changing the terrain to create a defendable bottleneck rather than by changing the foes.


On the other hand, Craig1234 did say his game had "a party of 3 very very very experienced players." Maybe they are already experienced in teamwork. Yet unless the players want an entire campaign that is a cakewalk, the GM will have to increase the challenges to compensate for the players' skill. In my experience, experienced players often give suggestions to the GM how to make the game more fun. They usually ask for tougher challenges.

In this case, Craig1234 said, "PCs Greater Sunder is +13 against Foxgloves CMD of 27." This is a dedicated Sunder build, because Greater Sunder requires Improved Sunder, Power Attack, base attack bonus +6, and Str 13. Power Attack and Str 13 are standard, but this character had to spend a bonus combat feat at 6th level on Greater Sunder. And he has another +9 to CMB from sources beyond Improved Sunder and Greater Sunder, perhaps Str 20, a Bull's Strength potion, and a +2 weapon. This character is deliberately built to take advantage of one common NPC weakness, that modules usually give them only one melee weapon to limit the loot. Shouldn't Craig1234 do the same with his PCs' weaknesses?

Craig1234 also said, "The 3 party members are all level 6, giving an APL of 4.5." No, the math is wrong. CR and APL are on a logarithmic scale, base 1.414. A two-member party is -2 to their APL, a three-member party is -1 to their APL, a four-member party is straight APL, a five-member party is +0.5 to the APL, a six-member party is +1 to APL, a seven-member party is +1.5 to APL, and an eight-member party is +2 to APL. So three 6th-level party members give an APL of 5. And that is just the math, in real gameplay, higher level characters, both friends and foes, can have advantages that lower level characters can barely overcome, such as flying, invisibility, incorporeality, or high AC.


One key also, is environment. Don't always have fights in large, well-lit areas with solid floors.

Make them battle in anti-gravity, or in pitch dark, or during a thunderstorm. Have the floor be nothing but sticky mud or slippery oil. Have a hostile crowd or even better, hostages that need saving. Have multiple things that need done besides 'kill villain' (a door that needs opened or a switch that needs thrown).

Complicate things!


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@NoTongue
Just to be clear, I'm fairly novice at being a DM, however, my players are all very experienced and expert at taking advantage of my weaknesses as a DM. I don't blame them, the rule of the house is if you realize you did something stupid, you can't take it back, and it's only right that it applies to me too - it's how you learn. I am learning - rapidly - and am really just looking for a way to keep it interesting for them as I do.

As for an update, we got together and had a sessions, this one was the Ironbriar fight - and since they waited for the meeting, they ended up fighting all 13 cultists and Ironbriar in one massive fight. I applied what I learned from this thread and things went much better. The PCs were able to pretty much steamroll through the cultists, but the cultists made enough of a mess to turn the fight into a challenge, which logically it should have been - it was 14 to 3 after all. No one came near to death, but they all took some pretty big hits and when it was over they were both relieved and happy with how the fight went - a win in my book. thank you all for the help, and thank you Michael Tally for the Ironbriar rebuild, it gave me some tricks that really caught the PCs offguard.


Craig1234 wrote:
The King In Yellow wrote:


Hmm.. one thing about 'tank' characters. They -should- be ignored. This isn't a computer game with silly aggro rules. If the NPC sees a highly armored person, the correct response, in most cases, IS to ignore them.

It's a flaw a lot of computer gamers have, thinking that 'tanking' as you see it in computer games, exists in RPGs. Most of the time, it doesn't. Unless the enemies are mindless, or have no acceptable way to get by the armored character... Ignore him. That's not bad role-play, or a bad GM. It's poor expectations on the PC's part. Intelligent NPCs (meaning have an int score, period, not meaning a high int score) are not computer programs. They aren't going to mindlessly attack someone they have a very low chance of hitting.

OK, I was in video games long before RPG, so I may be very off here. It's always seemed to me that you would logically go after the squishy one first, but it just seemed wrong somehow in actual practice.

In a vacuum, you would go for the highest priority target first (often the one whose impact is fastest to reduce). This is why good tanks aren't just bulky on their own, but have the ability to reduce damage for their less sturdy teammates. Sometimes that's being physically in the way, sometimes it's preventing attacks from hitting, sometimes it's being an unignorable threat on your own. It is worth pointing out that Pathfinder does have flat-out aggro redirection, of both the general but not completely reliable and the conditional but no-save (look for Meek Facade) varieties.


One of the other things that you can do to slow your players down a bit is to add in some swarms. They don't care how high the PC's armour class gets, particularly if they've got the PC boxed in.

Best wishes!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Letting the PC with the high AC shrug off a ton of attacks and really shine is also really fun for the player, I bet.

A small party's biggest challenge is action economy, so throwing a ton of NPCs at them is the way to go. If 13 NPCs get 2 attacks each, at least one is going to be a crit threat, right?

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