Mitigating Enervation Spam


Advice

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So here's my concerns with Enervation:

1, it stacks (as far as I can tell)

2, it attacks touch AC rather than normal AC

3, saving throws and HP are completely irrelevant

Obviously many creatures at high end have immunity to level drain -- but I'd rather not go that route. Is there a way to mitigate creatures with otherwise extremely good defenses from being drained to death from Enervation spam?


Spell resistance is pretty common, so that should keep enervation from being too potent. Touch AC is low, but full casters aren't likely to have high to hit regardless. There's also issues of shooting into combat and through allies the combination of which gives a -8 to hit. If your caster has built their character's feat selection around getting through that spell resistance and hitting with their rays, then they're giving up quite a bit of utility in other areas to do so. The end result being they slowly chip away at major threats just like every other combat focused character.

In my experience, enervation is one of those things that looks really bad in theory, but ends up being not much of a problem during actual play.


Enervation spam requires multiple castings by definition. Unless there are multiple wizards/sorcerers in the party this means the enemy has a round or two before they're drained to uselessness. Depending on the situation they may run for it or blow their most impressive attack immediately.

Also miss chances, mirror images etc are highly effective against ranged touch attacks. PC spellcasters may save their enervation spells rather than risk wasting the 4th+ level spell slots they'd be using on enervations if they can see that the enemy has such defences.


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I'm with ErichAD here. It's a 4th level spell, so your caster is at least 7th level. It causes on average 2.5 negative levels on a hit. Meanwhile, a spectre is a CR 7 undead, incorporeal monster that drains 2 levels on a successful hit.

There's nothing out of line here for the character/spell level. It takes multiple hits to drain something to death, and most combat won't last that long before something else kills the target. Most of the time it's effectively just a single-target debuff.


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Also not permanent, maximum drain duration 15 hours or less. Any negative levels will fade away without further intervention (compared to the typical undead level draining attack)

Range is close, topping out at 75ft at 20th level sans any feats to boost. That doesn't even get to the second range increment for an archer. Single target as well compared to the full attack potential of an equal level archer.

Death Ward offers total protection. Restoration will remove all levels drained with a single use.

And like ErichAD my play experience (in a campaign where all necromancy/negative energy use was enhanced no less) found it effective but in no way an overpowering spell.

In short I wouldn't be concerned about the spell.


ready action to fire caster level 9+ magic missiles to interfere with the casting?
can use fireball and other stuff as well depend how good the caster is. silence is also an option, very few are set for non verbal casting.
or just ready action to counter spell with dispel.


ErichAD wrote:
If your caster has built their character's feat selection around getting through that spell resistance and hitting with their rays

Elaborate?

Seems everyone would want to get through spell resistance (or nearly everyone) and hitting with rays would require 2 feats, worst case...which I've been told casters have to spare.

Also, big enough targets negate those penalties.

ErichAD wrote:
The end result being they slowly chip away at major threats just like every other combat focused character.

No, very much unlike every other combat focused character. With rare exceptions, someone is as effective at 1 HP as they are at full HP. That's very different from being progressively crippled by Enervation.

ErichAD wrote:
In my experience, enervation is one of those things that looks really bad in theory, but ends up being not much of a problem during actual play.

In my experience it is currently causing problems.

That said, I am trying to avoid the rocket tag that exists in Pathfinder, meaning combats last longer and defenses matter more. If every fight was 2-3 rounds then this wouldn't be a problem.

But if a boss fight is expected to take, say, 6-8 rounds then the boss having -10 AB/saves from round 4 on (from 4 Enervates) is a significant issue.

John Mechalas wrote:
Meanwhile, a spectre is a CR 7 undead, incorporeal monster that drains 2 levels on a successful hit.

NPCs (and especially monsters) don't follow the same rules as NPCs, so let's please not compare them in this context.

Kayerloth wrote:
Death Ward offers total protection. Restoration will remove all levels drained with a single use.

A, like I said in the OP: "Obviously many creatures at high end have immunity to level drain -- but I'd rather not go that route."

I could just make sure everyone has Death Ward ready or give them immunity (like all high end unique creatures seem to have) but I'm looking for other options if they exist.

B, Restoration takes 3 rounds to cast -- even in the longer fights I run that's way too long to recover.


Restoration can be a potion (move to ready or swift in a wrist sheath, standard to drink) to save on the action economy, though both ready and drink provoke AoOs.


Balkoth wrote:

In my experience it is currently causing problems.

That said, I am trying to avoid the rocket tag that exists in Pathfinder, meaning combats last longer and defenses matter more. If every fight was 2-3 rounds then this wouldn't be a problem.

But if a boss fight is expected to take, say, 6-8 rounds then the boss having -10 AB/saves from round 4 on (from 4 Enervates) is a significant issue.

I guess I'd like to hear more about how it's currently causing problems. To enervation spam something to death, you pretty much need multiple casters or multiple rounds (or some combination of the two), because 2.5 levels/round on average is not a lot. And that assumes the target is being hit 100% of the time and the caster is getting through SR.

Do you have casters spending all their 4th level slots on Enervation or something? Is this their tactic in every fight?

Shadow Lodge

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Balkoth wrote:

In my experience it is currently causing problems.

That said, I am trying to avoid the rocket tag that exists in Pathfinder, meaning combats last longer and defenses matter more. If every fight was 2-3 rounds then this wouldn't be a problem.

But if a boss fight is expected to take, say, 6-8 rounds then the boss having -10 AB/saves from round 4 on (from 4 Enervates) is a significant issue.

Here's your problem: You are somehow playing a different game.

How are you getting fights to last this long?


Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Balkoth wrote:

In my experience it is currently causing problems.

That said, I am trying to avoid the rocket tag that exists in Pathfinder, meaning combats last longer and defenses matter more. If every fight was 2-3 rounds then this wouldn't be a problem.

But if a boss fight is expected to take, say, 6-8 rounds then the boss having -10 AB/saves from round 4 on (from 4 Enervates) is a significant issue.

Here's your problem: You are somehow playing a different game.

How are you getting fights to last this long?

I can build fights that can, and have, run the party barbarian out of rage. I tend to use them rarely, but they encourage players to reconsider some of their build choices.

Such encounters would usually be unaffected by things like enervation by their very nature.

Shadow Lodge

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Volkard Abendroth wrote:
Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Balkoth wrote:

In my experience it is currently causing problems.

That said, I am trying to avoid the rocket tag that exists in Pathfinder, meaning combats last longer and defenses matter more. If every fight was 2-3 rounds then this wouldn't be a problem.

But if a boss fight is expected to take, say, 6-8 rounds then the boss having -10 AB/saves from round 4 on (from 4 Enervates) is a significant issue.

Here's your problem: You are somehow playing a different game.

How are you getting fights to last this long?

I can build fights that can, and have, run the party barbarian out of rage. I tend to use them rarely, but they encourage players to reconsider some of their build choices.

Such encounters would usually be unaffected by things like enervation by their very nature.

What I'm getting from the OP is:
  • The PCs are standing 'toe to toe' with the BBEG for 6-8 rounds (or least close enough that Enervation spam is being used),
  • Nothing else the PCs are doing is bringing the fight to a quick conclusion (no 'Save or Die / Be Incapacitated' spells, no full attacks from Melee or Archers), and
  • This is 'standard' for a boss fight.
It sounds like the GM has changed some of the 'basic assumptions' for the game, and without knowing what these changes are, it's really hard to give useful advice.


avr wrote:
Restoration can be a potion (move to ready or swift in a wrist sheath, standard to drink) to save on the action economy, though both ready and drink provoke AoOs.

It's also a level 4 spell, so no go on potions.

John Mechalas wrote:
because 2.5 levels/round on average is not a lot.

If the enemy hits you 50% of the time, -5 levels cuts their damage in half (25% hit chance). That is a lot.

Taja the Barbarian wrote:

What I'm getting from the OP is:

1. The PCs are standing 'toe to toe' with the BBEG for 6-8 rounds (or least close enough that Enervation spam is being used)

2. Nothing else the PCs are doing is bringing the fight to a quick conclusion (no 'Save or Die / Be Incapacitated' spells, no full attacks from Melee or Archers), and

3. This is 'standard' for a boss fight.

4. It sounds like the GM has changed some of the 'basic assumptions' for the game, and without knowing what these changes are, it's really hard to give useful advice.

(technically out of order)

4. I've been balancing around what players actually do. This means, among other things, that I've created my own monster creation table that so far has been diverging considerably from the default one as players advance in level. RAW is level 12 PC with PC wealth is a CR12 creature...but that's nowhere close to the reality.

I've also added some house rules (mostly buffs for weaker classes/options), though one that is more relevant here is basically the Hold Person breaking free option applied to all spells...but at a -2 penalty and only for 3 rounds. Casters do get more spells per day to account for that. But it makes it less likely that one failed save ends the fight.

Oh, and maximized HP (or the basic equivalent).

1. Correct. Sometimes longer -- think last boss fight actually ended round 11 or 12.

2. Oh there are definitely full attacks from characters. Most recent boss for the six level 11 PCs just had 1200 HP...and summoned a bunch of minions. Other bosses could siphon life from minions, others had rituals protecting them, it varies. None of this is just "stand there and trade full attacks for 6 rounds."

If this was a "Patchwerk" boss fight the boss would probably have like 2000+ HP or something and deal more raw damage. Back at level 6 the end boss had 273 HP and that's with even more minions (as a percentage of the boss fight) than the recent one.

Wouldn't be surprised if high levels had bosses with 5,000-10,000+ HP at the rate we're going (basically quadrupled in 5 levels).

Also, bosses tend to have good saves and they try to get back into the fight per the above houserule (again, basically a nerfed version of the Hold Person break free rule).

3. Sorta. Some boss fights have just been more standard fights, but harder. Others are using NPCs built with default rules. Others have been custom made.


The value in most spell casters comes from things that don't have a save and/or don't need to penetrate spell resistance. Spells like haste and summoning spells both boost the party's action economy without giving the enemy a saving throw. There's also spells that block vision(mist spells), prevent movement(walls/pits) and generally lock the enemy down, and those don't involve either hitting the target or penetrating spell resistance. These spells are also even more valuable the longer the combat lasts, so a 6-8 round combat isn't going to make these less valuable than a slowly increasing negative modifier. As a bonus, they don't take up all of your non-bonus 4th level spell slots on one target.

By trying to get touch attacks and spell resistance handled, you are delaying caster level bumps and saving throw bumps as well as improvements on summoned monster ability and variety. I wouldn't call these feats wasted, or a build based on touch attacks to be overly weak, but it loses quite a bit of versatility for a trick that won't work in many encounters and relies on many successful rolls per action.

That said, if you can count on the caster hitting, bypassing spell resistance, and the target failing their save consistently enough that 4 rounds is 10 negative levels, you will need to figure something out before disintegrate becomes available to the player.


Death ward.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

What I'm reading is "my players have found a way to end my ponderously long encounters and I don't like it."


I will agree that encounters against a single enemy that last more than 5 rounds are pretty unusual in Pathfinder. My groups combat against a single enemy are usually 3 rounds tops.

Enervation is a great debuff tool, but if you enemy is succumbing to it being used over and over again...I agree that your fights might be lasting too long.

For what it's worth, the easiest thing to stop spam of enervation is to not have the BBEG fight along, and instead have some archers (or whatever kind of ranged attacker is appropriate) be present and harass the casters. If you add 6 archers at party level -3 they're not a significant threat to the party, but if they all take readied actions to shoot the caster when he start casting, chances are he will lose that spell until his allies manage to get rid of them. This gives you the ability have your BBEG show off for bit, without get spammed until the party has "earned it" but getting rid of the ancillary threat.

Honestly, the biggest problem with Pathfinder is that boss fights should never be 1 enemy versus a party of 4. Honestly, I think the best fights are when the party is slightly outnumbered with most of them being slightly weaker than the party, and 1 that is the "boss".


Sorry, I do mostly take out my own house rules but forgot with the restoration potions.

On house rules - HP in the thousands?!? Vs. an 11th level party?This does explain why the players are trying for things other than HP damage so hard. Save spamming will be next, I'm sure.


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You have:

1. Encounters lasting 6+ rounds, some going as high as 11

2. With multiple minions helping during boss fights

3. Where bosses have hundreds if not thousands of hit points

4. Using house rules to do stuff like minimize SoD/SoS effects

In my humble opinion, you have over-corrected your combat encounters to avoid rocket tag, and now they are a slog. Your players are trying to find ways to adapt to this situation and you are looking to shut them down.

I'd step back at this point and ask your players what they want from the game. Do they want even harder encounters? Even longer encounters? Are they happy right now? Before you take further steps to tune this I'd make real sure they aren't going to walk away when you do.

If they really are asking you to dial up the difficulty even more, I wouldn't try to target individual spells because that is a losing game in the long run. There will always be a spell that will cause you trouble that players can spam. Instead, tune the thing the spell needs to work. In the case of enervation it's TAC and targeting. To deal with that, add concealment and vision-blocking terrain (not magic, but physical blocks). The best way to add protection to a low-AC target is to add a % miss chance.

But, dude, make sure your players are having fun right now, first. Because your table is playing a very different game.


ErichAD wrote:
By trying to get touch attacks and spell resistance handled, you are delaying caster level bumps and saving throw bumps as well as improvements on summoned monster ability and variety.

What exactly would they be taking instead of the four feats in question?

Though again, the PBS/Precise Shot feats only eliminate a -4 AB penalty.

ErichAD wrote:
That said, if you can count on the caster hitting, bypassing spell resistance, and the target failing their save consistently enough that 4 rounds is 10 negative levels, you will need to figure something out before disintegrate becomes available to the player.

What save? If Enervation has a save we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Anguish wrote:
What I'm reading is "my players have found a way to end my ponderously long encounters and I don't like it."

That's nice.

They still talk fondly about the end boss of level 6 who had 273 HP and self-healing (and who was undead and thus would have been immune to this stuff if he had been a higher level boss encounter), but hey, clearly you know better than they do.

Claxon wrote:
If you add 6 archers at party level -3 they're not a significant threat to the party, but if they all take readied actions to shoot the caster when he start casting, chances are he will lose that spell until his allies manage to get rid of them.

So now we're specifically having to design around one particular type of spell, to be clear. And having to target that particular caster while ignoring the others.

avr wrote:
On house rules - HP in the thousands?!? Vs. an 11th level party?This does explain why the players are trying for things other than HP damage so hard. Save spamming will be next, I'm sure.

When the Unchained Monk is doing 80ish damage per hit 5-6 times per round...yeah?

That said, the party is definitely not mainly trying for non-HP damage. A Cleric just switched to an Inquisitor in fact. The Oracle likes to summon creatures and buff the party. The Sorcerer just hits stuff with lightning. And the Arcanist's main shtick is polymorphing other people as a Brown Fur Transmuter, also likes to Teleport/Dimension Door people around in combat and does other buffs like Barkskin and Heroism (pre-combat).

The Arcanist only started using Enervation once a bunch of other things were already done in combat, it's never been his primary tactic.

John Mechalas wrote:
The best way to add protection to a low-AC target is to add a % miss chance.

That applies to all attacks, not just the Enervations.

Also, something can have very high AC with very low touch AC (there are literally monsters with 40 normal AC and 0 touch AC -- not a typo).


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Balkoth wrote:
Anguish wrote:
What I'm reading is "my players have found a way to end my ponderously long encounters and I don't like it."

That's nice.

They still talk fondly about the end boss of level 6 who had 273 HP and self-healing (and who was undead and thus would have been immune to this stuff if he had been a higher level boss encounter), but hey, clearly you know better than they do.

It's a legitimate statement.

To be clear, when you come to the forums with an issue, there's a general assumption that we are all playing the game within a certain range of parameters that are loosely referred to as "typical". In a "typical" game, there are around three to four challenging encounters per adventuring day, each one lasting about 3 to 4 rounds and boss fights maybe one or two longer. Rules are RAW. PC's are lightly optimized. Maybe there's one min-maxer. "Typical" GM issues are "how do I prevent fights from ending in 1-2 rounds?" and "How do I stretch my boss fights out past 3-4?"

People are going to respond to your issues using those assumptions unless you say otherwise. So when you open with "how do I avoid enervation spam?" you shouldn't be surprised when the community comes back to you with "it's not a problem". Because, in the vast majority of games, namely those within the parameters above, it's not a problem. Why? Because spamming a spell is a legitimate tactic, but it comes at the cost of flexibility. Players can't sustain that.

You are way, way outside the band of typical play. And you didn't tell us any of this until we were a dozen posts deep in the thread.

What I am saying here is: help us help you. There are a lot of ways to counter player tactics. But the first question is always going to be, are your players having fun?

It would really help to know if your players are asking for longer fights and harder encounters. Because if you have an arcanist that is using this as a tactic regularly enough that you think it's a problem, maybe that's a sign of a deeper problem. If this is a legit request from the players, "GM, make our encounters harder and make them last longer", or "Our arcanist is ending fights too fast, please do something", then great! There are a lot of ways to do that. Nerfing one specific spell is one of the least efficient solutions, though...because tomorrow it will be a different spell.

But if you're the only one that is unhappy with how combat is going? Then you need to step back because there is a fine line between challenging your players and being "that GM" which always tries to find a way to neutralize what players are doing. That's what people are trying to get a sense for, because your details about your game table put up a lot of little red flags.


After seeing posts that point out that you BBEG has HP in the thousands it's clear what the problem is.

You're trying to house rule the BBEG into being a more significant threat against the sizeable damage of an entire party.

The thing is you keep trading one problem for the next looking to make your BBEG challenging.

Honestly, I implore you to change your tactics.

Typically my group is pretty optimized, so I either keep them 2 to 3 levels behind where Adventure Paths place them (starting around level 10) or (more commonly) I add the advanced simple template to the enemy and run with maximized HP (max HP per hit die). And I never have boss battle be the main BBEG alone. I always try to run them with a number of minions that slightly outnumber the party.

This makes the combat more challenging without having to do silly things like buff their HP to infinity.

You're players are very quietly telling you they don't like your tactics, not directly. But by trying to debuff your BBEG so they're not scary they're telling you they don't like playing the game of "whittle down the thousands of HP while taking tons of damage each round".


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Balkoth wrote:
Anguish wrote:
What I'm reading is "my players have found a way to end my ponderously long encounters and I don't like it."

That's nice.

They still talk fondly about the end boss of level 6 who had 273 HP and self-healing (and who was undead and thus would have been immune to this stuff if he had been a higher level boss encounter), but hey, clearly you know better than they do.

I hear you. I have two responses for you though.

First, I'm sure that my players will be talking "fondly" years from now of the encounter they did four times Friday to finally beat a monster with fast healing and very serious defenses (and offense). Something like five hours of their lives... one monster. They were speaking "fondly" as they left my house; "well, at least we can move on to the next room now."

Point is, I get it that different play groups have different styles and likes. You - and yours - are not wrong. Unusual, but absolutely not wrong.

Second - and here's the kicker - your players wouldn't be using enervation spam if they didn't want to. They do want to. People do the things that get them the results they want. (With obvious irrelevant exceptions of scale, such as overpopulation of the planet.) Your players are doing a thing, and they're doing it because it ends the encounters. So please, understand that while I respect your right to have the playstyle you prefer, I have every reason to suspect your players aren't quite as into it as you are. They are still trying to escalate the arms-race and address what you've done to make encounters last longer. That strikes me as a message.


Balkoth wrote:
Claxon wrote:
If you add 6 archers at party level -3 they're not a significant threat to the party, but if they all take readied actions to shoot the caster when he start casting, chances are he will lose that spell until his allies manage to get rid of them.
So now we're specifically having to design around one particular type of spell, to be clear. And having to target that particular caster while ignoring the others.

Nah man. You're not designing around one spell.

You're having your world respond to what it's like to live in a universe with spell casters who wield incredible power, but are susceptible to having their spells disrupted if they take damage while casting. The tactic I proposed works against all spell casters equally, regardless of what spell I cast.

And you don't even necessarily need characters dedicated to archery, they just need to start combat with ranged weapons and enough of them that they're reasonably likely to get a hit and force a check.

But anyways, your combats are so out of line with "typical" that I'm not even sure this advice will help.

You're players are sending you a message by spamming enervation. They want to end the encounter in the most effective way they can while suffering minimal damage.

I think you and your players might not be on the same page for what is desired in combat.


We once killed a boss of cr+5 to the group in two rounds suffice to say the dm stopped using single creature boss encounters after that.


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If I understand correctly, you've made house rules that beef up certain NPC defenses in an effort to extend combats involving said NPCs, but now you've noticed that there are ways to circumvent the specific defenses you've increased. Does that sound right? If that's the case, why not simply house rule an increase in those defenses as well? You've already made bosses with 5x to 10x the expected hit point total, so why not have some sort of (probably non-literal) ablative barrier protecting them from negative levels?

Some other intrepid GMs on this forum suggested using hero/fate points for this sort of thing. Important bosses, especially recurring ones, might have a finite number of hero/fate points that they can expend to negate successful save-or-die/save-or-suck effects. I can't say that I've tried it, but it might work for you if your players are on-board with that sort of thing.


John Mechalas wrote:
Why? Because spamming a spell is a legitimate tactic, but it comes at the cost of flexibility. Players can't sustain that.

Define sustain here? Seems like a party with a few wizards/sorcerers/arcanists could easily cast this spell a few times and basically get a guaranteed kill on anything lacking high touch AC, negative level immunity, or spell resistance (which is a large chunk of enemies) without draining significant resources.

The fact that I've been running campaigns for groups of six does skew that a bit since more likely to have multiple casters, but 3-6 is apparently a common group size.

You are way, way outside the band of typical play. And you didn't tell us any of this until we were a dozen posts deep in the thread.

John Mechalas wrote:
But the first question is always going to be, are your players having fun?

I've pulled them aside individually every few months to ask everyone that. Last time I asked five out of six people said yes, sixth was frustrated with a few things. Most or all of those have been resolved, as far as I can tell, and he seems much happier.

John Mechalas wrote:
It would really help to know if your players are asking for longer fights and harder encounters. Because if you have an arcanist that is using this as a tactic regularly enough that you think it's a problem, maybe that's a sign of a deeper problem.

He literally used it on one fight so far, but I can see already how it'd become a pattern -- he's a capable player and goes for things that are effective.

Also, after the boss fight he sent me an angry message:

"i see no reason why he even had to run, he could have just killed us. He had the upper hand on us. I get it if you dont want another TPK but still....It feels like you are pulling punches which I am fine with but I am rather you make that clear going forward that is how the game is going to be run."

Ironically I wasn't trying to pull punches -- the boss was down to 100 HP, I didn't think he'd survive another round, and the players gave him an opening to escape, so I had him due to.

...but it was late and we had been playing for 5ish hours, so I missed that the players also left an opening to attack the back line and very likely wipe the party -- was more concerned with the boss trying to survive than killing the party.

So we simulated how it might have played out and we were both right -- good odds the boss could have killed the party at that point (barely), but also reasonable odds for the boss to die. I assured him that I wasn't trying to coddle the party and instead just didn't see it and he seemed satisfied.

Anguish wrote:
Second - and here's the kicker - your players wouldn't be using enervation spam if they didn't want to. They do want to.

Nah, his primary goal is to polymorph party members (Brown Fur Transmuter) and reposition them with Teleport/Dimension Door. Also likes Stinking Clouds, Heroism, Invisibility Sphere.

He just literally had nothing to attack hit point damage or keep buffing the party so after several rounds he was at the point of "Hmm...what now?" and decided to try Enervate. It was like his 6th option during the fight or something...but in retrospect would have been basically the best thing he could do all fight. Doesn't even know Magic Missile!

Anguish wrote:
They are still trying to escalate the arms-race and address what you've done to make encounters last longer. That strikes me as a message.

2-3 of the players will always try to escalate the arms-race. I figure eventually we'll plateau and I can balance around that once I see where the summit is.

blahpers wrote:
If I understand correctly, you've made house rules that beef up certain NPC defenses in an effort to extend combats involving said NPCs, but now you've noticed that there are ways to circumvent the specific defenses you've increased. Does that sound right?

Aptly put (though for the record HP/saves/AC are pretty universal defenses).

blahpers wrote:
If that's the case, why not simply house rule an increase in those defenses as well? You've already made bosses with 5x to 10x the expected hit point total, so why not have some sort of (probably non-literal) ablative barrier protecting them from negative levels?

Well, let's imagine I did something like that and said the first 10 negative levels were absorbed or something.

A, the first four casts will now do nothing at all and if the caster then died mid-fight would have contributed nothing (unlike HP damage which is part of a common pool)

B, this encourages even more getting multiple people to spam the spell to get through the barrier faster

If you've played Divinity Original Sin 2, you'll have seen this problem in the way they handle Magic and Physical armor -- it's far more efficient to focus one type of attacks on an enemy than have to deplete each source of armor.

C, this is also a lot harder to balance -- number too low and get the same result. Number too high and might as well make the boss immune.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea and the way you're thinking -- but I'm not sure that's the right approach. Unless you're seeing something I'm not.

blahpers wrote:
Some other intrepid GMs on this forum suggested using hero/fate points for this sort of thing. Important bosses, especially recurring ones, might have a finite number of hero/fate points that they can expend to negate successful save-or-die/save-or-suck effects. I can't say that I've tried it, but it might work for you if your players are on-board with that sort of thing.

I've had my players suggest that to me, actually.

...of course Enervate doesn't allow a saving throw, which is the problem in the first place.


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Balkoth wrote:
Define sustain here? Seems like a party with a few wizards/sorcerers/arcanists could easily cast this spell a few times and basically get a guaranteed kill on anything lacking high touch AC, negative level immunity, or spell resistance (which is a large chunk of enemies) without draining significant resources.

It all comes down to spells/day, and variety of encounters. How do I spam enervation to end fights quickly? That's easy: I just throw enervation, and even use up higher level spell slots in order to do it if I have to.

But then what happens if I need to teleport the party somewhere and I used up my 5th level spell slots memorizing a 4th level spell? Or I used my higher level sorcerer spell slots to cast a lower level spell? What if I need my 4th level spell slots for something else, like Arcane Eye or Scrying? Dimension Door? Wall of Fire? Globe of Invulnerability? Secure Shelter? etc.

From the snippets you are giving here, it sounds like this is a very combat-heavy game and the players are in it for the fights. The typical way to deal with spell spam is to send a variety of encounters at the party, including non-combat ones, so that the same tactic doesn't apply to every fight. There's nothing wrong with what the players are doing. They way from keeping it from being a problem is to have fights where other spells and tactics are needed. Things that force players to deal with unfavorable conditions. High winds (or low ceilings) to interfere with flying, obstacles on the ground that block vision, extremes in temperature, water, loud sounds that have a potential to cause deafness, and so on.

In short, force players to use other spells to cope with conditions for a few rounds. Force the casters to buff and debuff before they can move on to SoD and SoS.

Also, turnabout is fair play. :) If the players employ a tactic excessively, have opponents do the same thing to them.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

If you want to nerf enervation, just make a house rule that it takes 2 negative levels to get the effects of 1 (in this case, round up). So if they roll a 1 or a 2 on enervation, it is one negative level, a 3 or a 4 gets 2. Then each spell still 'counts' and debuffs the enemy, but it isn't as severe.

That said, as others have mentioned, there are going to be other spells that the players will find to overcome the environment you have created, and you will probably need to add more house rules to maintain the balance you are trying to get. Changing the game so radically is going to continue to have unanticipated side effects.


Dave Justus wrote:
That said, as others have mentioned, there are going to be other spells that the players will find to overcome the environment you have created, and you will probably need to add more house rules to maintain the balance you are trying to get. Changing the game so radically is going to continue to have unanticipated side effects.

Keeping the game as is has unanticipated side effects too. The only difference is that enough people have played it long enough to scout the terrain. Balkoth is traversing uncharted territory. Here there be lions!

Shadow Lodge

Dave Justus wrote:
If you want to nerf enervation, just make a house rule that it takes 2 negative levels to get the effects of 1 (in this case, round up). So if they roll a 1 or a 2 on enervation, it is one negative level, a 3 or a 4 gets 2. Then each spell still 'counts' and debuffs the enemy, but it isn't as severe.

I doubt this would work: Given the length of the fights, if spamming enervation is a good tactic, spamming 'enervation/2' is probably still decent. You'd probably have to make the spell non-stacking to stop spam, at which point you might as well remove it from the game entirely...

It sounds like the casters in this campaign are playing more of a support role (buffing, polymorphing, relocating, summons, etc) and I'm wondering if they have any other valid option:

  • Direct Damage seems to be out of the question (how many Harm spells would it take to down a boss if it failed every save (and someone else was around to do the last hp of damage)?)
  • I'm guessing the bosses make their saving throws nearly all the time, or someone would try hold monster spam or something along those lines.


Part of the issue is even if the players enjoy a long hard fought battle it is still in their interest to make the fight use the least resources as possible so as to have enough umph to get through the next fight.

Another crack at mitigation
1) Use boss creatures that are immune or even benefit from being struck by negative energy -- Undead and Constructs.
2) Besides Death Ward, Spell Immunity and Greater Spell Immunity, Spell Turning, Contigency, Moment of Prescience, Mislead, Project Image and probably a bunch of others outside my knowledge of PF.
3) Miss Chances, Cover and Concealment.
4) House rule -> cap the max number of levels to some amount, Enervate stacks until you hit this amount (a variant to reducing the number of negative levels applied per hit). Maybe the caster can't apply more negative levels than own HD or 1/2 HD etc..
5) Disinformation - make the PCs think they are fighting something that would be immune. Use any of several Illusion spells and or Disguise so they think the creature is Undead or a Construct.
6) DM created creature or ability that while not immune does something that makes using Enervation less than ideal. The creature absorbs Ray attacks, Reflects them back or spawns additional creatures when struck etc..
7) Magic Items - Rod of Absorption, Scarab of Protection or invent one.
8) Wild Magic or Dead Magic area(s).
9) Don't use a single boss ... The Slave Lords, for instance, didn't face the characters alone they did so as a group so the party was effectively fighting a bunch of bosses at once.
10) Don't allow the PCs to fight only a few battles in a day. Don't just stop at not allowing the 15 minute adventuring day ... press them hard even after they've blown their spells/day then have the boss (bosses?) show up.
11) More tweaking of the existing house rules. Dial back the HP scaling it's the primary cause of the PCs trying alternate methods to neuter the boss and find ways to beef up the boss without turning him into a 'sack of HP' which encourages things like level or ability damage/drain instead of hp removal. They are going to hit the boss at his weak point ... right now that weak point is not his HP total but his HD total (and probably followed by his Con and other Ability score values).


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Balkoth wrote:


When the Unchained Monk is doing 80ish damage per hit 5-6 times per round...yeah?

This is why people say you over corrected your system.

You aren’t playing pathfinder anymore.

You’re playing some Frankenstein’s monster tweaked out thing that every assumption we have is wrong about.

You give us one detail, enervate is causing a problem.

We know from basic maths, common experience and having brains in our heads, that it shouldn’t be, unless something more than one character casting enervate is going on.

Then you add in that opponents have 2000 health at level 11 and we think. Well that’s dumb, of course they’re using enervate you game sounds awful.

Then you tell us level 11 martial characters are doing 280 damage a turn as a standard.

Now we know, you are not playing pathfinder and again it stops making sense that enervate is a problem again, because it’s inline with that martial you just told us about.

You honestly seem to exist is a world that runs parallel to ours but never intersects, except on there forums. In your world pathfinder upto Level 11 needs constant tweaking and patching or it simply doesn’t work. Which isn’t the case for us.

Resulting in the game you played, where parties deal thousands of damage per round against monolithic enemies.

We do not live in this world where pathfinder needs these fixes and as we do not know you are in a different one and make assumptions based on our worlds rules.

Where in we know the problems you quite often describe with various classes and builds are not real problems and don’t need constant tweaking.

Instead looking through the lense of our world we see a jumpy reactionary GM who bans, patches and tweaks anything he sees as powerful or doesn’t like, without giving it a chance. Instead preferring to write his own rules all over the place because he believes he knows better.

But clearly it works for you, in your parallel universe where pathfinder needed to be patched out the wazoo.

That said, although it may work for you, as your anecdotal remarks indicated. It is very hard for us to see how, or know how to help. Because it doesn’t for us.


My real question is - how does one "spam" a spell they can only cast like 5 times per day?

It seems like "how to deal with enervate" is a question of "include >5 things you would want to enervate" and "don't allow 15 minute adventuring days."


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

My real question is - how does one "spam" a spell they can only cast like 5 times per day?

It seems like "how to deal with enervate" is a question of "include >5 things you would want to enervate" and "don't allow 15 minute adventuring days."

Balkoth said that they gave spellcasters more spells per day to make up for the reduced effectiveness of save or sucks. How many more spells per day? Not a clue! I have no idea what's happening at Balkoth's table, and so I won't hazard to hazard advice. I don't even know the rules to the game Balkoth's playing, let alone what could be done to improve it.


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Asmodeus' Advocate wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

My real question is - how does one "spam" a spell they can only cast like 5 times per day?

It seems like "how to deal with enervate" is a question of "include >5 things you would want to enervate" and "don't allow 15 minute adventuring days."

Balkoth said that they gave spellcasters more spells per day to make up for the reduced effectiveness of save or sucks. How many more spells per day? Not a clue! I have no idea what's happening at Balkoth's table, and so I won't hazard to hazard advice. I don't even know the rules to the game Balkoth's playing, let alone what could be done to improve it.

My personal advice to improve the situation would be for Balkoth to you know.... play Pathfinder. Crazy suggestion, I know, but I felt someone had to make it.


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I'll stick with "you made changes, play it that way if your table finds it fun, but you're responsible for the result and the usefulness of any advice will be limited by a lack of shared context".


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For those that are interested. His Rules


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Kamea wrote:
For those that are interested. His Rules

Fascinating. For those who don’t want to read through all of that, 1-9 casters get double spellslots per day.

Having read it, though, I don’t see why enervation is such a problem. Shouldn’t the enervated BBEG get a new save, using their lowest saving throw, for the first few rounds of the effect?

Shadow Lodge

Yeah, there are a lot of things going on here. This amount of houseruling seems... ill advised? Doubling the spell slots of the most powerful classes in the game is more of an issue than Enervation is.


I don't have time to respond to everything right now so I want to just hit a few things right now, rest will have to wait until Friday or the weekend.

Anzyr wrote:
My personal advice to improve the situation would be for Balkoth to you know.... play Pathfinder. Crazy suggestion, I know, but I felt someone had to make it.

I don't know if people are forgetting or just intentionally ignoring this bit, but I've repeatedly said in the past (previous threads) that I did just that for the first nine levels. A few minor tweaks like buffing dual-wielding.

I thoroughly enjoyed levels 1-6, things started to fall apart at levels 7-8, and things were completely broken at level 9. That's when I started adding in significant houserules as the alternatives were abandoning the campaign or switching systems.

In all fairness, level 9 is when one person who's been pushing boundaries in terms of character building joined (he was invited by a few friends in the campaign).

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Then you tell us level 11 martial characters are doing 280 damage a turn as a standard.

Now we know, you are not playing pathfinder

You seem to be under the impression that something about my house rules enabled that monk to be doing sometimes 400+ damage in a round at level 11.

My house rules have zero effect on that, the 400+ damage in a round is completely default Pathfinder (there is like a round of buffing from other party members).

If my house rules were affecting it I'd be hammering that craziness into the ground -- but the 2000 HP health monsters you refer to are a direct result of players being able to do 400+ damage in a round under completely default Pathfinder.

Kamea wrote:
For those that are interested. His Rules

FYI some of that isn't up-to-date and my philosophy has significantly changed -- I gave up a while ago on trying to match up PC level vs expected power in terms of actual bestiary creatures. Would have required a ton of nerfs which people playing Pathfinder generally don't like.

Dragonborn3 wrote:
This amount of houseruling seems... ill advised? Doubling the spell slots of the most powerful classes in the game is more of an issue than Enervation is.

I knew doubling might be overkill but I wanted to make it less scary of a change for people used to casting one Save or Suck spell and just winning. And I wanted it to be super easy to calculate.

Something like doubling base spell slots only would have worked or possibly something else.

Asmodeus' Advocate wrote:
Having read it, though, I don’t see why enervation is such a problem. Shouldn’t the enervated BBEG get a new save, using their lowest saving throw, for the first few rounds of the effect?

Only if he spends a full round action on it -- it's generally more meant for things like Stone to Flesh or Plane Shift or other "fail one save and lose" things.

Though I suppose a "boss" property could be an automatic save vs any effect currently on it...but I fear that'd be too much.


Balkoth wrote:

I don't have time to respond to everything right now so I want to just hit a few things right now, rest will have to wait until Friday or the weekend.

Anzyr wrote:
My personal advice to improve the situation would be for Balkoth to you know.... play Pathfinder. Crazy suggestion, I know, but I felt someone had to make it.

I don't know if people are forgetting or just intentionally ignoring this bit, but I've repeatedly said in the past (previous threads) that I did just that for the first nine levels. A few minor tweaks like buffing dual-wielding.

I thoroughly enjoyed levels 1-6, things started to fall apart at levels 7-8, and things were completely broken at level 9. That's when I started adding in significant houserules as the alternatives were abandoning the campaign or switching systems.

In all fairness, level 9 is when one person who's been pushing boundaries in terms of character building joined (he was invited by a few friends in the campaign).

Okay so this is what I was saying, you’re in a parallel universe where pathfinder brakes at level 9. Because it our world it doesn’t. Not even remotely.

So either you’re living in the twilight zone or what you call broken isn’t what anyone else calls broken.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Then you tell us level 11 martial characters are doing 280 damage a turn as a standard.

Now we know, you are not playing pathfinder

You seem to be under the impression that something about my house rules enabled that monk to be doing sometimes 400+ damage in a round at level 11.

My house rules have zero effect on that, the 400+ damage in a round is completely default Pathfinder (there is like a round of buffing from other party members).

If my house rules were affecting it I'd be hammering that craziness into the ground -- but the 2000 HP health monsters you refer to are a direct result of players being able to do 400+ damage in a round under completely default Pathfinder.

A monk does not do 400+ damage at level 11 under normal circumstances in pathfinder

Not even close. Something about that is off, either someone is doing something wrong, your players are knife edge optimisers or they’re collaborating with other players.

————————-

Based on your rules and everything I know about you I don’t think pathfinder is broken, I think you don’t like the kind of game it is.

Pathfinder isn’t a strategic knife edge war game. It’s a game about being heroes in a fantasy world slowly growing in power and becoming legends. Not ever fight should be this massive slog or challenge

Not every enemy should make your players sweat, you shouldn’t be fighting uptean enemies on the regular.

You should be fighting encounters you could normally fairly easily deal with, often one after another to wear you down. Then occasionally once worn down you fight something as powerful or slightly more powerful than you. That’s was CR is for.

That’s why a CR10 encounter for a CR10 party of 4 should be easy.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Okay so this is what I was saying, you’re in a parallel universe where pathfinder brakes at level 9. Because it our world it doesn’t. Not even remotely.

To be fair, a lot of people feel that high-level play "breaks down", and a huge part of that depends on what the group wants from the game. Pathfinder does increasingly become a game of rocket-tag, with save-or-die spells and martial neutering abilities (grapple the enemy wizard, disarm the enemy fighter) becoming encounter-enders.

If what the players want is a hitpoint-ablation campaign, Pathfinder sure does break down the higher level you get. If they want a campaign where every combat is a statistically balanced death-struggle, it definitely breaks down.

So Balkoth isn't wrong. It's a question of playstyle.

I liken this to ecology. Sure, mosquitoes are annoying. But if you eliminate them from the world, spiders starve to death. And if they're gone, various frogs die out. And so on, up the food-chain. It's a generally balanced system. Yes, the occasional apex predator gets eaten by a shark while surfing, and yes the occasional village of apex predators gets laid low by malaria. But overall, screwing with the ecology isn't a good idea. Enjoying the Earth as-is, or with gentle tweaks such as... fences and mouse-traps within the home... is probably for the best.


Anguish wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Okay so this is what I was saying, you’re in a parallel universe where pathfinder brakes at level 9. Because it our world it doesn’t. Not even remotely.

To be fair, a lot of people feel that high-level play "breaks down", and a huge part of that depends on what the group wants from the game. Pathfinder does increasingly become a game of rocket-tag, with save-or-die spells and martial neutering abilities (grapple the enemy wizard, disarm the enemy fighter) becoming encounter-enders.

If what the players want is a hitpoint-ablation campaign, Pathfinder sure does break down the higher level you get. If they want a campaign where every combat is a statistically balanced death-struggle, it definitely breaks down.

So Balkoth isn't wrong. It's a question of playstyle.

I liken this to ecology. Sure, mosquitoes are annoying. But if you eliminate them from the world, spiders starve to death. And if they're gone, various frogs die out. And so on, up the food-chain. It's a generally balanced system. Yes, the occasional apex predator gets eaten by a shark while surfing, and yes the occasional village of apex predators gets laid low by malaria. But overall, screwing with the ecology isn't a good idea. Enjoying the Earth as-is, or with gentle tweaks such as... fences and mouse-traps within the home... is probably for the best.

Except when people say high level play they almost always mean levels 12-16

And I have literally never seen someone say things started to brake down at level 7 or completely collapse at 9.

In fact the general concensus is those are the best levels of the game.

So yeah high level play does brake pathfinder but level 7-9 is not high level.

And you’re right I don’t think thatbpathfinder is the game he’s looking for I wouldn’t presume to comment on the wants of his players. We haven’t met them.

Shadow Lodge

Quote:

You seem to be under the impression that something about my house rules enabled that monk to be doing sometimes 400+ damage in a round at level 11.

My house rules have zero effect on that, the 400+ damage in a round is completely default Pathfinder (there is like a round of buffing from other party members).

70 damage per attack by a monk at level 11? Seems fishy to me, even if the entire party is spending two rounds buffing him.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Except when people say high level play they almost always mean levels 12-16

And I have literally never seen someone say things started to brake down at level 7 or completely collapse at 9.

I'm not going to quibble with you. I think the basis of your point is sound, that his game has deviated from Core play so drastically that it's unrecognizable, and that the ongoing, never-ending tweaking is because of a spiral of unintended consequences.

But... E6 is a thing for a reason.

Quote:
In fact the general concensus is those are the best levels of the game.

I adore the game as-is, all the way up post-20th level, with or without mythic stapled on. But I've seen an awful lot of complaint from the moment that iteratives come online, and often even fourth level spells. But again, quibble.

Quote:

So yeah high level play does break pathfinder but level 7-9 is not high level.

And you’re right I don’t think that pathfinder is the game he’s looking for I wouldn’t presume to comment on the wants of his players. We haven’t met them.

Shame, that. I maintain that psychology tells me that we have a communications breakdown happening. People do the things they do because they want to. If enervation spam is happening and it's ending fights quicker than everyone at the table wants, then someone's forgotten "oh, I shouldn't do that because I don't like what happens when I do that". Nope. I'm convinced at least one player wants to get things over as soon as possible.


Anguish wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Except when people say high level play they almost always mean levels 12-16

And I have literally never seen someone say things started to brake down at level 7 or completely collapse at 9.

I'm not going to quibble with you. I think the basis of your point is sound, that his game has deviated from Core play so drastically that it's unrecognizable, and that the ongoing, never-ending tweaking is because of a spiral of unintended consequences.

But... E6 is a thing for a reason.

As I understand it that is because the game gets a more high fantasy high magic feel and the martial caster divide begins to appear. Not because the game brakes, but changes.

Which is why I say we need to know what he thinks brakes means.

Quote:

So yeah high level play does break pathfinder but level 7-9 is not high level.

And you’re right I don’t think that pathfinder is the game he’s looking for I wouldn’t presume to comment on the wants of his players. We haven’t met them.

Shame, that. I maintain that psychology tells me that we have a communications breakdown happening. People do the things they do because they want to. If enervation spam is happening and it's ending fights quicker than everyone at the table wants, then someone's forgotten "oh, I shouldn't do that because I don't like what happens when I do that". Nope. I'm convinced at least one player wants to get things over as soon as possible.

From the looks of things players are playing with fairly high optimisation characters and are working together to buff and strengthen eachother.

Factor in that enervate is being used and what I see is players desperate to end/survive encounters.

Conversely this is a problem for the GM, suggesting to me at some point the GM and the players are disconnecting about how they want to deal with combat in this campaign.

And given that OP comes regularly to the forums with a grab bag of random balance issues the disconnect has been going on for sometime. (he also has a thread about Obsidian flow and a thread about monstrous Physique lobe at this very moment. Both of which he predictably feels are brokenly powerful.)

And interestingly, more often than not, problems other people don’t seem to encounter.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

As I understand it that is because the game gets a more high fantasy high magic feel and the martial caster divide begins to appear. Not because the game brakes, but changes.

Which is why I say we need to know what he thinks brakes means.

In the friendliest, most respectful way possible... you're killing me, man.

I in-line corrected the last time I quoted you, the OCD is so strong, but managed to avoid saying anything. Can't quite do it this time.

Breaks. Not brakes. Brakes slow a car. Breaks are when things fall apart (or you pause an activity).

Here's how to remember it: breakfast. You break your fast, ruining your non-eating period.

You're a well-spoken, intelligent person, and this one blindspot you've got keeps poking me in the eye. No intent to criticize, just help.


Anguish wrote:
I think the basis of your point is sound, that his game has deviated from Core play so drastically that it's unrecognizable

I strongly challenge that assertion and will put my money where my mouth is.

I happen to be free this Saturday night and am willing to run a one-shot on Fantasy Grounds (I have the Ultimate Edition, so you just need the free version). I'll take up to six people. Add me on Discord if you're game for testing out your assertion (Balkoth#0313).

We'll figure out what the level (something in the 1-12 range) and subject matter is, I can prep a one shot in an hour or two of work I imagine.


Ooh! I’m always open to new experiences. Figure I’ll build a tetori monk with a focus on grappling and tying up, unless you’d rather I didn’t.

EDIT

Nix that, Tetori’s from Ultimate Combat. I sent you a friend request, my discord tag is YordleSandwich.

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