Player insists on playing the incidental hero. How do I put a stop to it?


Advice


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

One of my Starfinder players insists on playing "the incidental hero." It's not as innocent as it sounds though. Over time, I've observed that it's actually a weird form of min/maxing.

The player in question KNOWS that most non-monster enemies in the game have gear, and that this gear is usually leveled to be appropriate for PC use.

So his incidental hero characters never start with strong, if any, weapons and armor (often the most expensive items you can get for yourself). Instead, he spends all his money on boosting his character's stats, or getting tons of other cool abilities, skill boosters, and equipment (such as force souls II and a complete speed suspension, for example, or an amazing computer that can help him hack anything). The gear choices vary widely depending on the character, but it is always powering up some specific aspect (like making someone who can cover 120 ft. in a single move action and isn't limited to staying on the ground, for example).

Then, after the first one or two combats, he simply salvages the first armor or weapon that happens to come along. Once that happens, he's suddenly got a huge gear advantage over all of the other PCs, since his weapon and armor are now level appropriate, but he has tons of other stuff too! Furthermore, the others usually have to carry him through the initial encounters. The player sometimes gets a cheap weapon or armor, or invests in Improved Unarmed Strike, so that he can better claim to be pulling his weight, but he really isn't.

Is there anything I can do besides simply telling him to "stop it?" I don't much care for dictating people's characters, but this is a dangerous trend that I'm worried might spread to other players (at my table or elsewhere). Does anyone have any advice or solutions that would allow my players play the character concepts they want to play, while also keeping party members and encounters balances?


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You probably shouldn't make any of these adjustments without at least warning this person first. Otherwise you are going to come across as a punishing and combative DM when he creates a character that used to work, but now suddenly fails hard.

The first thing that comes to mind is to use enemies that don't carry gear. Monsters that have natural armor and natural attacks that can't be looted. Works great for home made games. Not so great for published APs.

Similarly, you could use weapons and gear that are of low quality or reliability - at least once the PCs have the ability to loot them. This may be harder to pull off unnoticed.

Third option is to have the items tracked by NPCs that are interested in either reclaiming them, or even revenge against those who acquired them against the wishes of the previous owner. Similarly, cursed items would fit this too.

Another option is to bypass the problem. Give the other players the gear they are lacking as loot as well. Then adjust the wealth gained from the adventures accordingly. So the scavenger doesn't end up more powerful than the other players, just ended up paying actual credits for different stuff. If you are going to make any of the changes without warning, this would be the one I would recommend.


So, there's an old Shadowrun trick that would help in situations like this - explain that the character wouldn't work because nobody would hire them, and the start of the campaign is getting hired (getting hired for a job is the Shadowrun equivalent to meeting in a tavern).

Not every character is compatible with every campaign - in fact, there might be no character that is compatible with every campaign. Generally speaking, so long as you can explain why, "that character wouldn't be in this campaign" is a pretty fair reason to not approve a character.

Though now I want to play a character who starts out only carrying weapons with the Professional attribute...


Nerdy Canuck wrote:
Though now I want to play a character who starts out only carrying weapons with the Professional attribute...

I actually head the other direction. I have always wanted to play a straight-up scavenging game. Where the players get practically no cash to spend on things. They have to loot, steal, or build most of the stuff that they have.

But yeah. That is a gameplay style that should be approved by all the players at the table, including the GM.


breithauptclan wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
Though now I want to play a character who starts out only carrying weapons with the Professional attribute...

I actually head the other direction. I have always wanted to play a straight-up scavenging game. Where the players get practically no cash to spend on things. They have to loot, steal, or build most of the stuff that they have.

But yeah. That is a gameplay style that should be approved by all the players at the table, including the GM.

With proper skill coverage, that's... Actually really easy in this system. The 1:1 ratio between UPBs and Credits makes wealth real easy to keep consistent.

Though I'd maybe want to homebrew some Monster Hunter style stuff at that point...


Uh, you just described nearly every campaign. Looting gear is a time-honored tradition. Especially in Starfinder, with the bad resale value of used gear, players are almost encouraged to only use found weapons and armor.

The limitation is that, at least in published adventures, most of the gear on opponents is garbage. Flight suits and azimuth laser pistols.

Another factor is, if there is good gear, the players that actively contributed to the fight should have first crack at it. The freeloaders can take the castoff scraps. This should be worked out between the players.

As far as I can tell, this is working as intended.


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how many campaigns are you starting that this is a perennial problem?


I don't see that as a problem in a full campaign. If anything, I would encourage the other players to follow suit by buying lower level weapons and armor and relying on looted guns.

If these are a bunch of one-offs or short 2-3 session campaigns... I still don't really see the problem. Good loot should be sparse in such a campaign.

The Exchange

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If I'm reading between the lines correctly, you're starting your campaigns at pretty high levels. A complete speed suspension is a level 12 item. That's why this is showing up as an imbalance. If the campaign was starting at level 1, the items he could get would be far less useful.

In addition, this is really only an imbalance for a character level or two. Because of the way Starfinder prices and loot scales up rapidly, his "boost" won't last for long before those starting items get lost in the noise floor. The other players will likely have picked up items of equivalent item level within a couple of character levels.


This reminds me of the old Living City society games vs. Living Greyhawk. In Living City, loot was dropped that was unique and expensive. However, there was only 1 for a table of 6. Often it led to a roll-off. Sometimes a lucky PC had tons of high level loot and unlucky PCs got little to nothing.

Living Greyhawk forced all loot to go to a central pool and the money was evenly distributed. The PCs had to spend to buy loot from that centralized distribution method. It did lead to a much more balanced distribution model.

All that being said, I would set up a loot collection method (either PC run or NPC run). Then they split the $. From there, they can buy what they need.


Shouldn't the sudden inclusion of an at (or near) level weapon and armor put the player hilariously over WBL?

Let the player pull his shenanigans, at the end of every session ask the players to do a wealth audit. Players above WBL don't get any more loot or money until they even out.

Liberty's Edge

Honestly... if their PC is becoming mechanically problematic just have the monsters target and murder them to death.

It's not that hard, you've got the tools you need.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I can see at least two good solutions to this problem:

1) Take note of the things that the player spent his starting money on. In the initial combats, give out gear of that sort that is more useful to the other players than to him. This way, the other players pull further ahead before he catches up. Before doing that, you may want to warn to player about making assumptions about loot.

2) Alternatively (and better, in my opinion), you could provide guidelines as to how the starting money should be spent -- say, 25% on weapons, 25% on armor, and so forth. See the Pathfinder rules for creating higher level characters for ideas. After all, if you are starting PCs at higher level, their starting funds should represent what they picked up in their prior adventuring career, so such restrictions would make sense.


Pantshandshake wrote:

Shouldn't the sudden inclusion of an at (or near) level weapon and armor put the player hilariously over WBL?

Let the player pull his shenanigans, at the end of every session ask the players to do a wealth audit. Players above WBL don't get any more loot or money until they even out.

Exactly. Have the PC "buy" it from the party pool. :D


Pantshandshake wrote:

Shouldn't the sudden inclusion of an at (or near) level weapon and armor put the player hilariously over WBL?

Let the player pull his shenanigans, at the end of every session ask the players to do a wealth audit. Players above WBL don't get any more loot or money until they even out.

Shouldn't they be scaling towards the WBL for the next level?


Dracomicron wrote:
Uh, you just described nearly every campaign. Looting gear is a time-honored tradition. Especially in Starfinder, with the bad resale value of used gear, players are almost encouraged to only use found weapons and armor.

In the games that I have played in, looting has always been a noticable part of it. But I am meaning having looting/scavenging/bartering/questing being the only practical way of getting anything.

As in: you get 25 credits and your choice of one tier 1 basic melee or small arm weapon to start with. Then you can use the Earn a Living parts of skills or sell off old gear for its terrible resale price if you - for some reason - need to get more cash.

I haven't ever played a game where the option to buy things that you want/need isn't a viable option. I think that would be rather interesting - but would definitely need a group of people who thought the same thing in order to work and be fun.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
how many campaigns are you starting that this is a perennial problem?

So far we've done Dead Suns and Signal of Screams, one home brew, and have a second home brew in the planning stages. And that's just Starfinder.

Sczarni

Ravingdork wrote:
Rant

I don't see the problem. Are the others complaining about him hogging the spotlight?


breithauptclan wrote:
Dracomicron wrote:
Uh, you just described nearly every campaign. Looting gear is a time-honored tradition. Especially in Starfinder, with the bad resale value of used gear, players are almost encouraged to only use found weapons and armor.

In the games that I have played in, looting has always been a noticable part of it. But I am meaning having looting/scavenging/bartering/questing being the only practical way of getting anything.

As in: you get 25 credits and your choice of one tier 1 basic melee or small arm weapon to start with. Then you can use the Earn a Living parts of skills or sell off old gear for its terrible resale price if you - for some reason - need to get more cash.

I haven't ever played a game where the option to buy things that you want/need isn't a viable option. I think that would be rather interesting - but would definitely need a group of people who thought the same thing in order to work and be fun.

Kind of like if you used Starfinder's rules to do the whole Survival game thing.


Yeah. Basically.

It would be a very strange game. Probably wouldn't be fun long-term. But would be amusing to try.


I could actually see it working out really well if you take it all the way through - they're not just building their gear, but they're actually building their base of operations, maybe some kind of settlement, and so on. Could get a lot of player investment pretty fast that way.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Carla the Profane wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Rant
I don't see the problem.

Seriously dude!? Why bother posting if you're not going to be helpful? Not cool!

Carla the Profane wrote:
Are the others complaining about him hogging the spotlight?

There have been some grumblings about the trend, yes (not that I need justify anything to you).

Sczarni

Ravingdork wrote:
Seriously dude!?

None taken.

'Grumblings'... You taking it to the forums which implies you guys are not communicating well. Have a chat before or after a game and simply state you and the others feel a bit frustrated and go from there. Avoid pointing out any 'wrongbadfun'. Actually, I'm surprised that a veteran like you is having trouble with this (common) issue, but who am I. Good luck and happy gaming!

Sovereign Court

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Let's first take a look at why this can happen, and then at what to do about it.

The GM chapter about wealth in Starfinder is a good place to start.

There are roughly three sources of income: items, story-based wealth, and hard cash. Actually, story-based wealth and hard cash are more or less the same: they're straight money. The chapter notes that you should avoid using single huge lump sums, because they enable unbalancing purchases. That seems to be part of what's happening here: the player gets a lump of money to gear up with, and he's spending it on a couple of really expensive powerful things instead of spreading it over multiple bases.

The chapter mentions how you should evaluate the value of item drops: if the item is better than what the PCs are currently using, then it counts as full value. Otherwise, count it as 10%. This means that if the PCs are wearing on-level armor and weapons and find another suit of armor, it counts for only 10% and you might have to insert more loot. If someone skimped on weapons and armor, then it counts for full value and you should not be adding more loot. So part of the reaction to your player's tactics should be to reduce the loot. Except the rest of the party isn't going to like that very much. They'd be the victim of him gaming the system.

However, if you applied this in the long run, it would balance out. There might be some bumps in the beginning, but once he's armored and weaponed up, the next fight that drops the same armor and weapons isn't giving him such an advantage anymore. In the longer run, a lot of the loot does come from "primary" NPC gear, so this advantage of him fades a bit over time.

But the way you phrase your question, it seems as if you run a lot of shorter adventures, maybe a lot of "let's do a one-shot and start at level X" ones. So he gets to milk this trick again and again. So we need a different solution.

The chapter mentions that you shouldn't really spend more than 25% of WBL on weapons and no more than 25% on armor and protective devices. Comparing WBL to the weapon and armor prices, that will just about buy you a single on-level armor and weapon. Well, one armor might be enough but you generally need a couple different weapons to handle various resistances and immunities.

I'm thinking back to when Thurston was running the playtest for the upcoming SCOM book. It was focused on one-off playtests: make a character of level 1, 4 or 8 and play it for a scenario, then give feedback. So the situation is somewhat similar to yours (as it seems you have a lot of higher level starts for shorter campaigns or adventures). The way Thurston handled it was: build a character at level X, with your choice of {level X armor, level X-1 weapon} or {level X-1 armor, level X weapon}. You also got money to buy other stuff, but reduced by the average cost of these items. For example, a level 8 playtest character had 18,000 credits for discretionary spending; slightly over half the regular WBL which makes sense because a little less than 25% is already earmarked for a weapon and an armor.

So that could be your rough solution: let everyone start with one of the following packages:
A) a level X & X-1 weapon/armor combination and 60% of WBL for free spend.
B) a level X & X weapon/armor combination and 50% of WBL for free spend.

To your other players, this should have fairly low impact. For your problem player, he'll still have 50-60% of his WBL to play with and get something cool, but he can't afford the disruptive top shelf item anymore, and he can't skimp on primary items to the degree that the other players have to carry him.

Reference: https://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo6sgei?Starfinder-Society-Class-Pla ytest


I would simply say start using a rule that new characters must spend in relative accordance to the rules Ascalaphus mentions.

Characters should start with roughly 25% of WBL on weapons, 25% on armor, and 50% on other things. In practice I would let them start with anywhere from 20-30% on weapons/armor (each). So they could spend a total of 40-60% on both. Meaning 40% -60% on other things. Anything diverging from these guidelines would need GM approval.

It should leave everyone else relatively unphased but bring the other character in line.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yes, I may have to do that.

Also, it's not that we have a whole bunch of one-off high level games. We do have those sometimes, but it can seem like we do it more. In reality, it's something of a 50/50 split between it being a new high level game with a whole party (such as starting signal of screams), and it just being on ongoing game, in which his character died and needed to be replaced with a new one.

Sovereign Court

Well, then the easy move is just to say that new characters start with 50% WBL and one level-appropriate weapon and armor. That's pretty much what all the other players were doing anyway.

I wouldn't go too strict on 25% because some level-appropriate weapons and armor might be 23% or 28% or something.

It also wouldn't be a disaster if he spent 10% on one weapon and 15% on a different weapon. As long he's spending about 25% on weapons and 25% on armor.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:
Well, then the easy move is just to say that new characters start with 50% WBL and one level-appropriate weapon and armor. That's pretty much what all the other players were doing anyway.

I like the idea of insisting on proportionate purchasing, but starting someone at half wealth seems like it would just hurt the whole party unnecessarily.


Ravingdork wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Well, then the easy move is just to say that new characters start with 50% WBL and one level-appropriate weapon and armor. That's pretty much what all the other players were doing anyway.
I like the idea of insisting on proportionate purchasing, but starting someone at half wealth seems like it would just hurt the whole party unnecessarily.

it's not half, it's half + weapons and armor adding up to another half


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Ah, sorry. Must have misread.


Yeah, if you're doing the murdermart loot system the absolute last thing you want to do is spend ANY money on weapons or armor.


PFs automatic bonus progression optional rules solved this and some related problems. How would you do it in SF? Have weapons and armor automatically scale up to the highest weapon in its series which is also no higher than the character level, and assume that purchase value, or sale value for looted weapons/armor would be based off the lowest weapon/armor in the series?


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I encourage such spending in my games. There are tons of equipment, enhancements, cybernetics, but nobody ever buys them because they put them behind on weapons/armor, but to me they are the fun parts of sci-fi, all the crazy gadgets and gizmos that allow for some pretty wild stuff and the ability to solve problems without just shooting it in the face. Weapons and armor are pretty boring in comparison IMO.

But if its truly a problem, I'd change up encounters. More low-level mooks, make it rare for a creature to have the same or higher PL. ie More storm troopers, less Vader. Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs, and thus the gear they "drop" isn't that great. Plus this has the added bonus of making the PCs feel pretty good when they can mow through ranks of troopers instead of one big slog fest with an higher CR foe.

You could also add some "realism" to your game. Kill a dude with a plasma grenade? Well if the guy didn't survive, the armor sure as hell didn't.

Sovereign Court

yukongil wrote:
Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs,

No, this doesn't really work. If the PCs are reasonably well-built then such NPCs have trouble hitting and even if they hit damaging the PCs. They can only serve as meat shields.

Sovereign Court

Ravingdork wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Well, then the easy move is just to say that new characters start with 50% WBL and one level-appropriate weapon and armor. That's pretty much what all the other players were doing anyway.
I like the idea of insisting on proportionate purchasing, but starting someone at half wealth seems like it would just hurt the whole party unnecessarily.

Yeah it's not actually half total wealth, because level-appropriate weapons and armor tend to cost about 25% of your WBL each.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
breithauptclan wrote:


Another option is to bypass the problem. Give the other players the gear they are lacking as loot as well. Then adjust the wealth gained from the adventures accordingly. So the scavenger doesn't end up more powerful than the other players, just ended up paying actual credits for different stuff. If you are going to make any of the changes without warning, this would be the one I would recommend.

While I am firmly in the "this is a player problem, and needs to group solution" camp, this bit? Is why this actually shouldn't be more than an extremely ephemeral problem. . . or advantage. Those cheap and early weapons/armor that he is salvaging to try and get ahead of the WBL curve? If he weren't using them, they'd almost certainly be vendor trash, and thus only count 10% against the loot drops. Because he's actually making use of them, however? Now they count full against the total loot drop. In the space of a single adventure, he should be at roughly the same position as the rest of the party who geared up more normally.

This is, of course, contingent on the GM adjusting the loot drops to fit the intended amount of wealth for a party of suitable level. However, this is a responsibility the GM should be doing *anyway*. If the would-be munchkin ends up ahead of the wealth curve because the GM is dropping too much wealth, this is once again not a rules problem.

The Exchange

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If you really do want to “teach him a lesson.” Start at level 8...

Very first encounter: Doors slam closed and a long (but not particularly dangerous) fight takes place in an area saturated with medium radiation. While this player tries desperately to get through the sealed door, the other players button up their Item Level 7+ armors and say “what’s that guy’s problem?”


Yeah, I am not seeing a problem here either other than perhaps game philosophy- there are always people who are going to want to save money by just looting corpses. There are a lot of ways to deal with that in game(i.e. the game world), but at the table? Just ask the guy to stop a few times, and then have the above happen. It certainly happened to me in a game or two.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs,
No, this doesn't really work. If the PCs are reasonably well-built then such NPCs have trouble hitting and even if they hit damaging the PCs. They can only serve as meat shields.

yes, it really does. Besides that I've been running a game now for 10 months using this exact encounter setup, we can just look at the math.

even 4 levels lower against the heaviest of heavy armor with gear boost, mooks will hit on a 14-15, which is perfectly acceptable for a squad of mooks. Have a few use harrying fire, have a Lt with Get'Em and it gets even better, but again, a 25% chance to hit when 5-6 goons are shooting at you is pretty good for such an encounter. There is also grenades and other AoE attacks, that make them a danger in large numbers and thus give the PCs the satisfaction of mowing throw a large group of people while knowing they've been in a fight, which to me, is always more fun than just trading blows, rock'em sock'em robots style with one BBEG.


Gear is a money sink because its constantly being swapped an resale of used items is only 10%. He is playing smart by investing in his character and not in his gear. You can only buy gear one lvl higher then your character lvl or with the GM's permission and being in a huge high tech city 2 or 3 lvls higher<its been a while since I read the book>. Next time you start a game have it start on a backwater world or in a spot and duct tape space station that doesn't have the high lvl gear to set up higher lvl implants. But if your starting at higher lvl means those PCs have been around enough to have gotten some of that stuff before appearing on your stage. Even if you made his character for him in the way you think PC should be made the first chance he gets he is going to invest in those upgrades. Thus ruining your ideal pc construction.


yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs,
No, this doesn't really work. If the PCs are reasonably well-built then such NPCs have trouble hitting and even if they hit damaging the PCs. They can only serve as meat shields.

yes, it really does. Besides that I've been running a game now for 10 months using this exact encounter setup, we can just look at the math.

even 4 levels lower against the heaviest of heavy armor with gear boost, mooks will hit on a 14-15, which is perfectly acceptable for a squad of mooks. Have a few use harrying fire, have a Lt with Get'Em and it gets even better, but again, a 25% chance to hit when 5-6 goons are shooting at you is pretty good for such an encounter. There is also grenades and other AoE attacks, that make them a danger in large numbers and thus give the PCs the satisfaction of mowing throw a large group of people while knowing they've been in a fight, which to me, is always more fun than just trading blows, rock'em sock'em robots style with one BBEG.

Worth noting, you are making area attacks/full attacks more powerful in that setup as well; no particular reason to say that's good nor bad, but do keep an eye out for if it swings things in a bad direction vis a vis characters with strong single target attacks compared to characters with good multi-target attacks.


Nerdy Canuck wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs,
No, this doesn't really work. If the PCs are reasonably well-built then such NPCs have trouble hitting and even if they hit damaging the PCs. They can only serve as meat shields.

yes, it really does. Besides that I've been running a game now for 10 months using this exact encounter setup, we can just look at the math.

even 4 levels lower against the heaviest of heavy armor with gear boost, mooks will hit on a 14-15, which is perfectly acceptable for a squad of mooks. Have a few use harrying fire, have a Lt with Get'Em and it gets even better, but again, a 25% chance to hit when 5-6 goons are shooting at you is pretty good for such an encounter. There is also grenades and other AoE attacks, that make them a danger in large numbers and thus give the PCs the satisfaction of mowing throw a large group of people while knowing they've been in a fight, which to me, is always more fun than just trading blows, rock'em sock'em robots style with one BBEG.

Worth noting, you are making area attacks/full attacks more powerful in that setup as well; no particular reason to say that's good nor bad, but do keep an eye out for if it swings things in a bad direction vis a vis characters with strong single target attacks compared to characters with good multi-target attacks.

good point*, though since these are goon fights, blowing up lots of baddies at once is kind of the point, or at least a lot of fun. This also makes grenades actually useful!

*a reason I don't run pre-written adventures is so I can tailor encounters to my characters. I can add a badguy that can soak up big hits for the single-target heavy hitter, while having a bunch of mooks running around for the multi-target killer to have fun with, thrown in some robots to be hacked, etc...


yukongil wrote:
Nerdy Canuck wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs,
No, this doesn't really work. If the PCs are reasonably well-built then such NPCs have trouble hitting and even if they hit damaging the PCs. They can only serve as meat shields.

yes, it really does. Besides that I've been running a game now for 10 months using this exact encounter setup, we can just look at the math.

even 4 levels lower against the heaviest of heavy armor with gear boost, mooks will hit on a 14-15, which is perfectly acceptable for a squad of mooks. Have a few use harrying fire, have a Lt with Get'Em and it gets even better, but again, a 25% chance to hit when 5-6 goons are shooting at you is pretty good for such an encounter. There is also grenades and other AoE attacks, that make them a danger in large numbers and thus give the PCs the satisfaction of mowing throw a large group of people while knowing they've been in a fight, which to me, is always more fun than just trading blows, rock'em sock'em robots style with one BBEG.

Worth noting, you are making area attacks/full attacks more powerful in that setup as well; no particular reason to say that's good nor bad, but do keep an eye out for if it swings things in a bad direction vis a vis characters with strong single target attacks compared to characters with good multi-target attacks.

good point*, though since these are goon fights, blowing up lots of baddies at once is kind of the point, or at least a lot of fun. This also makes grenades actually useful!

*a reason I don't run pre-written adventures is so I can tailor encounters to my characters. I can add a badguy that can soak up big hits for the single-target heavy hitter, while having a bunch of mooks running around for the multi-target killer to have fun with, thrown in some robots to be hacked, etc...

Makes sense; just wanted to flag the interaction there real fast because it's the kind of thing I could see people missing.


yukongil wrote:

I encourage such spending in my games. There are tons of equipment, enhancements, cybernetics, but nobody ever buys them because they put them behind on weapons/armor, but to me they are the fun parts of sci-fi, all the crazy gadgets and gizmos that allow for some pretty wild stuff and the ability to solve problems without just shooting it in the face. Weapons and armor are pretty boring in comparison IMO.

But if its truly a problem, I'd change up encounters. More low-level mooks, make it rare for a creature to have the same or higher PL. ie More storm troopers, less Vader. Because of how NPCs are built, they can still be effective 4 or more levels lower than the PCs, and thus the gear they "drop" isn't that great. Plus this has the added bonus of making the PCs feel pretty good when they can mow through ranks of troopers instead of one big slog fest with an higher CR foe.

You could also add some "realism" to your game. Kill a dude with a plasma grenade? Well if the guy didn't survive, the armor sure as hell didn't.

note that he said 4 or more levels lower then the pcs dont be my gm and throw hoards of equivalent level npcs at your friends. They are your friends,right?


Nerdy Canuck wrote:


Makes sense; just...

though thinking back on the various encounters of this sort, it seems to equal out pretty well, as you lose the ability to one-shot an enemy pretty early on (unless you go way under CR, 4 is about as low as I ever go, past that it they are pretty much useless and just take up scenery and time). The characters with good single attack builds can take out one of these low-level NPCs in at most two shots, while the multi-attacker may need 3 or four, so action economy is pretty much the same. It's when the players finally get some tactics together and begin multi-attacking multiple enemies (spreading the damage around) that the numbers can quickly start to dwindle, but then I just think that is a reward for good teamwork.


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yukongil wrote:
a reason I don't run pre-written adventures is so I can tailor encounters to my characters. I can add a badguy that can soak up big hits for the single-target heavy hitter, while having a bunch of mooks running around for the multi-target killer to have fun with, thrown in some robots to be hacked, etc...

I'll be honest, by book 4 of a prewritten adventure, you should probably be doing this anyway.

Sovereign Court

I suppose in self-written adventures where you tailor the encounters to challenge the players the shelf-life of lower CR enemies is a bit longer. In book 4-5 of Dead Suns our GM began moving some mook encounters into boss encounters because on their own they would just be tedious and ineffective, but as speedbumps for a boss they could still play a role.

In SFS when you run into a bunch of CR3s at the 5-6 tier they're generally not a problem anymore. This is the point where PCs start packing armor upgrades with energy resistance that make low-CR enemies unable to do more than a few points of damage if they even hit, and Enhanced Resistance for DR/- that makes their melee attacks likewise ineffective.

The "same XP total is same challenge" logic for building encounters tends to break down around 3 lower CR enemies, and definitely by CR 4 lower their power tends to be diluted to the point where at least in published scenarios, the encounter becomes pointless.


Ascalaphus wrote:
The "same XP total is same challenge" logic for building encounters tends to break down around 3 lower CR enemies, and definitely by CR 4 lower their power tends to be diluted to the point where at least in published scenarios, the encounter becomes pointless.

This, so much. Even some CR-2 creatures are just a walkover. For instance, a giant crab is CR2. Several of them would make a decent challenge. But for a level 3 party, their +4 to hit is ineffectual against most frontliners. Sure, they'll grab a Rogue in light armour perhaps, but most of the time, they should miss. And especially if the party is level 4, with second-level buffs and spells, these things shouldn't become an issue at all anymore. They'll have superior defenses, HP to tank what goes through, and overpower the beasties. A full-BAB character with Power Attack will probably halve their HP in one hit, if not one-shot it. Mooks should at least be able to survive a round if they're supposed to be a challenge.

The CR system is very, very flawed. It's a nice guideline, but upon closer inspection, it falls apart. I got very frustrated by my home game of Wrath of the Righteous where the level 12 party got to fight several groups of CR 9 mooks. Those mooks don't stand a chance and and is just a waste of time for both sides of the screen.


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Quentin Coldwater wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
The "same XP total is same challenge" logic for building encounters tends to break down around 3 lower CR enemies, and definitely by CR 4 lower their power tends to be diluted to the point where at least in published scenarios, the encounter becomes pointless.

This, so much. Even some CR-2 creatures are just a walkover. For instance, a giant crab is CR2. Several of them would make a decent challenge. But for a level 3 party, their +4 to hit is ineffectual against most frontliners. Sure, they'll grab a Rogue in light armour perhaps, but most of the time, they should miss. And especially if the party is level 4, with second-level buffs and spells, these things shouldn't become an issue at all anymore. They'll have superior defenses, HP to tank what goes through, and overpower the beasties. A full-BAB character with Power Attack will probably halve their HP in one hit, if not one-shot it. Mooks should at least be able to survive a round if they're supposed to be a challenge.

The CR system is very, very flawed. It's a nice guideline, but upon closer inspection, it falls apart. I got very frustrated by my home game of Wrath of the Righteous where the level 12 party got to fight several groups of CR 9 mooks. Those mooks don't stand a chance and and is just a waste of time for both sides of the screen.

Eh, this thread is about Starfidner not Pathfinder. The CR system was more finely tuned in Starfinder than Pathfidner. Not to say its perfect, but it was vastly improved.

In Pathfinder I had to regularly run CR + 2 enemies for what I considered an average challenge to the party. CR + 3 to 5 for boss fights. My players are highly optimized.

In Starfinder CR equivalent enemies actually present challenges to the party. A group of 4 CR - 1 enemies can really be a significant challenge.

The differences between Starfinder and Pathfinder are huge, in terms of the CR system.

Still, Ascalaphus is right though. Even in Starfinder, once you get to about CR -3 or 4 the enemies become ineffective whatsoever. They can still make for an interesting "meat wall" in a boss encounter that soaks up some action economy from the party and allow the boss to actually do some stuff. Mooks + Lieutenants + Boss is a good boss encounter design, in my opinion. Just don't look at the XP value of the mooks because if they 3 or more levels below, they're not doing much besides getting in their way. I adhoc that sort of thing, and say they're equivalent to difficult terrain for an increase of about 1 to the CR of the boss and lieutenants.


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I think the CRB agrees with this too.

Rules: Designing Encounters: Special Considerations wrote:
One major concern is the CR of the enemy. The CR system works best when the CR of each of the GM’s creatures is relatively close to the PCs’ Average Party Level. ... if you throw a horde of CR 1 creatures against your party with an APL of 8, those creatures are unlikely to hit the characters’ Armor Classes or succeed with any of their abilities, and thus they won’t be challenging, no matter how many you include.

They gave the more extreme example of CR -7, but that is probably just to be safe. CR -3 things start becoming so unbalanced that it is more of a joke than a challenge, and CR -4 is where the CRB suggests no longer considering the enemies a 'Significant Enemy' for XP awards and Solarian abilities.

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