Balancing Shield Bashing At High Levels


Advice

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So just to get this out of the way up front: I'm aware that some of my house rules/campaign specifics have skewed the balance in this case, particularly in three ways.

1, this campaign is intended to go to 20 and Shield Master (usually) requires level 11 minimum. So campaigns at lower or mid levels will never see any issue.

2, I'm effectively using some of the Two Weapon Warrior/Unchained Action Economy rules, meaning a standard action or attack of opportunity can strike with both weapons

3, I tried to reduce some feat taxes (like Weapon Focus and Two Weapon Fighting scaling automatically into their more powerful versions at higher levels)

That aside, I'm currently relatively happy with the balance between 2H, dual-wielding, and sword and board.

- 2H is better at dealing with damage reduction and damage shields
- Dual-Wielding is better at dealing with mirror images and has higher DPR against lower AC enemies
- sword and board has less damage but better defense

...but then using a shield to attack comes into play and presents a problem because it deals more damage than a "normal" dual-wielder while having the same defenses as "normal" sword and board. Basically seems to make both obsolete.

Shield Master makes this problem even worse since you can get a +5 Heavy Shield that gives 7 AC which is also enchanted as a Holy Axiomatic weapon for 5^2 + (5^2)*2 = 75k when normally that would cost 162k for a +5 Holy Axiomatic offhand weapon that gives *zero* AC.

This has probably been traditionally seen as "balanced" due to weakness of default dual-wielding and extra feats required, both of which are reduced in this case.

Imagine if a person with a 1H does 100% damage and has 100% survivability

2H is 150% damage and 100% survivability
Dual-wielding is 150% damage and 100% survivability
Sword and board is 100% damage and 150% survivability

Ideally I'd like Shield Bashing to be like 130% damage/130% survivability but instead it's like 175% damage and 150% survivability -- more damage than dual-wielding and the same surviviability as a "normal" shield user.

And again, level is a big deal. At level 1 you're giving up damage on the off-hand and a feat to gain 2 AC or something -- not a big deal and honestly not very good. But that radically changes past level 10.

And the player entering the campaign who wants to bash with a shield is starting at level 12, so the whole "He had to wait for this to pay off" argument doesn't apply (I don't even agree with that argument regardless, but still).

TL;DR: I want to figure out a way to allow him to shield bash without making "traditional" dual-wielders or sword and board users feel obsolete.


Are you asking for suggestions for more house rules to limit the effect of shield bashes, or for some to boost other styles, or have I missed what you're after entirely?


avr wrote:
Are you asking for suggestions for more house rules to limit the effect of shield bashes, or for some to boost other styles

Basically.

For example, giving the style a -2 AB/AC penalty might keep it in line with other styles at high level but would cripple the style at low levels when it's already fine or even underpowered.

I'll default to "Sorry, no shield bashing characters" if necessary but I'm trying to avoid that.

There's just so many shenanigans surrounding shield bashing like using a shield as a 2H or dual-wielding heavy shields to eliminate the dual-wielding penalties entirely (plus the enchanting stuff I mentioned above).

Really not a fan of the way its implemented in Pathfinder.


Suppose shields had a worse reach, i.e. 'adjacent targets only with shield bashes'. Depending on how much your players use enlarge person, lunge etc. this might matter to them, might not.

Alternately or in addition you might say that you need a swift action to switch between being ready to bash with your shield and getting the AC bonus. Or even if it's a free action that does mean that off-turn you can get the AC bonus or be ready to take AoOs with the shield but not both.

Just thoughts, I haven't gone over those ideas carefully.

Edit: Thinking about means of boosting other styles which wouldn't equally boost shield bashing styles has been harder, I haven't come up with anything I think at all good there.


avr wrote:
Suppose shields had a worse reach, i.e. 'adjacent targets only with shield bashes'. Depending on how much your players use enlarge person, lunge etc. this might matter to them, might not.

That would seem weird compared to stuff like unarmed strikes though, no?

And yeah, it would drastically vary based on how much they enlarge.

avr wrote:
Alternately or in addition you might say that you need a swift action to switch between being ready to bash with your shield and getting the AC bonus. Or even if it's a free action that does mean that off-turn you can get the AC bonus or be ready to take AoOs with the shield but not both.

That more or less seems to be equivalent to removing Improved Shield Bash. Which is an option I considered.

The biggest problem with simply removing Improved Shield Bash is the fact that end-game so many characters have the ability to cast Shield or UMD a wand of Shield...so even the Greatsword using Fighter can have that +4 Shield bonus. If the Shield spell didn't exist I'd have just done that from the start -- can choose each round between more offense or more defense.

avr wrote:
Edit: Thinking about means of boosting other styles which wouldn't equally boost shield bashing styles has been harder, I haven't come up with anything I think at all good there.

I could easily come up with some extra feats to boost other styles but then you're required to take more feats to keep up, y'know?

Not sure that's really ideal.

Grand Lodge

Balkoth,
You do realize that a shield used a weapon loses its defensive bonus until your next turn, and that enhancement bonus of a shield doesn't count on an attack right?

CRB pg 152 shield bash.

For a shield to work as you described above its cost would be: 5^2 * 1k + the cost of offensive enchantments, so an additional 164k. nearly 200k, and you would still lose the AC bonus when you use it to attack.

Mininum for a +5 shield is 25K, adding a +1 holy axiomatic weapon property to it is an addition 50k (1+2+2)^2.


Jared Walter 356 wrote:

Balkoth,

You do realize that a shield used a weapon loses its defensive bonus until your next turn, and that enhancement bonus of a shield doesn't count on an attack right?

It doesn't lose its defensive bonus.

The enhancement bonus does count on an attack.

Ergo the math above is correct.


Jared Walter 356 wrote:
...a shield used a weapon loses its defensive bonus

Not if you have the feat Improved Shield Bash.

Jared Walter 356 wrote:
...that enhancement bonus of a shield doesn't count on an attack

It does if you have the feat Shield Master.

Shield Master is a stupid feat as far as I'm concerned. What's the best weapon to use along with your shield? Well, a shield, obviously! --dumb.
And the idea that you're so good at using shields that...what, you can change the way the enchantments on the shields work? No. No and no and no.

Replace this silly feat with something that makes sense and doesn't change the way other systems in the game works and you should be fine.
What if your shield could grant you cover (or improved cover, if you have a tower shield)? What if you could use your shield to protect adjacent allies or block magical rays? What if it gave you DR?


Balkoth wrote:
avr wrote:
Suppose shields had a worse reach, i.e. 'adjacent targets only with shield bashes'. Depending on how much your players use enlarge person, lunge etc. this might matter to them, might not.

That would seem weird compared to stuff like unarmed strikes though, no?

And yeah, it would drastically vary based on how much they enlarge.

Actually the comparison with unarmed strikes makes sense to me. The center of the shield is close to your wrist or lower forearm, and the edge isn't in a good place to lunge forward with if you want to keep the defensive bonus of the shield. And there's nothing like a kick. Less reach is defensible.

I thought maybe you'd know your players styles and ability with PF battlefields, and might know how often they use enlarge, lunge, long arm etc.

Your other points are taken.

@Quixote: mobile bulwark style, saving shield/covering defense, and ray shield exist. Dunno about DR. You're suggesting just deleting the shield master feat as a fix?


Aren’t other characters investing in other feats to make their fighting styles better than their base too?

Like this seems like the shield bashing character slowly builds into a stronger character through acquisition of feats. Which is the point?

So what are the other characters doing with their feats?

For example, the dual wielding character could be building to a crit fishing/crit passing/crit debuffer, or any other sort of build that brings something additional to the basic concept of a dual wielding character?

The two weapon guy could be going into a hurtful, intimidation build for example.

Basically it seems like you’re looking at what a sword and board character can do with heavy feat investment to broaden the power of the style.

And comparing it to two handed fighter and a two weapon fighter without considering what feats they could be investing in to do the same, to elevate that style of fighting so that they don’t become obsolete.


avr wrote:
mobile bulwark style, saving shield/covering defense, and ray shield exist. Dunno about DR. You're suggesting just deleting the shield master feat as a fix?

I'd suggest replacing it with something that (a) makes sense and (b) doesn't lead to stupid builds.

Shield Master makes two shields the best possible weapon pairing. No penalties to attack and effectively cheaper to enchant. A +4 weapon should be 32,000, but you can have a +3 shield that's also a +1 weapon for 11,000.

It does things a feat shouldn't do and it does them in a stupid way.


I’m guessing you’re not a fan of captain America?


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I’m guessing you’re not a fan of captain America?

Captain America doesn't claim to have an ability that somehow converts his shield's defensive enhancements info offensive ones due to him being "really good at using shields."

Grand Lodge

Quixote wrote:
Captain America doesn't claim to have an ability that somehow converts his shield's defensive enhancements info offensive ones due to him being "really good at using shields."

Shield Master is nowhere near as powerful as other options. It merely raises "budget". Without involving crafting, comparing similar playing styles, the Arcane Duelist Bard or the base Magus class (and Bladebound archetype in particular) are far worse in the freebie scale.


Quixote wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I’m guessing you’re not a fan of captain America?
Captain America doesn't claim to have an ability that somehow converts his shield's defensive enhancements info offensive ones due to him being "really good at using shields."

He was capable enough with it that it made sense as a first choice weapon.


Using a shield as a weapon is fine. Feats that make shields better are fine.
A feat that makes the best weapon to use alongside your shield another shield is not fine. A feat that offers a benefit that completely abandons any kind of logical cause and effect is not fine.

And I am not familiar with other rules that are even more exaggerated examples of this problem. The fact that some other class, feat or ability causes worse problems does not change the fact that shield master is a problem.


I don't think its as big a problem as you think it is honestly. A shield is 20/X2 TWF usually aims for critfishing which should outperform shield/weapon and shield/shield by quite a bit.

Plus im relatively sure you need to add the +1 as a weapon before you can add holy and axiomatic. meaning you could have a +4 shield which was enchanted to +1 holy/axiomatic and then shield mastery overwrites the +1 but not just a +5 shield (that adds to ac) with holy and axiomatic.


Ryan Freire wrote:
I don't think its as big a problem as you think it is honestly. A shield is 20/X2 TWF usually aims for critfishing which should outperform shield/weapon and shield/shield by quite a bit.

I am not claiming to know how big of a problem it is. I am stating that it (a) leads to a weird and silly character and (b) doesn't make sense.

It's a poorly designed feat. That is all.

Plus, the OP was asking how to tone down two weapon fighting with a shield. Changing this feat into something more sensible would also achieve that end.

Silver Crusade

Quixote wrote:

Using a shield as a weapon is fine. Feats that make shields better are fine.

A feat that makes the best weapon to use alongside your shield another shield is not fine. A feat that offers a benefit that completely abandons any kind of logical cause and effect is not fine.

And I am not familiar with other rules that are even more exaggerated examples of this problem. The fact that some other class, feat or ability causes worse problems does not change the fact that shield master is a problem.

Thibbledorf comes running at you.

now imagine he is caring two, round, heavily spiked shields that he can slam into with abandon. I personally think thats more terrifying than if he had a hammer or axe.

fun aside, just because you suddenly lose -2 to hit with a shield does not mean it is the best choice for both weapons-

here is why-
1- Crit range, a 20 crit range is rough, meanwhile, if you used any 18-20 crit range weapon, you could still crit fish for debuffs and the like on a 15-20.
2- you can't make a shield flaming, or keen, or speed, etc. At least not to my knowledge. I don't think you can even give it impact. Though I think you can get a lesser version of that.
3- unless you get a mithral one, it will actually affect your armor check penalty, which can be annoying.

If you hate the idea that using another shield nets a +2 to hit, then let shield master remove the penalty for twf with a weapon and shield as well. Your issue is solved.


rorek55 wrote:
just because you suddenly lose -2 to hit with a shield does not mean it is the best choice for both

That's not why it's the best choice. It's the best choice because you can get up to an extra +5 to attack and damage for half the cost of a normal magic weapon.

rorek55 wrote:
...you can't make a shield flaming, or keen, or speed, etc. At least not to my knowledge. I don't think you can even give it impact. Though I think you can get a lesser version of that.

Read the description of a shield "...can be enchanted as a magic weapon..." --its right in there.

rorek55 wrote:
...unless you get a mithral one, it will actually affect your armor check penalty, which can be annoying.

Get a mithral one, then. You're lvl11 or higher. You can afford it.

rorek55 wrote:
...let shield master remove the penalty for twf with a weapon and shield as well. Your issue is solved.

I have reduced the penalty of two weapon fighting by 2 in my games, as wellas lowered the prerequisites and combined the Improved and Greater versions of the feat into the first. My issue with "shield master" equating to "magical enchantment master" remains.

Silver Crusade

you realize that if you enchant your shield as weapon, you use the weapon enchantment costs, unless i missed something?

so, if you WANTED to give keen/speed what have you, you would need to base it on the magic weapon costs. Or at least that is how I read that.

if you read that differently, then allow weapons to be "paired" (which is what I do in my home games anyway), double weapons and a pair of TWF weapons can be enhanced for 1.5 the cost instead of 2x. Or, in other words, the off-hand weapon only requires half the normal cost for all its magical needs. exclude shields from being "paired".

At this point, shield master does nothing in regards to "getting a bit more money".

TWF builds need the help IMO anyway.


Quixote wrote:

I am not claiming to know how big of a problem it is. I am stating that it (a) leads to a weird and silly character and (b) doesn't make sense.

It's a poorly designed feat. That is all.

This reads as hyper judgemental. FYI.

There are literally thousands of distinct character builds in pathfinder, but fighting with two shields is silly.

We have people literally growing sentient tumours to help them in trivia rounds.


Honestly, I'd always assumed that if you used the enhancement bonus thing from shield master, that you couldn't use the weapon enhancements on the weapon aspect of the shield. If you want to nerf it, just use my accidental house rule.


rorek55 wrote:
you realize that if you enchant your shield as weapon, you use the weapon enchantment costs...

Yes, I realize that. A +5 bashing spiked heavy steel shield that is also a +1 impact weapon costs +54,000gp.

rorek55 wrote:
...if you read that differently, then allow weapons to be "paired" (which is what I do in my home games anyway)...TWF builds need the help IMO anyway.

I feel like there's a disconnect here. I'm not the OP. I don't have an issue in my games with these rules, as I have already changed them to something more sensible and tolerable.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
This reads as hyper judgemental. FYI.

Yes, it is. I use my judgement to determine what will lead to a better game or a worse one, and I go with it. My judgement is all I have to go on, just like everyone else. If mine is different than someone else's, so be it. That doesn't change my opinion on the subject. "To each their own" is a great bit of wisdom, but I'm still going to draw some lines in the sand. I just don't expect others to heed them, exactly as I don't heed theirs.

At any rate, that is not the main issue I have with the feat. It says "you're so good with shields because of training or talent that the magic that makes your shields better at defending you also helps you hurt people." It's nonsensical.

Furthermore, I am offering a solution to the OP'S situation.


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Bashing and impact wouldn't stack (both are 'as if the weapon were x sizes larger'), but yeah, stacking qualities on one side with enhancement bonus on the other is a cheat. Rorek's accidental house rule sounds like the best fix there if shield master remains.

BTW, using your judgement is one thing, declaring it as the One Truth is another. Lightening up a little makes for easier reading for others.


avr wrote:
...using your judgement is one thing, declaring it as the One Truth is another. Lightening up a little makes for easier reading for others.

I believe I said it was "weird and silly." I'm not sure how that wasn't easily understood as an opinion, since the definitions for "werid" and "silly" are far from objective.

I don't feel the statement was especially heavy either, given the rather mild language used.

My One Truth can differ from yours. I can also understand this while still believing in my One Truth.
But yes, my argument against Shield Master is partly based in opinion, as I stated earlier. In my opinion, it encourages mechanical decisions that are damaging to the narrative. But that is because my games tend to have a very specific tone. I believe that this has made my games stronger, more meaningful, more memorable and more enjoyable. But it is an opinion, nonetheless.
The other part of my argument still stands; the feat twists the rules in a way that feats like it do not and should not do. And given the rest of this thread, it appears to me to be the best way to solve the OP's issues. Which makes sense, given that the majority of the problem was caused by this feat.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Aren’t other characters investing in other feats to make their fighting styles better than their base too?

Such as? The default allowed content is CRB/APG/ACG, everything else per approval.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
The two weapon guy could be going into a hurtful, intimidation build for example.

Assuming you mean this Hurtful, then it seems that could apply just as well to other styles, not just 2H.

For example, the shield basher is a Viking, which would mean at level 18+ he'd basically get a free attack each round due to free action intimidate.

That seems like a bad interaction for a feat from the Monster Codex.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Basically it seems like you’re looking at what a sword and board character can do with heavy feat investment to broaden the power of the style.

Not a sword and board character, a shield bashing character. Can very easily have sword and board that doesn't dual-wield (there's two other characters doing that in the party of six, for example).

As as aside, I also house ruled literally double the fighter's feats -- so basically two per level. This was done to make it easier to get the "necessities" and then have room to pick up other stuff that gives more tactical options.

If I allow a bunch of new feats that are raw number increases (in effect), then that encourages fighters to delve even deeper into those and both A, gives a larger power increase than intended and B, prevents fighters from being able to branch out which was the whole goal.

Which is a "problem" of my own making, I'm aware.

Philippe Lam wrote:
Shield Master is nowhere near as powerful as other options. It merely raises "budget".

It's more than just budget -- person dual-wielding with a Longsword/Short Sword doesn't get a shield AC bonus or the shield special abilities, for example. If Shield Master was just "You get a free magic shield that scales up as you level" and had nothing to do with attacking I'd be much less worried (assuming it was properly restricted or whatever). But it's basically like getting an extra item slot in addition to massive savings.

Ryan Freire wrote:
Plus im relatively sure you need to add the +1 as a weapon before you can add holy and axiomatic. meaning you could have a +4 shield which was enchanted to +1 holy/axiomatic and then shield mastery overwrites the +1 but not just a +5 shield (that adds to ac) with holy and axiomatic.

Correct. But +5 holy/axiomatic weapon costs 162k. With the shield it's 75k and ALSO gives a 7 AC bonus.

rorek55 wrote:
2- you can't make a shield flaming, or keen, or speed, etc. At least not to my knowledge.

As mentioned, you definitely can.

rorek55 wrote:
if you read that differently, then allow weapons to be "paired" (which is what I do in my home games anyway), double weapons and a pair of TWF weapons can be enhanced for 1.5 the cost instead of 2x. Or, in other words, the off-hand weapon only requires half the normal cost for all its magical needs. exclude shields from being "paired".

That's an interesting idea. Not sure how you'd "enforce" the pairing costs as upgrades happen and some are sold.

Still leaves 1H + shield as being much worse than a shield basher which seems less than ideal -- same defense but the shield basher has much better offense.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
There are literally thousands of distinct character builds in pathfinder, but fighting with two shields is silly.

It's only silly when it's flat out superior to fighting with a weapon plus shield from my perspective.

ErichAD wrote:
Honestly, I'd always assumed that if you used the enhancement bonus thing from shield master, that you couldn't use the weapon enhancements on the weapon aspect of the shield. If you want to nerf it, just use my accidental house rule.

That would also help late game, but even around level 11-12ish you'd have the problem of the shield being both a +5 weapon and a +5 shield when weapons are usually at +3-+4 at best.

And still leaves non-bashing sword and board in the lurch.

Silver Crusade

Thats because that is how it would work.

If you put someone against another person in a duel, with one being a swordmaster with little experience in using a shield offensively, and the other just being really good at fighting with both a sword and shield, the sword and shield guy has the advantage.

A shield is just as much an offensive weapon as a defensive. You can slap a dude silly with it, shove them to the ground, some shield were even sharpened at their edges to act like a blade so you could decapitate people you tripped.

Hell, I played a game where I focused around two-handing a heavy shield. It was fun.

as for how to enforce it, the simple solution is have them pay both at once.
(IE, if they wanted to +1 their weapon(s), they would need to drop 3k gold at once, not just 2k and then 1k)

Or, if you have a steady group and trust the players, let them pay like normal, and just give a discount with the caveat that they can apply another +1 bonus to their "main hand" weapon until they apply one to their off-hand.


Balkoth wrote:


Such as? The default allowed content is CRB/APG/ACG, everything else per approval.

I mean there’s 10s if not hundreds.

Crit fishing/crit debuffer/crit passing
Intimidate/vicious/sickening debuffers
Manouvers
Teamwork builds
Style feats
Shield and reach.
Dex to damage

Quote:


Assuming you mean this Hurtful, then it seems that could apply just as well to other styles, not just 2H.

For example, the shield basher is a Viking, which would mean at level 18+ he'd basically get a free attack each round due to free action intimidate.

That seems like a bad interaction for a feat from the Monster Codex.

1 free attack at level 18 is nothing at all out of line for level 18. Also it uses his swift action.

Hurtful + cornugon smash synergises best with two handed weapons. Because one hit from them is more impactful and they’re more inclined to pump strength the most and there are feats to make intimidate run off strength.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:


Not a sword and board character, a shield bashing character. Can very easily have sword and board that doesn't dual-wield (there's two other characters doing that in the party of six, for example).

As as aside, I also house ruled literally double the fighter's feats -- so basically two per level. This was done to make it easier to get the "necessities" and then have room to pick up other stuff that gives more tactical options.

I feel like the answer would be just to write away some of the prerequisite, doubling feats to me seems like it’s going to limit variety,

Quote:


If I allow a bunch of new feats that are raw number increases (in effect), then that encourages fighters to delve even deeper into those and both A, gives a larger power increase than intended and B, prevents fighters from being able to branch out which was the whole goal.

Which is a "problem" of my own making, I'm aware.

Very few feats are just raw numbers and most of the are from the core rulebook.


Balkoth wrote:
Still leaves 1H + shield as being much worse than a shield basher which seems less than ideal -- same defense but the shield basher has much better offense.

Wait. Are you saying that you don't like the fact that a character wielding a weapon and a shield with the Two Weapon Fighting and Improved Shield Bash chains is better than a character wielding a weapon and shield that doesn't have those feats?

Because if that's what you're saying...of course one is better. One has more feats than the other. They both have the same equipment, but one utilizes it better. What's the other guy doing with all these resources? Probably something cool that the othere player can't do.


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My impression is that your problem isn't actually with the Shield Master benefits per se. Though if I've understood you correctly, I can also clearly see your reasons for viewing the feat as the culprit making sense from your perspective. (I'll dive into the details of that feat in my next post).

Instead, I'm suspecting the true issue here is a combination of the following:

Stuff about PC balance issues:

1. PF's many and varied PC build options allow for tremendous power differences between same level PCs, as does potentially your players' available time for, interest in and talent for things like character optimization or tactics/solutions to get the most out of the of their PC's mechanics in play. And while you can of course reduce PC power differences to a certain extent after the fact, for example by adapting adventure rewards and/or introducing minor changes to a few options if they turn out to be poorly balanced for your game, it's often not enough to address more serious and/or persistent balance issues. (And proactively changing things to ensure every PC option and possible build combination matches with your game's expected power level is most likely not a viable solution.)

2. The player of the new shield-bashing Viking puts more effort into (or has more talent for or experience of) optimizing his PC's mechanical combat effectiveness than the other players do.

3. None of the people you play with have run into serious PC balance issues in past PF games. Most of them likely also assume such issues are typically caused by one PC having one or a few combat statistics significantly higher or lower than those of the other PCs, maybe especially if the statistic directly affects hp damage output (average damage per hit, number of attacks in a full attack, crit range etc) or durability against attacks/effects dealing hp damage (AC, hp, DR, energy resistance, self-healing etc).

4. Likely neither you or any of your players had reasons to believe there was any need for you to discuss your thoughts, preferences and expectations regarding PC power and PC balance before your first session. And consequently you didn't define and agree on a suitable approximate power balance point for the PCs before the players started making them. And if the Viking player is new in this group, he also didn't see a reason to ask about the power level of the other PCs before building his.

If the above seems to fit reasonably well with reality and your own impressions, I believe it's highly likely that nerfing Shield Master won't solve the real problem, which will instead come up again and again in other build options the Viking player chooses. Because there are several potentially significantly more powerful options and combos available to that archetype to be found in the sources allowed per default in your game.

I therefore suggest you first try to better define the PC power levels you yourself actually prefer and expect at the relevant level ranges. And try do your best to question and adjust your preferences and expectations if it turns out they differ depending on which general kind of PC you're thinking of (such as main class, caster, martial or "gish" category, combat focus/role etc). Then talk to your players to reach a "gentlemen's agreement" as per point #4 in the spoiler above.

Hopefully, that will make the players actively try to balance their PCs' to your game, instead of the Viking player just looking for the most powerful options or the player of the weakest PC not paying enough attention to the mechanical viability of the options they chose. Once your players start to get the hang of whether an option or combo will fit with the agreed upon power level for your game, there's also little need for you to limit which PC options are allowed per default, which definitely increases the possible mechanical variety and balance of the PCs.


Balkoth wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Aren’t other characters investing in other feats to make their fighting styles better than their base too?
Such as? The default allowed content is CRB/APG/ACG, everything else per approval.

Several of the rage powers from APG can be made stronger, especially with a reach weapon (which a shield-basher fighter won't get nearly as much out of). Not to mention the ACG includes many of the strongest bloodrager options, which allow for several different types of significantly more powerful PCs than a damage focused shield-bashing straight Viking fighter.

And none of that is in turn anywhere close to what a sorcerer or wizard is capable of using only the options in the CRB...

Balkoth wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
The two weapon guy could be going into a hurtful, intimidation build for example.
Assuming you mean this Hurtful, then it seems that could apply just as well to other styles, not just 2H.

True, but since you do allow stuff from other sources on a case-by-case basis, you could help out the other guys by for example making Cornugon Smash and the cruel magic weapon ability limited to only attacks made with 1H non-shield melee (free Intimidate on every Power Attack hit and no-save sicken when hitting already shaken enemy is a pretty great little debuff combo). And that would also allow them to get tons more out of Hurtful than the Viking shield basher can.

And you could of course introduce more powerful stuff with the same limitations, such as say Shield Brace and tower shield stuff for carefree polearm wielding + shield carrying and maybe dirty trick options like Kitsune Vengeance, Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge, Savage Dirty Trick, dueling (PFSG) and leveraging weapon etc (though I suggest you keep clear of Dirty Trick Master as it most likely will turn out highly OP in your game).

Balkoth wrote:

at level 18+ he'd basically get a free attack each round due to free action intimidate.

That seems like a bad interaction for a feat from the Monster Codex.

Why does that interaction seem bad?

Balkoth wrote:
Not a sword and board character, a shield bashing character. Can very easily have sword and board that doesn't dual-wield (there's two other characters doing that in the party of six, for example).

With the options available per default in your game, carrying a light or heavy shield without using it for shield bashing unfortunately simply means not taking full advantage of the shield. It's the far weakest weapon style for a vast majority of PCs actually intending to primarily fight in melee, because it's actually not even half of the proper sword 'n' board style.

Note also that "passive" incomplete sword 'n' board being weak is far from anything new or weird, as it has been the case at least since the release of D&D 3.0, and if it matters, it's also matches pretty well with the sword 'n' board equivalent fighting styles in the history of our world as far as we can tell today. (At the very least shields carried with non-reach weapons are practically always actively wielded as weapons. And in the case of heavier shields also sometimes considered the primary weapon, or in more niche contexts often ending up as the only weapon and wielded 2-handed, and some exotic variants like the "Fu Tau Pah" even designed specifically to be wielded one in each hand).

And matching with numerous examples throughout a large majority of the known history since the earliest civilizations in our world, the one thing in the game above all others which can make a more purely defensive "passive" shield style viable for battlefield use is a pairing with a long polearm (via the above mentioned Shield Brace feat).

Speaking of options from other sources and TWF-ing with shields, I really think you should offer the Viking to get a pair of war-shields, as they're designed to make the most of his fighting style and would help the player to further differentiate him from the two more "passive" sword 'n' boarders in the party.

Balkoth wrote:

As as aside, I also house ruled literally double the fighter's feats -- so basically two per level. This was done to make it easier to get the "necessities" and then have room to pick up other stuff that gives more tactical options.

If I allow a bunch of new feats that are raw number increases (in effect), then that encourages fighters to delve even deeper into those and both A, gives a larger power increase than intended and B, prevents fighters from being able to branch out which was the whole goal.

I recommend you don't add more raw numbers boost feats. Not because they're necessarily more powerful (they rarely are), but because they're boring and won't help your three shield carrying PCs to meaningfully differentiate their fighting styles and combat functions.

Balkoth wrote:
Which is a "problem" of my own making, I'm aware.

Nah, I think there are very good reasons for doing something like that. And if anything, I think the "problem" this may have caused doesn't have much to do with raw numbers, but as mentioned mostly with the fact that it exacerbates any PC power imbalance issues caused by players having too different optimization focuses/skills/interests and PC power expectations, the PC imbalance growing exponentially with each extra PC option.

Balkoth wrote:
Philippe Lam wrote:
Shield Master is nowhere near as powerful as other options. It merely raises "budget".
It's more than just budget

Well, Shield Master actually is mostly "just" a budget TWF set-up, but I think calling it that fails to convey the fairly noticeable potential advantages such a budget TWF setup can provide in practice during many levels. That said, IME the feat's cost vs benefit ratio only stands out as particularly great for PCs highly specialized in making the most of the unique shield fighting qualities and related options (such as a "Captain Andoran" type of Shield Champion brawler based build for awesome action-efficient switch-hitting scaled up area control with Maelstrom and/or Tempest shields). And even in the case of such an extremely focused "Shield-Bashing Big Boss", I think Philippe Lam is still correct in saying that Shield Master isn't nearly as powerful as some of the other options that kind of build prioritizes even higher.

Most importantly, Shield Master only boosts numbers and doesn't enable any unique mechanics or combos. Even "Captain Andoran" can ignore it without risk of his combat effectiveness dropping below superhero grade.

Balkoth wrote:
It's only silly when it's flat out superior to fighting with a weapon plus shield from my perspective.

But it it's only superior to fighting with unsuitable weapons. I can imagine several shield-carrying builds significantly stronger than a dual-shield Viking fighter, none of them interested in Shield Master and likely never having a reason to use their heavy shields as a weapon.

And:

Quixote wrote:
Because if that's what you're saying...of course one is better. One has more feats than the other. They both have the same equipment, but one utilizes it better. What's the other guy doing with all these resources? Probably something cool that the othere player can't do.

This.


rorek55 wrote:
If you put someone against another person in a duel, with one being a swordmaster with little experience in using a shield offensively, and the other just being really good at fighting with both a sword and shield, the sword and shield guy has the advantage.

Look back at the original post. Say you have 4 people.

Person A has a weapon in one hand and nothing else. Person B has a weapon in both hands. Person C has a weapon in one hand and uses a shield defensively in another hand. Person D has a weapon in one hand and bashes with a shield in the other.

A: 100% offense, 100% defense (baseline)
B: 150% offense, 100% defense (uses offhand for more damage)
C: 100% offense, 150% defense (uses offhand for more defense)
D: ?? offense, ?? defense

What values do you think person D should have?

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Crit fishing/crit debuffer/crit passing

Intimidate/vicious/sickening debuffers
Manouvers
Teamwork builds
Style feats
Shield and reach.
Dex to damage

Crit fishing is using an 18-20 weapon I assume. Crit debuffing is using things like Stunning Critical or something? No idea what crit passing is.

So stuff like Dazzling Display, you mean?

Combat maneuvers are a thing that reward some investment in intelligence but are often unreliable due to size or lack of weapon using enemies or what have you. But that's literally only like 3 feats and the "advantage" is only a +2 on the checks...but you get double the checks.

Teamwork builds...what are good teamwork feats besides Outflank and Precise Strike? Also the shield basher can usually cherry pick the best ones.

Not sure what style feats would be appropriate.

Not sure what shield and reach means. If you're referring to Shield Brace then at a minimum I'd use the PFS ruling of that the polearm is treated as a one-handed weapon at a minimum.

Dex to damage isn't allowed.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
1 free attack at level 18 is nothing at all out of line for level 18. Also it uses his swift action.

One free attack is like a 30%ish (for full attacks) to 100% (for standard attacks) damage increase per round. For one feat. That doesn't seem out of line to you?

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Hurtful + cornugon smash synergises best with two handed weapons. Because one hit from them is more impactful and they’re more inclined to pump strength the most and there are feats to make intimidate run off strength.

Two attacks at -2 are roughly as good as a single 2H attack. I don't see why the strength scores involved would be any different?

If the shield basher had to drop some strength then I'd be fine with things, they're losing out on significant offense in that case.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I feel like the answer would be just to write away some of the prerequisite, doubling feats to me seems like it’s going to limit variety

Even with doubled feats when I've made fighters I can't remotely get all the things I'd like. And that's with Weapon Specialization/Greater Weapon Focus/Greater Weapon Specialization being given for free as well.

So in practice I've generally liked how it's worked out -- I've even been tempted to offer more feats because it's still extremely hard to justify picking up some basic ranged feats as a melee character, for example. But that relies on running out of pure power increases for feats and needing to take branching out feats.

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Very few feats are just raw numbers and most of the are from the core rulebook.

Hurtful is a raw numbers feat. It helps you do more damage in basically all cases.

Quixote wrote:
Because if that's what you're saying...of course one is better. One has more feats than the other. They both have the same equipment, but one utilizes it better. What's the other guy doing with all these resources? Probably something cool that the othere player can't do.

And when the shield basher had to pick up 4 extra feats for his shield (Focus/Spec/GFocus/GSpec) along with 2 extra DW feats (Improved/Greater TWF) that was far more of a limiter.

In order to help "normal" DW (because it was weak) I've created a problem where shield bashing is incredibly strong.

Again, I'm currently happy with the balance between 2H/DW/1H+Shield/Archery. The odd man out is shield bashing.

Also, see the above example with characters A through D -- what values do you think D should have?

upho wrote:
1. PF's many and varied PC build options allow for tremendous power differences between same level PCs

While definitely true, that's not really the issue here. I've dealt with monks doing 700 damage per round at level 12 and Vivisectionist Alchemists doing 400 damage per round plus 20 strength damage.

The concern specifically here is not between classes and not between casters/martials. It's that if a Fighter specifically is looking at a 2H, sword and board, dual-wielding, or shield bashing as a melee character that I want those four options balanced against each other. Right now I'm happy with the first three but not shield bashing. Before I simply said "No shield bashing" but the new player really wants to do it so I'm trying to find a solution.

upho wrote:
The player of the new shield-bashing Viking puts more effort into (or has more talent for or experience of) optimizing his PC's mechanical combat effectiveness than the other players do.

Good lord no. A third of his feats are terrible, he doesn't even HAVE Shield Master, and is currently using a Longsword instead of a Short Sword (so is suffering -2 AB on his Longsword attacks).

upho wrote:
And consequently you didn't define and agree on a suitable approximate power balance point for the PCs before the players started making them.

Nah, I've been designing around the PCs. I had a few PCs who seemed to want to break the game (like the monk and alchemist I mentioned above) and then they got mad when I started severely buffing enemies to still be a viable threat.

upho wrote:
Hopefully, that will make the players actively try to balance their PCs' to your game

Heh. That definitely didn't work with prior players so decided to just adjust the difficulty instead.

upho wrote:
instead of the Viking player just looking for the most powerful options

Viking player just wanted to play a viking and has no clue about any balance issues -- if shield bashing was notably weaker he'd still have wanted to do it and I'd be trying to figure out a way to make it work.

upho wrote:
Why does that interaction seem bad?

Because the point of moving it from a swift to free action seems to be to enable other generic swift actions -- for example, if you Step Up you lose your swift action next round. That seems a far cry from "Yeah get an extra attack at full AB each round."


I think crit passing refers to crit fishing with the butterfly sting feat and passing your crits to a 2handed x4 character to use instead.
It sounds like you aught to have paired some feats together rather than giving your players extra feats without limiting their selection. Such as giving a bonus style feat with imp unarmed strike, or a bonus combat maneuver with combat expertise, rather than just doubling feats.
For styles that are useful for sword and board, there's the mobile fortress style that makes tower shield characters pretty interesting.
The reason why you'd expect a stat difference between a dual wielder and a non-dual wielder is that the single weapon fighter doesn't need the dexterity to qualify for dual wielding. This doesn't always matter if you aren't using point buy, or are using too high a point buy.


Balkoth wrote:

Say you have 4 people.

Person A has a weapon in one hand and nothing else. Person B has a weapon in both hands. Person C has a weapon in one hand and uses a shield defensively in another hand. Person D has a weapon in one hand and bashes with a shield in the other.

A: 100% offense, 100% defense (baseline)
B: 150% offense, 100% defense (uses offhand for more damage)
C: 100% offense, 150% defense (uses offhand for more defense)
D: ?? offense, ?? defense

...and when the shield basher had to pick up 4 extra feats for his shield (Focus/Spec/GFocus/GSpec) along with 2 extra DW feats (Improved/Greater TWF) that was far more of a limiter.

In order to help "normal" DW (because it was weak) I've created a problem where shield bashing is incredibly strong.

Again, I'm currently happy with the balance between 2H/DW/1H+Shield/Archery. The odd man out is shield bashing.

I think the logic here is fundamentally flawed.

If you're comparing two characters with shields, one with improved shield bash, etc. and one without...that's like comparing a character with Power Attack and Vital Strike to one with Power Attack and Alertnes (comparng a good character to a worse one), or one with Power Attack and Vital Strike to one with Rapid Shot and Manyshot (comparing characters with totally different capabilities).
As for regular two weapon fighting, it's the same problem. It requires less feats to use a regular weapon in your off hand, so we'd have to assume you got something else cool in exchange.

If it really is an unsolvable issue, then you'll just have to admit that your house rules don't work and either accept the consequences or change the rules.
This may well be the case. Two feats per level is an extreme solution to the issue of feat tax.


@Balkoth

Quote:


Crit fishing is using an 18-20 weapon I assume. Crit debuffing is using things like Stunning Critical or something? No idea what crit passing is.

So stuff like Dazzling Display, you mean?

Combat maneuvers are a thing that reward some investment in intelligence but are often unreliable due to size or lack of weapon using enemies or what have you. But that's literally only like 3 feats and the "advantage" is only a +2 on the checks...but you get double the checks.

Teamwork builds...what are good teamwork feats besides Outflank and Precise Strike? Also the shield basher can usually cherry pick the best ones.

Not sure what style feats would be appropriate.

Not sure what shield and reach means. If you're referring to Shield Brace then at a minimum I'd use the PFS ruling of that the polearm is treated as a one-handed weapon at a minimum.

You not knowing that hundreds of builds are out there seems to be part of your problem.

You say “shield master is way out of line”. But how do you ever proclaim to know that line when you have such a narrow view of the builds available.

Quote:


Dex to damage isn't allowed.

How Earth shatteringly, mind blowingly, infuriatingly arbitrary of you.

Quote:


One free attack is like a 30%ish (for full attacks) to 100% (for standard attacks) damage increase per round. For one feat. That doesn't seem out of line to you?

It’s not just one feat though is it. If you could stop being so disingenuous in service of being argumentative you might actually get somewhere.

It requires PA, it requires you already have them intimidated which means it probably requires cornugon smash, so now it’s 3 feats and skill ran investment and probably a fourth feat to make intimidating reliable, or heavy Cha investment.

That’s what we call, a build. I am 100% you know and don’t need this spelt out for you. So why do you always make it so difficult?

Quote:


Two attacks at -2 are roughly as good as a single 2H attack. I don't see why the strength scores involved would be any different?

Where are two attacks coming from unless you’re full attacking with two weapon fighting. And therefor needing Dex investment and therefore having less room for strength investment.

Quote:


Even with doubled feats when I've made fighters I can't remotely get all the things I'd like. And that's with Weapon Specialization/Greater Weapon Focus/Greater Weapon Specialization being given for free as well.

So in practice I've generally liked how it's worked out -- I've even been tempted to offer more feats because it's still extremely hard to justify picking up some basic ranged feats as a melee character, for example. But that relies on running out of pure power increases for feats and needing to take branching out feats.

I find this mind blowing. Unless you want to be grabbing every random static bonus like toughness, greater fortitude, improved initiative and every other thing along with it.

Quote:


Hurtful is a raw numbers feat. It helps you do more damage in basically all cases.

No it is not. You’re being disingenuous.

Raw numbers is toughness, weapon focus and power attack.

Hurtful allows for a new type of action to be taken in a specific circumstance you have to set up prior to activation of the ability.
If that condition is met, which there are myriad reasons why it might not be (it should not be and I don’t see how it would be, 100% of the time) , then you can use a swift action to possibly increase your damage output.

It is not a raw numbers addition to your character. And the fact you are pretending it is tells me you’re not actually trying to have a discussion in good faith.

Silver Crusade

I can't fathom how you give out so many freebie feats, yet can't comprehend how someone investing feats into shield bashing is better than someone who didn't. Actually, I can. You've made feats a non-investment.

But ok, lets take your shield bashing build vs a shield defense build.

Here are feats the silly "purely defensive" build can take to stand out.
-shield focus/greater shield focus, +1/2ac
- missle shield
- ray shield
- mobile fortress style feats
-shield specialization/greater shield specialization

My other question, are you having a problem with the player, or the feat in general because you have never seen it at work in a game but feel it is "overpowered"?


rorek55 wrote:

I can't fathom how you give out so many freebie feats, yet can't comprehend how someone investing feats into shield bashing is better than someone who didn't. Actually, I can. You've made feats a non-investment.

But ok, lets take your shield bashing build vs a shield defense build.

Here are feats the silly "purely defensive" build can take to stand out.
-shield focus/greater shield focus, +1/2ac
- missle shield
- ray shield
- mobile fortress style feats
-shield specialization/greater shield specialization

My other question, are you having a problem with the player, or the feat in general because you have never seen it at work in a game but feel it is "overpowered"?

Its pretty clearly its one of those on paper "math" problems rather than an in play problem. TWF in all its forms looks better on paper than it does in actual play due to the vagaries of difficult terrain, encounter distance and moving around. Sword and board, or even board and board still does significantly less damage than kukri critfishing.


Balkoth wrote:
It's more than just budget -- person dual-wielding with a Longsword/Short Sword doesn't get a shield AC bonus or the shield special abilities, for example. If Shield Master was just "You get a free magic shield that scales up as you level" and had nothing to do with attacking I'd be much less worried (assuming it was properly restricted or whatever). But it's basically like getting an extra item slot in addition to massive savings.

If you just banned Shield Master, would there be any problems left?

If, say, a shield had to be enhanced separately as a weapon and as a shield, is it still OP in your eyes?


Balkoth, I've commented before in your Inquisitor thread. I think you spend a LOT of time overthinking because you're worried about the long term consequences of a decision or action(said by someone who does exactly that. Definitely don't take that as a criticism): these feats that are created in a system that you especially have shown are NOT often very balanced. I personally think the removal of penalties is fine but the adding of the shield enhancement is a bit cheesy. You're the DM. The last post addresses the issue succinctly. The one before it highlights something VERY important: terrain makes this all very difficult. An example would be the bull rush attack which is automatically triggered by a shield bash. Now you have to take a 5-foot step in order to continue wailing on the opponent, which means if you do another shield bash, you're out of range of the opponent. Now at higher levels that's less likely to happen, but at those levels I don't think this fighter is really the biggest threat on the battlefield ultimately.


Balkoth wrote:

A: 100% offense, 100% defense (baseline)

B: 150% offense, 100% defense (uses offhand for more damage)
C: 100% offense, 150% defense (uses offhand for more defense)
D: ?? offense, ?? defense

Taken out of context like this, the comparison has zero bearing on Shield Master, or even on any of the feats related to the other "styles". It may however say at least something if these hypothetical "duelists" are supposed to have made an equally great investment into perfecting their respective styles (they have an equal amount of feats wealth invested in relevant magic items, similar combat ability scores etc). So I suggest you try to make that comparison instead.

And if you do, don't limit "offense" to on-paper DPR or "defense" to passive AC. There are plenty of other factors potentially affected by these styles which could be equally or more important.

Balkoth wrote:
Crit fishing is using an 18-20 weapon I assume.

Yes, combined with Improved Crit/keen weapon for 15-20, crit confirmation boosts, a boatload of attacks per round for reliability, and as great crit effects as possible. It typically has the highest on-paper average DPR, but its very high standard deviation and high ratio of wasted DPR/crit effects typically makes it quite a bit less powerful in practice, at least before high levels.

Balkoth wrote:
So stuff like Dazzling Display, you mean?

Yes, although that specific feat is at best a feat tax and at worst a horrible trap for less experienced players to spend their actions in a turn in a highly inefficient manner. Effective combat demoralization typically includes free Intimidate on hit (Cornugon Smash, Enforcer), boosted Intimidate (typically Intimidating Prowess) and rider effects (mentioned cruel weapon, Hurtful, Shatter Defenses etc). Or - for those who wanna be scarier than any monster and play in high power games - Soulless Gaze. (And if they're insane scare-fanatics who don't care about breaking the game, Soulless Gaze is combined with Hero's Display, Performing Combatant, Master Combat Performer and at least three reliable triggers for auto-succeed performance combat checks in the opening round of every combat.)

Balkoth wrote:
Combat maneuvers are a thing that reward some investment in intelligence but are often unreliable due to size or lack of weapon using enemies or what have you. But that's literally only like 3 feats and the "advantage" is only a +2 on the checks...but you get double the checks.

Eh...? Did you even check up the dirty trick stuff I mentioned in my previous post? It's a whole lot more than "like 3 feats" and their "advantage" is definitely not only +2 to CMB. Even just the "Greater" feats offer plenty more than that. FYI, a martial PC specializing in combat maneuvers can be made more powerful than any damage build can ever hope to be, especially during higher levels (due to the many feats, items and relatively high BAB required to make combat maneuvers truly sing).

Balkoth wrote:
Teamwork builds...what are good teamwork feats besides Outflank and Precise Strike? Also the shield basher can usually cherry pick the best ones.

For melee in general, the far most powerful teamwork feat is typically Paired Opportunists. But of course, like most other things, it requires quite a bit of investment in order to really pay off.

Balkoth wrote:
Not sure what style feats would be appropriate.

The mentioned tower shield one (Mobile Bulwark Style) is of course perfect for non-bashing shield builds, and there are plenty of powerful ones related to combat maneuvers and of course damage, albeit not specifically tied to shield use.

Balkoth wrote:
Not sure what shield and reach means. If you're referring to Shield Brace then at a minimum I'd use the PFS ruling of that the polearm is treated as a one-handed weapon at a minimum.

If you wanna equalize power potential with shield bashing, that seems to be a mistake. But regardless, the builds that get the most out of Shield Brace typically don't need to care about their damage output IME, and quite a few rightfully view even Power Attack as waste of a feat slot.

Balkoth wrote:
Dex to damage isn't allowed.

?

Balkoth wrote:
One free attack is like a 30%ish (for full attacks) to 100% (for standard attacks) damage increase per round. For one feat. That doesn't seem out of line to you?

Not at all. First, it's at best once per round. Second, it's most definitely NOT one extra attack for one feat, as it requires quite a bit of investment in other options (class/archetype levels, feats, skill ranks, items) in order to actually become reasonably reliable. Third, it's useless against quite a lot of enemies in most games, since immunity to fear or mind-affecting is a pretty common thing (especially for high CR monsters).

Balkoth wrote:

Two attacks at -2 are roughly as good as a single 2H attack. I don't see why the strength scores involved would be any different?

...
Even with doubled feats when I've made fighters I can't remotely get all the things I'd like. And that's with Weapon Specialization/Greater Weapon Focus/Greater Weapon Specialization being given for free as well.
...
pure power increases for feats
...
Hurtful is a raw numbers feat. It helps you do more damage in basically all cases.

I recommend you actually read up on the options suggested to you and improve your system insight before you jump to conclusions. Because I'm unfortunately pretty certain that having people here explain everything in detail would require more time and effort than they can spare.

(FYI, your question about why Str matters is an example of you obviously not reading up on the options suggested. And perhaps especially you saying that Hurtful "is a numbers feat" because it "helps you do more damage in basically all cases", is a great example of you making claims without sufficient system knowledge.)

Regardless, if you allow most 1PP sources, I think you'll have far fewer problems with not having enough fighter feats, and you'll also enable far more differentiation between martial melee characters, even things like highly effective fighters and barbarians who don't even have to care about dealing damage"! Blasphemy, I know, but it sure makes the game more fun and interesting IMO. ;)


First off, PFS rulings are garbage if you want martials to even approach the power level of a mediocre 9 level caster, stop using them.


Martials shouldn't "even approach the power level of a mediocre 9 level caster[/i]" because it's a crash of concepts. I don't care how tough Rambo is or how much equipment he has, he's got nothin' to say when Doctor Strange shows up and decides what's going to happen.

--If you REALLY want a "balanced" game at your table, just tell your players not to bring 9-spells casters.

Let's make a Star Wars analogy (and save the quibbling, y'all; I know it's rough):

20th-level Rogue: Solo
20th-level Ranger: Fett
20th-level Aristocrat: Leia, Jabba
20th-level Swashbuckler/Bard/Eldritch Knight: Yoda, Palpatine
20th-level Fighter: Thrawn
20th-level Anti-Paladin: Vader
20th-level Sorcerer: The Bendu

Yeah. There are full-casters, and there are mice. Nobody beats the caster unless the caster is deranged and neglects his defenses, and you have a squad of AT-ATs at your disposal.

You can reasonably play them in a "balanced" ensemble at low-level, but around 7th or so they just morph into out-right monsters.

Silver Crusade

casters aren't OP until around 7th level spellcasting. (or level 14+)


rorek55 wrote:
casters aren't OP until around 7th level spellcasting. (or level 14+)

Emergency Force Sphere (4th level spell) is when wizards can start just ignoring equivalent-level martials. Granted, that's not a core spell, but it illustrates the point.

High-level casters make great NPC villains, but ensemble actors buddy-chumming with guys with swords? ...not so much. I mean, even Tolkien had the sense to peel Gandolf (who was more of a dabbler caster) out of the "fellowship" early and send him off on his own errands.

The Lord of the Rings worked so well because the "party" was entirely martials for most of the adventure. The characters had weaknesses, and therefore are relatable. --Wizards were bosses who lived in towers, and unassailable* by force-of-arms.

(*With allowances made for idiot Sarumans who forget to memorize Featherfall.)


I give up on trying to find enough time to reply to everything all at once so I'm just going to work my way through in bits and pieces. In order with one initial exception. If I skip over something you think is important then please raise the issue again, trying to hit the big points here.

Ryan Freire wrote:
First off, PFS rulings are garbage if you want martials to even approach the power level of a mediocre 9 level caster, stop using them.

As I mentioned in my last post, that's not my current concern here. I have plenty of knobs to adjust in terms of martials vs casters.

What I'm currently concerned about is that if someone wants to make Roy Greenhilt using a Greatsword or Gimli using a Greataxe then that shouldn't be massively inferior to using a Polearm with Shield Brace (which is a feat in a player companion and literally had to be PFS-ruled to weaken it).

I'd much rather say "Okay all martials using melee weapons get +5 AC" than say "Okay all martials who want to use melee weapons need to use Shield Brace."

ErichAD wrote:
It sounds like you aught to have paired some feats together rather than giving your players extra feats without limiting their selection.

I mean, their selection is limited per the approved content (CRB/APG/ACG). I figured they'd run out of "focused" feats and need to diversify which was the goal.

But yes, a much more involved solution would have been potentially better. Runs into problems of its own, though.

ErichAD wrote:
The reason why you'd expect a stat difference between a dual wielder and a non-dual wielder is that the single weapon fighter doesn't need the dexterity to qualify for dual wielding. This doesn't always matter if you aren't using point buy, or are using too high a point buy.

Point buy rules are nothing above an 18 or below an 8 pre-racial, 25 point buy. Used to be <= 8 and >= 7 with 20 point buy but I had some players who wanted all their stats reasonably high and were hurting the party. So I agreed to give them a slightly higher point but limited dump stats (someone who had two 7s only effectively gets a 21 point buy).

Also I would expect most Fighters to want at least 14 Dex for Armor Training. Which means you just need 2 more point buy points to get to 15. At that point you'd wear a belt to get to the higher Dex requirements (from my understanding of what people actually did).


Except they aren't "massively inferior" They each do more damage than nearly every polearm out there and are a far smaller feat investment to do, frankly, better damage for the vast majority of a characters lifespan, up until you manage to get like 12-14 feats deep in a polearm/shield build

To make a greataxe/greatsword build work you need, powerattack, weapon focus, MAYBE furious focus.

To make a polearm/shield build work you need The TWF feat package, plus the prereqs for shield mastery, plus power attack plus the hit booster feats for your shield and your polearm, plus preferably some means to choke up and lose reach on your polearm.

Then you either take advantage of the polearms reach and go down the trip tree, or you bypass the need to choke up on the polearm and work on bull rush boosting so that your shield bash can be counted on to move enemies back.

So while the polearm/shield build looks great, the greataxe/sword build has spare feats for things like armored juggernaut and armor specialization. Or Improved bravery because it doesn't have to dump its cha down to 7 to manage the str/dex/potentially int requirements of TWF + tripping with a polearm.


Balkoth wrote:

What I'm currently concerned about is that if someone wants to make Roy Greenhilt using a Greatsword or Gimli using a Greataxe then that shouldn't be massively inferior to using a Polearm with Shield Brace (which is a feat in a player companion and literally had to be PFS-ruled to weaken it).

I'd much rather say "Okay all martials using melee weapons get +5 AC" than say "Okay all martials who want to use melee weapons need to use Shield Brace."

Not that it matters, but Unhindering Shield is arguably even more effective since now you get the full Greatsword + 1.5xSTR effect (reach tactics being awesome aside). I would also point out that I'm pretty sure medieval knights would have a shield that was at least "light shield" size but would still wield a two-handed weapon (although a bit awkwardly since it would have a slightly restricted attack arc now).

Balkoth, I'll say it again: you've spent a lot of time theorycrafting how in practice these two melee paths will go (only one of whom is actually in the game), and since you brought the subject up in these forums we've all spent additional time going back and forth primarily with each other on this. Go gather some empirical data. In practice, in your actual game, check how skewed in reality things become. Gather the data. If it turns out that the shield basher ACTUALLY is that 150%/150% you theorized on Page 1, then you know what to do. In reality, if your shield basher keeps rolling so low it's not funny, and your mooks tear his ass up (which by the way, as DM you can do!) then there's literally nothing you needed to do. You're. The. DM. Look at that as empowering. Does the Shield Basher NEED to be doing 100+ damage per round or he starts pouting? Will he throw a fit if he feels like the enemy has more HP than it should (not that the character should know)? Are the other players feeling that he might outshine them?

Just tell the player that you're worried his chosen path will be too powerful considering the nature of the PF system and rules, and you might want to nerf him/her down the line. The OTHER possibility is that since that person is coming in so late, they don't get as much gold/equipment and that by its very nature will reduce that character's offensive and defensive potential.


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As an aside regarding historical shield use.
Shield use disappeared at the end of the medieval era when fullplate became high quality and more common. It was still used with lighter armor and on horseback, but you wouldn't see a fullplated soldier on foot with a shield of any size.
If you wanted to be historically accurate, it wouldn't be unreasonable to treat shields more like the war kilt which advances armor size by one step and does nothing for heavy armor. However, since the armor was used more actively to intercept and step into blows, you'd need to let heavy armor serve as a shield for the purposes of feats and abilities while unmounted.

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