ABP and Shields


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


Let's say you're wanting to run a game where magic items are pretty much limited to consumables, artifacts, and utility items. Let's further decide that our purpose for doing so is to emphasize items and to put the power of the character front and center. This means that a character could very well use their starting gear for the entire campaign and not fall behind where the game expects them to be.

How would you square this desire for gear to take a back seat in the story with allowing shields to progress and gain traits such as sturdy? How would you then want them to upgrade or change these traits the way a character which gained multiple shields over the course of an adventure might? Would you be concerned that characters may no longer fear having their shields smashed to bits as any base-level shield will, in theory, be just as good as the one they just lost?

I have a few ideas of my own that I'll share later, but I'd be interested to see what others might come up with.

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In case anybody is wondering why I'd even care, I'm considering seeing if my current group may be receptive to PF2 so I can see if my anti-PF2 bias comes from running it via a VTT (which I don't find a particularly enjoyable way to play) or if I actually just dislike the way the system works. As I may have said, I want to like the system as I thought it looked mechanically interesting when I first read the rules but my experience at the table and some of what I'm hearing on these forums have put me off of the system. I'd like to give it a fairer shake before I make a final judgement on it.

Dataphiles

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Sturdy Shields are never realistically going to be destroyed anyway, and even breaking is pretty rare in my experience. So i have two methods of doing shield ABP.

1) You still want precious material shields to feel better, they’re not magic, but they’re better than steel. In this case “At level 2/10/16 increase the hardness of any shield you wield by 1/2/3 (total +3 hardness at level 16)” and “At level 4/7/10/13/16/19 increase the hit points of any shield you wield by 16/32/48/64/80/96 (total +96 at level 19) and the broken threshold by 8/16/24/32/40/48 (total: +48!at level 19)”

2) You want a basic steel shield to be as good as a sturdy. In that case, ABP should simply increase the stats of your shield to match the highest level sturdy shield that is lower level than you. I.e at level 4, your shields will all have the higher of 8 hardness, 64 hp and 32 BT or their current stats and at level 13 they will have the higher of 15 hardness, 120 HP and 60BT or their current stats.


Exocist wrote:

Sturdy Shields are never realistically going to be destroyed anyway, and even breaking is pretty rare in my experience. So i have two methods of doing shield ABP.

1) You still want precious material shields to feel better, they’re not magic, but they’re better than steel. In this case “At level 2/10/16 increase the hardness of any shield you wield by 1/2/3 (total +3 hardness at level 16)” and “At level 4/7/10/13/16/19 increase the hit points of any shield you wield by 16/32/48/64/80/96 (total +96 at level 19) and the broken threshold by 8/16/24/32/40/48 (total: +48!at level 19)”

2) You want a basic steel shield to be as good as a sturdy. In that case, ABP should simply increase the stats of your shield to match the highest level sturdy shield that is lower level than you. I.e at level 4, your shields will all have the higher of 8 hardness, 64 hp and 32 BT or their current stats and at level 13 they will have the higher of 15 hardness, 120 HP and 60BT or their current stats.

That works for the basic properties but how would you handle the more exotic shield types the game might expect a player to find?

For context, I'd probably allow players to emulate things like elemental runes on weapons with ABP enabled as it seems to be a balancing feature to keep martial classes in line with casters. How I'd flavour that would depend on the party, but I'd probably allow players to update these properties in the same amount of time it would take them to swap runes in a normal game. I suppose I could simply allow them to pick any type of shield at a lower level than they are and spend some downtime tinkering with their current shield to make that happen.

I could use special materials as quest rewards, but my idea is to allow characters to basically empower weapons via sheer skill and force of will. To allow the fighter to beat their foe with any old weapon you give him because he's just that skilled at his craft. To allow the mage to attune any specially prepared length of wood as a staff or a wand (I'd restrict these to items that closely match their known spells unless they have a story reason to unlock other options).

I just want my players to feel like badasses and enable myself to give them really cool items that aren't cool just because they're +1 to hit or do more damage.

Dataphiles

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'm confused - are you giving them magic (or technological, or whatever flavour you're going with - effectively a magic item but not magic) items that are better than their current stuff or not? If so, you don't need ABP rules, you can just give them a reflavoured version of the current magic item.

If you want it to be inherent to their class because you don't want to give them magic items, but you're worried it's necessary for balancing, then I'd suggest adding a level 1 feature like this

Shield Specialisation - ABP feature 4th
You constantly tinker with your shield to have it produce desired effects. Select any shield of 4th level or lower. You can have any shield you wield be treated as that shield instead. Whenever you gain a level, you may select a new shield of your current level or lower instead. You can retrain the choice you have made with Shield Specialisation, requiring 7 days of downtime.


Exocist wrote:

I'm confused - are you giving them magic (or technological, or whatever flavour you're going with - effectively a magic item but not magic) items that are better than their current stuff or not? If so, you don't need ABP rules, you can just give them a reflavoured version of the current magic item.

If you want it to be inherent to their class because you don't want to give them magic items, but you're worried it's necessary for balancing, then I'd suggest adding a level 1 feature like this

Shield Specialisation - ABP feature 4th
You constantly tinker with your shield to have it produce desired effects. Select any shield of 4th level or lower. You can have any shield you wield be treated as that shield instead. Whenever you gain a level, you may select a new shield of your current level or lower instead. You can retrain the choice you have made with Shield Specialisation, requiring 7 days of downtime.

My basic goal is to remove magic items as essential, to better highlight the power of the characters, without depriving my players of options. I'd like to keep things as balanced as possible though I wouldn't mind terribly if my players ended up a touch above the curve as a result of this.

I suppose I could just allow them to basically shop for some number of new primary magical items at each level up as if they were selecting new spells, and then let them spend some number of actions to switch between them as required. However, I'd like to avoid them feeling as if they're just always finding the best magical items possible for their characters at each level so I'd desire to obfuscate things a little.

This may just be something that requires more thought and a good read of the magic item and ABP sections before I figure out where the balance should be.


Verdyn wrote:
Exocist wrote:

I'm confused - are you giving them magic (or technological, or whatever flavour you're going with - effectively a magic item but not magic) items that are better than their current stuff or not? If so, you don't need ABP rules, you can just give them a reflavoured version of the current magic item.

If you want it to be inherent to their class because you don't want to give them magic items, but you're worried it's necessary for balancing, then I'd suggest adding a level 1 feature like this

Shield Specialisation - ABP feature 4th
You constantly tinker with your shield to have it produce desired effects. Select any shield of 4th level or lower. You can have any shield you wield be treated as that shield instead. Whenever you gain a level, you may select a new shield of your current level or lower instead. You can retrain the choice you have made with Shield Specialisation, requiring 7 days of downtime.

My basic goal is to remove magic items as essential, to better highlight the power of the characters, without depriving my players of options. I'd like to keep things as balanced as possible though I wouldn't mind terribly if my players ended up a touch above the curve as a result of this.

I suppose I could just allow them to basically shop for some number of new primary magical items at each level up as if they were selecting new spells, and then let them spend some number of actions to switch between them as required. However, I'd like to avoid them feeling as if they're just always finding the best magical items possible for their characters at each level so I'd desire to obfuscate things a little.

This may just be something that requires more thought and a good read of the magic item and ABP sections before I figure out where the balance should be.

I think that'd help. I can't quite see the difference, either. It sounds like the difference here isn't so much the kinds of items your players are getting, but the source, i.e., that the power of their items comes from within them rather than buying it at ye olde magic shop or looting it from a dungeon. In that case I'd mostly look at what levels of ABP might give your players less stuff and slot in shield bumps at those levels, looking to see which shields are at or below that level.

Edit: Also, it just occurred to me that you might like relics, as well. The system is very much a "grow as you go" deal for items along with players. Here are the rules for them, and here are the lists of the various pre-made gifts.


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Verdyn wrote:

Let's say you're wanting to run a game where magic items are pretty much limited to consumables, artifacts, and utility items. Let's further decide that our purpose for doing so is to emphasize items and to put the power of the character front and center. This means that a character could very well use their starting gear for the entire campaign and not fall behind where the game expects them to be.

How would you square this desire for gear to take a back seat in the story with allowing shields to progress and gain traits such as sturdy?

I would separate the mechanics from the in-game description.

Sure, mechanically you are buying a new shield with the traits you want and throwing away/selling your old one.

But for description: you are having the party crafter adding abilities, or adding reinforcement. Maybe you are pouring a special alchemical fluid over it that gives it the new traits. Maybe an NPC priest casts a special ritual over your shield as a reward for a successful quest. Things like that.


breithauptclan wrote:

I would separate the mechanics from the in-game description.

Sure, mechanically you are buying a new shield with the traits you want and throwing away/selling your old one.

But for description: you are having the party crafter adding abilities, or adding reinforcement. Maybe you are pouring a special alchemical fluid over it that gives it the new traits. Maybe an NPC priest casts a special ritual over your shield as a reward for a successful quest. Things like that.

I'm thinking more self-reliant here. I want a fighter player to feel really cool because at some level he can just pick up a sword and through his sheer training and force of will it cuts better and faintly flickers with energy that sears the flesh of his enemies. The sword isn't at all special, the fighter is.

With weapons and armor, it's easy as runes are designed to pop on and off of gear and are pretty tightly bound to a specific character level. For more bespoke gear like shields and staves which can be balanced around given a player a new ability, it gets a bit trickier. Especially if you want to let players change them more often than they gain new levels.

I'm fine with less than exact balance, but a fighter that can change the property runes of his gear at a rest seems a little worse off than a caster who can pick a new staff with the same frequency.


Verdyn wrote:


I'm thinking more self-reliant here. I want a fighter player to feel really cool because at some level he can just pick up a sword and through his sheer training and force of will it cuts better and faintly flickers with energy that sears the flesh of his enemies. The sword isn't at all special, the fighter is.

This sounds like an addendum to ABP where property runes (the flaming rune in this example) is applied to the character just like the fundamental runes are. At that point the property rune also starts taking effect with any weapon that this fighter picks up. How the fighter acquired the rune is up to description. Come up with some flavor that makes it feel like it is an inherent ability that the fighter has gained.

Verdyn wrote:

With weapons and armor, it's easy as runes are designed to pop on and off of gear and are pretty tightly bound to a specific character level. For more bespoke gear like shields and staves which can be balanced around given a player a new ability, it gets a bit trickier. Especially if you want to let players change them more often than they gain new levels.

I'm fine with less than exact balance, but a fighter that can change the property runes of his gear at a rest seems a little worse off than a caster who can pick a new staff with the same frequency.

Again this feels like it could be handled with 'items' that aren't actually items but are inherent abilities that the character has bought/trained for/unlocked that they can choose between.

Mechanically what is the difference between having three different staves, and having one staff that you can switch out which abilities it has using a 2-action activity (to mimic stow and draw of two separate staves)? I think that would be a perfectly valid reflavoring of items. It would affect bulk calculations, but who uses those anyway?


breithauptclan wrote:
This sounds like an addendum to ABP where property runes (the flaming rune in this example) is applied to the character just like the fundamental runes are. At that point the property rune also starts taking effect with any weapon that this fighter picks up. How the fighter acquired the rune is up to description. Come up with some flavor that makes it feel like it is an inherent ability that the fighter has gained.

This is exactly what I was going for and is the part that's easy to implement and balance.

Quote:

Again this feels like it could be handled with 'items' that aren't actually items but are inherent abilities that the character has bought/trained for/unlocked that they can choose between.

Mechanically what is the difference between having three different staves, and having one staff that you can switch out which abilities it has using a 2-action activity (to mimic stow and draw of two separate staves)? I think that would be a perfectly valid reflavoring of items. It would affect bulk calculations, but who uses those anyway?

I could probably just limit players to having a set limit to how much they can 'invest' into certain classes of items. So that those 3 staves cost as much to a mage as a +1 striking sword does for the martial classes.

This basically boils down to just abstracting away gold and refluffing things but with the upside of making the party a bit more flexible which feels about right. I just needed to talk it out to get everything to click.


Verdyn wrote:
This basically boils down to just abstracting away gold and refluffing things but with the upside of making the party a bit more flexible which feels about right. I just needed to talk it out to get everything to click.

My suggestions on this would be either, as you mentioned, removing some of the gp rewards and give the 'item replacement abilities' as quest rewards, or allow them to use their gold to buy training at a dojo or from a guru somewhere that gives them the new 'item' abilities.

Sounds like a fun campaign theme.


Some of those specialised shields would be overpowered if they could block hits, so I'd be careful with this. But I can see it working on some of them. By the way, note that the dwarf warden shield (whatever its name is) has errata not yet in Nethys or CRB 2.0 that increase its hardness/HP.

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