Cheese or not cheese?

There is nothing that generates arguments between gamers like the accusation of “cheesing up” a character, animal companion or familiar.

But nobody has the same definition of what that means. I’m not even sure of the derivation of “cheese” to mean exploiting some corner rule case or unexpected synergy to create a totally overpowered result.

So I’m going to list several items and ask “cheese or not cheese?” for each one. Here we go:

1. Giving your familiar wands which are triggered by the command word “ook!”
2. Taking a dinosaur raptor animal companion when your druid never encountered a dinosaur.
3. Using double-barreled pistols in each hand for a gunslinger.
4. Buying a dozen CLW wands.
5. Crafting wondrous items several levels above your caster level (using the +5 to DC rule for missing requirements for crafting).
6. Using your animal companion for a mount.
7. In point buy character building, dropping an undesired attribute below 8 to boost a desired attribute.
8. Crafting a “ring of true strike”.
9. Building a two-weapon fighting shield basher with shields on each arm.
10. Taking the “leadership” feat to create your own personal healbot.
11. Taking an ape as an animal companion, boosting its int to 3, giving it humanoid magic armor and magic weapons.

6 thoughts on “Cheese or not cheese?

  1. 1. I don’t think this works. The person using the wand has to be of a class capable of casting the spell, or else make a UMD check. And, it involves speaking a command word out loud. I don’t think you get to determine the word, its some sort of magic-y word in magic language. Can the familiar in question speak Draconic to pull that off? So, it might work, if the familiar somehow gets enough UMD to make the roll. If I was the DM, I would let someone pull this off…and then the bad guys would start ATTACKING THE FAMILIAR. Because it’s a threat, duh. Most of the time the familiar just hides there, and so doesn’t get attacked. If it makes itself a target, it will get targeted.
    2. Do dinosaurs exist in the world setting, or no? If they don’t, sorry, no dinosaur. If they do, but are far away, depending on how far away I might let a druid ‘go on a pilgrimage’ to find one.
    3. No idea, I don’t know the gunslinger rules yet.
    4. Not cheesy, someone just spent a whole ton of their cash on wands, and not the craziest wands out there either.
    5. Depends on the cheese of the item in question. But in essence I think the rules support them doing this, with the balancing factor of +5 DC on top of what’s probably a high DC due to it being a ‘higher-level’ item. It’ll take them longer in-game to craft it probably, and failing a few rolls, so they’re trading the chance to more easily craft a larger number of current-level items for the chance at this one thing.
    6. Is that a problem? I wouldn’t even blink at it. Is it against the spirit of something I’m maybe not aware of?
    7. It would raise an eyebrow for me. I actually just made a character that I initially gave a 7 wisdom to, but a big reason for doing so was BECAUSE I wanted this character to be suicidally naive. I eventually raised it to 8, because it just bugged me. Smells like cheese.
    8. I would look at this as cheese-ish, but if an appropriate cost could be determined I might allow it. But, it would not be ‘always active’, it would be an item of infinite uses of the spell, meaning take a standard action to activate it, then the next single attack made within 1 round of casting gets a boost. And I do not think the item cost table is totally right here, it actually has an entry for weapon enhancement bonuses and I’d use closer to that than the command word spell effect cost. Maybe bonus squared x 1000gp, half of the enhancement bonus price? So 400,000gp. That seems too much, personally I’d think such a ring would only be worth it to someone doing save-or-die rays or some sort of single poisoned shot. I’d consider giving them a 1/day ring for…50,000gp? 20,000gp?
    9. So hilarious that I would be OK with it. Shields of doom! To make it work, they would have to be like a Fighter and drop ALL of their feats into it, and they’d only get the shield bonus to AC from one of them, so I’d let them do it as a non-optimized but fun build.
    10. Depends on your take on the leadership feat. I’m really unsure. It might depend on the group, maybe nobody wants to play a Cleric this time, so the group as a whole would benefit. Naturally, the players would have to care for their new pet Cleric and protect him, I wouldn’t let such a target get away scot-free. It would trigger my ‘think carefully about this’ response.
    11. I might say no just to avoid the rules headache this would cause. Magic items do alter their size when going between different humanoids, but the ape is NOT a humanoid. It is an animal, that’s a type with rules implications. If you wanted to do this anyway? Well, it isn’t proficient with any armor or weapons, it would have to take several feats to get that proficiency. Oh, and then you have to figure out how ‘weapon’ and ‘natural’ attacks work together, which is another pain but the gist is they would lose at least a few of their natural attacks. There’s, like, 3 or 4 major rulings that need to be made to have this work. I’d discourage my player from doing it, but point them at ‘barding’ like Yleris got for her companion. I think this is just as cheesy to try and do as the true strike ring.

  2. Arbiter, the wand-firing monkey exploits the rule that a familiar can use its master’s “Use Magic Device” score to activate magic items. So the wizard just has to pump ranks into UMD to get a real good chance of the monkey succeeding.

    The “dinosaur as animal companion” situation usually is based on the druid knowing about every possible animal on the planet usually using the argument that the druidic society shares that information in their secret meetings using their secret language.

    The +5 to create a higher caster item level thing has no limit, so for a CL 7 crafter to make a CL20 item is the same difficulty as making a CL8 item. Technically this means a low level crafter with enough ranks in a crafting skill can make rings of wishing.

    The usual argument given against using animal companions as mounts is that it is exploiting and humiliating your animal companion and therefore is unreasonable to expect the mount do accept this debasing of their value.

    Exchanging negative modifiers for higher positive modifiers is the essence of “min-maxing.” However, I am torn on this one because I typically play characters rolled randomly (like Robi and Yleris) and both of them ended up with low scores in at least one attribute, and higher scores in others. So as much as I agree that this “smells like cheese” at the same time, it happens with random rolls so it’s hard to be too worked up about it. I guess I start feeling like it’s munchkin work when multiple attributes are dropped and the player packs skill points to avoid any penalties for the low attributes.

    The “ring of true strike” is one that I have modified my perspective. Initially I thought “no way!” but as you describe above, with a +20 only to the first attack especially with full BAB characters generally hitting on a 4 or better, it’s hard to call a 15% increase in the to hit value of one attack as terribly overpowered, at least if the ring costs a reasonable amount.

    The leadership feat is typically misinterpreted by players who try to get their own personal healbot or magic item crafter. It’s actually usually a magic item crafter cohort that is the real cheese attempt. But players tend to forget that cohorts and followers are NPCs run by the GM and they treat them like slaves. GMs should note this sort of behavior and if the PC isn’t treating their followers and cohorts appropriately, they should leave.

    The ape animal companion was the most common druid cheese in 3.5. They got rid of the humanoid ape in PF so that has reduced this, but I’ve still seen it tried. As a GM I would rule that apes aren’t humanoids and so humanoid armor and weapons won’t work for them.

  3. 1. I would allow it as the DM, but when making encounters, I would count this into the strength of the party, and adjust accordingly.
    2. I would allow it only if there are dinos in the setting.
    3. I would need to know the rules for this.
    4. Go for it.
    5. I would limit the level to something like 1 or 2 levels about the crafter.
    6. I have no issue with this. Think “Princess Mononoke”
    7. No, too min/max for me.
    8. I do not know the rules for this.
    9. Go for it.
    10. I would allow this, but take this into account when crafting encounters.
    11. I think this would be cool, again I would just make the encounters harder.

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