No progress on room

So, three weeks ago, my wife was injured in a work accident. She ended up with her left kneecap broken into three pieces. Two weeks ago we had surgery on the knee to screw and wire it together. Since then she’s been pretty much immobile, although she is getting better about moving around on crutches.

The result has been that between work, cooking, cleaning, running errands and taking care of my wife, I simply have not had time to work on my new room, or work on anything really.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to it soon, but her recovery time is estimated to be 6-8 more weeks of physical therapy.

Awesome cosmic powers vs swinging pointy sticks…

This is one of the oldest debates in the RPG community. It is generally referred to as the “tier problem” or “martial characters suck” or something like that. The problem generally stated is that in terms of game balance for games like Pathfinder, spellcasters are simply vastly more powerful, versatile and interesting to play than purely martial characters.

I tend to agree with the general idea that casters are much more powerful than martial characters. I don’t necessarily think this is a problem. I tend to be of the opinion that mastering the awesome cosmic powers of the universe should make someone more dangerous than swinging even the most amazing pointy sticks.

On the other hand, I think that the game as it is today, with the spells and abilities of some classes, the disparity is truly vast. Spells like “wish” or “time stop” or “miracle” are simply power on a completely different scale than anything a purely martial character could produce.

There are variants of the game which attempt to address this disparity, including “low magic” variants and third party or gamer community options like the “E6” rules.

When I look at literary characters that are commonly considered to be awesomely powerful, it strikes me as interesting how limited those famous literary characters actually were. Merlin was basically a fortune teller with some shape-shifting powers. Gandalf never did anything more impressive than a few fire-based spells and some minor healing.

In some respects I believe the game would still favor spellcasters significantly over martial characters if nothing changed except the existing spell list were capped at, say, level 4. Maybe even level 3.

I’d be interested to get the opinions of folks who visit this blog on this question.

Input requested: Healing house rule

I am considering adding a house rule to my Pathfinder campaigns to allow a character with ranks in the “healing” skill to be able to apply healing to wounded characters up to their total heal skill per day, with no more than their level going to any single character per day.


Huh, turns out that there is a “treat deadly wounds” ability that can heal a wounded character using the heal skill. It cures hit points up to the character’s level but requires two heal kit uses. Which seems reasonable. You have to make a heal check with a DC of 20. If you beat it by 5 or more you can add your wisdom bonus to the healing.

Magic items in Pathfinder

Pathfinder developers have solicited gamer input on how to make some minor adjustments to the magic item system for an upcoming errata release. I have gotten engaged in the discussion, but I have mostly decided not to participate in the recommendations since I believe the existing magic item system is broken from concept through all errata, and that means broken since, oh, say, 1977.

Several people express considerable shock and consternation by my assertion that magic items are just a huge mess from start to finish, so I figured I would document why I think magic items are such a mess, and propose what I think should be done about it.

  1. The existing magic item system is focused on combat. The focus on combat is so ingrained and integral to the game that the actual challenge rating system for encounters actually assumes that characters have magic items in order to be competitive. So at level 12, for example, if your melee fighter does not have at least a +3 sword, they will not be able to keep up with combat assumptions.
  2. The magic item creation system is an absolute gold mine of exploits. It has been shown that using the existing rules and guidelines a player can construct a “ring of True Strike” for a few thousand gold, or a “staff of unlimited wishes” for a lot of gold, but what does the cost of such a staff matter when once it is created you can just wish for stuff worth more than what you paid? Perhaps the worst part of magic item crafting is making “wondrous items” because of rules exploits allowing crafters to create items capable of doing things the character themselves cannot do, simply by accepting a paltry +5 DC modification to the crafting check.
  3. Magic items have been introduced that are clearly designed to optimize specific builds or classes. For example, any barbarian who does not pursue a weapon with the “courageous” and “furious” enchantments simply isn’t reading the books since both of those are custom designed to optimize barbarian rage powers and end up providing insane melee combat bonuses when used. Similar items are bane weapons which exploit the “instant enemy” feat for rangers which essentially allow them to define any target they like as a target of a bane weapon. I could go on and on, the exploits are so numerous and so severe that entire builds are based on the acquisition of a few magic items.
  4. Way back in one of the earlier Dragon magazine articles Gary Gygax himself lamented what he christened the “Christmas Tree” effect which he used to describe otherwise nondescript characters who achieved great powers simply by dangling a lot of shiny magic items off their bodies. Most optimized builds that are created these days have almost the same items in the same slots for virtually every character. In fact if you don’t have certain items for your character many power gamers will literally scoff at your game skills. Items such as cloaks of resistance, rings of protection, amulets of natural armor, boots of speed, Ioun stones boosting key stats, belts of physical perfection and helms which boost stats are simply assumed to be in place, not only by power gamers, but by the game designers themselves when they create high level challenge ratings. A wizard who does not have an intelligence of near 30 by level 18 is not going to be able to depend on spells penetrating high level spell resistance, or overcome high level saving throws, and the only way to get an int that high is to have the int-boosting items that are provided as magic items.
  5. Characters who choose to craft items (particularly wizards who choose to craft wondrous items) can gain significant advantages over other party members in making their own magic items at half price, and by selling magic items to party members at a “discount”, which is essentially just a means of transferring wealth from non-crafting party members to crafting party members.

I could go on, but those are some of the major items.

My personal belief is that almost all of the major game issues caused by magic items are due to the fundamental design of magic items as an ever-escalating bonus to key abilities starting at +1 and going up from there as you level up. This ends up meaning that without magic items a character simply can’t compete, which I believe takes the spotlight off of the character and onto the magic items themselves (this is what Gygax was complaining about in his “Christmas Tree” complaint).

I believe magic items should primarily provide out of combat abilities and those that do contribute to combat should provide flavor and specific tactical options (like specific energy boosts) that require some planning to use to the party’s advantage. In my mind something like a +2 dragon bane sword ought to be a friggin’ artifact, not a hunk of magical trinketry that can be found at any magic shoppe and donut store.

My approach would be to completely remove the need for magic items to provide critical fundamental ability boosts. Magic weapons should do things like overcome certain resistances, target specific foes, defend against weapon-targeting tactics, improve certain tactics (tripping, disarming, etc.) and/or provide special attacks. Magic armor should provide special defenses (fire resistance, incorporeal effectiveness, boosts vs ranged attacks, etc.), useful abilities (healing, movement bonuses, special attacks, etc.

Almost all magic items should provide only temporary boosts. So a “helm of wisdom” would provide a +2 to wisdom for a certain number of rounds per day, no more. A ring of protection should protect against a certain amount of damage only.

The bottom line is that magic items should be de-emphasized so that the characters themselves can shine. A great warrior should be able to be effective with any sword, not just their uber-special 25,000 gold sword that if they lose means they are at an effective -5 to their attacks. A warrior should be a warrior, not a ramshackle collection of magical trinkets wandering around.

Some Pathfinder GM rulings info…

In case any of my players ever read any of this… 🙂

Now that we have converted our old 3.5 group entirely to a Pathfinder based group, and since Pathfinder is not exactly the same as 3.5, I thought it would be a good time for me to post some of my GM “rulings” for the group’s benefit, just to avoid any confusion. These might qualify as “house rules” or as “GM interpretations” of vague rules or whatever. I’m just going to go over the things that I have ruled in PF that I believe deserve mention or clarification:

  1. Magic item creation: In 3.5 magic items were created once and remained that way forever. Pathfinder introduced the concept of “upgrading” a magic item. Upgrading magic items allows a magic item crafter to add additional enhancement bonuses or abilities to an existing magic item by paying the difference between the upgraded version and the original version. I find this to be a reasonable approach. There are a couple of individual cases where the RAW is not clear on what an “upgrade” is vs an entirely new ability. For example, a “flaming burst” is not listed as an upgrade to a “flaming” weapon, but I treat it as if it is an upgrade.
  2. NPC creation: In 3.5 it was explicitly stated that NPCs should be built using the same character creation rules as PCs. In Pathfinder that has been mitigated to be more of a “suggestion”. However since the NPC creation section of the GameMasters Guide describes the process using the same rules as for PCs it is assumed by many that NPCs must follow PC creation rules. Just to clarify for my own players, I usually follow the PC rules for NPC creation, but I don’t always follow those rules. So it is possible that an NPC in my world might have abilities or powers that cannot be explicitly recreated for a PC. The same goes for monsters.
  3. Detection spells in Pathfinder (and 3.5 before that) have sometimes vague rules. For example, the “detect evil” ability is written in such a way that I interpret the RAW to mean that detect evil only detects evil auras as those auras are defined in the spell (meaning that detect evil would not detect any aura for a low level NPC since NPCs below level 5 have no auras [excepting paladins and clerics]). This seems to violate the spirit of the “detect evil” ability so I have decided that all creatures have some sort of aura, and evil intent and collaboration or bargaining with evil creatures will “taint” that aura so that even a “good” character can have enough of an evil taint to be detectable by a paladin or by a caster using the “detect evil” spell. However, it is important to note the difference between and evil “aura” and an aura with an “evil taint”.
  4. My campaign world does not religiously (heh, pun) follow the Pathfinder planar cosmology, nor are the gods in my campaign world literal representations of the Pathfinder Gods. Without going into exhaustive detail, the Pathfinder Gods are essentially roles that the elder Gods have adopted for their own purposes. The elder gods, and in some cases, newly risen gods, may or may not explicitly follow Pathfinder theology. For example, one of the first player characters in the world was so powerful and renowned that he eventually became a demigod, and shrines and followers to this non Pathfinder demigod will be found throughout the world.
  5. I don’t like the way metamagic rods and some other magic items (like pearls of power) work differently for prepared vs spontaneous casters. In general I rule that these items work more or less the same for both types of spellcasters. For example, wizards can apply metamagic rod effects as a standard action while sorcerers must use a full round action to do the same. This just makes no sense to me, so in my games both can use metamagic rods as a standard action. Pearls of power will recharge a spontaneous casters’ used up spell slot, but will only allow the identical spell to be cast again from it.
  6. There is an exploit which allows certain wands, scrolls or potions to be priced at lower levels if created by rangers or paladins. For example, a paladin gains “restoration” at a lower level than a cleric. That means, by RAW, that a paladin created “wand of restoration’ would cost less than a cleric created wand. This is economically and logically insane, besides it makes no sense that creating such a wand would be easier for a paladin than a cleric, since paladins in general are lesser spellcasters in the first place. So any magically crafted item will be priced in my game at the price that a cleric, wizard, druid or other full caster could make them.

As I come up with more, I’ll post them too.

+1, adamantine, flaming tiger’s teeth

So I am going to see if my next GM for my next campaign involving my level 9 druid will allow me to have my tiger’s teeth turned into masterwork adamantine teeth and then enchant them with a +1 enhancement bonus and add the “flaming” enchantment on top of that.

Anyone here see a problem with this?

Just think of the awesomeness of a roaring pouncing tiger with flaming fangs coming at you.

That’s gotta be some serious awesomeness….

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.