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.

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….