PDA

View Full Version : Any way to balance 3.5 core only?



Vorpal word
2009-07-07, 09:05 AM
Recently I have run into some major PC balance problems in 3.5 D&D. Myself and my players are high schoolers and have been playing for around two years, but no campaign we have had so far has lasted longer than five sessions.

I've decided to try and run a campaign to last, but I find myself bogged down after our fifth session. I've already had numerous player changes, and as of right now two of the group's 4 level 4 characters are alright. Out of the other two, one is an orc barbarian with 22 Strength (we rolled stats), and the other is a warmage. I've already had several arguments with the warmage's player as I prefer to play purely core games (I don't own anything outside of core other than MM3).

However, I've noticed that while out-of-core feats and classes don't balance with core, core doesn't balance with itself either. Alignment restrictions and weak classes/feats (like Fighter and Toughness, respectively) make it impossible to really have a balanced game with just pure core.

Therefore, I've been wondering if there are any simple ways to deal with this double problem (unbalanced non-core classes and core not balanced with itself). I've considered Pathfinder, but since it's "backwards-compatible" with 3.5 the aforementioned player will soon start nagging about it. Is there any other solution out there?

Indon
2009-07-07, 09:11 AM
First off, don't roll stats, or else you'll basically always have one or two players who're disproportionately effective and one or two who're always disprorportionately weak as a result of their die rolls.

Edit: Use the point buy variant in the DMG.

Farlion
2009-07-07, 09:14 AM
Hmmm... well.

First thing: Don't roll stats. Use Pointbuy system. (:smallconfused: got ninjad on that)

Second thing: How do you define balance? Do your players kill each other? Do your players measure balance in how many kobolds they can kill each round?

Fact is (and most people here agree on this) core is not really balanced in any way. Most of D&D is not balanced on a PvP level. ToB solves some issues, but in late game, casters are just way ahead of any fighting class.

Cheers,
Farlion

Flickerdart
2009-07-07, 09:16 AM
Don't worry about the Warmage, first of all. Without Rainbow Servant shenanigans, Warmages are considered weak, if not the weakest full casting class. The 22 STR Barbarian, however, is going to rule combat, even though he's purely Core. What are your other players?

Gorbash
2009-07-07, 09:29 AM
First off, don't roll stats, or else you'll basically always have one or two players who're disproportionately effective and one or two who're always disprorportionately weak as a result of their die rolls.

Edit: Use the point buy variant in the DMG.

Although, it's quite fun to be the one who has disproportionately high scores. :smallbiggrin: And Point buy sometimes doesn't allow you to play builds which you could have pulled off with a few lucky rolls...

Skjaldbakka
2009-07-07, 09:32 AM
First, I would highly recommend looking at Pathfinder, as it tries to do what you are trying to do, and IIRC, the download is still free. You don't have to run it necessarily, but picks its brains so to speak.

Second, don't worry too much about the warmage class, it is better at dealing direct damage with spells, which is essentially what you want casters to do, game balance wise. Spellcasters that focus on dealing damage come closest into line with the other classes than other playstyles. Just make sure to mix in as many encounters with energy resistance as you do DR and you'll be fine.

Third - here are some suggestions along the lines of alterations, some extreme, some minor.

Skill Aptitude Feats (Alertness, Athletic, etc.)
-either get rid of these feats altogether, or improve the benefit. You don't want a bigger number, because they grant the right bonus for a low level character. I'd recommend that these feats make the skills they give bonuses to class skills as well.

Toughness
-make this feat give +3 hp, and +1 hp/level

Endurance/Diehard.
-roll these together into one feat. when you pick up the books that have heat endurance, cold endurance, etc, roll them into this feat as well. diehard isn't powerful enough to merit a feat, IMO, and the environmental stuff doesn't come up often enough to take multiple feats for it.

Iron Will, Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes
- Improving these feats would require some kind of scaling bonus. Maybe boost them to +4 once you hit 10th level. Or +2 per additional 10 levels, if you plan to break the L20 bubble.

Skill Focus
- I'd improve the bonus at level 10 to +6, and make it grant the skill as a class skill.

Fighter:
There are lots of fixes to the fighter floating around these boards. my solution is to give them Special Abilities, along the same manner of the rogue.

The abilities I let them choose from:

-Strength Domain power, using fighter levels instead of cleric levels.
-Celerity 1/day
-Mettle
-Stand Tough (Defensive Roll with Fort, basically) 1/day
-Shrug it Off (Slippery Mind for Necromancy and Transmutation effects that allow a Fort save)

Monk:
There are a lot of monk fixes as well, here is mine:

-Flurry of blows is a standard action
-Add wisdom to hit with monk weapons
-Use a Ki pool for stunning fist, abundant step, and other 1/day or x/day monk abilities
-replace slow fall with airwalk, using the same mechanics as the travel domain's freedom of movement ability

Druid:
I break Druid into two classes, one gets shapechanging and a full BAB, but no spells and no animal companion, and the other gets spellcasting and 1/2 BAB, but no shapechanging (but keeps the animal companion).

Cleric:
Is overpowered and difficult to fix.

Ranger/Paladin:
I make their spellcasting a swift action for all their spells.

Sorcerer/Wizard;
I use the gentleman's agreement. If you start pulling out unbalancing spells gratuitously, you start facing them.

Tehnar
2009-07-07, 09:40 AM
Since you are the DM, you control the sources your players have access to. If you are not OK with them using things outside the core, then say so, and disallow those sources.

I allow and encourage players to roll their stats. I let my players have a choice of 5d6 or 32 point buy. I do this because if a player rolls great he can choose a MAD class (paladin, monk, etc) without regret, and if he rolls poorly he can choose a SAD class and not be restricted by his poor rolls.

In core there are a few things that are gamebreakingly unbalanced. Certain high level spells, items etc. However, most of these are known from forums only, and never come into actual play, or are easy enough for the DM to veto. Searching the forums a bit will let you find out what those things are. (Though I suggest you remove metamagic rods from your game).

There are things in the game that are unbalanced. A greatclub obviously is much weaker then a greatsword, and toughness compared to almost any other feat. Should those things be fixed? I don't think so. There are merits to them, as options for monsters, or RP opportunities.

If your players are fighting amongst themselves and you are trying to run a campaign at the same time, there is not a good way to solve that problem. I suggest you let them duke it out, and once they satisfy their bloodlust they will be ready for a cooperative campaign.

If you are having trouble with one class/player dominating your encounters, remember, you build those encounters. Most of the trouble usually comes when a party faces 1 monster, because cheesy tactics work best against solo monsters. Having multiple foes, of various roles in a encounter will make everyone feel like they are contributing, and make the fights more fun. Spicing up encounters with obstacles, traps, cover, concealment and various other features will allow diverse characters to shine. Also remember to play your monsters as smart as they are. Even 8 int orcs know enough that spellcasters tend to be a big threat, so focusing on those usually pays off.

Kurald Galain
2009-07-07, 09:56 AM
Cleric:
Is overpowered and difficult to fix.

Depending on your group, you may be able to fix him (and the druid) by having his deity impose a certain ethos that he has to keep.

Telonius
2009-07-07, 10:01 AM
I have several "quick and dirty" houserules that can restore a bit of balance.

Core Cleric fix: Erase "Cleric 4" from the Divine Power spell description. Use the Cloistered Cleric variant.

Core Druid fix: Use the Shapeshifter variant from PHB2.

Core Monk fix: Full BAB, enchant (only his own) fists and body as though he were a caster with Craft Magic Weapon/Armor.

Core Wizard/Sorcerer fix: remove several offending spells from the game (mainly the ones that make other classes obsolete, like Wind Wall, Detect Traps, etc.; as well as broken ones like the Polymorph line) as well as Craft Contingent Spell.

Core Paladin fix: More of a social balance fix than a mechanical one. Paladins take the alignment of their god or philosophy, and must act as an exemplar of that god or philosophy's views and goals. No restrictions on associating with opposite-alignment characters unless your god would absolutely prevent it in that situation. (For example, Hextor probably wouldn't allow his paladin to hang out with a Cleric of Hieronius for beer and pizza, but would encourage it if it's for the purpose of double-crossing him). Basically, remove the Paladin Stick class feature bug that makes it annoying to other players and DMs.

I honestly haven't had any balance problem with Barbarians, Rangers, Rogues, Fighters, or Bards in Core. They're at about the power level they ought to be. Fighters could possibly use some tweaks, but I mainly take care of that in houserules to feats; there are other Fighter fixes out there as well. The uber-ness of casters is toned down due to decreased spell selection, so the Fighter doesn't have as much trouble keeping up.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 10:12 AM
My quick'n'dirty fix:
-Get Tome of Battle for martial types (and use homebrew to fill in for the missing classes; Ranger & Barbarian aren't DIRECTLY in ToB, but they exist online; non-mystical Rogue is another thing to add - also, use a homebrew archery discipline)
-Ban/alter a bunch of spells:
-Planar Binding-line
-Polymorph-line (and similar abilities such as Wildshape; Pathfinder has a decent patch for this, I like using it)
-Gate
-Time Stop
-Divine Power
-Knock/Find Traps/whatever; generally I just use scenarios planned around these spells so just about every lock/trap has accounted for them
-Improve a bunch of spells:
-All damage-dealing spells of 3rd level or higher have an additional effect on failed save; Fireball knocks people prone and lights things on fire, Lightning Bolt dazes people for 1 round, Cone of Cold inflicts the "Slow"-condition for 1 round, higher level spells follow the suite based on element.
-Improve a bunch of (especially Fighter) feats, as listed in this thread. That's worked out fine for me, even without splats.

Oslecamo
2009-07-07, 10:51 AM
My quick'n'dirty fix:
-Get Tome of Battle for martial types (and use homebrew to fill in for the missing classes; Ranger & Barbarian aren't DIRECTLY in ToB, but they exist online; non-mystical Rogue is another thing to add - also, use a homebrew archery discipline)

I believe that if people wanted everybody to worck the same way, they would've just gone playing 4e.

This is, the "sublime" ranger is nothing more than a warblade with a few diferent skills. Hardly worth the effort of reading the entire entry.

Also we really don't need any more "don't save, just suck" spells.

+1 to Kurald Galain's sugestion. If the deity that's granting you powers never asks anything of you in return , something is wrong. Just to be safe, force the cleric and druid to take dieties. No silly "I worship the concept of POWAH! It means I can do anything I like! MUAHAHAHA!" Oh, and I'm also LG btw. Here's a 30 pages essay on why burning and animating that orphanage was completely acording to my character's principles.

For the wizard, reduce downtime during campaign. You want to spend a week scribbing down stuff? Well, the gnolls are gonna raze down some dozen villages in the meantime, get stronger and the people of the city will hate you for that.

ericgrau
2009-07-07, 10:58 AM
The #1 thing I think is to have a group that uses some common sense, doesn't try to exploit loopholes, etc. Most games I've been in or hear about try to limit munchkining to some degree and it seems to work out well enough to have a fun game for all. Inexperienced players sometimes suffer, but it seems to be regardless of class or build. I'd say anything else involves massive complication and would be a nightmare for most people to balance; usually they're more likely to screw something up than fix something.

I'm tempted to respond to homebrew rules, but I decided to refrain from anything major. So I'll just give my opinion on rolled stats vs. point buy since they're fairly equal in terms of balance, and thus this is more of an opinion. IMO point buy gives arrays that are too construed, almost always with an 8 and an 18, and even numbers. Ya, odd numbers are sometimes useful, but we all know that 90% of the time people go even. Rolled stats, while perhaps still lacking, are more natural. Statistically speaking, rolled stats don't often give characters extremely high or low rolls. A moderate set of rolls isn't totally unplayable compared to a high set, unless you're one of those players that absolutely must have an 18 just b/c it's the highest. An extremely low set gets a reroll per standard rules. The problem is that people often play with higher than normal roll methods, so no one rolls low enough for a standard reroll even though their roll might be relatively suckage. So when playing with high stats I propose that you change the rule so that you get a reroll if the total of your modifiers add up to +5 or less, rather than +0. If you roll a 14 for your high stat on standard rules, OTOH, just remember that 15.x is the average high stat, 14 is still well above non-heroes, and quit whining.

Wulfram
2009-07-07, 11:00 AM
Easiest way - Remove Wizard, Cleric, Druid, Sorceror

Mando Knight
2009-07-07, 11:26 AM
I've considered Pathfinder, but since it's "backwards-compatible" with 3.5 the aforementioned player will soon start nagging about it. Is there any other solution out there?

Pathfinder does not fix 3.5.

The best way to balance 3.5 is probably by using a case-by-case analysis.

Who are the other two characters? A heal-bot and an archer? A Fighter and a Sorcerer?

Why is the Barbarian a problem, other than that he smashes stuff to tiny pieces better than anyone else?
If his amount of stuff-smashing eclipses that of a lower-Strength melee character, encourage the other character to become a specialist in a different direction, or possibly have extra enemy archers spread out, firing arrows at the Barbarian as he tries to charge them down.
However, if that doesn't work, or you don't want to try that, perhaps begin using social skills more often, or include more puzzles that require literate characters. Barbarians (especially Orc ones) lag behind others significantly in that regard.

I don't have the book that the Warmage is in... but what kind of spells does he use? Blasty, AoE spells? Save-Or-This-Encounter-Is-Over-Already spells? Tailor your monsters' tactics to take the guy down, or at least to rely more on the other two characters. Use enemies with decent saves, bows, and HP, perhaps. (Ranger or high Cha Paladins... of Slaughter or Tyranny (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/variantCharacterClasses.htm#paladinVariantsFreedom SlaughterAndTyranny) if it's a good campaign.)

More dragons tend to humble most characters. And Mindflayers. And Beholders. And Gelatinous Cubes. And Tucker's Kobolds.

Draz74
2009-07-07, 11:29 AM
Is there any other solution out there?

Play E6 (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=352719)?
...........

It's really a beautiful variant, and it probably comes closer to balancing Core than any other set of houserules that doesn't involve memorizing reams of paper. :smalltongue:

Kaiyanwang
2009-07-07, 11:30 AM
I don't have the book that the Warmage is in... but what kind of spells does he use? Blasty, AoE spells? Save-Or-This-Encounter-Is-Over-Already spells? Tailor your monsters' tactics to take the guy down, or at least to rely more on the other two characters. Use enemies with decent saves, bows, and HP, perhaps.

At this regard, I noticed that most casters really swear with outsiders. Mine, at least, most times try to control them the most they can, but are meleers that slaughter them.

If can be useful..

Mastikator
2009-07-07, 11:30 AM
Use point buy and give different classes (and races?) modifiers to total points.
-
Cleric, Druid, Wizard -4
Sorceror -2
Rogue, Barbarian, Bard +2
Fighter, Ranger, Paladin, Monk +4
-
Half-Elves +2

Also perhaps give them different amounts of begining currency. And make over-powered classes frowned upon culturally, while underpowered glorified. (paladins are perhaps seen as noble, while clerics as preachy? Druids as "dirty and uncivilized", etc)

Other than that I think you just have to keep in mind that they're not supposed to be equally powerful in all areas. Bards are SUPPOSED to be better in social situations than fighters. Fighters are SUPPOSED to be better in combat than rogues. With that in mind I think core is fairly balanced (at least with my modifications)

Kantur
2009-07-07, 11:37 AM
Third - here are some suggestions along the lines of alterations, some extreme, some minor.

Skill Aptitude Feats (Alertness, Athletic, etc.)
-either get rid of these feats altogether, or improve the benefit. You don't want a bigger number, because they grant the right bonus for a low level character. I'd recommend that these feats make the skills they give bonuses to class skills as well.


Two thoughts I had on these feats:
The first is a bonus based on level (E.g. 1 per 4 levels, rounding up, plus one. So 2 at levels 1-4, 3 at 5-8, 4 at 9-12, 5 at 13-16 and finally 6 at 17-20)

The other thought I had was for the Skill Aptitude Feats to allow you to roll 2 dice and pick the highest for those two skills.

Mastikator
2009-07-07, 11:38 AM
Another way is E6, the game is balanced between 1-6.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 12:30 PM
I believe that if people wanted everybody to worck the same way, they would've just gone playing 4e.

The only thing ToB maneuvers have in common with spells is how you gain them by levels. ToB maneuvers are more like melee maneuvers such as trip, grapple and company in that they're unlimited on per-day basis, you can recover them with relatively little effort and they're always available.

Spells are a daily resource you prepare in the morning. Also, maneuvers are extraordinary while spells are supernatural. I don't really see your problem here; you seem to be stuck on semantics. Maneuvers are just the same as normal melee attacks (in its 6 different guises), except there are more of them, the maneuvers have more variety and they force you to use more than one attack all game.


This is, the "sublime" ranger is nothing more than a warblade with a few diferent skills. Hardly worth the effort of reading the entire entry.

It's more a Ranger than a Warblade. The only equivalency is the maneuver recovery method. He still has the archery/TWF thing going on for him (although he obviously has much better options to go S&B now than standard Ranger), he still gets favored enemies, he still gets Ranger-skills (as opposed to Warblade-skills; Ranger is wilderness-focused while Warblade is more rounded) and he still has an animal companion, just like Ranger.

Would you claim Druid and Cleric are the same class just because they recover their spells the same way? 'cause that's how different the two classes are from each other.


Also we really don't need any more "don't save, just suck" spells.

I said "on a FAILED save"...

Lycanthromancer
2009-07-07, 12:56 PM
My suggestion? Ditch core, for the most part. It's the absolutely least-well-balanced part of 3.x. I mean, it has both the monk and the wizard, fer crise-sakes.

Check out JaronK's tier system (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=1002.0). It tells you which classes play good together, and which to avoid. I'd stay between tiers 2-3, myself (though I'd allow especially good optimizers to stray into tier 4, if they want to do so).

Replace most warrior classes with the wildshape ranger, psychic warrior, and ToB classes. Replace the skillmonkeys with factotums and beguilers. And replace spell-slingers with dread necromancers, psions, and favored souls.

You'll get your balance just fine, then.

Doc Roc
2009-07-07, 12:58 PM
Scrubbed by poster. My opinions are not really helpful.

Elminster1
2009-07-07, 01:11 PM
I agree with Eldariel about the spells for wizard/sorceror. I've considered a similar "fix". Basically to make damage dealing spells have their damage escalate, as well as have a secondary "effect", thus making it dualthreat. That is the basic dilemma in D&D, concerning magic. Effects are just better than damage overall. The only other way is damage dealing spells doing too much damage, thus another imbalance, against effect spells. So, having spells that deal damage, and have a secondary effect is far better. I think all of D&D combat magic would be better in this sense. You can still have effect magic, maybe more for personal and party buffing, like Fly, Invisibility, etc. Obviously, Polymorpth and it's ilk are out. But, the other buffs are suitable, and fun. Always keep Summons, thats a great way for casters to add flavor to their ability. I've expanded the Summons list to suit players who enjoy that, with great fun.

To keep it balanced, I think it's necessary to do that with casters, otherwise, they just rule, and make everyone feel lack luster, and that's no fun for anyone. This way, you keep the power of the casters, add some needed fixes that aren't hard, and encourage team play so that everyone has a great time.

Indon
2009-07-07, 01:15 PM
I allow and encourage players to roll their stats. I let my players have a choice of 5d6 or 32 point buy. I do this because if a player rolls great he can choose a MAD class (paladin, monk, etc) without regret, and if he rolls poorly he can choose a SAD class and not be restricted by his poor rolls.
Wait, five six-sided dice? As in, up to a score of 30?

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 01:17 PM
Wait, five six-sided dice? As in, up to a score of 30?

It's 5d6b3

HamsterOfTheGod
2009-07-07, 01:21 PM
Recently I have run into some major PC balance problems in 3.5 D&D. Myself and my players are high schoolers and have been playing for around two years, but no campaign we have had so far has lasted longer than five sessions.

I've decided to try and run a campaign to last, but I find myself bogged down after our fifth session. I've already had numerous player changes, and as of right now two of the group's 4 level 4 characters are alright. Out of the other two, one is an orc barbarian with 22 Strength (we rolled stats), and the other is a warmage. I've already had several arguments with the warmage's player as I prefer to play purely core games (I don't own anything outside of core other than MM3).

However, I've noticed that while out-of-core feats and classes don't balance with core, core doesn't balance with itself either. Alignment restrictions and weak classes/feats (like Fighter and Toughness, respectively) make it impossible to really have a balanced game with just pure core.

Therefore, I've been wondering if there are any simple ways to deal with this double problem (unbalanced non-core classes and core not balanced with itself). I've considered Pathfinder, but since it's "backwards-compatible" with 3.5 the aforementioned player will soon start nagging about it. Is there any other solution out there?
What is the exact problem you are having with the warmage and 22 strength barbarian?

Is it that they are outshining the other players or are making mincemeat of your encounters? If that's the case, then all you need to do is design encounters that make the other characters shine, or in other words, encounters where the warmage and barbarian are not the effective by themselves. This will depend on the other party members of course.

But for ex, a party of low level drow, one of who is a wizard with sleep or hideous laugh or a cleric with hold person is one way to hit at the strength of each character, ie magic resistance for the warmage and a low will save for the barbarian.

Indon
2009-07-07, 01:32 PM
It's 5d6b3

He didn't specify; I wanted to confirm from him.

Vorpal word
2009-07-07, 01:36 PM
Don't worry about the Warmage, first of all. Without Rainbow Servant shenanigans, Warmages are considered weak, if not the weakest full casting class. The 22 STR Barbarian, however, is going to rule combat, even though he's purely Core. What are your other players?

An archer ranger and a druid, all level 4. The main problem with the warmage is not so much obvious balance as the fact that his player uses noncore spells and gives me no better explanation of them than a customized character sheet :smalltongue:. Therefore, I find it hard to see exactly what his character can do.

As for the barbarian...at level 1 he critted a kobold for 54 damage:smalleek:

Vorpal word
2009-07-07, 01:44 PM
Sorry about double-posting, but what really bothers me is that I can't really challenge them with a solo NPC boss, and using multiple NPCs or a monster isn't quite as fun and harder to fit with the plot. If I use a spellcaster they win initiative and slaughter him, and if I use a melee class they generally kill him at range in a couple of rounds. The best I've had was an Invisibility-using gnoll cleric who they thought had teleported away while they fought his minions. He eventually snuck up on them and knocked out the barbarian before they got him. However, the warmage and barbarian's players are STILL bugging me about how they should have heard his armor clanking while he was invisible (in the middle of combat) even though it's been two months since then.

Also, whenever I try to improve a weak class (like fighter), the warmage's player just tells me to use some other noncore class that I have no idea about and won't be able to view except online. Is there any way to deal with this?

Gorbash
2009-07-07, 01:49 PM
Sorry about double-posting

Then why do it? There's a perfectly working 'edit' button.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-07-07, 02:01 PM
Sorry about double-posting, but what really bothers me is that I can't really challenge them with a solo NPC boss

That's always a problem. Unless it's 1 specialist wizard vs. 4 samurai, the action economy favors numbers--few buffs help when your enemies are getting 4 standard actions to your 1. This isn't a problem with core so much as it is a problem with actions, which isn't really fixed except by giving the enemy more actions (which is why things like celerity and time stop are so good when the number of actions is already balanced).

HamsterOfTheGod
2009-07-07, 02:04 PM
An archer ranger and a druid, all level 4.

These shouldn't be "weaker" than the other two.



The main problem with the warmage is not so much obvious balance as the fact that his player uses noncore spells and gives me no better explanation of them than a customized character sheet :smalltongue:. Therefore, I find it hard to see exactly what his character can do.

Simple. Agree on the spells and spell lists. For ex, you can use the warmage spell list here: http://www.crystalkeep.com/d20/rules/DnD3.5Index-Classes-Base.pdf (page 196). For spells off the list, if it's not a offensive damage or battle field control spell that also does damage, ban it.



As for the barbarian...at level 1 he critted a kobold for 54 damage:smalleek:
Obviously don't set him one on one vs kobolds.

He has a low will save. Once in a while, target that. For example by a cleric with hold person or a wizard with hideous laugh.

He has a low AC. Once in a while, target him with multiple attacks. For ex, before he reaches 5th level have 3 or 4 level 1 rouges with weapon finnesse flank the barbarian.

Once in a while target the party with ranged attackers like a harpy archer (a regular CR4 harpy with bow proficiency instead of the persuasion feat). She is a good opponent to make the non-barbarians shine because she has both a will attack and a ranged attack.

Other good opponents to throw against the party might include a shadow or two (incorporeal), or a locust swarm (immune to weapon damage). These opponents work against the barbarian's strength. You don't use them all the time, just enough to remind the player of the character's limits.

Conversely, since the barbarian is plenty tough, don't be afraid to throw higher CR critters against it so that the character can shine but the fight can still be a challenge to the entire party. For ex, you might consider a dire lion facing off against the barbarian while the other party members hold off 2-3 regular lions, or a troll with a pair of ogre followers.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 02:28 PM
Criticals deal a ton of damage. They also happen far less than once in 20 hits for 20/Xx weapons, and under 1 in 10 hits for 19-20 crit range. I can't see what's wrong with criticals being brutal. Of course high Str melee deals a lot of damage when criticaling. Chances are, that Kobold had 4 HP and thus he just wasted 50 points of damage.

Telonius
2009-07-07, 02:32 PM
Rage, charge, max damage on a power-attack crit with a Scythe, is that about right? Yeah, that sort of thing can happen. Thing is, that sort of thing is also what a Barbarian is supposed to be able to do. It's good to let him have some cannon fodder once in awhile. Other times, you need to make it hard for him. Use difficult terrain so he can't charge, hide until his rage is over, target his Will save, use multiple targets, Mirror Image, flying enemies, miss chance. Heck, even Calm Emotions or a Tanglefoot Bag will give him problems. There are plenty of ways to mess with the party melee combatant.

For the Warmage ... first of all, you really didn't handle that very well. In general, the DM should be at least as familiar with the allowed books as the player is. It's up to the DM to allow something or not. Even in permissive groups, if the player can't show the DM where in the rulebook it says he can do it, then it just doesn't happen. Even if he can show in the rulebook where it says so, the DM can choose to allow the rule or ignore the rule. This is the power of Rule Zero. Learn it, love it.

Hamster's link will show you what he can do - and honestly, a regular Wizard is much more powerful. Yes, the Orb spells are nasty at lower levels. No save, etc. But they cap out at 5d8 - average of 22.5 points of damage - at level 9. As you've seen, even melee damage can pretty easily outpace that.

Flickerdart
2009-07-07, 02:42 PM
For spells off the list, if it's not a offensive damage or battle field control spell that also does damage, ban it.
I wouldn't go that far, but at least check to see what it does first. The Warmage is very limited, and Eclectic/Advanced Learning as well as the piddly amount of utility spells the Warmage has can be very nice to give the player some breathing room and not feel useless in situations where blowing stuff up isn't the best thing to do. Sure, take a look at the spells he's getting, but don't blanket ban stuff.

Vorpal word
2009-07-07, 02:44 PM
For the Warmage ... first of all, you really didn't handle that very well. In general, the DM should be at least as familiar with the allowed books as the player is. It's up to the DM to allow something or not. Even in permissive groups, if the player can't show the DM where in the rulebook it says he can do it, then it just doesn't happen. Even if he can show in the rulebook where it says so, the DM can choose to allow the rule or ignore the rule. This is the power of Rule Zero. Learn it, love it.

That's a problem I've noticed a bit ago. I suppose it's partially because we're Grade 9's and not very serious, but DM's have a lot less control over the players than is necessary. Some people (like the warmage player) will just whine at you for months on end until you agree with them; others will simply wreck your campaign for fun (we had a nasty incident at the beginning when two players started a dice fight; I had to kick them both out). Problem is, if I enforced something harsher I would only have about three people left to play with.

HamsterOfTheGod
2009-07-07, 02:49 PM
I wouldn't go that far, but at least check to see what it does first. The Warmage is very limited, and Eclectic/Advanced Learning as well as the piddly amount of utility spells the Warmage has can be very nice to give the player some breathing room and not feel useless in situations where blowing stuff up isn't the best thing to do. Sure, take a look at the spells he's getting, but don't blanket ban stuff.

Agreed. I was giving more of a guideline. The party is actually kind of weak in certain areas because the warmage is limited in scope and because the skillset of the party may also be limited (no trap finding).

On the one hand, this presents certain problems for the party (fighting flying creatures, facing traps). But at the same time these problems can be used ( with care and moderation) by the DM to offer the party some challenging (but not lethal) encounters.


That's a problem I've noticed a bit ago. I suppose it's partially because we're Grade 9's and not very serious, but DM's have a lot less control over the players than is necessary. Some people (like the warmage player) will just whine at you for months on end until you agree with them; others will simply wreck your campaign for fun (we had a nasty incident at the beginning when two players started a dice fight; I had to kick them both out). Problem is, if I enforced something harsher I would only have about three people left to play with.

So what exactly is in his spell list currently?

(Edit: OP I don't think you have a problem of unbalanced game rules. I think you have a problem of how to DM two players. The player of the warmage justs needs to detail the spells on his list. For the barbarian character you just need to design appropriate encounters.)

Hawriel
2009-07-07, 03:37 PM
As we all know common knowledge is always right, so core is really horribly unbalanced and never should have been printed. :smallsigh:

Buy its self core is pritty well balanced. There are somthing things that dont quite fit with every thing els. I really only afew things that can brake core to unplayablility. They are more player/gm behavior related rather than rule over sight.

The first is a powergamer.
Whether it's a player or GM this person goes out of their way to not only dominate encounters but fellow players as well.

Second is the fifteen minute day.
This is when the P&P game is played like a vidio game. Often players will rest after only one or two encounters to heal and regain all of their spells and abilities. This makes no sence. NPCs whether peaple or monsters move around and use their intelligents, natural cunning, and or instincts to their advantage. This meens the players will be attacked or otherwise interupted when they try to rest. Also you cannot fully rest with sleep for eight houres right after fifteen minutes of activity which followed an eight hour rest.

Devine casters and god.
Devine magic is just that devine. It comes from a god(s). If a player wants to be a cleric or druid they should play their characters with their chosen deity's moral code in mind. If a cleric or druid starts behaving or casting spells that their god would not like or upsets the balance of nature, then they risk losing their devine favor. After all clerics and druids are direct mortal representatives of a god. Even if you allow devine casters to worship/follow and idea rather than a god directly they still have to act within the boundries of that ideal.


The OP wants his games to be core only. I suggest using the GMs power to use the word NO. This is a very powerful ability that will go a long way in keeping your game balanced.

quick_comment
2009-07-07, 03:44 PM
A quick, dirty way to keep core more balanced:

1) Eliminate all 9th level spells. 9th level spell slots can be used for metamagiced spells.
2) Wizards have a maximum number of spells known. They can know a number of spells per level equal to a sorcerer of the same level +2. They can erase spells from their spell books.
3) All melee classes get SR=melee class level+5 (25% spell failure for a caster of the same level). This applies only against offensive powers. If the character has SR from another source, check both.
4) All melee classes can take 1 extra 5 ft step per round per 5 levels in a melee class.

Melee class = fighter, barbarian, rogue. Rangers and Paladins are up in the air, but I would call them melee classes and calculate their melee level as their class level -5.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 03:58 PM
Buy its self core is pritty well balanced. There are somthing things that dont quite fit with every thing els. I really only afew things that can brake core to unplayablility. They are more player/gm behavior related rather than rule over sight.

Core is only balanced if you don't use a ~half of the spells printed (which works out just fine for some groups since the players just don't feel like reading through PHB).

Claiming anything else is most likely a consequence of not having read the said spells through (which, I guess, happens in a large number of groups judging by the commonness of this statement).

Oslecamo
2009-07-07, 04:07 PM
The only thing ToB maneuvers have in common with spells is how you gain them by levels.

And that there are 9 of them.
And that that they are divided in schools.
And several of them are really poorly worded leading to people trying all kinds of cheese.



ToB maneuvers are more like melee maneuvers such as trip, grapple and company in that they're unlimited on per-day basis, you can recover them with relatively little effort and they're always available.

I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the crusader's madness as he gets his maneuvers randomly. Because we all know paladins are foaming madmen attacking at complete randomness who can only seek confort in violence.

Or the swordsage needing a fullround action to recover a single maneuver.
Or if you're inside an AMF and want to use a supernatural one.

Yes, always available, check. Just remember to keep capturing living beings for the crusader to torture if you want to heal anything in the downtime.



Spells are a daily resource you prepare in the morning. Also, maneuvers are extraordinary while spells are supernatural.

Yes, all extraordinary, yessir Cough desert wind cough shaddow hand cough most of the custom schools.



I don't really see your problem
here; you seem to be stuck on semantics. Maneuvers are just the same as normal melee attacks (in its 6 different guises), except there are more of them, the maneuvers have more variety and they force you to use more than one attack all game.


If you can only see 6 kind of melee attacks outside of ToB, then we have nothing more to discuss about this. Clearly ToB was created for people like you.



It's more a Ranger than a Warblade. The only equivalency is the maneuver recovery method. He still has the archery/TWF thing going on for him (although he obviously has much better options to go S&B now than standard Ranger), he still gets favored enemies, he still gets Ranger-skills (as opposed to Warblade-skills; Ranger is wilderness-focused while Warblade is more rounded) and he still has an animal companion, just like Ranger.

Considering how easily worthless the companion and favored enemy can become, and how at least ToB tried to make diferent recovery methods for everybody...



Would you claim Druid and Cleric are the same class just because they recover their spells the same way? 'cause that's how different the two classes are from each other.

They have diferent spell lists.
And diferent number of spell slots.
And the druid gets actually a powerfull companion.
While the cleric gets to mess up with undeads.
And the cleric gets to pick domains to customize himself.
While the druid gets to customize himself by transforming into other stuff.

That's how you make two diferent classes.



I said "on a FAILED save"...
Congratulations, powergamers will just keep sticking to "don't save, just die" then.

quick_comment
2009-07-07, 04:10 PM
Or the swordsage needing a fullround action to recover a single maneuver.


There are swordsages without adaptive style?

GreyMantle
2009-07-07, 04:12 PM
If you restrict your play to the first five or six levels, Core isn't really all that bad (and it will let you recreate nearly any fantasy/mythological story you've ever read). You can also reduce all XP gains by half or even more (or just do quest rewards only) if you want to draw out the campaigns. If you willing to use the "hidden" Gentleman's Agreement and Artifact Sword class features, you can even get the games up to 10 or so.

quick_comment
2009-07-07, 04:13 PM
You can also play core the way it was "meant" to be played. Wizards are blasters, clerics are healers/(de)buffers and barbarians render things into tiny pieces.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 04:26 PM
And that there are 9 of them.
And that that they are divided in schools.
And several of them are really poorly worded leading to people trying all kinds of cheese.

Two poorly worded maneuvers exist, Iron Heart Surge and White Raven Tactics. Contrast to spells... And yeah, there are 9 levels of them because of how leveling in D&D works and because they didn't want to have to a create a new table for how martial characters learn new attacks since a perfectly usable one already exists.


I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the crusader's madness as he gets his maneuvers randomly. Because we all know paladins are foaming madmen attacking at complete randomness who can only seek confort in violence.

...what? It's divine inspiration. They don't choose what they know, they are GRANTED maneuvers..


Or the swordsage needing a fullround action to recover a single maneuver.

Swordsages learn things through prayer and meditation; they are indeed magical to a degree. That's why they take longer to recover maneuvers than the Warblade; their study of a maneuver is a meditative process and when the maneuver is used, the imprint is gone from their mind.

The same meditative learning is why they know so many maneuvers; they don't simply practice them, they imprint them in their minds. But yeah, they are magical, just like Monks (who get stuff like Etherealness, Dimension Door, etc.). That doesn't make them casters.


Yes, always available, check. Just remember to keep capturing living beings for the crusader to torture if you want to heal anything in the downtime.

They must pose a threat to you. You can't heal by beating downed people or captured people.


Yes, all extraordinary, yessir Cough desert wind cough shaddow hand cough most of the custom schools.

Two schools, whoppedoo. Guess what? They're Swordsage-specific; Swordsage is a mystical warrior la Monk, not a martial badass la Fighter/Warblade.


If you can only see 6 kind of melee attacks outside of ToB, then we have nothing more to discuss about this. Clearly ToB was created for people like you.

6 mechanical representations of how a Fighter can go about his combat. Sorry, but as much as I love altering fluff on the fly, sometimes it's cool to have mechanics change accordingly too.


Considering how easily worthless the companion and favored enemy can become, and how at least ToB tried to make diferent recovery methods for everybody...

*shrug* Then you might as well call the Core Ranger Fighter with skillpoints. They have as much difference as Warblade and Sublime Way Ranger.


They have diferent spell lists.
And diferent number of spell slots.
And the druid gets actually a powerfull companion.
While the cleric gets to mess up with undeads.
And the cleric gets to pick domains to customize himself.
While the druid gets to customize himself by transforming into other stuff.

That's how you make two diferent classes.

They have the exact same spell progression outside Domains, FYI. And yeah, Sublime Way Ranger & Warblade have different schools from which to draw maneuvers, and Ranger has a totally different power set dependent on the terrain of origin (determining the third school).

Ranger can really kill some creature types (by 20, he can get +10 to damage against a type), while Warblade is equally efficient against everything. And while the casters know all their spells, maneuvers are picked as you level-up and stay with you; you can't pick a new set of maneuvers known every morning. This leads to huge variance inside the Ranger and the Warblade-builds, especially as they have a different pool of maneuvers to choose from.

I fail to see what your problem is here; they're pretty damn different to me. The only thing is the recovery method being the same, but eh, that's hardly a major issue. Sure, you could write something else up for Ranger, but the one he presently has is perfectly servicable seeing little else about the classes is the same.


Congratulations, powergamers will just keep sticking to "don't save, just die" then.

After I'm through with the bannings, there aren't gonna be any "don't save, just die"-effects left (give Enervation and the Necromancy-rays a save...). Damage + possible harmful side-effect is a perfectly fine alternative to Save-or-X, due to the side-effect being pretty damaging while also having the damage count towards killing the opponent.


Really, it feels like you're just going out of your way to be a negative nancy here.

Doc Roc
2009-07-07, 04:29 PM
It was also made for people like me, Os. And people like you. And everyone, really.

ToB, like any book, is whatever you take away from it. More so than most, really.

I'm tossing my hat in here.
Core is terrible. Almost all of the CO community agrees with this. So it's possible we're all wrong, every last single COer, or maybe that you should re-evaluate. So, example time! Did you know that there are three ways to change the range of a personal spell to something else?

Familiars (core only)
Spellguard (highly debated)
Master Specialist Abjurer (Tenth level capstone, 3x per day, limited applicability)


Most of the components for the truly abusive builds reside in core.

Tehnar
2009-07-07, 04:37 PM
He didn't specify; I wanted to confirm from him.

Yeah, I meant 5d6 best 3.


@ Vorpal Word: It seems to me that you have more of a problem with your players then with the system in hand. When your players badger you about the mistakes you made, say ok, I admit it, Ill be more careful in the future. But for now that is how the encounter played out. They shouldn't expect from you to play everything perfectly from the get go. Now if you wish to run a campaign you might want to try to run a published adventure (such as the excellent Red Hand of Doom, though that might be a bit too much for starting players).

HamsterOfTheGod
2009-07-07, 05:09 PM
Sorry about double-posting, but what really bothers me is that I can't really challenge them with a solo NPC boss

Why not? You have a level 4 party that can do a lot of damage. How about a young black, blue or green dragon? How about an umber hulk? How about a chain devil with a coouple of fighter levels, improved trip and plenty of chains to control? How about a ravid hding in a junk pile with plenty of objects to animate? Or a will-o-wisp which uses hit and run tactics?



using multiple NPCs or a monster isn't quite as fun and harder to fit with the plot.

Multiple npcs are easy to fit into a plot. Their the minions of the boss npc which fight alongside the boss.



If I use a spellcaster they win initiative and slaughter him

Make your spellcasters with high dex and improved initiative or use the spell skittish nervers. Or have them be invisible or disguised or just waiting in ambush. Have them use battle field control spells or summoned monsters or undead to occupy the party.



if I use a melee class they generally kill him at range in a couple of rounds.

Don't play the spellcasters or the melee classes dumb. Your party has ranged attackers. So anyone who wants to melee them will think of a way to get into melee range with them.



The best I've had was an Invisibility-using gnoll cleric who they thought had teleported away while they fought his minions.

Good. That's a good start. Use more of that.



He eventually snuck up on them and knocked out the barbarian before they got him. However, the warmage and barbarian's players are STILL bugging me about how they should have heard his armor clanking while he was invisible (in the middle of combat) even though it's been two months since then.

Pull out the npc stat. Point to the move silent skill. Add the distance and circumstance adjustments and so forth and say that's the way it is regardless of what they think. And if your npc cleric does not have a high enough move silent, retcon him that way :)

Then tell them to stop the rules lawyering because its no fun for you.



Also, whenever I try to improve a weak class (like fighter), the warmage's player just tells me to use some other noncore class that I have no idea about and won't be able to view except online. Is there any way to deal with this?
Why try to improve the "weak" fighter class? None of the PC's are using it. As for an NPC, there is no rule that you can't use a higher level fighter or use all the fighter's tricks. An npc fighter is not normally a good boss monster but if you make a sundering tank fighter as a minion to the boss and let him go at the barbarian that can cause that player problems.

Eldariel
2009-07-07, 05:22 PM
Sorry about double-posting, but what really bothers me is that I can't really challenge them with a solo NPC boss, and using multiple NPCs or a monster isn't quite as fun and harder to fit with the plot. If I use a spellcaster they win initiative and slaughter him, and if I use a melee class they generally kill him at range in a couple of rounds. The best I've had was an Invisibility-using gnoll cleric who they thought had teleported away while they fought his minions. He eventually snuck up on them and knocked out the barbarian before they got him. However, the warmage and barbarian's players are STILL bugging me about how they should have heard his armor clanking while he was invisible (in the middle of combat) even though it's been two months since then.

Remember that a party is expected to be able to take 1 CR 4 higher than their ECL encounter per day. So a solo boss should be CR 8. This one is an example of a high-powered one:
Gibbering Mouther advanced to 12 HD as per advancement guideline for the monster.

Large Aberration
HP: 12d8+96 = 150 (with DR 5/Bludgeoning)
AC: 10 - 1 Dex - 1 Size + 10 Natural Armor = 18
Initiative: +3

Str 20 (10 base + 8 size + 2 standard array)
Dex 8 (12 base - 2 size - 2 standard array)
Con 26 (22 base + 4 size + 0 standard array)
Int 3 (4 base - 1 standard array)
Wis 14 (12 base + 1 standard array + 1 levels)
Cha 16 (12 base + 3 standard array + 1 levels)

Fort +12
Ref +3
Will +10

BAB +9

Gibbering DC 21
Spittle DC 24

Attacks: 6x +13 Bite for 1d2+5 & Imp. Grapple (also Bloodletting Strike; 1d4 Con each round when swallowed) + 1x +7 Ranged Touch 1d4 Acid + Blindness
Grapple: +18 (evenly matched with Druid Wildshaped into Polar Bear)

Skills:
Spot +21 (enough to see still invisible characters rather consistently), Listen +2, Swim +13

Feats:
Improved Initiative
Ability Focus: Gibbering
3 free (say, Ability Focus: Spittle, Lightning Reflexes and Power Attack)

It's a Gibbering Mouther advanced to CR8 by giving it 8 extra HD (Aberration HD increases CR by 1 for every 4 increases) and making it Large (+1 CR). The SRD version is a bit weakened; Monster Manual version deals Con-damage with every bite, making it even nastier.

Relevant numbers different from the Core-version:
Engulf save DC is 23 (10 base + 5 Str + 6 HD + 2 racial)
Str-check DC to pull a Mouth off is 21 (10 base + 5 Str + 6 HD)
Gibbering DC 21 (10 base + 3 Cha + 6 HD + 2 Ability Focus)
Spittle DC 24 (10 base + 8 Con + 6 HD)


EDIT: To be clear, you should not throw this monster at the party as presented. While this is a fair CR 8 Core-only monster, the party is not optimized and thus this thing would be a TPK even if you make it face them in open where its horrible speed catches up to it. You could cut 4 HD away from it to make the DCs for its abilities (and its attacks & grapple-checks) slightly more manageable and to significantly cut into its HP pool though.

I posted it to serve as an example of what kinds of monsters they could technically be expected to take on.

AslanCross
2009-07-07, 08:00 PM
Sorry about double-posting, but what really bothers me is that I can't really challenge them with a solo NPC boss, and using multiple NPCs or a monster isn't quite as fun and harder to fit with the plot. If I use a spellcaster they win initiative and slaughter him, and if I use a melee class they generally kill him at range in a couple of rounds. The best I've had was an Invisibility-using gnoll cleric who they thought had teleported away while they fought his minions. He eventually snuck up on them and knocked out the barbarian before they got him. However, the warmage and barbarian's players are STILL bugging me about how they should have heard his armor clanking while he was invisible (in the middle of combat) even though it's been two months since then.

Also, whenever I try to improve a weak class (like fighter), the warmage's player just tells me to use some other noncore class that I have no idea about and won't be able to view except online. Is there any way to deal with this?

Casters should be well-prepared to reflect their high Int or Wis. They should typically have the terrain advantage. Something as simple as being at the top of a staircase will slow down PC melee combatants by half. Never use flat terrain. D&D is specifically designed to give PCs an advantage, so the DM has to compensate somewhat to make encounters more challenging.

It is a very, very bad idea in 3.5 to use lone NPCs, even if the CR system says it's "challenging.". I learned that the hard way. Even something as high as 5 levels above the PCs will fall simply because of action ratio. It's simple, really: Players get a total of 4 actions between themselves during their turn, assuming there are only 4 players. The NPC gets one.

It's better if you use Large monsters because:
1. They have much better strength, and thus more reliable damage output.
2. They are harder to surround and mob.
3. They tend to have more attacks for their HD than humanoids would.


As for the melee classes:
I'll level with you. Fighter is really, really, really weak in core. Some of the feat fixes suggested above are fine, but the easiest fix to melee classes is Tome of Battle. Not everyone likes it, but it levels things out quite well.