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View Full Version : Making mobility skills useful at high levels (PEACH)



Yitzi
2012-09-21, 04:47 PM
As we all know, wizards (or casters in general) tend to step on everyone else's toes. Some of the worst sufferers are skillmonkeys, with some particularly stepped-on skills being Open Lock, Climb, Jump, and Balance. Open Lock is a discussion for another time, but Climb, Jump and Balance are more interesting, because they're harder to fix. In essence, there are two major problems:

1. The Fly spell makes them obsolete. (So does Spider Climb for the Climb skill.)
2. Each one only helps the character who has it get past the obstacle in question, meaning that the non-skillmonkeys still need a way to get past such obstacles; this essentially means that Fly is needed at higher levels and so any attempts to fix #1 run into other problems.


Therefore, I'd propose the following fix:

1. Spider Climb is severely nerfed (duration severely reduced, spell level raised substantially) if not removed completely.
2. A flying creature that succeeds on a fortitude save against a wind effect merely reduces the effect to that of a failed save by a non-flying creature (this also negates the "flying creatures are treated as one size smaller than their actual size" rule).
3. A new spell: Teleport Beacon (school and level would need to be determined) creates a "beacon" (lasts 1 day/level) that allows its creator to teleport to it with no chance of error regardless of knowledge of the location, presence of strong physical or magical energy, or even protective spells such as Forbiddance.

Thus, if a passage is protected by a high-CL Gust of Wind (courtesy of Guards and Wards), flying can't get you anywhere, but a rogue with the right skills can carry a teleport beacon across to the other side so that the party wizard can take the party along. Of course, such a passage is as secure as you can reasonably get (depending on the DC for the skills, of course), so you can bet the big bads will be using such methods as often as they can.

Thoughts?

Hanuman
2012-09-22, 05:22 AM
I don't know, I think skillmonkies generally do ok if you throw in skill tricks.

Flight needs the fly skill in pathfinder, and Acrobatics lumps most of the mobilities together making it much easier to get.

When it comes to swim, fly, burrow and walking you are never going to see vanilla beat out magic, and it's not supposed to. That's what makes magic so appealing.

Mobility skills are discrete, ever ready and cost nothing. They don't create magical auras nor do fizzle in an AMF.

If your DM isn't throwing magical security in at high level then somethings a little wonky anyway.

TuggyNE
2012-09-22, 04:01 PM
As we all know, wizards (or casters in general) tend to step on everyone else's toes. Some of the worst sufferers are skillmonkeys, with some particularly stepped-on skills being Open Lock, Climb, Jump, and Balance. Open Lock is a discussion for another time, but Climb, Jump and Balance are more interesting, because they're harder to fix. In essence, there are two major problems:

1. The Fly spell makes them obsolete. (So does Spider Climb for the Climb skill.)
2. Each one only helps the character who has it get past the obstacle in question, meaning that the non-skillmonkeys still need a way to get past such obstacles; this essentially means that Fly is needed at higher levels and so any attempts to fix #1 run into other problems.


Therefore, I'd propose the following fix:

1. Spider Climb is severely nerfed (duration severely reduced, spell level raised substantially) if not removed completely.
2. A flying creature that succeeds on a fortitude save against a wind effect merely reduces the effect to that of a failed save by a non-flying creature (this also negates the "flying creatures are treated as one size smaller than their actual size" rule).
3. A new spell: Teleport Beacon (school and level would need to be determined) creates a "beacon" (lasts 1 day/level) that allows its creator to teleport to it with no chance of error regardless of knowledge of the location, presence of strong physical or magical energy, or even protective spells such as Forbiddance.

Thus, if a passage is protected by a high-CL Gust of Wind (courtesy of Guards and Wards), flying can't get you anywhere, but a rogue with the right skills can carry a teleport beacon across to the other side so that the party wizard can take the party along. Of course, such a passage is as secure as you can reasonably get (depending on the DC for the skills, of course), so you can bet the big bads will be using such methods as often as they can.

This is an unfortunate example, because gust of wind is not bypassed by any of the mentioned skills (or anything, in fact, except Fort saves and sheer size), and your fix doesn't mention any changes here. So you wouldn't want a rogue, you'd want a Barbarian or Fighter, preferably expanded or Powerful Build.

Moreover, the suggested fix includes adding a new spell, and one with a capability that is nearly unique: bypassing forbiddance et al with [teleportation] normally requires a full-on wish. I don't believe that's a good idea (primarily because PC casters are usually on the offensive, and NPCs usually defending). Instead, I'd suggest expanding on Aid Another checks for e.g. Climb, so that roping a party together has a well-defined (and effective) result, and perhaps adjust the wording of gust of wind to make more countermeasures effective against it, if you're worried about that.

Finally, a reasonable protection against usage of fly to bypass obstacles is a combination of tight tunnels (borrow PF's Fly skill if you need to, but 3.5's maneuverability is probably good enough here if you reduce fly's stated maneuverability) and magical countermeasures such as perhaps unhallow loaded with dispel magic which, coincidentally, would also prove effective against the proposed teleport beacon.


As a side note, I created a pair of spell modifications specifically to deal with Open Lock and Search being clobbered by full casters.

Yitzi
2012-09-22, 07:45 PM
I don't know, I think skillmonkies generally do ok if you throw in skill tricks.

What have you seen in the way of good skill tricks for the skills in question? That would be a great way if they have good skill tricks.


Flight needs the fly skill in pathfinder

Of course, that doesn't actually make a climber or jumper useful when there's a wizard with the fly skill and a means of flight in the party.


and Acrobatics lumps most of the mobilities together making it much easier to get.

So instead of wasting 4 skill points per level on skills that are useless by level 10, you only waste 2?


Mobility skills are discrete, ever ready and cost nothing. They don't create magical auras nor do fizzle in an AMF.

If your DM isn't throwing magical security in at high level then somethings a little wonky anyway.

Oh, there's no question that it's not difficult to create ways to make security against magic so that the skillmonkeys have a role; while I maintain that the first two parts of my fix are a good idea (just because it shouldn't be that hard to make good anti-flying security or make the Climb skill useful), the real point is the third part of my fix, which means that you can throw in that security without worrying about stranding the other members of the party.


This is an unfortunate example, because gust of wind is not bypassed by any of the mentioned skills (or anything, in fact, except Fort saves and sheer size)

Actually, it is in a sense. If you're climbing in an area with Gust of Wind, then you're not flying, which means you can use Fort saves to get past anyway, whereas a flying creature doesn't have that option (as with my fix, even with a Fort save it is unable to progress).


and your fix doesn't mention any changes here. So you wouldn't want a rogue, you'd want a Barbarian or Fighter, preferably expanded or Powerful Build.

Yes; with Expand you'd have more of an advantage, so maybe Gust of Wind isn't such a good example and a homebrew method (perhaps one that affects large creatures as well but has a Fort save easy enough that even a rogue can succeed at a reasonable rate) would need to be used instead.


Moreover, the suggested fix includes adding a new spell, and one with a capability that is nearly unique: bypassing forbiddance et al with [teleportation] normally requires a full-on wish. I don't believe that's a good idea (primarily because PC casters are usually on the offensive, and NPCs usually defending).

I figured that the need to get the beacon past the obstacle anyway means that it won't really help you that much.


Instead, I'd suggest expanding on Aid Another checks for e.g. Climb, so that roping a party together has a well-defined (and effective) result

Ah, that might work, although with Balance and Jump it's still pretty iffy. (Although Balance has its own advantages, especially if you homebrew oil to have the effects of a Grease spell...)


Finally, a reasonable protection against usage of fly to bypass obstacles is a combination of tight tunnels (borrow PF's Fly skill if you need to, but 3.5's maneuverability is probably good enough here if you reduce fly's stated maneuverability) and magical countermeasures such as perhaps unhallow loaded with dispel magic which, coincidentally, would also prove effective against the proposed teleport beacon.

Tight tunnels also block Jump, though...dispel traps are a nice idea, though, especially if they're placed well and Fly is weakened to not let you down gently if dispelled...:belkar:


As a side note, I created a pair of spell modifications specifically to deal with Open Lock and Search being clobbered by full casters.

I've got a different idea regarding Knock (essentially, have it reduce the DC by 1/3), and as for Find Traps it might be simpler to get rid of it entirely.

Hanuman
2012-09-22, 09:05 PM
Re-thinking this, yeah most of your points are correct, mobility skills at high level simply are not important. Pathfinder does recognize this by lumping them and saying "Yeah, they aren't useful, but at least you don't need to base your character on it."

Really your enemy here are all forms of alt. movement speeds, including fly, climb, swim and burrow.

As far as removal of these? I really suggest you don't do that.

If you want to make it more fair to skill monkies late game? Instead of nerfs why not buffs, make some good skilltricks.

The universe is born out of the love of creating.

ericgrau
2012-09-22, 11:53 PM
Jump and climb don't truly become obsolete until the entire party has flight magic items. Realistically this is at least level 11 and probably 14. Balance doesn't become obsolete until you have continuous flight for the entire party, which doesn't happen until epic levels. That's because while you may need to fly out of a tough spot faster than a skill would allow, it's far more convenient to keep on fighting on a bad surface than it is to waste your turn on a flight item. Many pits are encountered between combat so you have time to activate fly or dimension door, but like balance jump remains useful during combat as a time saver.

Only climb truly gets shafted before epic levels.

The key piece of logic here is practicality. Activation time, tagging the whole party, being able to do it enough times, etc.

One rule that is critical to maintain is that there are no natural 1s on skill checks. The first time someone rolls a 1 on a skill and disaster strikes is the time when he ditches mobility skills entirely because it's not worth the risk. Likewise between combat you can take a 10 and the first time a DM says "no it's too dangerous so you can't" (BS) is the time any one who isn't a maxed out skill monkey ditches mobility skills entirely because it's not worth the risk.

TuggyNE
2012-09-23, 01:56 AM
Actually, it is in a sense. If you're climbing in an area with Gust of Wind, then you're not flying, which means you can use Fort saves to get past anyway, whereas a flying creature doesn't have that option (as with my fix, even with a Fort save it is unable to progress).

Hmm, fair enough.


I figured that the need to get the beacon past the obstacle anyway means that it won't really help you that much.

If that's all you want, refuge (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/refuge.htm) actually already does this (minus the forbiddance-bypassing). It's Sor/Wiz 9, Clr 7.

Hanuman
2012-09-23, 02:50 AM
Here's an idea, if you just want to nerf magical movement why not make it set your maximum carry capacity to 0lbs not including basic clothes?

Yitzi
2012-09-23, 07:26 AM
Re-thinking this, yeah most of your points are correct, mobility skills at high level simply are not important. Pathfinder does recognize this by lumping them and saying "Yeah, they aren't useful, but at least you don't need to base your character on it."

So you waste less...I'm looking for "waste nothing".


Really your enemy here are all forms of alt. movement speeds, including fly, climb, swim and burrow.

Of those, only Fly can replace Jump and Balance.


If you want to make it more fair to skill monkies late game? Instead of nerfs why not buffs, make some good skilltricks.

I'm still waiting for some ideas of good skill tricks (other than "remove penalties for using the skill" or "use the skill better", which is useless if the skill is already useless.)


Jump and climb don't truly become obsolete until the entire party has flight magic items. Realistically this is at least level 11 and probably 14.

Not really; only one person needs flight, unless you make an obstacle where everybody needs jump or climb (which of course is a bad idea because not everybody has it.)




Balance is definitely the smallest problem. The real concern is jump and climb (since one flyer can replace one skillmonkey). Especially jump, since there's no way to make it a group action.

[quote]One rule that is critical to maintain is that there are no natural 1s on skill checks. The first time someone rolls a 1 on a skill and disaster strikes is the time when he ditches mobility skills entirely because it's not worth the risk.

I am a firm believer that D&D is supposed to have risk. But yes, skill users should be able to take 10, and at high levels maybe even do so when in combat.


If that's all you want, refuge (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/refuge.htm) actually already does this (minus the forbiddance-bypassing). It's Sor/Wiz 9, Clr 7.

Actually, that only takes them to your home.


Here's an idea, if you just want to nerf magical movement why not make it set your maximum carry capacity to 0lbs not including basic clothes?

Because then you still can't easily make a scenario where one person having jump is useful even if there's a wizard who can cast fly.

Yitzi
2012-09-23, 09:57 AM
I've thought about this some more, and decided that the following is a better (though similar) approach than my first idea:

1. Use tuggyne's idea of dispel traps.
2. Nerf Fly's response to dispelling. None of this "floats downward" business.
3. Make a spell that temporarily (probably 1 day/level) creates a superior equivalent to the portable hole, capable of holding creatures effectively (so that one person can carry the entire party). Dispelling it from the outside merely temporarily closes the portal (but dispelling from the inside ends the spell, which means it's a poor idea.)

ericgrau
2012-09-23, 12:36 PM
Not really; only one person needs flight, unless you make an obstacle where everybody needs jump or climb (which of course is a bad idea because not everybody has it.)

And yet those obstacles are surprisingly common, particularly for jump. The general solution becomes rope or teleportation or fishing out the fallen guy. So dimension door is a much bigger culprit than flight because it gets most or all of the party, but even that's not unlimited.



I am a firm believer that D&D is supposed to have risk. But yes, skill users should be able to take 10, and at high levels maybe even do so when in combat.

The moment you put risk on skills and someone nearly dies, he says "Gee, maybe I'll just pay a few gp for something that doesn't have risk like a potion of spider climb." At high levels you can pass many checks on the roll of a 1 anyway. The moment a DM gets annoyed that players have a 100% chance of passing a skill check is the moment skills get an unnecessary nerf and then players abandon them for magic items. 100% reliability is ok; many other things don't even have a check.

While only climb becomes useless pre-epic, other mobility skills do become less useful. You could make some changes. Instead of making spells useless, I'd rather boost skills instead, or some combination of minor spell nerfs and skill boosts. Always try to have multiple ways to beat a challenge, even if some are better than others. Lock and key encounters with a single solution are the hallmark of a poorly made challenge.

The general ways to overcome challenges that you want to keep are:
Cast a spell to get past it. You might limit the benefits but it should still be there.
Use a magic item, similar to the above. Or a non-magic item like rope and pitons.
Pass a skill check.
"Monk trapfinding". The meat shield walks right into it and takes the damage and/or rolls his save then keeps going as fast as he can. The other related brute method that doesn't really apply here is "smash it.".
Examine the dungeon and figure out how to get by. The players figure out a path and then apply one or more of the above, rather than blindly rolling checks or applying standard tactic C.

Yitzi
2012-09-23, 01:04 PM
And yet those obstacles are surprisingly common, particularly for jump. The general solution becomes rope or teleportation or fishing out the fallen guy.

And once you're using those anyway, there's not much point in one guy having 15 ranks in jump, is there?


The moment you put risk on skills and someone nearly dies, he says "Gee, maybe I'll just pay a few gp for something that doesn't have risk like a potion of spider climb."

Yes, if you're going to turn climb into a risky activity (which it usually shouldn't be for skilled people due to taking 10), you'd better remove Spider Climb.


The moment a DM gets annoyed that players have a 100% chance of passing a skill check is the moment skills get an unnecessary nerf and then players abandon them for magic items.

Yeah, the DM should never get annoyed. That said, it's not as much fun if you know you're going to succeed, so there should at least be opportunities for skillmonkeys to take risks for rewards that couldn't be gotten any other way.


While only climb becomes useless pre-epic, other mobility skills do become less useful. You could make some changes. Instead of making spells useless, I'd rather boost skills instead, or some combination of minor spell nerfs and skill boosts. Always try to have multiple ways to beat a challenge, even if some are better than others. Lock and key encounters with a single solution are the hallmark of a poorly made challenge.

Any ideas? Seems to me that no matter how much you boost jump, it can't compete with Fly unless you nerf Fly either mechanically or situationally.


The general ways to overcome challenges that you want to keep are:
Cast a spell to get past it. You might limit the benefits but it should still be there.
Use a magic item, similar to the above. Or a non-magic item like rope and pitons.
Pass a skill check.
"Monk trapfinding". The meat shield walks right into it and takes the damage and/or rolls his save then keeps going as fast as he can. The other related brute method that doesn't really apply here is "smash it.".
Examine the dungeon and figure out how to get by. The players figure out a path and then apply one or more of the above, rather than blindly rolling checks or applying standard tactic C.


Actually, "smash it" does work at times; a fighter with an adamantine greatsword should be quite capable of simply carving his way into the next room (unless the walls are made of adamantine themselves.)

But the options should all be roughly equal; "use a spell" shouldn't be clearly superior to "pass a skill check", even at levels where Fly is "cheap". If you have any ideas on how to achieve that without making Fly not be an option, I'd love to hear them.

TuggyNE
2012-09-23, 04:44 PM
Actually, that only takes them to your home.

Check the second part of the spell. It has a variant that takes you to them (although I forgot to mention that it only transports the caster, and perhaps familiar; adjusting that and the spell level would probably work fine).

Yitzi
2012-09-23, 04:49 PM
Check the second part of the spell. It has a variant that takes you to them (although I forgot to mention that it only transports the caster, and perhaps familiar; adjusting that and the spell level would probably work fine).

Yes, that does do that...it's quite expensive per casting, though.

Hanuman
2012-09-23, 07:06 PM
Of those, only Fly can replace Jump and Balance.

I'm still waiting for some ideas of good skill tricks (other than "remove penalties for using the skill" or "use the skill better", which is useless if the skill is already useless.)

@jump/balance
swim and climb are movement, swim negates the swim skill, climb negates climb, balance and often jump, burrow negates climb, balance, jump, tumble and survival at different times and fly negates jump, climb balance and fly.

Speeds negate the usage for movement skills, that's the majority of their mechanic.

The solution is clearly to make using skills have additional effects as they already do with skilltricks, that's the majority of their mechanic. Alternatively play pathfinder and use rogue powers.

@waiting
no idea who you are waiting on, you got a lot of energy going into criticizing problems rather than inventing content

Yitzi
2012-09-23, 07:38 PM
@jump/balance
swim and climb are movement, swim negates the swim skill, climb negates climb, balance and often jump, burrow negates climb, balance, jump, tumble and survival at different times and fly negates jump, climb balance and fly.

Speeds negate the usage for movement skills, that's the majority of their mechanic.

The solution is clearly to make using skills have additional effects as they already do with skilltricks, that's the majority of their mechanic.

And I have no idea what those additional effects might be in the case of the skills in question. I am open to suggestions.

You mentioned skill tricks. Do you know of any skill tricks for those skills that would avoid the problem? All the skill tricks I know of for those skills are just as useless when Fly is available as the skills themselves are.

I'm looking for suggestions, but "skill tricks" is a description of a suggestion, not a usable suggestion itself.

Hanuman
2012-09-23, 07:51 PM
google'd skilltricks dnd, 2nd result
http://therafimrpg.wikidot.com/skill-tricks
acrobatic backstab
escape attack
extreme leap
nimble stand
quick swimmer
speedy ascent
twisted charge


i can also remember a myriad of feats that improve combat for acrobatic characters, but ive lost my crystalkeep pdfs and frankly im not willing to spend the time

anyway, hope this helps

Yitzi
2012-09-24, 06:32 AM
google'd skilltricks dnd, 2nd result
http://therafimrpg.wikidot.com/skill-tricks
acrobatic backstab

Ok, that helps with Tumble, although that's one of the easier skills to have useful at high levels anyway.


escape attack

I'm not really counting escape artist, as it lacks the problems being discussed in this thread anyway.


extreme leap

Still remains inferior to Fly unless you have lots of other speed boosts as well.


nimble stand

Tumble is certainly not a problem now...


quick swimmer

Still inferior to Fly unless you're underwater (in which case the problem doesn't exist anyway.)


speedy ascent

Still inferior to magical alternatives.


twisted charge

This is useful for making Balance useful.

So thanks for the ideas, but Jump and Climb are still in trouble, as each only has one skill trick, which merely reduce the amount by which they are inferior to magical alternatives.


i can also remember a myriad of feats that improve combat for acrobatic characters, but ive lost my crystalkeep pdfs and frankly im not willing to spend the time

And I don't have those, so that doesn't really help me either.

Yitzi
2012-09-24, 08:42 AM
I thought of some ideas that might help:

-A homebrew skill trick for jump ("bounding stride") could boost your running and jumping speed, or even speed in general, to a point where it's faster than Fly over short distances.
-To help Climb, it might help to nerf Fly so that it can only be kept "active" for 1 round/caster level, and make a skill trick so you can stay in your perch (say, an ambush position) for a long time...*


*Yes, I did totally get this use for climb from Howard Tayler.