1. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Piggy Knowles
Mindsight is wonderful for a lot of things, but ignoring miss chances isn't one of them. An invisible enemy detected via Mindsight will still have total concealment:
Pardon my bad wording; I meant it'll help you pinpoint invisible creatures, but won't help with miss chances.

2. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by ILM
Yes but you see, I think that's essentially where our divergence lies: between all the stuff you excluded, you have 11 data points from CR 15 to 20. There are 44 dragons in that range and a total of 66 monsters by my count. You're excluding 80% of your sample.

At high levels, I think dragons aren't the exceptions, they are the curve.
Not quite. While eleven monsters may not be that many, they're all monsters that WotC expected to be able to land melee hits. This means their ABs should all cluster closely around the "true" mean (the average we'd get if there were more entries).

Take CR 16 for example. Even with only three data points (+23, +25, +25), we can nail down the mean pretty solidly. And we can also compare against previous and later entries. CR 17 varies much more widely (+18, +25, +30), but the true mean is likely close to +25, which we can tell both from the numbers themselves and by extrapolating from CR 16.

In a theoretical context, the number of data points provided would not be enough. But we know that AB should increase monotonously whether or not it's precisely linear, and we know that the curve should be fairly smooth with no sudden jumps. In practical terms, then, once we have a solid baseline it should be viable to extend it without much trouble.

There's also the matter of accuracy. The levels before 10 we can nail down reliably to perhaps a quarter of a point of AB. But even in the 16-20 range, we shouldn't be off by more than +/-2. And +/-2 won't change the comparison against McFighter's AC, which skyrockets in those levels.

All that said... if you could post your numbers for the mean ABs of those higher levels, I can re-generate the McFighter graph and see what we get.

3. Re: AC: is it worthless?

New chart elements: a monstrous race, and a dex-based class.

For the monstrous race I chose Centaur Fighter. The Centaur could easily have been a Minotaur, Mineral Warrior, Grimlock, Troglodyte, or any of a dozen other monstrous races, with only minor variation in the chart. And the class could have been any number of things too. In all cases, it kept much closer to the "Good" bar while the McFighter hovered more around "Decent" for most of its career.

For the dex-based class, I went with Halfling Swordsage, but chose not to include Ability Point bonuses from levelling up, just for simplicity's sake. It still outperformed the McFighter, but by a fairly narrow margin that trailed off towards the end. Wis-to-AC is good, but doesn't make up for the lack of an animated shield. I probably should have given them a shield anyways as it would probably give a better curve than what we're seeing here, but what we're seeing here is still sufficient.

4. Re: AC: is it worthless?

AC cost scales quadratically, WBL scales nonlinearly, but less than quadratically, which means for every extra point of AC you need to pay an increasing % of your WBL as you progress in levels.
WBL scales at approximately x1.3 per level from level 2 to 20.

Prior to level 10 WBL goes up faster than the square of level, and it accelerates relative to quadratic in level.

5. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Doug Lampert
WBL scales at approximately x1.3 per level from level 2 to 20.

Prior to level 10 WBL goes up faster than the square of level, and it accelerates relative to quadratic in level.
That's fascinating, however its of limited usefulness without being able to compare it to the scaling costs of AC as well.

6. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by TypoNinja
That's fascinating, however its of limited usefulness without being able to compare it to the scaling costs of AC as well.
Assume: starting 12 Dex
19 | 9 | Fullplate | 0.5k | 0.5k
20 | 1 | +1 Fullplate | 1k | 1.5k
21 | 1 | +1 Ring of Prot | 2k | 3.5k
22 | 1 | +1 Ammy of NA | 2k | 5.5k
27 | 5 | +1 Ani. Tower Shield | 9k | 14.5k
28 | 1 | +2 Fullplate | 3k | 17.5k
29 | 1 | Dusty Rose Ioun Stone | 5k | 22.5k
30 | 1 | +3 Fullplate | 5k | 26.5k
31 | 1 | +2 Ring of Prot | 6k | 32.5k
32 | 1 | +2 Ammy of NA | 6k | 38.5k
33 | 1 | Mithral, +2 Gloves of Dex | 7k | 45.5k
34 | 1 | +4 Fullplate | 7k | 52.5k
35 | 1 | +2 Shield| 7k | 59.5k
36 | 1 | +1 Def. Armor Spike | 8k | 67.5k
37 | 1 | +1 Def. Shield Spike | 8k | 75.5k
41 | 4 | Skin of the Defender | 32k | 107.5k
42 | 1 | +5 Fullplate | 9k | 116.5k
43 | 1 | +3 Shield | 9k | 125.5k
44 | 1 | +3 Ring of Protection | 10k | 135.5k
45 | 1 | +3 Ammy of NA | 10k | 145.5k
46 | 1 | +2 Shield Spikes | 10k | 155.5k
47 | 1 | +2 Armor Spikes | 10k | 165.5k
48 | 1 | +4 Shield | 11k | 176.5k
49 | 1 | +4 Gloves of Dex | 12k | 188.5k
50 | 1 | +5 Shield | 13k | 190.5k
[/table]

The progression starts meandering after that. You can get another +6 AC off the spikes, and another +4 AC off the Ring and Amulet, leaving you at 60 AC until epic content.

7. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
New chart elements: a monstrous race, and a dex-based class.

For the monstrous race I chose Centaur Fighter. The Centaur could easily have been a Minotaur, Mineral Warrior, Grimlock, Troglodyte, or any of a dozen other monstrous races, with only minor variation in the chart. And the class could have been any number of things too. In all cases, it kept much closer to the "Good" bar while the McFighter hovered more around "Decent" for most of its career.

For the dex-based class, I went with Halfling Swordsage, but chose not to include Ability Point bonuses from levelling up, just for simplicity's sake. It still outperformed the McFighter, but by a fairly narrow margin that trailed off towards the end. Wis-to-AC is good, but doesn't make up for the lack of an animated shield. I probably should have given them a shield anyways as it would probably give a better curve than what we're seeing here, but what we're seeing here is still sufficient.

The chart on its own, while interesting, doesn't shed a whole lot of light on whether AC has a better value for money as primary, secondary, or tertiary defense at a given level, which is a large part of the "AC is worth less" crowd's contention (the space is intentional).

8. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Amphetryon
The chart on its own, while interesting, doesn't shed a whole lot of light on whether AC has a better value for money as primary, secondary, or tertiary defense at a given level, which is a large part of the "AC is worth less" crowd's contention (the space is intentional).
Worth less.... than what, exactly? That's what I haven't heard a response to. I mean, a Wizard can have Mirror Image + Blink + Invisibility + Flight. Wizards rule, the other 71 classes drool, we get it. Ignoring Wizards though, you don't really have that many options. Most monsters in the game, even through higher levels, attack AC. And there aren't that many possible defences.

The only commonly available form of miss chance is "Cloak of Displacement". It costs 24k, putting it out of reach of low or mid level games. It's also not very effective. For that budget you can get 29-32 AC, which provides a heck of a lot better than 20% defence up to level 15 or so. And at level 15, AC is starting to increase faster than monster attack bonuses. At that point, yes, a Cloak of Displacement is a worthwhile secondary defence, but let's face it - nobody in their right mind is going to bank their character's survival on consistently nailing a 1-in-5 potshot, not unless they're fine with high character mortality rates.

Cloak of Displacement is good, but it's too expensive to be viable at most levels, and not reliable enough to ever be a primary defence.

And if you know a better source of miss chance that's available regardless of class, I'd love to hear it.

9. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
Worth less.... than what, exactly? That's what I haven't heard a response to. I mean, a Wizard can have Mirror Image + Blink + Invisibility + Flight. Wizards rule, the other 71 classes drool, we get it. Ignoring Wizards though, you don't really have that many options. Most monsters in the game, even through higher levels, attack AC. And there aren't that many possible defences.

The only commonly available form of miss chance is "Cloak of Displacement". It costs 24k, putting it out of reach of low or mid level games. It's also not very effective. For that budget you can get 29-32 AC, which provides a heck of a lot better than 20% defence up to level 15 or so. And at level 15, AC is starting to increase faster than monster attack bonuses. At that point, yes, a Cloak of Displacement is a worthwhile secondary defence, but let's face it - nobody in their right mind is going to bank their character's survival on consistently nailing a 1-in-5 potshot, not unless they're fine with high character mortality rates.

Cloak of Displacement is good, but it's too expensive to be viable at most levels, and not reliable enough to ever be a primary defence.

And if you know a better source of miss chance that's available regardless of class, I'd love to hear it.
Whether it is worth less of the party's resources to invest in defenses OTHER than AC, or worth less of the party's resources to invest in AC as the primary AC. Whether it is more cost effective to pump AC into the stratosphere, or whether it is more cost effective to spend more of your defensive budget on things other than AC (Concealment, Cover, Miss Chance, Fortification, Protection from X, alternate movement forms, etc.). Whether it is more cost effective to make your AC so strong that few things will hit you, or whether it is more cost effective to make your offense so strong that few things have an opportunity to hit you more than once before they die. I'm sorry if I haven't made this point clear yet; I'd have thought I'd been arguing (along with others) that other defenses were often more efficient and cost-effective for a while now.

10. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Amphetryon
Whether it is worth less of the party's resources to invest in defenses OTHER than AC, or worth less of the party's resources to invest in AC as the primary AC. Whether it is more cost effective to pump AC into the stratosphere, or whether it is more cost effective to spend more of your defensive budget on things other than AC (Concealment, Cover, Miss Chance, Fortification, Protection from X, alternate movement forms, etc.). Whether it is more cost effective to make your AC so strong that few things will hit you, or whether it is more cost effective to make your offense so strong that few things have an opportunity to hit you more than once before they die. I'm sorry if I haven't made this point clear yet; I'd have thought I'd been arguing (along with others) that other defenses were often more efficient and cost-effective for a while now.
Well, let's look at each....

- "defences other than AC". Since attack rolls against AC are overwhelmingly the most common monster attack mode, and miss chance is not sufficiently accessible for most characters, I'd say at least some attention to AC is warranted. Certainly boost your saves too. Certainly get other defences as they come along. It's not an all-or-nothing thing. But gold-wise AC should be one of your top priorities for most characters.

- How high to get your AC... well, obviously there's a point of diminishing returns eventually. Past the listed value for "Good" AC, I wouldn't recommend further invesment unless it's very efficient. Again, it's not all-or-nothing.

- Offence. I'm of the opinion that defence comes mostly from gold, and offence comes mostly from classes + feats. The two aren't all that contradictory. And all of my examples have been predicated on saving over half of the character's WBL for offence/utility. That, plus what you're getting from classes, plus what you're getting from feats, should be sufficient - adding the remaining wealth to that pile isn't going to get you as far as being able to tank a full attack routine when things go pear-shaped. And they do. Attack rolls hit 1's, enemies sometimes get the jump on you, things are routinely going unexpectedly in nearly every game. Setting aside half your gold to be a robust target is generally a good idea.

Once again - I've never suggested an all-or-nothing approach. Indeed, I've argued against it several times. All I'm disputing is the (oft-repeated) claim that AC doesn't scale well enough compared to monster attack bonuses. I think I've demonstrated that it does indeed scale competitively. Whether or not to be a part of that competition, well, that's up to the character in question. A Rogue might have less commitment to it than a Fighter, but both can probably benefit from some level of investment. The precise level, of course, is entirely up to the characters in question. I would never claim otherwise.

Judging by monster entries, AC is the most commonly-targeted defence in the game. Most characters can get an AC that's competitive against monster attack bonuses, for under half their WBL. Thus, characters who choose to invest in AC can expect to measurably extend their life expectancy, without crippling their offensive capabilities.

Is there any part of that in particular that you disagree with?

11. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Generally, a party willing to pay their casters for defensive buffs in any fashion will spend less on their defenses than they would buying straight AC, and will have better, more rounded defenses, since the casters can improve all facets of AC as well as provide Blur, Displacement, Miss Chance, and Save boosts for long enough to clear encounters without spending on "downtime defenses", in my experience, and having Blur, Displacement, Miss Chance, etc. does provide a positive defense against attack rolls, with AC providing a valuable but secondary/tertiary defense. In other words, the fact that you've paid for defenses that you're not wearing because you're holed up safely in your keep/rope trick/magnificent mansion means you're paying extra for something not needed; buffs provide better value for money - assuming recon works as intended.

Generally, offense is at least as easily obtained via gold and buffs as defense, while having the secondary benefit of needing to last a little less (in the case of buffs) because it's often the case that one or two good attacks will debilitate or kill the opponent, whereas a good defense will need to protect against lesser attacks as well as those one or two good ones, in my experience. Leaving offense to classes and feats is viable for some playstyles, surely, but it does tend to reduce offense's overall efficacy a bit, which may make AC and other defenses appear more viable in those games.

The most important things I'd hope you take away from what I said? "Generally" and "in my experience."

12. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Amphetryon
Generally, a party willing to pay their casters for defensive buffs in any fashion will spend less on their defenses than they would buying straight AC, and will have better, more rounded defenses, since the casters can improve all facets of AC as well as provide Blur, Displacement, Miss Chance, and Save boosts for long enough to clear encounters without spending on "downtime defenses", in my experience, and having Blur, Displacement, Miss Chance, etc. does provide a positive defense against attack rolls, with AC providing a valuable but secondary/tertiary defense. In other words, the fact that you've paid for defenses that you're not wearing because you're holed up safely in your keep/rope trick/magnificent mansion means you're paying extra for something not needed; buffs provide better value for money - assuming recon works as intended.

Generally, offense is at least as easily obtained via gold and buffs as defense, while having the secondary benefit of needing to last a little less (in the case of buffs) because it's often the case that one or two good attacks will debilitate or kill the opponent, whereas a good defense will need to protect against lesser attacks as well as those one or two good ones, in my experience. Leaving offense to classes and feats is viable for some playstyles, surely, but it does tend to reduce offense's overall efficacy a bit, which may make AC and other defenses appear more viable in those games.

The most important things I'd hope you take away from what I said? "Generally" and "in my experience."
Those are important key-words to be sure.

Personally though, I don't like depending on the largess of the party's T1, mostly because it assumes the party has T1s in the first place. Also, both "Blur" and "Displacement" can be negated by several means, both are single-target, neither lasts hours-per-level, and neither are (by themselves) useable as a Swift action. That's... a lot of strikes against. Again, by all means make use of things like that if your party happens to have a Wizard who happens to have those spells in their book and who happens to have some method of not needing to spend the first half-dozen rounds of combat activating individual defensive buffs on each party member. All I'm saying is, don't presume all of that's going to be the case for all groups. Or even most groups, to be frank.

And I do agree that gold is a component in offence, I just think it's a tertiary component (class levels being primary, feats being secondary), and as such gets a somewhat lower priority than the things you can only get with gold. My rule of thumb, which I've mentioned a few times, is 50% defence, 25% offence, 25% utility - with room for variation from character to character, of course. I'm more defensively-minded than most, I'll admit, but I find it works.

13. Re: AC: is it worthless?

can be negated by several means, both are single-target, neither lasts hours-per-level, and neither are (by themselves) useable as a Swift action.
All of these limitations have potential work-arounds built into the system, if you know where to look and happen to have those options available, making them (in such cases) less expensive than just buying AC.

14. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Amphetryon
All of these limitations have potential work-arounds built into the system, if you know where to look and happen to have those options available, making them (in such cases) less expensive than just buying AC.
Non-consummable methods of casting spells on allies (metamagic rods, pearls of power, etc) are expensive and really only available at both high levels and when the party's assets are highly liquid. It also requires casters that have access to those spells.

This argument, let the casters use their character resources, to help your defenses, as opposed to buying AC, seems like advocating leadership without taking the feat, or arguing that monks are competitive if you spend their resources on partially charged wands.

Not that chain persisted spells from a war weaver aren't great, but what if the party caster wants to play a warlock and not a buff bot for someone that insists he shouldn't spend his gp on AC?

15. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
Not quite. While eleven monsters may not be that many, they're all monsters that WotC expected to be able to land melee hits. This means their ABs should all cluster closely around the "true" mean (the average we'd get if there were more entries).

Take CR 16 for example. Even with only three data points (+23, +25, +25), we can nail down the mean pretty solidly. And we can also compare against previous and later entries. CR 17 varies much more widely (+18, +25, +30), but the true mean is likely close to +25, which we can tell both from the numbers themselves and by extrapolating from CR 16.

In a theoretical context, the number of data points provided would not be enough. But we know that AB should increase monotonously whether or not it's precisely linear, and we know that the curve should be fairly smooth with no sudden jumps. In practical terms, then, once we have a solid baseline it should be viable to extend it without much trouble.

There's also the matter of accuracy. The levels before 10 we can nail down reliably to perhaps a quarter of a point of AB. But even in the 16-20 range, we shouldn't be off by more than +/-2. And +/-2 won't change the comparison against McFighter's AC, which skyrockets in those levels.
I don't mean to beat this to death as it's not like it's a life or death thing (we're talking about mapping the imaginary attack bonus of imaginary monsters, after all), but I think you're going about it the wrong way. You sound like you're adapting your sample to what you want to find. Low variance around the mean doesn't mean your sample of 3 represents their group accurately. The "true mean" isn't likely close to anything: it's just a mathematical expression; its accuracy depends only on the representativeness of the sample. You can't know beforehand that AB increases monotonously or that the curve is smooth since that's actually what you're trying to prove.

All that said... if you could post your numbers for the mean ABs of those higher levels, I can re-generate the McFighter graph and see what we get.
I can do that, but not before Monday.

16. Re: AC: is it worthless?

This argument, let the casters use their character resources, to help your defenses, as opposed to buying AC, seems like advocating leadership without taking the feat, or arguing that monks are competitive if you spend their resources on partially charged wands.
It would, if that were the argument. The argument is that it's usually cheaper for the party to pay their caster's costs for buffing them (buying said caster the scrolls/wands/etc or materials and XP for crafting), not letting the casters paying for the other characters' defenses themselves. It's a far cry from partially charged wands unless you understand the "partially charged wands" argument in a way that radically differs from my own understanding of it.

17. Re: AC: is it worthless?

@ Emperor Tippy
I lead fleets in a game called EVE online. There you actually see the kind of pre-fight preparation you're talking about. Constant scouting and recon is required. Its perfectly legitimate to bring 50 guys to crush 20. Any and all advantages are leveraged because the game isn't about fair fights. In the end its about winning. Any group that is half decent will have infiltrated the enemies they commonly fight and sit there listening to the open communications they have. In response the leadership limit their communication to keep vital information between themselves. The art of misdirection is key. A fleet commander can build a reputation purely on baiting. Propaganda and morale play huge roles.

And the flip side of this is that fights aren't so common. You get long periods of waiting followed by brief periods of excitement. A great deal of hard work can cumulate in mere minutes of interesting game play.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
For the topic. Let me list how characters died or came near to death in recent games I've played.

#1 Stupidity + Failed will save + More Stupidity
One player ran ahead of the group and got caught by the dungeon's big bad. The big bad was a crazy scientist who used him in his experiments. The big bad succeeded and made the character undead. When the other party members caught up the big bad cast command undead on him, told him to fight, and ran away. The party warrior effortlessly cut him apart with a wonderfully inappropriate critical hit.

#2 Group Stupidity
We found an artifact that granted some nice bonuses on a level adjustment +1. Unfortunately the rules (that we hadn't read, we had only had an NPC explain how it worked to us) also stated that the template made its recipients 'irrevocably evil.' The guy who got it decided to keep quiet on that little gem and murder the rest of us in the night. He got one guy with a coup de gras before his murder spree was cut short by a powerful NPC he pissed off in the process of trying to murder the other two of us. (Don't start a combat in a magic shop. Magic shops can defend themselves.) He probably would have won if he had the patience to wait for us to leave the shop.

#3 Poor Melee Combat Performance
Monk VS Rogue in a 5 foot wide corridor. Monk loses and dies. More AC would have helped. Not being a monk would have helped.

#4a Running Out of Resources
Wizard after a long series of solo battles is captured by evil elves. Lacks resources to fight with when the rest of the party fights the elves. (Started the fight with few spells and 3 HPs.) Catches a stray damage spell in his teeth. He would have needed evasion to have survived that.

#4a Save or Die!
In that fight druid battles a slightly higher level cleric underneath a table. Failed a will save and died.

#5 Think or Save or Die
Character fails to identify a chaos beast and doesn't have access to the magic required to reverse its effects. Would have lived with the right knowledge skill, the right healing spell on a scroll, or a better saving throw.

#6 Don't do That
Character gets stuck in the basement of a burning building that collapsed, burning to death horribly pinned under rubble. Shouldn't have lit the building on fire. Should have got out when the building caught on fire.

#7 More Stupid
(a) Player rolls a half demon to play in a region with an active and aggressive church. Upon learning a demon was in his kingdom the head priest goes on a personal hunt dropping everything else. After the character got away and picked up some magic to protect himself from scrying he decided to attack the priest's camp in the middle of the day. The priest stuck his head on a pike with a fire enchantment and later used it to bludgeon the party fighter to death. (b)

#8 Ouch
Wizard at level 1 critical hit by a wolf while crawling through the underbrush.

Our group has a tendency to half ass things. But the common theme is pretty clear. Stupid is the cause of death. My little optimization and careful play has kept me alive through all of this. AC is nice, but when talking about cause of death for my group it isn't often the main contender. AC isn't even the leading cause of death for legitimate deaths in combat.

Edit - I remember this one too.
#9 Need to Fly
Carried away by giant birds and dropped from several hundred feet in the air. Splat.

18. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
Assume: starting 12 Dex
19 | 9 | Fullplate | 0.5k | 0.5k
20 | 1 | +1 Fullplate | 1k | 1.5k
21 | 1 | +1 Ring of Prot | 2k | 3.5k
22 | 1 | +1 Ammy of NA | 2k | 5.5k
27 | 5 | +1 Ani. Tower Shield | 9k | 14.5k
28 | 1 | +2 Fullplate | 3k | 17.5k
29 | 1 | Dusty Rose Ioun Stone | 5k | 22.5k
30 | 1 | +3 Fullplate | 5k | 26.5k
31 | 1 | +2 Ring of Prot | 6k | 32.5k
32 | 1 | +2 Ammy of NA | 6k | 38.5k
33 | 1 | Mithral, +2 Gloves of Dex | 7k | 45.5k
34 | 1 | +4 Fullplate | 7k | 52.5k
35 | 1 | +2 Shield| 7k | 59.5k
36 | 1 | +1 Def. Armor Spike | 8k | 67.5k
37 | 1 | +1 Def. Shield Spike | 8k | 75.5k
41 | 4 | Skin of the Defender | 32k | 107.5k
42 | 1 | +5 Fullplate | 9k | 116.5k
43 | 1 | +3 Shield | 9k | 125.5k
44 | 1 | +3 Ring of Protection | 10k | 135.5k
45 | 1 | +3 Ammy of NA | 10k | 145.5k
46 | 1 | +2 Shield Spikes | 10k | 155.5k
47 | 1 | +2 Armor Spikes | 10k | 165.5k
48 | 1 | +4 Shield | 11k | 176.5k
49 | 1 | +4 Gloves of Dex | 12k | 188.5k
50 | 1 | +5 Shield | 13k | 190.5k
[/table]

The progression starts meandering after that. You can get another +6 AC off the spikes, and another +4 AC off the Ring and Amulet, leaving you at 60 AC until epic content.
You sir, are my hero. Me likely numbers.

19. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Off-topic @MukkTB: Is your EVE main MukkBarovian by any chance?

20. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
Worth less.... than what, exactly?
In general, I find it's offset by the desire to purchase better situational readiness (initiative, awareness etc) and superior offense rather than any form of defense.

21. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Off-topic @MukkTB: Is your EVE main MukkBarovian by any chance?
Yes.

And I've remembered some more.
#10 Armor is Heavy
A character wearing full plate fell into a 5 foot wide chasm filled with water. It turned out to be quite deep. There was an angry water elemental. No one ever retrieved the body. Would not have died if not for that heavy heavy armor.

#11 F--- da Police
Character was made Captain of the guard. He tried to implement a pogrom against one of the city's races. He was killed fighting a mob of peasants in the ensuing riots. More AC would have helped.

#12 Brains
A character accidentally summoned an army of uncontrolled zombies. He died shortly thereafter. More AC might have helped. Not rolling on random effect tables would have helped more.

#13 No One Touches the Magic Shop
The character convinced the local governor to seize the wares of the local magic shop for use against a liche. All the local magic users who supplied the shop got together and made an example of him. Should not have touched the magic shop.

22. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Frontliners should definitely have good AC and it's worth the investment for them. But is that even as much as half the classes in the game? Anyone who isn't melee should spend their time and money avoiding being in melee and then the rest of the money they save through this on improving their defenses in other ways. This isn't a wizards-only thing or about tier 1s and their reputation for being utterly invincible and incapable of doing wrong. I'm talking about spellcasters, ranged attackers and special magic users in general outnumbering melee classes. It's important to distinguish them as having different needs and not make broad statements about the value of AC in general.

It's as much about their comparative frailty as it is about their ability to keep out of harm's way; these are classes who cannot afford to give a dangerous brute any chance to beat on them because 800 AC still lets a 1-in-20 chance past to wreck them and since a character pretty much gets into encounters for their career until killed, that will absolutely happen if you let it.

Your wealth scales better than AC prices, but competitor items are not scaling at the same time. They don't get increasingly more expensive to keep up with the price of your next +1 AC, and they only get more appealling as significant AC increases get more expensive. I listed some briefly before but I'll do it again here in detail. These are good defensive items which should take priority over AC for nonmelee characters after exhausting the list of thrift store AC gear.
• Shadow Cloak5,500gp; DotU: Basically Abrupt Jaunt that can only be used in response to attacks (anything with attack rolls), 3/day. No 1-in-20 chance of eating pouncing Power Attack death involved, just 'nope'. You can buy multiples, or use MIC's rules on improving items to add the effect again at 8,250gp if you're using the same cloak for upgrades to saves/energy resistances/charisma. It's still worth it.
• Ring of Spell-Battle12,000gp; MIC: The 'nope' item for spellcasting. First of all you're always aware of all spellcasting within 60ft. You can make a Spellcraft 15+spell level check to identify what spell it is, and if you succeed on this, you can (as an immediate action) 1/day change the spell's target to anywhere within 60ft of you. No opposed roll or anything, it just has to still be a legal target. Yeah, I would be buying multiples of this on anyone with Spellcraft, which is the majority of non-melee classes.
• Constitution-improving item4K/16K/36Kgp; DMG/MIC: This is a nearly universal defense enhancer. Most of your defense and resistance stats have the end goal of preserving what this gives you more of. More HP provides a more comfortable margin of error for what does get past any of those defenses. Add it to some other item via MIC's item creation rules.
• Talisman of Undying Fortitude8,000gp; MIC: Swift action, gain a huge list of immunities like an undead for 3 rounds, including ignoring all Fortitude save effects. 2/day use, must be held (ie in the Mithral Buckler arm).
• Death Ward armor/shield+1 armor or shield; MIC: 1/day ignore any death effect as Immediate action. Instead of being redundant, this actually lets you know when to activate your Talisman and provides more immediate spontaneous protection. If you've got shield enhancements it will be cheaper to get some armor for this (one of the RotW materials can reduce padded armor to not interfere with anything, regardless of proficiency or casting, so even typical unarmored classes can use it).
• greater shield crystal of Arrow Deflection5,000gp; MIC: Negate 1 physical ranged attack per round and in the crystal's case, gain +5 AC versus all ranged attacks (physical or otherwise). Virtually everyone should have a shield to jam a crystal in (Animated shields for melee/archers and mithral bucklers for casters or people who do stuff with one hand), but greater crystals require a +3 shield, making it more expensive than it looks. The total price is 5,000gp more than a +1 Arrow Deflection shield, but the AC advantage is cheap here (being higher by +2 for melee and +7 ranged). Having the shield also opens the window for various other useful crystals if you plan to use them.
• Third Eye Dampening2,500gp; MIC: 1/day minimize all variable numeric effects of a spell, power, spell-like or psi-like as it's cast on you. Very inexpensive, so you could buy multiples if desired. A slotless version that works 3/day and covers you for the rest of the round is Psychoactive Skin of Power Dampening10,000gp; MIC.
• Anklet of Translocation1,400gp; MIC / Third Eye Freedom2,600gp; MIC: Swift teleport 10ft 2/day or Swift Freedom of Movement for 1 full round 1/day. You can get both for more thorough protection and/or multiples to change between battles since they're both dirt cheap. You use these to get out of grapples and dangerous movement-impeding effects.
• Winged Mask13,000gp; Magic of Faerun / Feathered Wings graft10,000gp; FF: First of all the Feathered Wings have drawbacks for nonevil characters, so Winged Mask is usually what you'd need. All-day flight, either way. Obvious protection from melee things.
• greater Clasps of Energy Protection3,000gp; MIC: These are shield crystals that provide energy resistance 15 up to 75 points per day. They require a +3 shield and need to be swapped around (it only takes move actions to change crystals), but otherwise these are good for energy-themed areas.
• Scout's Headband3,400gp; MIC: True Seeing 1/day. True Sight is absolutely a useful defensive measure, and this item is a good way for an appropriately paranoid adventurer to be appropriately prepared.
• Saves-improving item1K/4K/9K/16K/25Kgp; DMG/MIC: This increases three different defenses at the same prices as upgrading magic armor's AC, which usually only protects from HP damage. These protect from nearly everything else, including types of HP damage and any kind of severely disabling effect. This item is pretty close to being a universal category of defense when you're avoiding melee and have other measures for that. It not being a fullstop defense still makes it a lesser option than most here.

None of these are expensive, but this doesn't even include storage items, utility items, offense items (primary stat booster at least) or initiative, all of which merit significant attention. Invisibility/nondetection items are good defensive measures as well. A Mind Blank or Mind Blank-esque item is also a powerful defense that everyone wants and will just devour your gold supply because they are very expensive. Until about ECL 15, you can basically disregard anything beyond the most basic AC boosters on nonmelee characters because there's so much more they can be protecting themselves from while simply not getting in the way of attacks. Many of these also have better, more expensive alternatives that you could upgrade to; I picked out the cheap stuff here.

23. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by MukkTB
For the topic. Let me list how characters died or came near to death in recent games I've played.
So of the fifteen listed, AC contributed to... #2 (Monk's poor AC is one of the main reasons they fail), possibly #4a (assuming he'd taken damage from stabs which left him low on health for the bomb), #5 (Chaos Beasts need to beat your AC), #7b (demon-head-on-pike swings vs AC), #8 (AC could keep the crit from confirming), #9 (assuming Snatch or Improved Grab), #11 (obviously), and #12.

So that's perhaps eight out of fifteen, or 60%, where low AC was either the cause of death or at least a contributing factor. Combine this with Saph's table...

Natural Causes: 1
Being Played As An NPC: 1
Failed Will Saves: 1
Failed Fortitude Saves: 2
Failed Reflex Saves: 9
Direct Attacks: 16
...and I think we have a good case for AC being a major component of survivability. Well, and not being stupid, but having AC will help you survive even when you occasionally derp. And everyone herps a derp occasionally.

24. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by MukkTB
Yes.

World is not a very big place We used to fly together back in Red Skull when I was just starting out.

Anyway, back on topic, alternate mid-to-high way to completely bypass the AC problem.
Needed: a cleric of at least 7th level and an arcane caster (80% of the parties probably have it).
Items: 2x Eternal Wand of Beastland Ferocity (820 gp x2), 4x 4th level Pearl of Power (4x16000 gp).
Pre-battle, or in the first round arcane caster puts Beastland Ferocity on fighter, as immediate action Cleric puts Delay Death on fighter.
Result: Immunity to HP damage.

25. Re: AC: is it worthless?

I don't know sonofzeal. I would agree that AC was a factor but a lot of the deaths I listed feel more like player error was the main cause of death. 3, 8, ~9, and 11 are the ones I can point at and say cause of death was bad AC. But I'm more inclined to look at an event and try to find that last clear decision that was made that led to the event.

For example #5 was a town being attacked by a large number of chaos beasts in the night. The PCs were on a boat in the harbor watching. If they had realized what chaos beasts were they would not have gone ashore to fight waves of the things. Yeah more ac might have helped that particular player. But when you're fighting a town overrun by chaos beasts one of them is eventually going to score a hit. The characters had a chance to figure out what chaos beasts did when they were converting townsfolk into more chaos beasts. They had a chance to know about them in the form of knowledge skills. As I see it, they were pretty screwed the moment they decided to get off the boat.

So maybe 4 where low AC was the cause of death. But probably 10 of them had AC contribute in some way. Its just that I feel with those 6 the ac could have been the same with different decisions that were obvious better plays and the character would have lived. On the other side of the coin there are plenty of times I can point at where solid AC saved a characters life. Certainly good AC and HP provide a nice buffer against making mistakes.

I guess I'm saying that in my group I don't often feel that death has occurred because a character was totally outclassed by the bad guys with no chance of success. Most of the time it feels that death happened because of a clear play error the player made.

26. Re: AC: is it worthless?

World is not a very big place We used to fly together back in Red Skull when I was just starting out.

Anyway, back on topic, alternate mid-to-high way to completely bypass the AC problem.
Needed: a cleric of at least 7th level and an arcane caster (80% of the parties probably have it).
Items: 2x Eternal Wand of Beastland Ferocity (820 gp x2), 4x 4th level Pearl of Power (4x16000 gp).
Pre-battle, or in the first round arcane caster puts Beastland Ferocity on fighter, as immediate action Cleric puts Delay Death on fighter.
Result: Immunity to HP damage.
Several problems with that...

1) It requires two party members to be specific classes.

2) It only works one fight a day.

3) It costs two standard actions per party member, more since Pearls of Power are command activated.

4) Both spells are short duration - one is round-per-level and the other is minute-per-level. This means that all those standard actions, from the otherwise most potent characters in the group, generally have to be taken in the middle of combat.

5) Beastland Ferocity has a specific caveat about dying at -10 which might trump the more general effect of Delay Death by a strict reading. The ruling is almost certainly debatable in either direction (the word "normally" is ambiguous here), but it's a DM's call.

So... it's a great combo if your DM approves it and you can get it off, but it's not going to be a mainstay in most groups.

27. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by MukkTB
I don't know sonofzeal. I would agree that AC was a factor but a lot of the deaths I listed feel more like player error was the main cause of death. 3, 8, ~9, and 11 are the ones I can point at and say cause of death was bad AC. But I'm more inclined to look at an event and try to find that last clear decision that was made that led to the event.

For example #5 was a town being attacked by a large number of chaos beasts in the night. The PCs were on a boat in the harbor watching. If they had realized what chaos beasts were they would not have gone ashore to fight waves of the things. Yeah more ac might have helped that particular player. But when you're fighting a town overrun by chaos beasts one of them is eventually going to score a hit. The characters had a chance to figure out what chaos beasts did when they were converting townsfolk into more chaos beasts. They had a chance to know about them in the form of knowledge skills. As I see it, they were pretty screwed the moment they decided to get off the boat.

So maybe 4 where low AC was the cause of death. But probably 10 of them had AC contribute in some way. Its just that I feel with those 6 the ac could have been the same with different decisions that were obvious better plays and the character would have lived. On the other side of the coin there are plenty of times I can point at where solid AC saved a characters life. Certainly good AC and HP provide a nice buffer against making mistakes.

I guess I'm saying that in my group I don't often feel that death has occurred because a character was totally outclassed by the bad guys with no chance of success. Most of the time it feels that death happened because of a clear play error the player made.
I think that's true of most groups, really. All the fatalities I can think of were either {a} boss fights, {b} dice god smiteage, or {c} poor tactical decisions.

That said, I think defences are there mostly to mitigate {b} and {c}. And you have to admit, both {b} and {c} are going to happen to any given character eventually. And both of them come in a matter of degrees.

Without defences, you're pretty much buggered the moment things go off track. Everything's going jolly, you're CoDzillaing it up, and then all of a sudden your Dire Bear Druid wiffs its attack roll to initiate a grapple, and you find yourself eating a full-attack to the face that takes you straight down to -10. I've seen it happen, more than once.

If your character is durable, you can survive the dice hating you - I should know, the power of the Dice God's curse upon me is legend within our group, but I rarely outright lose a character. And similarly, if your character is durable then you can survive the occasional poor tactical choice.

In my last IRL campaign, we fought Chaos Beasts too. I had a Paladin, with "Decent" AC, and someone else had a Rogue, with something under "Poor" AC. We both ended up engaging a Chaos Beast in melee. That probably wasn't the best decision for either of us, because they're slow and can be picked off safely at range, but one of us survived and the other one didn't. Any guesses which was which?

In an ideal world, the PCs can demolish their opponents in the surprise round. In the actual game though, I think being able to tank the occasional full attack is a good thing. And I think having a higher AC would have helped your players recover from their tactical mis-steps, rather than have a single poor judgement call result in death.

28. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
Several problems with that...

1) It requires two party members to be specific classes.

2) It only works one fight a day.

3) It costs two standard actions per party member, more since Pearls of Power are command activated.

4) Both spells are short duration - one is round-per-level and the other is minute-per-level. This means that all those standard actions, from the otherwise most potent characters in the group, generally have to be taken in the middle of combat.

5) Beastland Ferocity has a specific caveat about dying at -10 which might trump the more general effect of Delay Death by a strict reading. The ruling is almost certainly debatable in either direction (the word "normally" is ambiguous here), but it's a DM's call.

So... it's a great combo if your DM approves it and you can get it off, but it's not going to be a mainstay in most groups.
I would argue with point #4, specifically: standard action spells of limited duration generally should be cast before combat starts (which hearkens back to my point about effective recon). If your party doesn't scout ahead or make use of short-term scrying or Divination effects, it may be in the middle of combat, but there are several ways built into the game to circumvent that problem.

29. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by Amphetryon
I would argue with point #4, specifically: standard action spells of limited duration generally should be cast before combat starts (which hearkens back to my point about effective recon). If your party doesn't scout ahead or make use of short-term scrying or Divination effects, it may be in the middle of combat, but there are several ways built into the game to circumvent that problem.
"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

My IRL group (for various reasons) has generally had the experience that "recon" is short for "combat begins with the party spread way out, and the guy with the worst defences is far closer to the monsters than everyone else". Sometimes recon works as advertised, but even if it works most of the time, you can pretty much count on any DM ever to throw a monkeywrench into things every once in a while.

I've also never once been in a group, IRL or PBP, that reliably used "short-term scrying or Divination effects" the way you describe. I'm not going to claim such groups are mythical... but I suspect they're vanishingly rare.

In any case, the other objections still apply. It's entirely dependent on having multiple party members of specific classes at specific level ranges, and it may not even work by RAW. And if the DM isn't comfortable with the idea of being effectively invulnerable to hp damage at lvl 7, then I think it's reasonable to expect them to get a little picky about RAW.

All that said... like other defences, I think this potentially has its place. There's going to be times when it's useable (at least, if the DM permits it). But it's particular to the group, and particular to the moment, and thus isn't something I'd consider a primary defence. Simply put, it's situational. That doesn't mean worthless, it just means you should also have some non-situational defences. Like AC and saves.

30. Re: AC: is it worthless?

Originally Posted by sonofzeal
I've also never once been in a group, IRL or PBP, that reliably used "short-term scrying or Divination effects" the way you describe. I'm not going to claim such groups are mythical... but I suspect they're vanishingly rare.
As I have been in - and DMed - such groups both IRL and on ze interwebz, I'll posit that a large portion of our different expectations re: AC's effectiveness vs. other defensive/offensive preparations effectiveness is a matter of playstyle and specific experiences.

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