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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    lord_khaine's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    I will just ask, why the heck is this an issue?

    In a lot of ways, you have a party thats very easy to challenge now. Simple things like a broken bridge or a tall wall is now something they need to think about, instead of just the expending of a single lv 3 spell slot.
    And you can actually place big melee brutes, like hydras, in the path and fell certain that the party is not just going to stroll by (just remember things will get reanimated).

    So my advice is to treassure your party composition and the innocence of the players. If they are unusually adept at crushing things in melee, then just simply double or triple the number of targets for them. Instead of making a tougher boss troll, just send 2 trolls after them. Or one troll and 3-4 ogres.
    thnx to Starwoof for the fine avatar

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    You wouldn't "punish" a party that didn't earn enough experience points to reach the next level as soon as you thought they would. So you also shouldn't punish a party for playing the characters they want to play instead of the ones you think they ought to want to play.

    There is no problem here, except the false assumption that all parties will have the same level of power.

    The DM's job is to provide cool, challenging encounters for the actual party in front of him, not for the hypothetical party he thinks ought to be in front of him.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Not every encounter has to be defeated by killing the monsters. Sometimes just surviving the ordeal is worth the same experience.
    Damn, I wish more people understood this, but unfortunately, I find most players just tend to go "psh, the DM scripted us to lose, what a jerk" and get really salty.

    Quote Originally Posted by denthor View Post
    You have identified a problem. Now as a DM solve it for your players.

    Boots of flight reward

    Ring of flying reward

    Scrolls or potions of fly found in treasure

    Found in a treasure maybe a mission where they get one of these as a reward.
    Hesitant to do those first 3, since those magic items are waaaay too much gold for a 5th-level party. That's part of the problem with being able to sell nearly anything for 1/2 price. I've actually considered a campaign in the past where magic item vendors don't exist at all, for this very reason. You can't give your party cool loot without thinking "wait, how many +1 swords are they going to get if they sell this for half price?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    You can include a scroll of fly in some loot as a not-so-subtle hint to the party witch, and some magic arrows as a not-so-subtle hint for everyone else.
    I believe they already have some magic arrows. I'll ask to make sure. The scroll of Fly is a good idea, I'll almost certainly do that at some point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    If my party consists of five fighters with weapon focus(greatsword), weapon specialization(greatsword) and 18 str/10 dex on each character, that doesn't delete flying enemies from my setting. It doesn't delete wizards from the setting(although the wizards will probably have magic missile instead of sleep and grease). It doesn't delete traps from the setting, although there's a strong argument traps are dumb to begin with.
    I consider "having fun at the table" more important than "my setting". (And it's not my setting anyway, it's a Pathfinder AP). See rule -1 in my signature. We're just friends playing a game, I'm not going to make the game unfun for my players out of some sacred obligation to "my setting".

    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Aegis View Post
    I'd like to point out your party has a weakness to the standard 10'x10' hallway. If there are enemies in only one direction a full half of your party is doing nothing.
    lol

    To be fair, the Rogue can tumble, and the Monk probably can too? That's funny though, I never realized that. I should put them through the 2nd edition Caves of Chaos with all its 5 foot hallways, and see how they do.

    Quote Originally Posted by lord_khaine View Post
    I will just ask, why the heck is this an issue?

    In a lot of ways, you have a party thats very easy to challenge now. Simple things like a broken bridge or a tall wall is now something they need to think about, instead of just the expending of a single lv 3 spell slot.
    That's a refreshing take on it. Yes, there's been several times that they needed to climb a cliff, where I joked "if you had a Druid this whole thing would be done in 30 seconds". But yes, I will keep these kinds of challenges in mind in the future.


    Quote Originally Posted by lord_khaine View Post
    So my advice is to treassure your party composition and the innocence of the players. If they are unusually adept at crushing things in melee, then just simply double or triple the number of targets for them. Instead of making a tougher boss troll, just send 2 trolls after them. Or one troll and 3-4 ogres.
    That's what I usually do, yeah. With action economy, any single melee enemy is going to need absurd stats to stand a chance against them, or something like 5e's Legendary Actions.
    Last edited by Wonton; 2017-06-19 at 04:24 PM.
    Rules that supersede Rule 0:

    Rule -1: You're all there to have fun. The GM and the players should never do anything that would limit people's fun, for any in-game or real-life reason.

    Rule -0.5 (corollary): That means that if someone's fun is getting in the way of other people's fun, that person needs to change how they're playing.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Zanos's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wonton View Post
    I consider "having fun at the table" more important than "my setting". (And it's not my setting anyway, it's a Pathfinder AP). See rule -1 in my signature. We're just friends playing a game, I'm not going to make the game unfun for my players out of some sacred obligation to "my setting".
    Having verisimilitude is part of the fun. Twisting all challenges to circumvent obvious limitations of the party is often very noticeable, and frequently cheapens any feelings of success.

    I don't advocate for sending stuff to torture the party specifically, and you should take their level of optimization account, but their role stacking has left them with obvious strengths; they should have obvious weaknesses as well.
    If any idiot ever tells you that life would be meaningless without death, Hyperion recommends killing them!

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    ElfWarriorGuy

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    Having verisimilitude is part of the fun. Twisting all challenges to circumvent obvious limitations of the party is often very noticeable, and frequently cheapens any feelings of success.

    I don't advocate for sending stuff to torture the party specifically, and you should take their level of optimization account, but their role stacking has left them with obvious strengths; they should have obvious weaknesses as well.
    I agree with this very much. If you only throw things at them they are easily able to defeat, any feeling of challenge goes out the window. To me, that gets boring very quickly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    Fresh and exciting doesn't exist in a game that's almost old enough to drive. Which is why it's extra fun every time someone comes in to say that no, fighters are totally a real character class, because you all missed that one thing or that other one thing and once I saw a fighter beat up a squirrel.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by LTwerewolf View Post
    I agree with this very much. If you only throw things at them they are easily able to defeat, any feeling of challenge goes out the window. To me, that gets boring very quickly.
    That's not what I said though, in fact, I very much want the opposite. "Easy" =/= "fun", at least not to me or my players. I don't know why you assumed that.

    I would like all encounters to be appropriately 'tuned' in their difficulty. That's why my OP mentioned that a CR 8 Dire Tiger is as much of a challenge for them as a level 3 Ranger with a Wand of Fly. The point of this thread was that instead of just taking the CR 5-7 encounters in the book as is, my party requires very unique balancing to make fights appropriate. A CR 7 animal may very well need to be buffed to be any semblance of a threat. A CR 7 flying creature with ranged attacks may very well be extremely dangerous.
    Last edited by Wonton; 2017-06-19 at 04:48 PM.
    Rules that supersede Rule 0:

    Rule -1: You're all there to have fun. The GM and the players should never do anything that would limit people's fun, for any in-game or real-life reason.

    Rule -0.5 (corollary): That means that if someone's fun is getting in the way of other people's fun, that person needs to change how they're playing.

  7. - Top - End - #37
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    lord_khaine's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    I would like all encounters to be appropriately 'tuned' in their difficulty. That's why my OP mentioned that a CR 8 Dire Tiger is as much of a challenge for them as a level 3 Ranger with a Wand of Fly. The point of this thread was that instead of just taking the CR 5-7 encounters in the book as is, my party requires very unique balancing to make fights appropriate. A CR 7 animal may very well need to be buffed to be any semblance of a threat. A CR 7 flying creature with ranged attacks may very well be extremely dangerous.
    4 ordinary tigers are also a CR 8 fight though. And together they got a bit more HP than a single Dire Tiger. have you looked at sending multiple minor enemies after them instead of a single large mob?
    Because you are in a rather unique situation here, where the party dont really seems to have any noteworthy aoe attacks.
    thnx to Starwoof for the fine avatar

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Jay R's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    If my party consists of five fighters with weapon focus(greatsword), weapon specialization(greatsword) and 18 str/10 dex on each character, that doesn't delete flying enemies from my setting. It doesn't delete wizards from the setting(although the wizards will probably have magic missile instead of sleep and grease). It doesn't delete traps from the setting, although there's a strong argument traps are dumb to begin with. And there's still going to be flying wyverns on wyvern mountain.
    Yes. And if the party consists of first levels, that doesn't eliminate dragons, demons, or high-level wizards from my setting. But I just send goblins after the first level party.

    The GM prepares a game for the actual party, not for some theoretical "typical party".

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    Now if any of them is a little bright they'll stick to adventuring in places where flight isn't a major advantage, like crypts and caves and the like.
    Certainly the party ought to try to play smart, and if the first levels decide to go attack the dragons, then they aren't likely to make it to second level.

    But it's also the GM's job to provide cool quests that fit the party's actual strength.

    [If the party decides to go hunt dragons, a forward-thinking GM will insert first level bandits on the way to the dragon lair, of course.]

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Yes. And if the party consists of first levels, that doesn't eliminate dragons, demons, or high-level wizards from my setting. But I just send goblins after the first level party.

    The GM prepares a game for the actual party, not for some theoretical "typical party".
    If the party goes to Great Wyrm mountain or The Tower of the Very Powerful Wizard and starts kicking stuff, they shouldn't expect goblins to pop out.

    Certainly the party ought to try to play smart, and if the first levels decide to go attack the dragons, then they aren't likely to make it to second level.

    But it's also the GM's job to provide cool quests that fit the party's actual strength.

    [If the party decides to go hunt dragons, a forward-thinking GM will insert first level bandits on the way to the dragon lair, of course.]
    I would let the party die hilariously for making a bad decision, because they shouldn't try to hunt dragons at level 1. That's a point, though. Goblins don't generally go first level adventurer hunting, first level adventurers go goblin hunting. The PCs get to determine whether they want to hunt goblins or dragons.
    If any idiot ever tells you that life would be meaningless without death, Hyperion recommends killing them!

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    If a place has flying monsters then it has flying monsters.

    If a place doesn't have flying monsters and the DM wants to add some to make it a challenge for the players then it isn't punishment.

    If the DM wants to punish the players with flying monsters because he wants to actually punish them, then it is punishment.

    Just because the players think it is punishment, doesn't make it punishment.

  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Definitely don't punish.

    Though another issue your party is going to face is a ready supply of healing. I think you're spot on when you say that the ideal is a mix. I think a good idea might be to tiptoe into the more scary encounters. See if your players can think laterally to take out a flying bad guy. They might surprise you!
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  12. - Top - End - #42
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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Just adjust expectations for EL. After all, even CR is a guideline, but even the DMG talks about ad hoc EL/XP adjustments for terrain and advantage. If you send a pack of shadows against Holy McStandardcleric, who thinks Turn Undead should be optimized for....turning undead... instead of making I Am Better Than You In Every Way last for 24 hours every casting, then the EL shouldn't probably be as hard as the combined CR would indicate; the fight will pretty much last until the cleric's initiative count.

    Similarly here, if this party has to deal with primarily airborne foes, the EL should be higher than they might expect. Heck, a hunting party of 8 more-or-less bog-standard ogres or an encounter with a Swarm of any kind might not play out like you'd expect with a more mechanically optimized party (what with little AoE/battlefield control).

    This isn't a problem, it's an opportunity. You get The Battle at Helm's Deep with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas and individual heroics, not with Elminster, Raistlin, and Mordekainen spamming LOLWIN spells. You get the challenges of standard sword-and-sorcery overland travel for an epic quest when Party Member Number 4 doesn't taxicab-teleport the party directly to their destination every time, nor do you have to worry about "scry and die" party tactics when their options are closer to "kick in the door, blaze of gory [sic]" or, occasionally perhaps, "good old-fashioned footwork" as preparation.

    Do you have to understand what's easier and harder? Sure. If you want a tough challenge, you don't hand them a optimized-flying-caster boss fight that would "normally" be EL party-level-plus-four, nor a melee-brute boss fight "normally" of that same EL, since the first fight will be more challenging than "normal" for the party, and latter less so. By the same token, maybe you can enjoy using elements of the game that may get bypassed entirely by other parties/at other levels: actual terrain and environmental concerns, hit-and-run battles, and so on. On the flip side, it means you can throw more of a classic strength-vs-strength monster mash encounter as well, without it being ROFLstomped in one shot, e.g. by Ray of Stupidity.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Some thoughts:

    Just because the world is organic doesn't mean it has to organically include a whole bunch of harpies and gargoyles. Middle Earth feels pretty well-developed and organic, and flying enemies are rare and terrifying dangers. The MM is jam-packed with stuff that can't fly and can't kite.

    The soft answer to a lot of melee firepower is more targets and more complex terrain. I think this should be your default.

    A lack of fliers at this point can be a blessing, because you can make your battlefields more tactically interesting.

    Opportunities to use their non-flying movement abilities like tumble or climb should arise outside of combat too. "Magic means that high, dangerous cliffs become an obsolete problem just as your climb skill makes it possible to scale them" is poor design.

    Don't overestimate the danger posed by fliers. A single level 3 ranger with a wand of Fly would get killed super dead pretty easily by this group if they have even fairly basic ranged weaponry. A dire tiger would go down pretty quick, but if it gets the jump on them that pounce is no joke. Your rogue or witch could easily get torn up pretty badly.

    An encounter with a small number of melee brutes and a single flying buffer/healer could be interesting and signal a weakness to fliers. If the buffer (reasonably) retreats once her ground troops are beaten, the party still has all the tools to win that fight without having the tools to trivialize it. Just make sure the brutes have the defenses and HP to stay on the board long enough to get healed back up.

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cisturn View Post
    Definitely don't punish.

    Though another issue your party is going to face is a ready supply of healing. I think you're spot on when you say that the ideal is a mix. I think a good idea might be to tiptoe into the more scary encounters. See if your players can think laterally to take out a flying bad guy. They might surprise you!
    I wasn't 100% honest, the Monk is technically a Monk/Sacred Fist, so he can heal a little bit. But for all intents and purposes, he's a monk that occasionally casts CLW / Sacred Shield.

    Quote Originally Posted by tiercel View Post
    Similarly here, if this party has to deal with primarily airborne foes, the EL should be higher than they might expect. Heck, a hunting party of 8 more-or-less bog-standard ogres or an encounter with a Swarm of any kind might not play out like you'd expect with a more mechanically optimized party (what with little AoE/battlefield control).

    This isn't a problem, it's an opportunity. You get The Battle at Helm's Deep with Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas and individual heroics, not with Elminster, Raistlin, and Mordekainen spamming LOLWIN spells. You get the challenges of standard sword-and-sorcery overland travel for an epic quest when Party Member Number 4 doesn't taxicab-teleport the party directly to their destination every time, nor do you have to worry about "scry and die" party tactics when their options are closer to "kick in the door, blaze of gory [sic]" or, occasionally perhaps, "good old-fashioned footwork" as preparation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mendicant View Post
    The soft answer to a lot of melee firepower is more targets and more complex terrain. I think this should be your default.
    Yeah, I never really saw it that way until now. Lack of AoE is another big weakness of theirs. A fight with 8 monsters vs 4 is a much harder time for my party since they have to hack-and-slash everything one at a time. While for a "normal" party, it might just mean the Wizard has to aim his Stinking Cloud (or hell, even his Fireball) better.

    I always tried to add extra monsters to encounters whenever possible, but I think from now on I will focus on it even more. Thank you!
    Rules that supersede Rule 0:

    Rule -1: You're all there to have fun. The GM and the players should never do anything that would limit people's fun, for any in-game or real-life reason.

    Rule -0.5 (corollary): That means that if someone's fun is getting in the way of other people's fun, that person needs to change how they're playing.

  15. - Top - End - #45
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    Jay R's Avatar

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Question.: The players have a party different from how I would build it. Should I try to make the game fun and challenging for them, or fun and challenging for the party I think they should be running?

    Answer: You should try to make the game fun and challenging for your actual players, with their actual characters.

    Why is this hard to understand?

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    Beat them mercilessly, but give them an escape route so they can drag their battered asses out of the fire, and regroup and learn from the situation (such as a cramped cave that any flier that persued them in to would be forced in to range).

    Basically, don't TPK them the first time they discover this weakness (but if they don't address it, tough luck), but likewise don't shy away from exploiting such a massive glaring weakness, and teaching them a lesson.

    If you only play to their strengths you are incentivising a narrow focus, since it is safer for them to completely ignore a type of threat safe in the knowledge you wont then use it, than to cover all bases and then get hit by something they could theoretically handle, but not perfectly and with ease.

  17. - Top - End - #47
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Do you punish an unbalanced party?

    This isn't much different from the parties I usually end up DMing with my regular group.

    We have, usually, only one player who plays a caster of any type, and he almost always ends up as a Gish anyway... though another of my players is totally enamored with the Duskblade class. Sometimes someone will take a couple levels of Cleric so that there's at least some healing available.

    In the end, I generally just keep the flying to a minimum... or focus on dungeon crawls.

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