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Thread: How to deal with high AC PCs
Monday, 5th November, 2012, 10:48 PM #61
Novice (Lvl 1)
I'm sorry I was assuming that they were purchasing them. With them crafting the items themselves, it makes it a bit difficult to do this. What I was thinking was having a reduced cost (crafting or otherwise) or lower DC to craft if they put a restriction on it.
They have requirement for Class Features, Ability Scores, Race and Alignment (check Use Magic Device Skill), potentially have them craft such items with these requirements for a discounted cost in materials.
Another thing, Take the Ring for example, if it was intended for another player, was that player of comparable 'size' of this PC, even if they were both medium, if it was intended for a character of smaller size, there was no way this player could have used it because it wouldn't have fit around his finger, and if he tried to tie it around his neck, then it would then take up his amulet spot (using the 'magic has specific spots that can only be used once' which is why you cant wear 20 amulets and 15 hats even if they would all fit you only gain the benefit of 1)
Oh and I just found this "Crystalline" material on d20pfsrd.com that ignores half the AC of armor, in common form, and ignores all armor AC and deflection bonuses with True Crystalline form (and technically this has nothing to do with high or low magic, just the material that's around.) and it need not be as expensive as it says if its in a region with an abundance of the materials (and to prevent the PCs from using it, flavor it so that you have to be trained in Crystalline weapons (exotic weapon prof) or they will break the weapon on any missed attack attempt or something.
Last edited by jpmg90; Monday, 5th November, 2012 at 10:52 PM.
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Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 12:15 AM #62
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Is his power level a problem to the other players, or only to you? If it's not a problem to the group, maybe it's not really a problem. If it's a problem to the other players, maybe they need to consider using more of their resources for themselves, and less for the high AC fighter.
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 12:43 AM #63
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 12:46 AM #64
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 02:10 AM #65
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Pathfinder (and 3E) ruleset: AC outstrips attack quite easily if magic items are readily available... and, let's face it, with the crafting rules as they are, they probably will.
It's one of the major reasons that PF is not my primary system and I prefer to run either AD&D or 4E, both of which are a lot easier to keep the AC/attack ratio in check. However, I lose the character customisation available in PF through those routes. Doesn't bother me as the DM, but it occasionally bothers my players. (Which is why I'm currently running three campaigns: PF, AD&D and 4E!)
The 'major' system hack I'd make to PF to reduce the AC issue is to stop deflection bonuses stacking with armour enhancement bonus. (This is how it worked in AD&D - rings didn't work if you had magic armour). However, it still must be said that magic plate+magic shield does give some very high ACs! Likewise, I'd be tempted to also include natural armour bonuses here: you get the best of natural armour or regular armour, not both.
There are lots of ways to bypass AC as well, but I dislike using those types of attacks. Once in a while, sure, but you have to not use too many classic monsters to use them. I *like* using orcs and ogres, and to have them neutered due to the AC/attack disparity is extremely annoying.
It probably should be noted that pure melee monsters can exist in the CR range so they can still hit highly-armoured PCs; much more of the problem comes from NPCs, who rarely stack up well. Fighter and Rogue NPCs need high-powered magic items to compete with the PCs, but you don't want them to have them because of the breaking of the economy it creates. It's a fundamental problem in the system. (You can paper over it by giving them inherent bonuses sans items).
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 04:02 AM #66
But I think this question slightly misses the OP's point. The OP's qusetion isn't "How can I nerf my player's PC building choice?" It's "Given that the PC build rules seems to allow players to channel their choices into directions that undermine the fun of action resolution, what advice can anyone give me?"
I think @MerricB's post is actually the best response yet to the question as I understand it, as it clearly identifies the three problematic mechanics:
(1) stacking of deflection and enhancement bonuses, a 3E innovation;
(2) the distinction between, and consequent stacking of, armour and natural armour bonues, another 3E innovation;
(3) stacking of enhancement bonuses on armour and shield, something that goes back to classic D&D, but becomes exaggerated in an environent like 3E/PF where tailored magical items are easier to come by.
@Friend of the Dork, I would suggest you talk to your group and explore taking one of two options - I've taken both approaches in my own time as GM, depeding on the group consensus that emerges and what seems the approach least likely to break down under the pressure of future play.
One option is the "gentelmen's agreement": leave the rules intact, but establish an understanding that PCs won't use more than one enhancement or deflection bonus, nor more than one armour or natural armour bonus. (This is, in effect, a version of talking to the player about a PC rebuild - but in a slightly more systematic fashion.)
NPCs and monsters are exempt from the agreement - you and your players rely on the CR rules, rather than the bonus stacking rules, to make sure they are fair and balanced.
I think the main thing that might put pressure on option 1 would be the PCs making hauls of loot they can't use without violating the agreement.
The second option is a full-fledged houserule along the same lines. This is easier to police, because - provided people play by the rules - it is self-policing. And the aesthetics of it will be more pleasing to some groups. But without knowing 3E/PF monsters all that well, I would assume it would mandate quite a bit of monster and NPC rebuilding, which would be a PitA.
Whichever path you adopt, I think it would be crucial to let players to rebuilds of their PCs, and revisions of items also, to make them fit rationally into the new scheme of things.
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 07:42 AM #67
Scout (Lvl 6)
Wait...the fighter is being effective and you want to punish him for that? /facepalm
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Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 09:27 AM #68
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
To me this all sounds like the PC rather pigeonholed himself. Yes, he's got very high AC, but what is that actively accomplishing? Only that he doesn't get attacked very often, because it is mostly futile anway. Smart opponents should just ignore him. You said yourself he can't really draw aggro much, his damage output is mediocre etc.
Getting sky-high AC is a trap for PCs to fall in. I can't count how many times I've read threads similar to this one... So many players spend a lot of their resources (and in this case, a lot of the party's resources as well!) on just this one area of defense. They spend too little on ways to actually contribute, in or out of combat, and are still far from untouchable, as even very high AC peters out in usefulness in the mid levels.
See, it's not you, @Friend of the Dork , who has a problem. It's your high-AC PC, since 'not being hit by mooks' is really the only thing he's good at. However, that's not a useful skill.
Can he kill a dangerous enemy quickly? Can he lock down part of the battlefield? Can he spot incoming threats? Can he buff or heal his buddies? Can he make the enemy less effective at taking out the party (other than himself)? Can he command and keep the attention of the most dangerous foe? Can he exploit his mobility/fighting style/special moves to get to and take on hard-to-reach enemies? Etc.
If the answer to most or all of these questions is "no", your problem PC has effectively neutered himself by going after AC at the cost of everything else.
That said, it's your job as a DM to make the game fun and challenging for everybody. Your problem PC has made the job harder, in that he hyperspecialized, which always restricts the DM's decision corridors into narrower and less interesting shapes. You need to make sure your player feels like his "investment" into high AC paid off. But you also need to make sure he occasionally feels the sting of not being effective in most other regards.
The first part seems rather simple at first glance: involve a few mooks in every battle whose only job is to flail at him ineffectually. Gives him something to do, even if it's inconsequential to the battle at large. Occupy him with fodder, so he feels useful, while the other PCs get served with the 'real' battle. In boss battles, let the boss waste a round or two beating on him, then change tactics. That way, the high AC bought a couple rounds off the BBEG, which is good payoff.
The second part (challenging him, showing him there's still a lot of stuff he can't do jack about) is a bit harder, since it needs to be done with moderation, but also with a firm hand. Others have enumerated the myriad ways of going about this, from touch attacks to combat maneuvers to magic to certain monsters' special abilities to simply ganging up in the dozens.
But I think it's actually more important to bring up situations in which the PC sees how he might have contributed, had he picked an even slightly different area of expertise. For example, have melee enemies simply pass him by and ignore the turtle. They could even utter threats like "just you wait until we kill your buddies, then it's gonna be your turn!"
Make sure enemies react accordingly to danger that's coming their way. If they're scorched by a PC blaster mage, let there be shouts of "stop that goddamn spellcaster! Take him down at all costs!" If there's a PC sniper, enemies should shout "watch out for the sniper! He got Bob, I repeat, Bob is down! Somebody engage that sniper!" If there's a sneak attacker, let people act afraid of going toe to toe with him without somebody covering their backs. Etc.
This should make clear that enemies are not impressed by somebody standing around in full plate, hitting the air. What they are impressed by is somebody actually doing a good job of killing them!
EDIT: Oh, and I wanted to address the misleading information in two posts right above, as well. @MerricB and @pemerton advise rules changes, while interestingly both are saying PF or 3E isn't their primary system, but still going into details how the system is broken. Breaking out the banhammer instead of devising a more differentiated view of things (like this thread has done in a lot of instances) is what it boils down to. A rules change is advised that makes not only @Drowbane want to facepalm. Although I'd want to facepalm for a slightly different reason: Not only is nerfing an effective fighter outright unnecessary, the particular nerf advocated here is wholly beside the point anyway, since the fighter in question isn't even very effective!
Their point rests on an assumption that is put like this by MerricB: "AC outstrips attack quite easily if magic items are readily available". Which is patently false. Whether magic is readily available (and not only to the PCs, I'm assuming!) or not, enemy NPCs and level appropriate monsters usually don't have a hard time hitting a given PC's AC.
Unless, of course, the PC in question invests so much into AC that other areas of investment are left lacking as a result. Sure, you can get very high AC, but AC and attack bonuses don't exist in a vacuum. You pay huge opportunity costs to increase just one area of defense to a point where level-appropriate foes can't damage you by attacking that defense. For once, you give up increasing other defenses to a great degree, ironically making you more vulnerable overall. Furthermore, you give up proactive effectiveness. In all of 3.x/PF, good and varied offense >>> good defense. It's just exceedingly hard to be truly bullet proof and useful.
Last edited by Empirate; Tuesday, 6th November, 2012 at 09:48 AM.
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 09:57 AM #69
What you're suggesting, in effect, is a more painful version of my gentlemen's agreement: instead of sorting things out in an out-of-game discussion so as to make everyone's time at the table more fun, you're suggesting that the game proceed with the player suffering with a poor build, and the GM having headaches working around it, until in X levels time the balance of new PC features, items etc, plus a bit of natural selection, evens itself out.
I think I prefer my approach. It has the same outcome but delivers it now rather than after weeks or months of sub-optimal play experience.
Tuesday, 6th November, 2012, 12:32 PM #70
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
The power curve in 3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder is such that lower level characters are outpowered pretty quickly. Two L4 characters aren't much of a threat to a L8 character. The AC focus exacerbates it - the inability to hit is pretty obvious in combat. If that fighter were instead focused on damage per round, I suspect those L3 warriors wouldn't be a lot better off. They'd just get the occasional hit on the fighter, scratching him a bit before he takes them down - and he'd take them down quite a bit faster.
Ultimately, if this guy sinks such a significant portion of his character resources into AC, it seems like he SHOULD be very hard to hit. 3rd level NPC classes should have a tough time in that regard.
Rather than looking for ways to challenge him in his area of strength, I think challenges that highlight he also has weaknesses are important. @Friend of the Dork, you've mentioned the player gets frustrated when his character's weaknesses are targeted, instead of having opponents try, and fail, to attack his strengths. A discussion with the player, or the group as a whole, might be in order.
I think the player needs to understand that he is hyper-specialized, and that the game will include a variety of challenges, some that his hyper-specialization may make him very effective at, but also others which will focus on his weaknesses rather than his strengths. There's nothing wrong with extending the option of revising his character to be more balanced - less AC in exchange for more effectiveness in other areas - which it seems would reduce your frustrations and, presumably, would reduce his when areas his hyperspecialization is less effective against come up - as they should, with reasonable frequency. If the playuer has expressed frustration when his character's weak points are targeted, it's worth pointing that out.
He should certainly have his opportunities to shine, but no more so than any of the other characters. Sometimes, being well nigh unhittable by the mooks could and should be an ability that wins the day. But not every time. Having a variety of character strengths and weaknesses necessitates a team, and the game should focus on a team, not one superbuild and his amazing friends/comic relief.
I'd be guided by two things. First, is the player reacting negatively when the enemy exploits his weaknesses instead of breaking against his specialized strength? If so, then the player needs to consider a better balanced character. Second, are the other players frustrated that his character seems overly effective/powerful? If so, then there is a greater need to focus on their strengths and/or perhaps the group needs to consider rebuilds to be more or less equally optimized (even if optimized for different challenges) so everyone gets their turn to shine.
If neither of these are a problem, then that leaves a GM issue - for some reason, you can't get past the fact that this character is highly effective against mooks. In the worst case, that may mean the character needs to change to fit the campaign, but it seems like giving him his chance to shine against the mooks is no worse than giving the other characters their opportunities to shine in their specialties. Mooks, serious threats, enemy conspiracies, BBEG's and all other adversaries ultimately exist for the purpose of losing to the PC's, so having the PC's be effective against them doesn't strike me as a major flaw.
Last edited by N'raac; Tuesday, 6th November, 2012 at 12:45 PM.