Pathfinder 1E How to deal with high AC PCs

monboesen

Explorer
Well you have hit one of the 3ed snags that pathfinder didn't attempt to correct.


IMO there is no real solution within the system. You either handpick enemies to target weak areas/bypass him entirely, tailor tactics to an unreasoable degree or frustate him with terrain. To make matters worse, the problem will only increase as levels go by and magic gets increasingly out of control.

The nonsystem solutions is to either talk it out with your players and have them willingly remake the characters within more acceptable limits. The point being that the game is pretty boring without any real danger. Or straight out cheat and just hand enemies sufficient attack bonus to actually hit.

If i opted to cheat I would probably just count any unmodified attack roll of 12+ as a hit on the dude (monsters hit the character 45% of the time) and then choose a lower number for the rest of the characters.
 

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In my current group we got tired of running games with all the supplements. Invariably there will be enough stacking in on direction or another (damage, ac, cc) that makes fights just boring and the DM will have to more or less custom make every opponent to make the encounters anything else than trivial.

Our solution to it was to just run with a small subset of the supplements. Typically the core books and one or two supplements to match the setting. The chance of getting combinations that go completely off the chart diminishes drastically and the DM can focus more on role playing aspects of the game than the mechanical part. As noted above it gets a bit obvious when every encounter has monsters that bypasses high AC.

To me, power gaming is fun to a degree, but when it gets so hard to challenge the characters that you waste lots of time trying to find something on the outskirts of the rules that will and every encounter is bizarre, it's gone too far.

If I were in the same situation I would sit down and talk it over with the player, since the character is obviously disrupting the game. Agree to removing some the AC boosting equipment and/or feats and so on. Get the AC down to a level where it's hard to hit, but not completely unlikely. If the player is reasonable it shouldn't be a problem.

I have done the same thing. In fact, the problem character has next to no non-core feats or equipment. CORE is broken enough. I do allow some from the splat books, but that is case by case only. So far that has not been very unbalanced, and the closest thing must have been to allow the Magus class.

Well you have hit one of the 3ed snags that pathfinder didn't attempt to correct.


IMO there is no real solution within the system. You either handpick enemies to target weak areas/bypass him entirely, tailor tactics to an unreasoable degree or frustate him with terrain. To make matters worse, the problem will only increase as levels go by and magic gets increasingly out of control.

The nonsystem solutions is to either talk it out with your players and have them willingly remake the characters within more acceptable limits. The point being that the game is pretty boring without any real danger. Or straight out cheat and just hand enemies sufficient attack bonus to actually hit.

If i opted to cheat I would probably just count any unmodified attack roll of 12+ as a hit on the dude (monsters hit the character 45% of the time) and then choose a lower number for the rest of the characters.

12+? That was what the Stone Golem did, the only enemy of appropriate CR to consistently hit him. If every smuck can do the same, it would break suspense and make that golem so much less imposing.

If I would impose such an arbitrary cheat, I would limit it at maybe 16+ for CR-appropriate enemies.
 

KarinsDad

Adventurer
In my current group we got tired of running games with all the supplements. Invariably there will be enough stacking in on direction or another (damage, ac, cc) that makes fights just boring and the DM will have to more or less custom make every opponent to make the encounters anything else than trivial.

Our solution to it was to just run with a small subset of the supplements. Typically the core books and one or two supplements to match the setting. The chance of getting combinations that go completely off the chart diminishes drastically and the DM can focus more on role playing aspects of the game than the mechanical part. As noted above it gets a bit obvious when every encounter has monsters that bypasses high AC.

In my last (4E) game, I didn't drop most of the supplements, but I was running FR, so I dropped Eberron, Dark Sun, Dragon Magazine, and some of the more recent supplements. I also dropped most of the races (mostly monstrous ones). Doing this did heavily cut down on how much combination synergy the PCs could acquire. Carefully controlling magic items on top of that allows the DM to control whether the game gets out of hand as well due to uber PCs.
 

S'mon

Legend
Do what I do - get rid of the critical hit confirmation roll, and have enemies who focus on high damage, x3 weapons. :D

I think it's important though to let the Fighters shine; let them be able to tank effectively. They certainly can't stand up to enemy spellcasters; leaving them unable to stand up to melee-brute monsters either just means they suck all-around.
 

S'mon

Legend
So how can a bunch of normal soldiers - War or Fi lvl 1-3 actually be any threat at all to a group where the lowest AC is around 25? (not counting Wizard who is invisible etc.).

Warrior-3 (+3) STR 16 (+3) weapon focus (+1) masterwork (+1) = +8, +2 for charging or flanking gives +10. Hitting on a 15+ looks pretty reasonable to me for 3rd level NPCs vs 8th* level PCs. Give them a decent damage weapon like greatsword for 2d6+4.

Edit: When I used to run 1e AD&D, 8th level was a big deal, and a party of 8th level PCs could take on a couple hundred mook NPCs. So you may want to think about what 8th level means in terms of your gameworld. 3e/PF doubled the expected adventuring levels from 1-10 to 1-20 but kept 1e-2e's approach to PC power, roughly doubling every 2 levels. If you treat 8th level as high level you'll find less of an issue.

*BTW my 2nd level Cleric has base AC 21: DEX 14 (+2), Dodge feat (+1), chain (+6) and heavy shield (+2). I could easily make it AC 24 in a level or so if I get some money - shield spec (+1) , +1 armour, +1 shield.
 
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Razjah

Explorer
Spellcasters are somewhat rare, but every nation has them and every major city spots several spellcasters of higher levels. Magic items are not sold in shops, but spellcasters can be hired for jobs and may have an occasional item or two. Magic is seldom used on a large scale in battles.


As for enemies, im not throwing a bunch of lvl 1 warriors against them - mostly they have been fighting lvl 7 warriors, spellcasters of 6th-9th level, golems of different kinds, and the occasional monster I can throw in without it being silly (they are fighting a human organization).

Their mission are generally spec ops type, not jobs that normal soldiers can do by themselves.

i just sometimes wish I they could be threatened by normal random soldiers - 8th level shouldn't be superhuman legendary heroes (think of that as the really high levels, 16-20), but of course they are formidable and should be.

I don't generally find a problem for this group to do though, and have a otherwise well-running campaign.

Well, this is a problem. The d20 system break out of normal by around 5th level. You want normal soldiers to be threatening? You need a different system. D20 was a pretty solid breakdown of capabilities at certain levels. 1-5 is normal, badass; 6-10 is heroic; 11-15 is wuxia; and 16+ is superhero/demigod. You're solidly in the heroic section, we're talking Hercules, Achilles, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and other figures of legend. They aren't threatened by normal people unless there is some special circumstance (like a vulnerable heel).

Could you introduce non-magical boosts? Fighting in a unit give +1 to hit, a phalanx's spears deflect a lot of the incoming attacks granting DR 5 to the group, moral boosts from a leader, high ground bonus to hit, fighting with a standard gives an extra bonus.

Or exotic fighters (the 300 approach), pick some far away land with crazy exotic combatants. The enemy drafted them. So 4th level chain fighter. Feats:
Fighter 1-exotic prof, 2-focus, 4-specialization
Level 1 combat reflexes, 3 power attack

When the fighter closes on the group you get a bunch of AoO. Sure, most will miss, but the chance to hit goes up when you have ranks of chain wielding fighters.
 

N'raac

First Post
One suggestion which I haven't seen so far in this thread is:
Don't attack the tank.
Go around the tank.
Attack everyone else in the party.
Make the tank WANT to be hit.

Smart opponents are quickly going to realize that it's easier to take out the fighter's buddies than to take out the fighter. Safer for the opponents to reduce party numbers first, THEN deal with the tank.

Just like the PC's target the enemy spellcasters first. If so much of the character's resources have gone to AC, he's unlikely to be the high damage team member, so ignoring him to focus on the softer targets with higher damage potential makes sense. It is what the PC team would do, so why should NPC's be tactically stupider? Once the others are out of the way, teamwork like Aid Another against this guy becomes much more practical.

There are an array of abilities against which armor is less useful, as already cited by others.

Ultimately, I would WANT this PC to feel awesome in his defensive ability pretty regularly. If he had instead focused all his character resources on higher damage, he'd get to be the guy who cleaves through the opponents before they even get an attack and feel Awesome. He spent his resources on defense, so he should be Awesomely defended.

At 8th level, these guys should feel pretty powerful, so having town guards be a limited threat really doesn't bother me. If they're abusing that power, the town would logically take the same approach most game worlds do - hire some heroic adventurers to deal with these powerful brigands!

It's been awhile since I looked at it but...
Hobgoblin Ranger 1/Fighter 6/Barb 1:
Str 18* Dex 16* Con 14 Int 13 Wis 8 Cha 7
Feats: Combat Expertise, Dodge, Shield Focus, Weapon focus, Weapon specialization and more.
(*he started with 16/16, but has gotten a belt of Strength, maybe Dex as well).

AC 30, 33 with Expertise, 36 with fighting defensively.
CMD 28 (31 with Expertise).

Speed 50. Stealth... enough. Acrobatics is good.

Items: +2 Breastplate, +2 heavy shield, adamantium +1 Longsword, Ring of Protection +2, Amulet of natural armor +2, Boots of Striding and Springing.

To start, maybe you need your scenarios to feature more investigation and NPC interaction. That seems highly likely to be this guy's weak point, since everything he has is combat-focused. Let the PC's who invested resources in non-combat abilities shine there, and he can shine in combat.

With Combat Expertise, he's taking a stiff penalty on attack bonuses to get defense bonuses. I always thought of Combat Expertise as a replacement for Fighting Defensively, but I see nothing in the rules that prevents using both. That's a -7 penalty to hit, though (-3 from Expertise and -4 from Defensive Fighting). Why not throw in some high AC opponents and make him reconsider those bonuses? I assume he's not getting much mileage from iterative attacks.

His will save is only +1 I think, which I have used against him in almost every big combat, however the party tends to focus on enemy spellcasters first as they also know how dangerous this guy is if he gets dominated (has already killed one party member after being dominated by an Aboleth).

Spellcasters are somewhat rare, but every nation has them and every major city spots several spellcasters of higher levels. Magic items are not sold in shops, but spellcasters can be hired for jobs and may have an occasional item or two. Magic is seldom used on a large scale in battles.

So it's low magic when the player wants to complain about his weaknesses coming into play, but not when he wants to commission a very specific item for his character. Somehow, that sounds less than fully reasonable. Especially if the characters' power has also come with some fame. If enemies know this guy is almost unhittable in combat, but easily affected by mind-affecting spells, they would be pretty stupid not to hire someone who can target his weaknesses - and you've established spellcasters aren't tough to hire, right?

Hey, if he wants a bonus to Will saves, all he has to do is Rage...and suck up the AC drawbacks. I'd also suggest this organization they are up against should have an idea of the characters' capabilities (not just his PC) and the ability to equip their minions in an equally focused manner. So maybe they should start sending in, say, some Net and Trident warriors to oppose this guy. No reason they can't have feats to enhance attack bonuses with their nets. His Touch AC is pretty good, but removal of armor and shield bonuses drops him to a much more hittable range.

Net fighters staying 10' away, probably with decent AC's so he has to choose between a decent touch AC and a decent chance of hitting them (Defensive and CE being a much bigger part of his Touch AC) changes the game a bit, I suspect.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
I have done the same thing. In fact, the problem character has next to no non-core feats or equipment. CORE is broken enough. I do allow some from the splat books, but that is case by case only. So far that has not been very unbalanced, and the closest thing must have been to allow the Magus class.
I am curious in what you and your players want to do with the campaign. Looking at the current state of it, it doesn't look like it's very viable.

When I mentioned core, I was thinking of 3.5 (I am not familiar with pathfinder specifics) and to me that was the PHB. Might you think of core as a wider variety of books or is pathfind really that broken?

Anyway, the question isn't really what you can do, bute more of a question of what you and your players want to do with the Campaign. We usually discuss things like this before creating characters. Sometimes we go for "go as broken as you want" and sometimes we go for "avoid powergaming too hard". Where are you and your players in this?

My players do know when they have found a combination that's good enough to "break" the game and because of the social contract we have they either approach me with it or just don't use the loophole.

Like the player who found the "Blinding spittle" spell gave a +4 ranged touch attack to blind the foe until he managed to wash it out. I let him use it if just used it occationally and agreed that it wouldn't work against dragons and such.
 

Hautamaki

First Post
This is a story I heard from a fellow gamer about another group he played with.

To make it brief, this player had a bunch of 3e supplementals that he cross-referenced to create an 8th level PC with the combat power of an 18th level fighter. It had insane AC, DR, attack bonus, all kinds of twinked out BS.

Anyway the DM at the time didn't realize right away how broken the character was, but after single handedly dominating the first 2 encounters without coming in the slightest danger himself or allowing anyone else to get into any danger at all, the DM adjusted the third encounter slightly. Instead of a party of hill giants or some such mundane monster, the DM had the party cross a river, at which point a trio of water trolls leaped out, grappled the invincible druid into the river, and drowned him. Their combined grapple check was something stupid like +35 or something and they did not need to get through his armour or his DR, they just held him under water until he drowned, though I'm sure they took a few bites out of his head to hurry along the process anyway.

And that was that for Twinky McBroken the invincible druid.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
[MENTION=42219]Hautamaki[/MENTION] I have contemplated suggesting a similar action, but came to the conclusion that beating the character is never a problem for a DM. He can throw whatever monster he likes at a party. The core of the problem is in my eyes a character that makes a reasonable encounter trivial. It's why I suggested talking to the player(s) and in later campaigns, discussing the amount of twinking that's ok.
 

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