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Your Experiences with Gestalt Characters?


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jaywolfenstien

First Post
Personally, I'm never running Gestalt again unless it's a game with one or two players. In my experience, a full party of Gestalt characters yields stupid gameplay. For one, the party functions less as a team and more as 4 individuals rushing in with their own agenda ("Hey, I'm a Fighter/Cleric -- I don't have to hang around the healer anymore! Chaaaarge!"). And for two, since there's an abundance of resources on the character sheet, they're less resourceful and less creative -- they're too busy staring at their array of Fighter feats and Cleric Spells to think outside the box and come up with a crazy plan.

I'd liken the phenomena to if you only have $20 to get you through the end of the week, you'll be more careful how you spend each and every remaining dollar. If you have $2,000 to get you through the end of the week, you're less likely to be economically efficient.

With a small party (1 or 2 players), the lack of backup keeps them cautious, resourceful, and creative so their gamer instincts still stays pretty sharp. Sure, he may be a Fighter-Cleric, but if he fails against the Illithids Mind Blast ... there's no ally handy to drag his stunned tail to safety.

However, let me add that different people play differently. My players let Gestalt atrophy their gaming skills and it locked their mindset into a box; your players might utilize the full potential of both classes and surprise you with brilliantly original ideas.
 

wolfpunk

First Post
Gestalt is extremely powerful in regards to how effective a character can be at achieving a specific character concept.

So the question is, what are you hoping to achieve by having the players make gestalt characters?

The important thing to understand is, all characters are still limited by the number of actions they can take. Also, they won't have significantly more hit points in most cases, and since you are not increasing the number of bodies on the battlefield for monsters to attack, they can still die pretty quick in an adventure like the Age of Worms.

If you have a large number of players, I wouldn't do it. If you have a small number of players, I suggest trying it, but run a short mini-adventure before starting the age of worms, that way if you don't like it, you haven't killed the adventure.
 

For me it seems to work well for groups of four or less. Now you have group of at least 4 players and each of them manage to cover the "big four" (combat tank, skill monkey, blaster, healer) as well as gestating you should raise the effective party level by when dolling out XP, eps if they are "doubling up" their characters, ie. Fighter/Barbarian or Paladin, Rouge/Ranger or Bard, Wizard/Sorcerer, Cleric/Druid. These types of characters wind up being able anything a normal party can do but better and/or more often w/o rest. How ever if you party looks like this; Barbarian/Wizard, Fighter/Sorcerer, Rouge/Soulknife, Ranger/Druid. Then you have less to worry about because you have characters either having conflicting abilities or classes that don't significatly add to effectiveness either cause of speading prime stats all over or class features that overlap.
Also do not allow multiclassing, esp prestige classes, esp esp gestalted prestige classes, ie. Fighter/Sorcerer takes levels in Eldritch Knight/Spellsword = fully armored, full BAB, full caster uber cheeze.
 


Torx

First Post
I really liked DMing a Gestalt game save for a couple problems:

1. Gestalt brought in my major problem with epic gaming. Either the PCs waded through the competition, or they were nearly defeated in every combat.

2. It took a ton of extra time to create NPCs. That problem was not helped by the fact that there really aren't any electronic tools to auto-generate Gestalt NPCs.

Other than those problems, we had a lot of fun. Even the "weak" characters were able to contribute meaningfully. That was something it held over "regular" 3.5 D&D.
 

javcs

First Post
Okay, I had had a lengthy reply based off of my gestalt campaign that just wrapped up. I allowed flat-out any 3.Xe Wizards of the Coast sourcebook for that campaign, no variant campaign systems, everything beyond those was by DM approval only.
There were ridiculous things that happened, but it was a pretty awesome game. I think that everyone was having fun.

Gestalt can be fun - it's rare for someone to be completely and utterly useless in a given combat situation.
Gestalt can be a PITA to do with pre-published adventures, because you need to rejig major NPCs for gestalt, and apply a generic modification to the rest of the NPCs/monsters. I usually just increased BAB one step, changed one or two saves from poor to good, and increased the HP/HD.

Gestalt is not for inexperienced players.

Decide how you're going to have LA and Racial HD work with the Gestalt - it may not matter much at low levels, but for mid-higher level replacement characters it will matter a lot, if you allow races with LA and/or Racial HD.

Gestalt stops working well when you have more than 4 or 5 players - it just gets too messy too fast whenever you have anything to be done (granted, this can happen with large groups without gestalt).

As long as you cap spell casting level at HD or ECL, there shouldn't be any issues with allowing combo-casting PRCs.

A big issue with gestalt is increased MAD potential - low stats will give most characters the shaft moreso than usual, and they won't really get much benefit out of having gestalt available.

Gestalt primarily only increases character proficiency within their concept or character versatility outside their concept, and gestalt will usually increase how far the party can go in a pinch.

I disagree with Wolfen Fenrison that 'doubling up' on types makes characters better - it usually won't, with the possible exception of full casters. This is because they probably won't get any improvement out of BAB, HD, Saves, or Skills.

Even though a gestalt character will usually have more options available to him/her at any given time - they still do not have any more actions available to them.


Basically if you decide on a gestalt campaign, you either need to write it yourself/as you go or invest a lot of time and prep work into upgrading major/unique NPCs and having a generic upgrade template to lay onto minor NPCs and monsters. You will also need to make some rulings on how LA and Racial HD work within Gestalt.
I would also recommend having a restricted book list.

Even moreso than normal, make sure that they players know what their stuff does and what their options are. Enforce a time limit on turns.
 

The context of the OP is a 3-player campaign and the Age of Worms adventure path that is geared to a party of 6 PCs.

Age of Worms is a really hard campaign so I'm looking at Gestalt as a way to even up the odds a bit so the 3 players won't be in for as difficult a ride.
 

Jack Simth

First Post
The context of the OP is a 3-player campaign and the Age of Worms adventure path that is geared to a party of 6 PCs.

Age of Worms is a really hard campaign so I'm looking at Gestalt as a way to even up the odds a bit so the 3 players won't be in for as difficult a ride.
Three characters, even Gestalt ones, aren't usually going to cut it in an adventure designed for six, unless they're particularly well designed for exactly that (e.g., a Druid//Wizard, a Druid//Ninja, and a Druid//Cleric, all three of whom take one of the more combat-oriented animal companions - Riding Dog at 1st, and either an Ape or one of the Pouncing cats at 4th+, spending a bit of cash to get the animal companion some barding), or are very well optimized otherwise.
 

StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
Then gestalt would be the best bet. Though it varies for any given encounter and the party make-up, I still hold to my loose guestimation that gestalt is like a +50% power boost, so a party of 4 gestalt ~= party of 6 regulars. Again, not exact at all. For example, with less bodies, affects like mind blast can be far more devastating, though they'll have better saves to resist it, too.

Gestalt basically just magnifies the facets of 3E even more so. With two class progessions, system mastery and powerful combos can become even more prevalent, for example, leading to even larger disparity between two PCs. On the other hand, I think you'd have to purposefully try to make a bad gestalt combo, so those less experienced players will also feel useful nearly all the time, just from sheer weght of options. Some things I've learned about gestalt, and things you should consider:

Multiclassing. Two progressions means far more opportunity for level dipping and cherry picking. For my game, I limited the players to only their two gestalt classes. That should give enough versatility for a character concept. They wanted a little more, so I also allowed a single prestige class.

Existing multiclass feats / prestige classes. I banned outright any dual progression prestige class (mystic theurge, arcane trickster, etc...). They're not needed, as you can just be the two classes now. Feats are a bit trickier. I basically just put out a general "no level stacking beyond your HD" rule. So a sorcerer//monk could still take that muliclass feat and get charisma instead of wisdom to AC. But the levels would only matter for monk AC if say...the player went into a prestige class on the monk side. Then the sorcerer levels would fill the gap.

Effects of LA. In a game where every level gives more, losing a level to LA is even more damaging, IMO. That said, I don't really like buying back LA, either. So I adopted a system similar to E6's, where players w/ LA start with a lower point buy. Racial HD take up one side of the gestalt, which means they don't hurt so much (other class can largely override low HD, saves, BAB, or skill points).

How to handle level ups. Basically, there are four main things everyone gets at level up: BAB, HD, saves, and skill points. You have to be careful how you handle them. I chose to split how I handle them. For BAB and base saves, the players tally up what each side would give at each level up (easier than it sounds, it should almost never change which side is better) and take the better one. For skill points and HD, they just take whatever's better at the current level up, regardless of the prior levels. If you were to have BAB and saves also work like that, a player could use racial HD or another (prestige) class to stagger the HD/saves. Ie, a Fighter 1 / Sorcerer 19 // Wizard 20 would have full BAB.

Don't use a single powerful boss. This one surprised me at first, but yes. Any big fight should have a group (or even enemy party) of NPCs, all formiddable to the PCs. With the benefit of two classes, at least in my current campaign, nearly every single PC has one or many ways to utterly devastate a single target. Thus far, I've managed to make only one fight against a single NPC work (he had a powerful animal companion, but it got chased off early on by fear effects anyway). The fight lasted 6-8 rounds (I didn't keep count). Of that, the PCs wasted 1 and a half rounds attacking an illusion of him in the air (they were rolling poorly). After that, he stayed alive because he had super tricked out AC (legitimately) and buff spells. The PC cleric also threw up a darkness spell, which lengthed the combat. Even so, it took just three attacks to fell him. He was level 6 gestalt (same as party) and had full hp. About 70, I think.

Don't let the party rest. I'm lucky to have a group that does't like to fold it in early unless things went really badly. But if your group would find the "5 minute workday" attractive, ban the spells that allow it, like rope trick. To me, one of the major points of gestalt is the nearly unlimited resources the party has, so I like to push them on for much longer dungeons than a normal party could handle. This isn't a huge balance issue (though it's easier to abuse than a normal party just from extra spells available), but I find it one of the more fun things about gestalt, so it'd be like a missed opportunity.

Balance within any single combat. While the party can go on through many fights, in each single fight, their hp won't be much higher than a regular party. So the way to challenge them should probably be less focused on attrition, and more on making most of the combats close to the limit of what they can handle. Do note, at least IME, the extra resources means the party might end up in a very difficult fight, instead of playing more defensively, absolutely nuking the opposition with everything in their arsenal. This tends to happen when my party gets beat up really badly in the first few rounds, so I try to go for enemy attacks that do less damage, but hit more reliably (or always, like magic missile), to wear them down more slowly and keep their twitching hands off the launch buttons.
 
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jaywolfenstien

First Post
Wow, I was going to write out a lengthier post about the game mechanics side of Gestalt, but StreamoftheSky pretty much nailed all the points I'd of brought up (and more.) Good post. ;)
 

The last gestalt game I was in I was a player. The group consisted of a Human Monk/Paladin (my character, I also took VoP), a Grey Elf Archivist/Wizard, a Spellscale Healer/Warmage, a Wood Elf Fighter/Rogue.

My character dominated combat as long as the opponent was evil, the "book mage" mainly dealt with buff spell and battle field control (summons, walls, and the like), and the "red mage" well blasted the crap out of everything (sometimes even us) and then healed and/or raised us after the battle, now the fighter rogue wasn't very good at any of the stuff rouges usually do (the only time she pulled stealth off was when invisibility was cast on her) but could do crap loads of damage with her longbow that she specialized in and by setting up an attack where she could use rapid shot/multishot/sneak attack she could do more damage than me or the blaster.
The archvillian that we faced was a Half-Iron Golem Paladin of Slaughter/Warlock that somehow duel-wielded twin adamantine fullblades, he was more than a little scary.
 

StreamOfTheSky

Adventurer
Wow, I was going to write out a lengthier post about the game mechanics side of Gestalt, but StreamoftheSky pretty much nailed all the points I'd of brought up (and more.) Good post. ;)

The post took so long to write, that I actually had other things to bring up, but by the time I was halfway through, had already forgotten them. :)

Maybe I'll recall later...
 

Rleonardh

First Post
If you run point buy system it's harder to run higher level campaign.

However last one I ran had a party of.
Fighter/Cleric
Sorcerer/Bard
Druid/Ranger
Rouge/Wizard

None of them had conflicted stats and every 4 core roles where filled.
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
Now, that's a necro and StreamsoftheSky said most of what needed to be said twelve years ago.

Of course... Pathfinder 1e is a very different game than it was when this thread was first committed to hard drives.

The main mechanical points haven't changed: Gestalt makes ECL/MAD hurt even more, Gestalt amplifies the importance of the action economy. I agree fundamentally with StreamsoftheSky that dual class progression needs to be paired with some restriction on class selection, especially in regard to +X/10 spellcasting progression PrCs.

Late PF1 did introduce some new wrinkles with archetypes and hybrid classes, and third-party concepts like talented classes and prestige progressions-- none of these more powerful than their predecessors normally, but allowing a Gestalt character to stretch even further across party roles, hide the drawbacks of one class archetype behind the abilities of the other class, and generally do everything people complained about Gestalt characters doing fifteen years ago... but better.

Over the past fifteen years, I have played around quite a bit with turning optional Gestalt-- with various penalties-- into a viable substitute for the D&D 3.5/PF1 multiclassing system. I came very close, thanks to a neat bit of third-party content-- look up Overhauling Multiclassing by Tipsy Tabby Publishing-- but I never quite stuck the landing.

Standard Gestalt-- imagine some kind of restricted progression-- is very good at representing multiclass archetypes or kits from AD&D, but it has some trouble with characters (or players) who want their character to be more straightforward: the single-class Human Fighter, no items, Final Destination. This was a major problem with my 2005-2007 (or so) D&D groups.
 

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