View Full Version : [Pathfinder] What "Epic" feats to take in an E6 campaign?

2010-03-29, 11:11 AM
I'm running an E6 sandbox game (http://sites.google.com/site/thewestmark/) and before the characters get to the “epic” levels with the E6 rules, I've got to decide how feats are going to be handled.

First, for those who don't know E6 (http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/206323-e6-game-inside-d-d.html), basically characters progress up to level 6, after that each time they level they just get one feat rather than normal character advancement. In terms of opposition this means that players can expect in their E6 “epic” levels to face creatures up to CR 10-12.

Those rules are clear cut, but once you get into the post 6th level epic zone some players may wish to take feats that will forever be out of reach. For some feats it makes a lot of sense why they would be unavailable, as they grant abilities that are too powerful at a roughly 6th level game.

However, even in regular campaigns I find myself scratching my head sometimes at the prerequisites of higher level feats. So what I'm trying to figure out in this thread is why various feats are designed to only appear at certain points in the game.

Sometimes it is obvious, other times it's not, and so understanding the mechanical reasons why certain feats get rolled out at certain levels wold be really helpful in determining if they should be allowed in an Epic 6th level E6 feat.

Arcane Armor Mastery (effectively you need to be 13th level) – You reduce the arcane spell failure by 20%. This is one I'm a bit confused about mechanically, actually even the 5th level Arcane Armor training in general. Looking over the armor table what this yields is being able to ignore light armor penalties, hide armor and all shields except tower shields. Sure, you could wear better armor, but then you're risking spell failure. Breastplate, with just a 5% chance of failure are good odds, but at 13th level do you really want to risk some save or die spell?

When you add in some levels of fighter (I assume these feats are for Gishish builds) then it isn't even 13th level when this feat is likely to get used but even higher level.

So, mechanically, why is this shoved so high up the level ladder? Mage Armor, Shield, along with magic items, seem to do a pretty good job of replicating the benefit of wearing armor by this point so I guess I'm not seeing how the game would fall apart if this was offered at much lower levels.

The Critical Hit Feats (anywhere from 9th level up to 17th level) – When it comes to combat feats, some degree of scaling is needed. At lower levels the margins you are dealing with in terms of damage can easily be overwhelmed if enough game elements stack with each other. If you allow too much of a spike in damage, or allow a condition to be spamable then it can shut down encounters too quickly.

So I can understand why the various critical hit feats are higher on the level ladder, being able to blind and stun on a consistent basis at lower levels just by attacking would overwhelm the system.

The one that doesn't seem like it would be a problem would be Critical Focus (9th level) as the +4 bonus to confirm isn't all that great. In fact in terms of power to-hit vs AC power curve of the game, with very high chances of success to hit starting at level 9, makes this feat feel a bit late in providing a benefit that can be felt. I'm not really sure why this couldn't be available at 1st level.

Spellbreaker (10th level Fighter) – What I get is that spellcasters at 10th level are now sprinting away from fighters in terms of the power curve, so to give the fighter a little burst in the race they can now clobber spellcasters that just failed to ruin the fighters day.

So how does this affect a 6+ level game? The spellcasters and martial characters in an E6 game are far more balanced with each other and so it just comes down to at what point does the break begin. 10th level is a good zone when the imbalance is apparent, but the closer you get to 6th level things even out.

In the end, even if the classes are far more balanced, how does this feat screw things up mechanically?

Lightning Stance (11th level) – This one seems to fit well on the ladder. Get 50% concealment if you move? Aside from a heavy feat investment, this ability seems like it needs a lot of tricks for an opponent to counteract, which makes it seem level appropriate and would not fit into an E6 game.

Improved Critical (8th level) – Double the threat range of one weapon. This is one of those game elements that you can start to crunch numbers far more easily. Gaze at the Falchion or Scimitar, both of which have an 18-20 crit threat range. With this feat it shifts to 15-20 range. It means 30% of attacks are going to crit, resulting in 4d4 or 2d6 damage, along with other bonuses. It can also mean a 10% chance with a greataxe to deliver 3d12 damage.

If you go look at the average stats for monsters in Pathfinder you'll see that at the “epic” game of E6 players are dealing with average hit points between 70 and 160. If a player took this early in the epic levels then they'd probably see an advantage for a couple of levels. If a creature is generally supposed to survive for around 5 rounds per encounter then it that means 14 hp per round for CR 6, while CR 12 would mean 32 hp per round.

So I'm inclined to allow this as an E6 epic feat since it would really help the martial characters with their +6/+1 BAB full attack a better chance to deal with those higher CR creatures.

Medusa's Wrath (11th level) – You get to make 2 extra attacks against foes with various condition effects. While a fighter could technically get this at 11th level, realistically this is more of a feat for 15th level Monks. This feat seems pretty well designed for high level play to help bolster the Monk when the spellcasters have left him choking in the dust. So this one doesn't look like it fits well with an E6 game.

Stunning Fist (8th level) – This is one of those quirky feats. Either you get it with one level of Monk, or have to wait till 8th level. This has always been a head scratcher for me due to that disparity. What I get from reading over the feat is that this is a spamable power. A monk only has a certain number of uses of it per day, but if you just take this as a fighter you can punch and stun all day. Because of that spam element I can see why this needs to be shoved up the ladder a bit.

Does it fit with E6? If a greatsword wielding, power attacking fighter dude decides to take this feat at epic E6, tossing aside the sword for some nose breaking punches, what ends up happening? It seems like, as with Improved Critical, that this would gain some benefit at the lower epic scale, but then when you're facing the CR 12 dragon it's going to be what saves the day. So I'm inclined to make this an epic feat also.

Improvised Weapon Mastery (8th level) – A new pathfinder feat, it just hasn't been around long enough for me to see how this gets incorporated into builds. As with Stunning Fist, the +8 BAB requirement seems to be put there due to its spamable nature. Pick up anything and it becomes, essentially, some kind of martial weapon.

I guess I'm trying to figure out where the exploitation comes in here. Plenty of character builds can replicate these effects with manufactured weapons at 1st level, so aside from those inspiring moments when you don't have any of your weapons at hand, I'm not really sure how this can be exploited so that it warrants a +8 BAB.

I'm inclined to allow this with E6 because I'm not really seeing this as unbalancing, even at level 1.

Leadership (7th Level) – In 3.5 this feat had a 6th level requirement. Since the general feat progression for characters shifted and you can't get feats at 6th level anymore, it makes sense that Leadership “snapped to grid” to 7th level.

Because it would normally be admissible in a 3.5 based E6 game I'm inclined to allow it with a Pathfinder based E6 game. In fact towards the end of the campaign this feat would be quite important for the party to succeed at the high CR creatures.

Improved Precise Shot (11th level) – Archery has gained quite a boost in Pathfinder, making it one of the stronger martial approaches. Because of that the 11th level removal of cover or concealment on ranged attacks seems fitting and would probably overwhelm a gritty E6 campaign. I could see perhaps a downgraded version requiring a standard action to use it.

Pinpoint Targeting (16th level) – As with Improved Precise Shot, this feat would easily overpower an E6 campaign as it ignores armor and shield bonuses with one ranged attack. Boss battles in this campaign could be underwhelming if a sniper can effortlessly plink away at the BBEG. While Bard was able to take out Smaug in this manner, he was still using his family's ancient black arrow and gave a great speech before plugging the dragon. Having this as a spamable ability would be too much at such low levels.

Shield Master (11th level) – No two-weapon penalties when attacking with a shield. I can already see this thread becoming one long argument about this feat. The big issue though is whether having this ability appear in E6 epic overwhelms the game in some way. Does removing the -2 to attacks with the shield screw up the game when dealing with CR 6-12 creatures?

Greater Shield Focus (8th level fighter) – As with other 8th level feats, this one doesn't seem to have an inherent problems in allowing it into an E6 campaign. Gaining an extra +1 AC in the epic levels isn't going to screw up anything as far as I can tell.

Strike Back (11th level) – This kind of a weird feat. You get to make an attack when a larger type of creature attack you with reach. It seems that it's trying to help out martial characters somewhat by allowing them to avoid slogging through several attack of opportunity a larger creature would get as the character passed through their reach zone.

It's a bit situational, one of those feats that you're glad to have when the opportunity arises, but doesn't seem to be part of a core attack routine. So that situational aspect makes me a bit inclined to allow it at lower levels.

However, “think of the large creatures!” also pops into my head. When dealing with huge size and above creatures I can see the need for this patch-like feat, but if you are battling a lot of large size creatures, which is what most of the CR6-12 monsters would be in an E6 game, then the martial characters start to get a real advantage. Because of that it probably doesn't fit into E6.

Two-Weapon Rend (11th level) – Another flash point feat that could easily go on for hundreds of posts. Hit with both of your weapons and then do more damage. Simple and cool and perhaps a good fix for the bitter complaints over TWF effectiveness in the system. Do the extra spikes in damage push it too far in the E6 epic stage of a campaign? There are three feats preceeding it, basically taking up all of the feats the character was selecting during their 1st through 6th levels, and this one would require at least level 6 plus two epic E6 levels to gain, as you'd need to take Improved Two-Weapon Fighting as the first epic feat.

I guess it comes down to whether those spikes in damage are going to mess up the 70-160 hit point zone between CR 6 and 12. This one I'm kind of unsure about.

Greater Two-Weapon Fighting (11th level) – TWF continues to torment me! Get a third off-hand attack at -10 to hit. I'm not seeing mathematically how that is going to fundamentally screw up the epic E6 zone of the game. You're BAB is stuck at best at +6/+1 because of E6, so despite having the extra attack you're BAB hasn't been keeping up with the penalty. It seems as if you're getting a good balance out of that dynamic for E6 play.

Improved Vital Strike (11th level) – As with all of the other core combat feats, the issue here is how much of a spike in damage is going to cause the game to fall apart. Taken alone this x3 damage might not be that big of a deal, but combining it with improved critical and other combat feats and I can see how this could cause real problems with game balance. Vital Strike alone seems like a good “capstone” feat for E6 play.

Greater Vital Strike (16th level) – While Improved Vital Strike seems problematic and unlikely to work for E6, Greater Vital Strike would definitely be too much with four times the damage on a standard attack and so wouldn't work in E6 play.

Greater Weapon Focus (8th level fighter) – Gain +1 to hit with weapon focus weapon. The 8th level feats continue to look like they would be viable E6 epic feats. As with the others, the benefit doesn't seem to outstrip the game's mathematical curve, and I'm sure there would even be plenty of comments that this feat isn't even worth it's feat slot. It seems like this would be a good capstone fighter feat for an E6 campaign.

Deadly Stroke (11th level fighter) – Deal double damage with standard attack and 1 Con bleed. Once again, the 11th level feats perhaps push things too far with E6. This one doesn't seem that bad however. There is a heavy feat chain investment to get to attain this feat, and it is only open to fighters. In many ways its is kind of an enhanced Vital Strike. I don't see this as game breaking for E6, particularly if Dazzling Display takes full round actions to perform. Unless you get two characters working very closely together to create condition effects, you can't really spam this feat.

Penetrating Strike (12th level fighter) – Despite being all the way to 12th level, I'm just not seeing this as being out of place for epic E6. You can ignore 5 DR but it doesn't apply to DR x/-, and it is only available to fighters. It's a bump that feels kind of right, unless my math is totally off. What confuses me the most is why this is not an 11th level feat, what's with level 12?

Greater Penetrating Strike (16th level fighter) – As with other 16th level feats, this one seems to be too high up the level ladder. It's unlikely that E6 would even have a great deal of DR 10 defenses to deal with.

2010-03-29, 11:40 AM
With regards to Arcane Armor Mastery - one thing to keep in mind is that relying on defensive spells eats up a much more significant portion of a spellcaster's loadout when you cap spellcasting at level 6. Some of the most reliable defenses are low level, sure, but you're not talking about a regular 13th level wizard who has low-level slots to spare and higher-level slots as well; an E6 wizard who decides to prepare Mage Armor instead of an offensive or utility is going to feel the impact. It's likely that he still SHOULD prepare it, but if he didn't have to that's one more spell he can sling.

Gan The Grey
2010-03-29, 03:47 PM
One of the things you want to be careful with in allowing higher level feats in E6 is that you don't want to allow feats that are generally 'must have' feats, feats that are so much better than their competitors that a player would be crazy not to take it. That arcane armor feat? Probably too good not to take, and when you have SO many feats like you do in an E6 game, you won't see any casters without that feat. It might be better to break that down into a series of smaller feats that only grant a small percentage per feat taken, up to a certain amount.

Most of the 8th level feats become available to fighters that take the 6th level capstone feat. This fighter feat basically allows them to treat their level and base attack bonus as two points higher than normal for the purpose of qualifying for feats.

Don't know if you've read this, but this (http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/206323-e6-game-inside-d-d.html) has a lot of good E6 information.

Greater Two-Weapon Fighting (11th level) – TWF continues to torment me! Get a third off-hand attack at -10 to hit. I'm not seeing mathematically how that is going to fundamentally screw up the epic E6 zone of the game. You're BAB is stuck at best at +6/+1 because of E6, so despite having the extra attack you're BAB hasn't been keeping up with the penalty. It seems as if you're getting a good balance out of that dynamic for E6 play.

This is a bad idea. One of the selling points of E6 is the simplified, fast-paced combat situations. Rarely do characters get more than two attacks per round, and most characters will never see more than a single attack per round from a high base attack bonus. Dual wield fighters, barbs, rangers, and pallys are really going to be the exception to this rule with 4 attacks per round, but no one should ever have more than that and this should be extraordinarily rare. E6 lacks the ability to stack large amounts of secondary damage on each attack, so single attack characters are really going to fall behind someone with many successive attacks.