View Full Version : Characters underpowered for the campaign?

2011-02-15, 03:08 PM
Hey all,

I do not post here often, but I'd like your opinions and thoughts on something. Perhaps even some advise and suggestions. The situation is as follows:

I run a D&D 3.5 campaign. The characters are level 13 at the moment (soon-to-be level 14). I have kept them fairly poor, but introduced a bit more magic and gold the past few months. I have been 'nice' to them with the encounters, not wanting to kill them but creating challenges that were interesting and exciting. This campaign now runs for about 1,5 years and the storyline is picking up speed.

With picking up speed, and closing on the end of my "Act 1", they are going to face harder challenges with primarily smarter and stronger (and more ruthless) opponents. This poses a problem:

The party:
- Truenamer (See Kellus' rebuild for Truenamers here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=90961))
- Wizard
- Artificer
- Fighter (customized class, but equivalent to fighter)

The problems...

The HP of the Truenamer and the Wizard are below 50 when full, the Artificer around 65 and the Warrior well above 100. One well-placed fireball will wipe the party out, let alone smart-thinking NPC's with actual tactics.

Aside from the Artificer (an experienced player), the others show no creativity in combat. Yesterday I put them in the eye of a hurricane (Control Wind), and I actually had to help them with ideas on how to exit it to attack the caster of the spell. And they even had Teleport memorized!

Know the weaknesses of your character, and use preparation to solve them. That is what I normally do, but it has not sunk in yet. There are no Cure potions, no stacks of scrolls for the odd occasions, no magic items to boost Constitution for HP, etc. They have the gold, they have an artificer (granted, he does not have enough ingame time), they can teleport to the largest cities to buy stuff. They don't.

Aside from talking to them and just pointing out that they need to prepare and/or outright killing them in the next encounter, I do not really know what to do. I want them to be able to survive my encounters without having to pull my punches.

What can I do?

2011-02-15, 03:19 PM
Obvious choice: Make the encounters easier. If all characters are overpowered, it's rather the opponents you place in front of them that are overpowered.

Another option that I would propose to my players is to go back to a low- to mid-level campaign. Your players are now entering the high level range where play becomes quite different than at lower levels. You have a lot more options and you have to make use of them to reach your full potential. This is not what all players prefer and I have heard of quite a number of people who said they really don't like high level play and bring the campaign to an end and start something new.
If you want to keep characters to keep the campaign going, you might want to look into E6 and consider converting the characters according to that variant system. It has the huge advantage that players keep having a smaller and tidy selection of special abilities and spells, and special equipment is much less needed. The downside is, that this variant is actually very well suited for improvisation and creative solutions to take down enemies much stronger than the characters. And when you're now level 14, that would actually be a pretty big step down.
But I would still propose that to your players and ask them how they feel about their characters as they are now, specifically related to the amount of stuff to keep track of.

Land Outcast
2011-02-15, 03:22 PM
The first step to take would be to show that first post to your players, as it is.
Then observe the results on the next session.

Disclaimer: If you've got someone sensitive, perhaps soften a bit the lack-of-creativity part and the wording on "they even had Teleport memorized!".

2011-02-15, 03:26 PM
Part of being a good DM is knowing when to pull your punches. Granted another part is to know when not to; however that said, out of game tutoring or pointers are usually the other way players get better (since in game they don't see the stats of enemies, despite that they can at least observe their tactics.

I would point out, sometime between games, that they CAN in fact find potion shops or magic shops in towns. Perhaps they thought they didn't exist. You said it was a low magic game after all. Did you ever say that there were healing shops in town?

As for HP per PC, those are low Hit Die classes for the majority. If you are overly concerned, I've always been pro-max HP per level, with enemies getting listed to 75% hp per HD for random encounters and bosses having Max HP themselves. (However boss fights are always at the disadvantage for turn economy with my DM'ing)

I'm curious about this Warrior class... how custom is it vs how much like the Warrior NPC class is it? Because PCs should not be playing NPC classes. (A Warrior gets d8 HD and no feats, so it's worse than a Fighter)

2011-02-15, 03:36 PM
Thanks for the quick couple of replies!

@Yora: I do not really want to make the encounters easier. I am already tuning normal CR's down to below what they should be capable of, and I want them to learn. I'm also not yet willing to stop the progression or go to this E6 (what is that?). Firstly I want to find the solution in educating my players I think.

@Land Outcast: Your suggestion is good. I can post my first text on our own forum (modified of course) and see what happens.

@Crossblade: They know that magic is available, and they make (some) use of magic shops. The artificer also knows the possibilities. You suggestion for max HP is a good one. At the moment we use the 3/4 rule, so they always get a good amount of HP per level. With regards to the Warrior... I mean the Fighter. It's a complicated class combination (maybe worth another thread) but effectively a fighter with spiked chain and some magic capabilities.

2011-02-15, 03:44 PM
Firstly I want to find the solution in educating my players I think.
Try killing them. They'll at leats be more cautious.

2011-02-15, 03:51 PM
Still people around who have not heard of E6?
It's a variant for 3.5e in which PCs level up to 6th level and hp, BAB, base saves, and spells per day/known become fixed. Instead character progression continues by learning new feats or adding new spells to your reportoir, or even adding new class features from other classes that have been converted into feats.
The main result is, that you don't have to deal with such a huge number of spells and magic items, and that even CR 1 and 2 creatures are still able to hit the most powerful characters and eventually overwhelm them in large numbers. But eventually characters become versatile enough to handle even single opponents of CR 10 to 12.
It also removes all 4th to 9th level spells from the game, so spellcasters need protection by warriors, since other warriors can still kill them with one or two good blows. It seems to work very well for groups that either like the gritty aspect of low-level play or prefer to not have to deal with lots of spells and magic items.

2011-02-15, 03:53 PM
It also removes all 4th to 9th level from the game
Not really. Plenty of ways to get 4th level spells in E6. It's just a bit harder.

2011-02-15, 03:56 PM
Yeah, when you get into optimization and exploiting. In that case E6 is still completely breakable.

And thanks for making me realize I missed a word. :smallbiggrin:

2011-02-15, 04:03 PM
Yeah, when you get into optimization and exploiting. In that case E6 is still completely breakable.
No, the E6 capstone feat for spellcasters grants them a level 4 spell.

2011-02-15, 04:05 PM
Is there a link to this system? Or is it a 3rd party book?

Other than that, I'd like to stay on topic please.

2011-02-15, 04:17 PM
Before deciding on what system changes to make. I would ask your players a simple but overlooked question: What do you want out of the game. It seems from your OP that you very much want to tell a story. The players may very much enjoy that story and building and optimizing are just distractions to what they consider the "meat" of the game.

Once everyone is aware of what they want out of the game, then you can focus on that.

2011-02-15, 04:55 PM
Have you considered 4E? It's much more of an advanced board game then 3.5, which depends much more heavily on creativity and/or rules mastery (finding the right spell/power/etc to use in a given situation).

Alternatively, you could focus more on non-combat threats. Traps, puzzles, riddles, roleplaying, mysteries, politics, business, etc.

2011-02-15, 05:00 PM
This post reminds me that a lot of skill is involved in DnD, not just whether your tier 1.

I played a way over powered *melee* character that basically one shot stuff 3/4s of the time...without a full attack. The problem that actually made him inferior in combat was that all the NPCs where on high ledges or rough terrain or etc. So he couldn't charge or reach them very easily at all. So even though I was highly optimized for most adventures (broken even) the rest of my group contributed more (who were underpowered for most campaigns). Even the archer (and we all know how bad DnD archers are) did better.

2011-02-15, 05:09 PM
No, the E6 capstone feat for spellcasters grants them a level 4 spell.
Not the versions of E6 I've read. What's your source?

Is there a link to this system? Or is it a 3rd party book?

It's not a book or anything so official. It originated on the ENWorld forums, and a couple groups have published short PDF documents explaining the details (of the way they play). I haven't bothered saving the location of any of these, though, because they basically boil down to a very simple central idea and a handful of homebrew feats (which wouldn't be that hard to duplicate or even improve upon).

I don't think there's one definitive version of E6 out there, especially one that gives a comprehensive solution to some of E6's trickier issues (like how to run races with Level Adjustment, or exactly which magic items should and shouldn't exist).

Heck, there's even a strong subsystem of E6 that plays E8 instead.

So feel free to search for what other people have done in this vein, but be ready to essentially figure out a lot of the details yourself for your group. :smallsmile:

2011-02-15, 05:15 PM
Not the versions of E6 I've read. What's your source?
Here (http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19568506/e6_4_chain_capstone_feats) and here (http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Rec/rec.games.frp.dnd/2008-10/msg00836.html), for example.

2011-02-15, 08:07 PM
It sounds like your players don't want to play a high level game. As such, instead of trying to teach them to like it, consider just giving them what they want. If, however, they're growing bored but don't know to be creative, consider bringing up the difficulty and applying more preasure. Make them get creative. They have the resources to do it (for example, going Necropolitan could easily get them the hitpoints they need... if they were to know about that option. You could show it to them in game...).