View Full Version : Non-spellcaster complaints, advice?

2008-09-03, 08:49 AM
So, I was approached by my DM about reducing time planning with spells and such in game, as it makes the non-casters feel bored and less useful.

The party has two melee types with stealth, a healer type (archivist, but DM is sticking to a low-ish WBL and we don't have a ton of spells for him), and my druid. The druid was shapeshift variant to avoid abuse of wildshape, and when that started looking too good (I might begin to do more in combat than the others) I offerred to rebuild him as the variant druid in UA (monk AC and movement, ranger favoured enemies, track and swift tracker, traded animal companion for solitary hunter variant from ranger to avoid having an overshadowing animal that I could buff like crazy making the fighter-types feel bad).

I try to plan all my spell choices ahead of sessions, knowing roughly what we'd be expecting based on our having chosen what to do on a day (slogging through a swamp, possible random encounters is a travelling spell selection, sneaking around is another one, etc.). When we have to do something riskier (say, stopping one play session before trying to take out some minions around a dragon's base, followed hopefully by an attack against the dragon) I meet the archivist during the week and we talk plans. Of course, this is risky business, so we plan it out - and if something changes, we end up having to plan in session - things didn't go according to plan, the scouting revealed new information, etc - time to modify planning.

Well, I gather that the melee types felt we discussed spells and plans too much last session, and may have griped about it before. Obviously it's a game, and meant to be fun for everyone, but it's not fun waltzing into something and getting one's ass handed to you because it wasn't clear who was supposed to provide a stealth spell/energy resisance/seal an entrance, etc. In my mind, planning during session is not a bad thing - everyone should pitch in if they have ideas on how to handle something, but since the meleers don't know spell lists well they feel left out and just let us do it - and then we feel like we have to solve every situation, because nobody else plans anything.

How do others resolve this kind of issue? We can't simply not make plans/not discuss what spells to prepare - it'd be a slaughter, especially against tough opponents like dragons in lairs with minions, above our CR. At the same time, I understand not wanting to spend a large chunk of a session listening to two casters discussing how they'll divide spells between them, who'll buff whom when and so on - but it's a sad reality that unless that's planned, someone may end up getting killed. The DM has made his frustration with the size of the Druid/Cleric spell lists known - he doesn't like it, and feels that players should find a solution using what they have available, not because a sufficiently specific spell was printed somewhere - I've tried to settle that by sticking to pretty much PHB, PH2 and SpC, with the occasional approved spell from another source.

The DM's solution to this was to ask me to be a spontaneous caster druid, off a short spell list - think Favoured Soul, but druid. I'm already using a sub-optimal variant from what I can tell, and while I'm tempted by the fun one could have with spontaneous metamagic and druid spells (and the slightly larger number of spells available at any given level) it's ridiculously tough to plan how to fill the party's flexibility needs on 7 or fewer known spells per level (Favoured Soul known spells, though he's adding wisdom bonus spells to it, so in fact I would have 8*1st, 6*2nd, 5*3rd, and 4*4th known at present) he's allowing Nature's Ally and the Plant Domain spells as freebies, since I have Holt Warden levels for Plant Domain and I didn't want to use known spells to make up an ability I already have (spontaneous summons)). Of course, there are always scrolls for the rarely used spells, but it's still a tough call.

So I guess I'm looking for:
a) sympathy (well, it's true)

b) advice on how to go about reducing friction, but explaining to the melee folks that they are welcome to plan things, and I can tell them whether it might be possible from my spell list - but that without plans we'd be dead several times by now.

c) whether you think the favoured soul approach is viable or will get us killed - the metamagic could be really handy and it would certainly reduce the number of times we have to find a hiding place for the night to pray for new spells in the morning, before tackling something.

d) if you were looking at a very reduced spell list, what you might pick - I pointed out that druids lack certain things from their spell lists that arcane spontaneous casters have - like shadow evocation, for example, and polymorph style spells. There are very few druid shapeshift-type spells, because it's assumed that a druid can do so via his Wild Shape. The DM has told me that if I want some new spells intoroduced to make this possible, we can talk about intro ducing some to help keep the fun and flexibility in the class, but that anything that makes sessions faster/smoother and more fun to the others will be a good thing. For example, I was going to ask about expanding the list of "Aspect of the" spells to have more than Wolf at 1st level and Bulette at 6th level on it, or perhaps a lower level, personal-only version of the PHB spell Animal Shapes (where would you slot that, spell level-wise?)

Thanks for any advice.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 09:19 AM
I'd stick with a Prepared spell list. The problem with having a healer with a Spontaneous list is that they may be too reliant on scrolls, unless they want to sacrifive versatillity to a large degree. How useful is the variant you're already using? (I thought it sounded really weak compared with the Shapeshifter version). You could remind the people who are complaining that a lack of planning could end up making things much harder for them (eg: being able to prepare Deathward could be a lifesaver in some cases, but it's not really going to be used enough to be used on a Spontaneous list).

2008-09-03, 09:25 AM
To be honest, I think you are already giving up tons of things for the sake of some punks who need to learn to help plan. Just because they aren't casters doesn't mean they can't help plan and can't solve problems too. Anyone who thinks that hasn't played too frequently, or isn't interested in solving the issue.

You and the archivist have already gone above and beyond the call to speed up game time. I would talk to the other players, and ask them to be more involved in party planning. It will help things immensely I think.


2008-09-03, 09:25 AM
Play a Mystic Theurge whilst the archivist player plays a spontaneous caster like Sorcerer. This way, all the spell preparation goes on in your head alone. Also, demand more money as no longer progressing in Wizard means you no longer get free spells in your spell book and you must buy them. It's real nasty if, like mine, the DM states that Wizards can only buy spells off scrolls. Losing 3 levels in Wizard and Cleric/Druid is going to hurt a lot and full level spontaneous casters aren't brilliant either.

Overall, make the DM understand that concessions by him must be made. At around 10th level, magic is powerful and vital and proper preparation is what keeps the party alive. Indeed, D&D is high-magic fantasy. Unless everyone is OK with a higher PC death rate.

2008-09-03, 09:33 AM
Yes, I already pointed out to the DM how many times we've relied on resting and preparing the right set of spells - last session we commandoed a tower setup on a lake with Mass Swim, Water Breathing, Spider Climb*3 and a few other goodies - none of which would make the cut on a list of 6 spells or so per level. I suppose there are other ways to do such things, but being able to approach underwater then assault straight up the side of it was pretty handy.

I do think that we're much better off with the prepared spells, but if people are really impatient/hating it, I can give a short spell list a try.

Both meleers are newer to RPGing - getting them involved in planning would be really good I think. One is the DM's wife in fact, and I know she wasn't thrilled with the time spent planning, as she went off to do some chores during that downtime. Obviously it's important to try to bring the newer players into it, and the DM has to be sensitive to the needs of the newer players as well as the old hands.

I'll definitely try talking to them, and I think maybe stressing that they can make plans would be good - and we can try to accomodate their ideas if possible, with the spells we have available.

How useful is the variant you're already using?
Well, I am just adopting it this coming session - we talked a few weeks ago about the character's growing power and whether I'd be eclipsing the meleers (which I suspect I would, with the new bear form, and later the plant and elemental forms), and I volunteered to give up the shapeshifting, since I still get a decent movement rate and AC this way. I suspect it's much weaker for offense, but as a full caster I'm still doing pretty well, and the AC in human form is nice since I tended to be rather vulnerable when I shifted into human form to cast (giving up the shapeshift natural armour bonus to become a guy in leather armour waving his arms about hurts. especially as it seems to attract an awful lot of attacks).

2008-09-03, 09:58 AM
I am reminded of the phrase

Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.

Prepare for failure.

2008-09-03, 10:11 AM
To be honest, I think you are already giving up tons of things for the sake of some punks who need to learn to help plan. Just because they aren't casters doesn't mean they can't help plan and can't solve problems too. Anyone who thinks that hasn't played too frequently, or isn't interested in solving the issue.

I agree. I have only played a prepared spellcaster once. I took suggestions from the melee in the group, and we all were able to enjoy the prep time more.

Until I accidentally inflicted our bard with a Colon Tumor.

As a Melee, or a spontaneous caster (Duskblade being my preferred class) I assist with the planning with my knowledge of everything. I tend to put INT as one of my good scores (THE, if I play DB.) and put at least one point in every Knowledge skill. I usually have a pretty good idea of what's coming, and help plan accordingly.

I am a tactician, and my friends know it.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 12:31 PM
I agree with everyone els about them helping. What classes are the other party members using? To be honest, I wouldn't have bothered with giving up the Shapeshifting due to how the Shapeshifter variant is already much more balanced then a normal Druid (it also suggests that it's you who has the problem if you're out-performing the warriors if you do things like that:smalltongue:).

2008-09-03, 12:42 PM
Personally I'd be glad. I don't understand how anyone can stand being a prepared caster. It's so terribly limiting! When I play casters I stick with the spontaneous casters. It's so much more fun to make things up as you go along than to actually have a plan.


Yes, I do usually play chaotic characters, why do you ask? :smallbiggrin:

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 12:44 PM
I tend to like planning thins (admittedly, I usually use the same spell list more of the time, so it wouldn't take me long to sort my spells out, and I'm fast anyway).

2008-09-03, 12:57 PM
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the real problem is not that you're planning too much, or too powerful(you've nerf'd yourself), it's that this is high-level D&D, and the martial characters are realizing that you have a Santa sack of tricks, while they get to move and hit, AGAIN. They're annoyed and blame you, but it's not you're fault. Introduce them to the Duskblade and ToB, and see how they like it.

2008-09-03, 12:57 PM
Hmm. I know blaming the DM tends to escalate threads rapidly (THE DM IS INFALLIBLE!), but I think he may be partly responsible, as resource management for casters is vastly more demanding in a low wealth campaign. With normal WBL, if you don't have the right spells prepared you can often fall back on scrolls/potions/wands rather than having to do without, so you're free to use a fairly generic loadout of useful general-purpose spells. Worrying about making sure you've always prepared the exact right spells for each situation isn't necessary when you have backup copies for your utility spells. If the DM's not giving you enough loot to make expendable items a practical solution for your utility spell needs, you should ask him to cut you a break on getting scrolls/potions; this is important for prepared casters, but it's vital for spontaneous casters.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 01:11 PM
Looking over the variant, http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/variantCharacterClasses.htm#druid , wouldn't your AC be better with a heavy shield and leather armour as long as they give magic-based AC bonuses?

2008-09-03, 01:25 PM
Looking over the variant, http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/variantCharacterClasses.htm#druid , wouldn't your AC be better with a heavy shield and leather armour as long as they give magic-based AC bonuses?

Depending on how generous your ability score generation is, a level 1 druid will most likely have +2 or +3 Wisdom (+4 if they're lucky), compared to +4 for combined leather/heavy shield, so armor tends to win out at level 1. Bracers of armor scale at the same rate as armor enhancement bonuses, so that's equal either way (assuming the unarmored druid doesn't bum Mage Armor/Greater Mage Armor from the party arcanist, in which case he comes out way ahead anyhow). So the armored druid gets whatever he can sink into shield enhancement bonuses, while the unarmored druid gets +1 AC every 5 levels plus whatever he gets from Wisdom boosts (which he will be getting anyhow). Considering shield enhancement only goes up to +5, the unarmored druid almost certainly has better AC in the long run.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 01:32 PM
Thanks for telling me (I'd forgotten about Bracers of Armour not stacking with armour).

2008-09-03, 02:03 PM
Looking over the variant, http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/variantCharacterClasses.htm#druid , wouldn't your AC be better with a heavy shield and leather armour as long as they give magic-based AC bonuses?

As TeelEl mentions, there are many ways to play catch-up; we have a wand of Mage Armour, I started with a +3 wisdom bonus, am 8th level (so now I have a +4 wisdom, and an additional +1 for the 5th level AC boost), with a +2 periapt. That's an easy +10 AC without Barkskin/Dex bonus/Bite of the Weresomething, and buffing with Owl's Wisdom (or Owl's Insight, later) both improves my spell DCs and my AC - and +6 of it is touch AC, which is also handy.

Not sure about your games, but I'm under the impression that you can't cast spells with a weapon in one hand and a shield on the other, unless it's a buckler. IIRC, Heavy shield = hand can't do anything, light shield = hand can hold things (hence, swap weapon to shield hand and cast, but I believe that's a move action?), buckler = free to cast. Hence using a staff - can cast by freeing one hand, easily buffable via brambles/shillelagh/entangling staff.

If the DM's not giving you enough loot to make expendable items a practical solution for your utility spell needs, you should ask him to cut you a break on getting scrolls/potions; this is important for prepared casters, but it's vital for spontaneous casters.

We've been in adventure mode against foes that aren't going to stop and take a break, so while we've picked up some wealth (in fact, I think we're close to WBL) we can't easily convert it into stuff we need - we can't just drop into town to find scrolls and spend the time copying things into spellbooks. Having a pile of masterwork bows, suits of armour, a +1 rapier etc. isn't that handy if you can't use them for anything. So yes, that part is partially campaign driven.

I would talk to the other players, and ask them to be more involved in party planning. It will help things immensely I think.

Thanks - I had the feeling that I didn't want to give up being a prepared caster, and I think I'll have a talk with the meleers about how to work them into planning, and perhaps actually do less planning out of session so that they don't feel dragged along with our ideas. Ironically, the attempt to spare them the time haggling about spells and planning may be partly at fault - if we're doing thep planning out of session, and simply announcing the plans during session it could be part of the issue; they may feel that they aren't welcome to plan things with us, because we started planning out of session to avoid eating up their game time.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 02:16 PM
I assumed shields could be worn on your arm so that you could still use Somantic componants to be honest (my D&D experience is a bit limited). Doesn;t Mage Armour stack with normal armour, though?

2008-09-03, 02:21 PM
No, it doesn't. They're both Armor Bonuses. And shields aren't exactly held, but they do require the use of an arm, so you can't cast while holding both them and a weapon unless you have Somatic Weaponry.

2008-09-03, 02:22 PM
As someone who plays a melee character and has a WIZ in the party, I've been there with the waiting. There are 2 ways to approach it.

1) Make sure you include the melee types. Ask questions and ask for input. If you and the archivist are making the decisions, it can come across to the players that you don't want their help. I know you said you do, but how you ask and how you respond to input make a huge difference.

2) Stop looking for the EXACT right spell for every occasion. Learn to improvise. Limit your spell list (what was your DM smoking when he allowed the Spell Compindium?), perhaps SRD and CDiv/CArc.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-03, 02:29 PM
Thanks for clarifying how it works, Sstoopidtallkid (I don't see why a shield which is strapped to your arm should really be a problem for a lot of spells, though. I'd assume that someone with a descent Str stat would be fine with pretty much all of the gestures they neeed to cast spells as well). Isn't improvising often dangerous to the rest of the party in these situations, Kesnit? (Any situation where Armour check penalties come into play can be a huige problem for melee warriors who use heavy armour unless they are willing to take it off, which makes them more vurnerable).

2008-09-03, 02:48 PM
what was your DM smoking when he allowed the Spell Compindium?

My impression is that the SpC is a pretty standard book. It's more balanced than CDiv, many CDiv spells are substantially nerfed in the SpC.

I will likely trim my spell lists anyway, though I'd like it if spells in D&D were more flexible: having spells called Control Water, Control Currents, Rushing Waters, and Standing Wave, all of which essentially allow doing one thing with water? A bit silly. They should be combined into a single 4th level Control Water spell with 4 (or more) options: Raise/Lower, Currents, and Wave (line), and Wave (burst). Feels that way with many spells - there are too many really specific spells in D&D - the type you wouldn't want to pay for a scroll for, would only memorise if you knew you'd be using it, and would never select as a spontaneous caster with a short spell list (barring a campaign in which it was always getting used, like an underwater adventure and control currents).

2008-09-03, 02:58 PM
Some players find that having commonly-used spells on notecards can help. Others find it annoying. You might try it out, though. Have a list of standards that you always prepare, and switch out three or four of them for game-specific things.

2008-09-03, 03:09 PM
Just pick a general prepared spell list and stick with it. If you make tweaks, you tweak a couple. Don't waste a bunch of time with it finding the perfect spell. If you can't recall the name and what it does, leave it.

SpC is one of the worst offenders in balance. It's basically an entire book dedicated to the one part of D&D from which most imbalance sprouts forth. Just look what it does for spellcasters who have "all" spells, like Druids and Clerics.

2008-09-03, 03:12 PM
I use a computerized spell list. 2, in fact, one with my spellbook and a rule-book style blurb about what they do and one with my prepped spells and what I use them for. (Orb of Fire, Touch AC, HP damage, fire, save or daze)
Then I just go into the list and delete/replace when I change my list in-game, and don't save when I leave for the night.

2008-09-03, 03:27 PM
The real cheese apparently comes from core: Spell compendium is more sprinkling of extras.

2008-09-03, 10:15 PM
Well, chatting with the DM tonight I explained that I'd like to work on getting the whole party involved in planning, and he still feels a smaller, more accessible spell list would help the newer players get a feel for what we can manage. He has suggested having access to all PHB spells, and gaining insight into 2 additional spells from other sources per level (much as a wizard does) - that works out to roughly 4 spells per spell level of SpC or other source spells, plus gives all the PHB basics like Resist Energy, Lesser Restoration, Neutralise Poison, etc.

Hopefully the combination will work out - smaller spell list but still prepared, easier to show them what we can manage, get them involved in thinking up plans.

2008-09-04, 06:28 AM
im sorry but your GM's an idiot... you can still be doing what your doing with just the PHB... he needs to tell the fighter types to step up, and not have things hand fed to them.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-04, 06:35 AM
Epinephrine, you never said which classes the warriors are using (to be fair, I still agree with RagnaroksChosen about this, especially since I'd say that using the Shapeshifter variant is enough of a sacrifice on its own as far as your power level goes).

2008-09-04, 08:41 AM
Ok, about the classes - I abreviated things a bit, as I didn't want to get into a full party breakdown when the main issue was meleers feeling that casters were slowing things/not being part of plans.

It's Gestalt, I'm a Druid/Scout. It's felt that the scout synergises a bit too well with the shapeshift powers, boosting damage, movement and AC on forms already designed for combat. The forms get naturally progressing strength bonuses and armour bonuses, which when stacked with increasing scout damage, scout AC bonuses and the buffing a druid can manage tends to make me pretty tough in combat. I cover two classes well, benig able to scout/fight and also being a full caster - hence removing the shapeshift in favour of the monk AC. Honestly, my combat AC is worse with monk bonus than it was as a shapeshift druid, but it'll make me safer when casting - the goal being to shift into more of a caster role for them. It'll also make it easier to use magic items.

The archivist is an archivist/elven mystic ranger, using archery progression. He provides some support through party buffs, healing, and can deal damage from behind the party. He gets a bit of synergy using some ranger spells as an archivist, but he doesn't benefit from my presence since I chose to be illiterate. He provides full casting and buffs, and deals decent ranged damage.

The two melers are a barbarian/warblade, and a ranger/weretiger. Both meleers use two handed weapons and power attack, and have huge strength scores - I think the weretiger is around 32 strength (I believe she started at 18, has +2 from levels, and gets +12 as a weretiger? She may also have +2 from an item.), and the barbarian hits a similar amount if he rages and uses primal scream (He started at 20 St, has +2 from an item, and +2 from levels, and rages for +4? and then screams for +2?).

The barbarian/warblade brings little other than damage to combat, though he's got his hide, move silently and diplomacy progressed to decent levels.

The ranger/weretiger also does huge damage from her strength, and has DR. She can soak normal hits pretty well, and has dipped for a level of rogue and of crusader to my knowledge. She has great spot/listen/hide/move silently, and is also diplomatic.

As a party, they are tremendously strong on offense, and lacking like crazy in defense, though at leastthe warblade has learned not to rage, charge, and use punishing stance all at once. The DM is trying to scale people's power back a bit, as he has to tweak everything they face due to the damage output/to hit bonus of the meleers, but then when things go wrong, the meleers drop like stones, since the Barb/warblade often tanks his AC, and the weretiger vulnerable to energy damage since she's low on hitdice.

Part of the issue is that while the archivist and I gestalted for breadth, covering a combat role and a caster role. The two meleers are essentially melee/melee gestalts, so they simply don't have the flexibility that we have. I could see how it might bother them that I do well in combat as well as being able to do tons outside of combat, while they are chiefly combat, and when the two spellcasters come up wth plans, it's not surprising that it tends to revolve around what we can accomplish with spells.

Hopefully having bowed out of the combat role somewhat, and trying to have them participate in planning will make it more enjoyable for them. I'll have fun either way - it was amusing to plan getting huge numbers of attacks off with skirmish on all of them, but I don't mind too much letting the others have the melee spotlight, so long as I'm doing something useful.

Tempest Fennac
2008-09-04, 08:51 AM
Thanks for telling me (I don't think your character will be that nerfed looking at your build). It could be argued that they should have realised that they would be limited when they made those class choices, though (admittedly, I've never tried making a Gestalt character before).

2008-09-04, 09:00 AM
Thanks for telling me (I don't think your character will be that nerfed looking at your build). It could be argued that they should have realised that they would be limited when they made those class choices, though (admittedly, I've never tried making a Gestalt character before).

But as newer players I think they wanted something straightforward, hence melee. Thanks though for the chat, I think after the talk with the DM last night we've got a better sense of what to do, and the compromise of PHB + 2 spells per level will ensure that all the basics (healing, ability damage, resistances...) can be covered, while allowing me some fun spells as well; if I'm stepping somewhat out of the melee role I'd like to still have my casting. The archivist, DM and I are getting together tonight to chat at a pub, and we'll play tomorrow night, so hopefully we'll iron out details and all will go better.