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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    yuk Tier problems in game.

    Hey folks,

    tl;dr Casters in the party are outstripping some other players, causing them to feel useless. Any tips to help this, which aren't straight up nerfs?


    Full story

    I'm currently running a DnD 3.5 game in a homebrew setting, and have a 7 person group to run (Long story) of a druid, a ranger, a barbarian, 2 rogues, a wizard and a cleric.

    As this was my first game I ran, I didn't wish to put any restrictions on classes (I regret that) and found that the more rules competent people took casters, whereas those who didn't know the system as well took melee.

    We've just hit 7th level now, and I've found that some of my players haven't been enjoying themselves so much due to feeling redundant (Namely one of the rogues, though it may also apply to others in future).

    The setting is fairly high magic, and I was wondering if anyone had any friendly advice to help?

    Thanks

    DK

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Get your casters to buff the other guys more. One of my fondest moments in gaming was seeing a buddy's face light up after I cast heroics on his half-orc monk and told him he could now snatch arrows out of the air like a kung-fu badass.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    if you are feeling sorry for your players who have no magic ability then start handing out rods (through NPC's or some other way) to the players with no magic. rods require no checks to use and are unlimited uses. make them useful but not over powered.

    also. if you are using a lot of combat. and your rogues are built with some skills in investigation, diplomacy, and sneaking around. then have them enter a huge city where there is a plot in which they have to uncover with wits and research rather than the wizard and cleric say "i cast divination spell 1,2 and 3 we know all".

    it is a long standing problem that casters are usually better than fighting classes.
    also throw in a few combats against low level golems (immune to a lot of magic) or to enemies with spell resistance.

    have them enter the city and the cult they are trying to uncover are protected from all scrying and are all drow (spell resistance) then the casters will have to rely on backing up the combat classes and buffing them rather than spells to overcome. yes you can fireball drow, but anything that allows spell resistance may not work and flinging around fireballs in a city (even when uncovering a cult) will alert the authorities who arrest the casters.
    so remind the casters about this and tell them that the captain of the guards is a legendary mage hunter, who has taken down some of the greatest wizards of the age.

    so a city where their big boom spells have to be used with caution, the divination is nerfed and the players have to use their wits. and the enemies are guarded at least a bit from magic. the casters will have a nice time trying to figure out the best move without consequence and the non casters will feel relevant.
    Last edited by sideswipe; 2014-01-21 at 12:17 PM.

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    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Classic 'talk to the player' situation.
    "Hey guy, we both know you are better at the game than Joe and Jeff AND you chose to play wizard so why don't you tone it down. They are feeling redundant. Try buffing/debuffing for a few sessions. Thanks man!

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Also, your second rogue may be happier as something else, because having two rogues is kind of redundant. Maybe something like Scout instead?

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    What they said, but also:

    Customize loot to be useful to weak party members (Also, when talking to the casters, encourage item creation feats as a way to be useful by helping other players to be useful.)

    Encourage the more rules-savvy players to help the less skilled players to find more effective ways to play what they want to play. Maybe allow a "conceptual rebuild" to allow them to swap out feats that are underperforming. Make sure the rogues have UMD.

    When designing encounters, try to play to the strengths of weaker PCs. So, avoid things that can't be sneak attacked, add some traps, maybe put in something where they need to sneak in somewhere to accomplish some part of the mission. Tier 1s CAN do all these things, but they are areas where the rogue can be useful if the party lets them. The only piece of advice above that I disagree with is the suggestion to use Golems. Mid-op casters will be much more effective against golems than low-op rogues, unless you hand deliver some very specific items to the rogues beforehand.

    Depending on optimization level, you MAY get good results just by having more encounters per day. There are certainly ways to make tier 1s that have lots of endurance, but your players may not be there. Put in-game time limits on missions to keep the 15 minute adventuring day to a minimum (so don't let the casters stop and take 8 hours to rest whenever they want).
    Last edited by Gnaeus; 2014-01-21 at 12:47 PM.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Sort of what was said earlier. If your casters are experienced talk to them, and convince them to play BC/buffing characters. Rogue feeling useless because of the wizard? What about when the wizard casts grease so he gets sneak attack. Things like that. In my experience the biggest problem is the druid. My personal fix is giving the ranger the druid wild shape and animal companion, and giving the druid no wild shape and the ranger's animal companion. The druid is perfectly effective in combat casting spells instead of competing with melee for direct damage, they have some great BC options (including entangle, one of the greatest 1st level spells in existence).

    tl;dr: Make sure dealing damage remains the domain of the mundanes, casters have much more powerful and interesting things they can do to help.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    I generally prefer to take the buffing route rather than the debuffing route when it comes to situations like this one. In this case, that would mean potentially helping to rebuild the low tier characters into a higher tier, probably using classes from outside the PHB, and hopefully retaining the general feel of the original character such that the change isn't too jarring.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    What the others have said, also: talk to the Rogue player and see if he wants to change his character. If he's new then he may just not have worked out how to play a rogue, as well as the tier issues.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Also, your second rogue may be happier as something else, because having two rogues is kind of redundant. Maybe something like Scout instead?
    I'd like to take this thought and go a step farther. I really said "yikes" when I saw two Rogues and a Ranger. Yes obviously these are versatile classes that can be built any number of ways, but by default I assume;

    Rogue
    Hide/Move Silently
    Spot/Search/Listen
    Disable Device/Open Lock
    Climb/Tumble
    2-5 other skills that make the character not completly cookie cutter.

    Ranger
    Hide/Move Silently
    Listen/Spot
    Know:Nature
    Animal Handling
    +
    Craft if they're an archer

    I know they don't have to be this way, but it's my experience they usualy are. This means you have three people trying to be "the sneaky guy" while one guy is a big loud frontliner and three people are full casters.

    A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that, parties should be either all stealth or no stealth. This allows stealthing scenarios to either be a big part of the session without excluding anyone or completly ignored.

    If you do in fact have 3 stealthers you could probably help them out by providing opportunities for that to e useful, of course you'll need to ask the casters to buf the mundane stealthers and send them if rather than buff themselves. Yeah, buffing.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hand_of_Vecna View Post
    A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that, parties should be either all stealth or no stealth. This allows stealthing scenarios to either be a big part of the session without excluding anyone or completly ignored.
    This is a terrible idea. Having deceiving units who understand the battleground and accomplish underhanded things before/during a fight is one of the foundations of the Art of War. Sun Tzu would roll over in his grave if he cared for an second what you thought. Stealth is good, just requires cleverness.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haldir View Post
    This is a terrible idea. Having deceiving units who understand the battleground and accomplish underhanded things before/during a fight is one of the foundations of the Art of War. Sun Tzu would roll over in his grave if he cared for an second what you thought. Stealth is good, just requires cleverness.
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the art of war would read "Full casters or GTFO".

    Edit, because I forgot the original topic :P

    Like it was said, talk to the players. Dont just talk to the casters and ask them to tone it down, talk to the guy feeling redundant and ask what he expected his character to contribute, and if he would have changed his choices looking back at how the game has developed. Quite often, inexperienced players will have an idea of what they want their character to do, but their choice of abilities will not enable this because of poor system mastery. It might be a case of "two rogues is redundant" or it might be a case of "would have been better off making an uber-charger because that's the role he envisioned playing".
    Last edited by Sam K; 2014-01-21 at 02:40 PM.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haldir View Post
    This is a terrible idea. Having deceiving units who understand the battleground and accomplish underhanded things before/during a fight is one of the foundations of the Art of War. Sun Tzu would roll over in his grave if he cared for an second what you thought. Stealth is good, just requires cleverness.
    This statement seems unrelated to his statement. Stealth can be a valid strategic choice, but his argument was that it's detrimental to good game play. You have one character lurking through the shadows, figuring out the entire layout of the enemy base, and maybe killing enemies when the opportunity arises, but what is everyone else doing during that time?

    They can't participate in the stealth mission, because they would be an active liability to the stealth character's ability to function, so they just sit around playing Parcheesi until he finishes. It's the same problem I have with non-encounter traps, because those are so totally single person affairs. Sure, the other players can probably survive some inaction, but it's not exactly fun.

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam K View Post
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the art of war would read "Full casters or GTFO".
    Also, this. The tactical and strategic methodologies that apply in the real world aren't necessarily the same as those that apply in a role playing game.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2014-01-21 at 02:39 PM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Has nothing to do with tiers and everything to do with strategic advantage.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hand_of_Vecna View Post
    A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that, parties should be either all stealth or no stealth. This allows stealthing scenarios to either be a big part of the session without excluding anyone or completly ignored.
    This is one of the reasons a psyrogue is so neat to have they can stealth a whole party easily regardless of composition.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam K View Post
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the art of war would read "Full casters or GTFO".
    This is highly quotable.

    I'd advise talking to one of the rogue players about a possible rebuild, maybe with some in-game justification of some kind. Maybe there is an accident involving magic (fire in a wizard's lab is classic, so is cursed item that has unforeseen side effects), and the rogue suddenly starts learning how to steal spells (Spellthief, Complete Adventurer). Maybe there is a fight with a mind flayer, and as the party flees, one of the rogues catches a glancing mind blast in the head, and wakes up with weird ideas and strange powers (Warlock, Complete Arcane). Maybe one of the rogues is nearly killed by a large dose of dragon bile poison; surviving, the rogue now has strange powers related to dragons (Dragonfire Adept).

    Some of these answers won't eliminate the tier issue, but they will give access to some stuff that will keep the rogue's player busy with stuff they can contribute in most cases.

    Moreover, the advice about telling the Tier 1s to tone it down and play a bit of support is a good idea.

    Another solution is to try and get the mundane players interested in Leadership. This would allow them access to some magical abilities by proxy, through a cohort that had some kind of ability to use/cast magic. It is, however, already quite a large party, though, so this may not be the best idea.
    Last edited by Phelix-Mu; 2014-01-21 at 02:47 PM.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    The two rogues could also work as a team.

    Like a swat team almost. One goes ahead and checks, with the other following close, to relay to party.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    You could always staple some magic onto the mundanes. Say, have them drink from (or get dunked in) a river of soulstuff, and when they head to bed, have them wake up the next day with some free Shape Soulmeld feats or something, perhaps with an open chakra or two.

    The key of course being to give them options besides "I full attack."

    Quote Originally Posted by killem2 View Post
    The two rogues could also work as a team.

    Like a swat team almost. One goes ahead and checks, with the other following close, to relay to party.
    A Psyrogue can do this solo too - the psicrystal basically functions as a universal communicator. (You can also do it in reverse - send the pet rock into scout, and the rogue files his nails and relays the surveillance footage to the group.)
    Last edited by Psyren; 2014-01-21 at 02:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    As others have said, try talking to the players whose characters outshine the others.

    If a wizard and a cleric take care of everything the party faces, always, just ask them to change their spells up a bit (and give them some free money/retraining to do it with). Ask the cleric to cast buffs on the melee'ers, and the wizard to cast debuffs on the enemies (and not deadly debuffs like enervation) or to do battelfield control. The wizard can also do a lot of out-of-combat buffs, and has huge utility potential (flight etc).

    If they say they don't know how, point them to the internet. The Playrground would be happy to help players learn something about practical optimization.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Seconding the "offer a rebuild" and "magic the mundanes" proposals.

    The problem isn't simply one of tier - casters will generally offer more power, and more diversity of powers, than non-casters. That said, the PHB casters tend to take the cake, and you've got the trifecta.

    I would talk to each of the non-caster players, particularly the Rogues, and offer them options for rebuild or role expansions. Switching into a partial-casting class would be excellent, and I support Psyren's (repeated) suggestions of Psionics.

    I'd like to propose, additionally, the no-magic-required option of rebuilding a Rogue into a Swordsage. It's pretty straightforward - he finds a scroll or traveling master, and realizes that everything he has learned as a Rogue has an analogue in the Sublime Path. Basically convert the levels 1:1. As far as non-casting classes go, ToB tops the charts, and likely won't overwhelm a first-time DM.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Has the rogue said WHY he's feeling redundant?

    Do you feel all of the casters are outshining everyone else, just some of them, or what? Well-played casters are indeed much, much better than non-casters, but traditional casters have a low optimization floor as well.

    Probably the easiest fix would be letting the non-casters gestalt their characters into another Tier 4 or below class. Though this only really works if they focus on maximizing their gains, which doesn't necessarily happen.
    Last edited by Drachasor; 2014-01-21 at 03:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    You could try splitting challenges, ie. "One of us needs to stop that dragon from destroying the castle, another one of us needs to catch up with Baron William von Darkheart while he gets away with the Tome of Truefire through the catacombs!" It's not ideal, and generally splitting the party is an awful idea, but if you suddenly provide multiple goals that require the party to be split it might create more situations where different players can feel useful.

    Alternatively... golems. How prepared are your casters for golems, with their handy nigh-immunity to magical things?

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Afgncaap5 View Post
    Alternatively... golems. How prepared are your casters for golems, with their handy nigh-immunity to magical things?
    Probably a lot better prepared then the rogues are.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Afgncaap5 View Post
    Alternatively... golems. How prepared are your casters for golems, with their handy nigh-immunity to magical things?
    There's a lot of nigh in that immunity. These casters are apparently pretty knowledgeable, so they'd likely have little difficulty in dealing with golems. A wizard can launch a good pile of stuff from their collection of conjurations and transmutations, clerics naturally bypass immunity to magic by virtue of their tendency to self buff, and druids are possibly the best of all, with spontaneous summons, wild shape, an animal companion, and a decent number of spells that don't touch SR at all, all acting with equal efficiency against golems and non-golems alike.

    Maybe the wizard will be stalled, if he isn't as competent as I think he is, but the cleric will probably be fine, and the druid will have stuff to do no matter what his preparations look like. Even if this does work, it's a plan that will maybe work a single time, if that, and it only takes a single day for all three casters to adapt to the golem menace. The second golem encounter will barely even break their stride, and it's not like golem killing spells aren't also effective not-golem killing spells. Casters adapt, and they adapt fast, and it's not long until you get into an undesirable caster arms race and leave the mundane party members even further behind.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2014-01-21 at 03:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by eggynack View Post
    There's a lot of nigh in that immunity. These casters are apparently pretty knowledgeable, so they'd likely have little difficulty in dealing with golems. A wizard can launch a good pile of stuff from their collection of conjurations and transmutations, clerics naturally bypass immunity to magic by virtue of their tendency to self buff, and druids are possibly the best of all, with spontaneous summons, wild shape, an animal companion, and a decent number of spells that don't touch SR at all, all acting with equal efficiency against golems and non-golems alike.

    Maybe the wizard will be stalled, if he isn't as competent as I think he is, but the cleric will probably be fine, and the druid will have stuff to do no matter what his preparations look like. Even if this does work, it's a plan that will maybe work a single time, if that, and it only takes a single day for all three casters to adapt to the golem menace. The second golem encounter will barely even break their stride, and it's not like golem killing spells aren't also effective not-golem killing spells. Casters adapt, and they adapt fast, and it's not long until you get into an undesirable caster arms race and leave the mundane party members even further behind.
    Even if the Wizard isn't prepared to deal directly with Golems, he'll be fine. Just using Haste means he's contributed more to the fight than any non-caster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drachasor View Post
    Even if the Wizard isn't prepared to deal directly with Golems, he'll be fine. Just using Haste means he's contributed more to the fight than any non-caster.
    Indeed so. That's part of the transmutation half of the conjuration/transmutation continuum. Other schools have their moments too where this stuff is concerned, but quite a bit less. Anyway, the wizard will likely have some solid way to contribute to golem fighting, even if it's indirect, but I'd count on that less than I would in the case of a cleric or druid.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2014-01-21 at 04:07 PM.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Talk to your Players. I've known more than one Player who felt like having the Casters buff his Character was "just charity because they feel sorry for my guy," which didn't improve the interparty dynamic at all.
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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam K View Post
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the art of war would read "Full casters or GTFO".
    Sun-Tzu also didn't care about making sure his operatives had a compelling narrative. In fact he'd prefered to have his army spend most of it's time marching and waiting and only rarely fighting vastly inferior forces. The meta-game goals of a DM and players are very different from those of a real world general trying to protect/empower his nation and preserve the strengh of his army.

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    Both the Sooooooo Stealth Party;
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    and Nooooooo Stealth Party
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    are more fun for all involved than a standard

    Arcane, Divine, Badass, Stealth-guy party

    because they both don't involve long solo parts for the stealthy guy or someone always feeling that their skills are never utilized.

    I've convinced several real groups to adhere to this philosophy and it's made everyone happier. BTW, we usually play Soooooo stealth in sand-boxy games and Noooooooo Stealth in modules, since modules often plan poorly for infiltration and room skipping. In a mixed Stealth/No Stealth Party, even if you create scenarios in which stealth is important, you have to convince the casters to buff the skill-monkey rather than do the stealthing themselves. So, you basically fall into the same tier issues that you do in straight combat with casters vs. mundane melee/archers. In the end it comes down once again to gentleman's agreement and buffing mundanes.

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam K View Post
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the art of war would read "Full casters or GTFO".
    You won an internet.
    May i quote you?
    Heck, may i sig that?
    ------- 5E MM Resistances, Immunities, Vulnerabilities, and Damage. - - Petrocorus' Paladin Builds List. - - French vs. English

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam K View Post
    Sun Tzu never had tier problems. If he had to deal with D&D, the Art of War would read "Full casters or GTFO".
    Quote Originally Posted by King Louis XIII in The Musketeers
    Common sense is for commoners, not for [ PC ].

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    Default Re: Tier problems in game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    I would talk to each of the non-caster players, particularly the Rogues, and offer them options for rebuild or role expansions. Switching into a partial-casting class would be excellent, and I support Psyren's (repeated) suggestions of Psionics.
    I was suggesting incarnum actually, unless you meant my bragging about the psyrogue's capabilities that was just shameless plugging for one of my favorite classes in 3.5.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
    Cheers to Psyren the MVP "naysayer".
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