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Meditations on Yaro


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#1 irkthyn

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 03:26 PM

Last week, our DM wiped the party. It wasn't his fault; it was mine. We're playing with the Pathfinder Beta rules, and as the system is new to me, I chose a barbarian for the sake of simplicity. My stat rolls ranged from mediocre to poor, but Pathfinder is generous with incentives for race-appropriate class selection. A barbarian with a 15 STR is less savage than irritable, so I did what I could to enhance his strength, and by 4th level, that 15 had become a respectable 18. It will be news to no one that a barbarian has no capacity for defense; his best chance for survival is to kill as many foes in as few rounds as possible. Offense and aggression are his watchwords. To this end, I gave my thug the tools to become a murderer: Overhand Chop, Power Attack, and Cleave. And behold, the bloodshed was pleasing in my sight!

But there were grumblings at the table. Every creature with even the vaguest inclination to do so could carve off a tasty slice of barbarian so long as it did so before a greataxe split its skull. Thus, much repair was required to keep said barbarian in working order. Wands and spells were rapidly exhausted, and those whose lives were preserved by the barbarian urged (with the best of intentions) the acquisition of counter-productive armor. Another factor also became evident; combats didn't last very long. Again, for the savage to retain his mortal coil, brevity is as essential as ferocity. He cannot suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. From the party, there was much rejoicing in the fountains of gold coin and experience points, but in another quarter, grave calculations were afoot and dread challenge ratings were further dreadened.

Our DM, who is the best I've ever played with, jiggered his campaign to meet a thus-far irresistible force with an indestructible object, and lo! the Apocalypse Ogre was formed. He dropped the upstart barbarian in one round of assault by magical tree trunk.

The glass-jawed thief (a splendid role-player piloting an anemic skulker), the so-called cleric (1 level of cleric, 3 levels of ranger who fights two-handed with spear and shield), the bard (that's right, a bard for crying out loud), and the shiny new sorceresse (her first night in the game with our group) witnessed the mortal drubbing with foreboding. After 5 more rounds, there were 5 hit points remaining in the entire party, and all of them were coursing through the veins of the trembling bard. This was a bad scene.

By a miracle of DM intervention via some dubious critical fumbles, the light-footed minstrel managed to liberate a few comrades from their orientation interviews with the Reaper. Somehow, the Demon King of Ogres was slain, party members de-pulped, and great heaps of treasure hauled back to town.

And yet, the problem remains. It was not my intention to powergame or to turn our campaign into a Gauntlet-style hackfest. According to his back-story, my boy was a killer who made poor life decisions. He is true to his nature and by nature… lopsided. It became apparent to the DM, and I have since realized it too, that the barbarian is out of balance with his party. He is a chipper-shredder to their martini mixers.

So, do I nerf him? Do I lose the splatter feats in favor of Endurance, Iron Will, and Die Hard? More rounds of combat mean more opportunities for my fellow adventurers to apply their abilities. This is very good thing. But, each round is another lost Rage Point, another automatic wound or five. The barbarian's weaknesses seem overwhelming to me, but I'll enjoy the game with him or without him or with a modified version of him. I'm not sure why I feel turmoil over it. Still this forum seems the right place to voice my thoughts and receive knowledgeable council.
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#2 ZachDood77

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 04:33 PM

Well if your not attached to your barbarian, and he is alot of hassle you might be better off with him meeting a tragically fatal end via banana peel. Just my opinion, (And only mine, That doesn't need to be commented on except in the capacity that it helps our friend.)
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#3 MelkiorWhiteblade

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 04:47 PM

One thing that strikes me as a possibility is judicial use of rage powers to make up for the lack of armor and squishyness of the barbarian. Rolling Dodge, Increased Damage Reduction or Renewed Vigor (at level 6 if you are there) would all help in that arena, and are rage powered so don't make him any less of a barbarian.

One of the problems I currently have and have had often before as a DM is the powerhouse character that can down a major foe in one hit. I've tried different tactics and while it makes the game sometimes interesting, it also can make it adversarial, as the Apocalypse Ogre demonstrates.

If everyone is open to it, have a sit down discussion and decide if the barbarian is fun for everyone. If not, let him bow out gracefully in a herculean task that only he can perform and saves the rest of the group.

The other part is this: Yes, Pathfinder was designed from the ground up to allow splatness, and Paize made base classes and feats in the main Pathfinder book compete with splatness, but the right combination(or wrong depending on how you look at it) from different books can really unbalance things.

The DM might consider either scaling back on splatbooks allowed though it is hard to do once the cat is out of the bag, or use the splatbooks to his own advantage. The Pathfinder Beta doesn't include many monsters, but monsters with Pathfinder class levels would be very appropriate. "Oh a group of orcs, we can handle them...oh wait, that one might be a barbarian and that one just backstabbed me..."
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#4 Norin

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 10:21 AM

This is a tough one. (I just want to clarify that I am a novice DnD player and not very familiar with Pathfinder rules so take my ideas with a grain of salt.)

It is obvious from your descriptive and entertaining letter that you are a role-playing and not just min/maxing. Both Zach and Melkior suggest very good ideas and they should be considered. Melkior sounds like he has good DM experience, listen to it.

One thing that resonated with me was sitting down with the group and finding out if the barbarian is fun for everyone. This should be the #1 priority, but it is not the only way to go...

Creative challenges by the DM could help as well. Magical shields, physically resistant monsters, mind control/will saves, or even feat challenges to keep your character busy (holding up pillars, hoisting drawbridges, climbing towers, etc, while the others engage in the combat) could make it enjoyable for everyone.

A large part me hates the idea of you having to compromise your character just because he is successful in what he does. I can’t blame you for wanting to make your walking blender even deadlier, we all min/max to some degree, even in real life. Your DM min/maxed a troll to slow you down, tennis players min/max faster serves and footwork, and even Mother Teresa min/maxes for how she can do the greatest good in this world. The import concept to me is, it is natural as long as it stays within their realm of knowledge and true to the character.

In the end you’ll just have to go with your gut.
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#5 Conn

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 07:18 AM

Ambushes.

So you get into situations that the barbarian charges into the decoy, and the rest come round to get them.

Perhaps something like Tuckers Koblods :P
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#6 irkthyn

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 10:17 AM

First off, I'd like to thank you all for your reasonable advice. I was surprised to find such a consensus, but that encouraged me to make a transition that I too felt was necessary if not entirely agreeable. So, I sent a message to the DM detailing the changes proposed in the original post.

His reply was unexpectedly swift. "Keep him the way he is. The others will catch up." In other words, the DM feels in control of the situation and is confident that the powers of the other characters have simply yet to achieve their potential.

Doubtless, the DM has plans (possibly along the very lines several of you have proposed) that will engage the devastating power of bardic song or the awesome vulnerability of poorly chosen cross-classes.

Okay, so that was a touch snarky, and I am sure that the sorceress will come into her own… or that she would if there were more bodies in front of her rather than clinging to the shadows. Even so, the combats are thrilling. Life and death often hang on the roll of a single die. Survival is a challenge, and in my book, that makes for an exciting evening.

The barbarian will, however, forgo the Great Cleave and the Belt of Giant Strength for now. Wisdom is his weakness, and Iron Will and a Headband of Inspired Wisdom might very well preserve him from the ravages of villainous mind control. In the future, he will give more attention to limiting his vulnerabilities than bolstering his lethality. Hopefully, a balance may be struck.
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