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Old Screeds

Splat Books Are Overpowered And Unbalanced [18 May 11] The APG Witch, Oracle, Cavalier, and Battle Herald.

The Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide Witch is the first thing I looked at really deeply in the PF APG rules, and honestly, it is way broken. Playing the rules as written, you can keep a number of bogus hexes up forever. You can start using extremely high level spells at will once you find a hag. Even without the hag, you can start casting spells at a caster level way way above 20.

Some of the new APG witch spells are also way broken, and I only looked at the low level ones. Ill Omen forces enemies to make two d20 rolls and take the worse one, and there is no save against it. Beguiling Object lets you offer an enemy an item, and if they fail a save, they have to use/drink it. With an evil eye hex that imposes a -4 on saves, you could use Evil Eye and Ill Omen on an enemy, then Beguiling Object, something sweet and poisoned, say, or manacles. The enemy has to make two saves at -2 (or -4 at 8th level), take the worse one, and if one of the two fails, they have to use the object. That's for a second level witch!

The Coven Hex lets you give a +1 caster level to another witch with the coven hex as an aid another action -- even outside a coven. So 50 first level witches can RULE THE WORLD! Or at least, cast spells as if they were level 50.

And consider witches working with hags, a very overpowered option. It is not enough to say "All hags are evil, so players won't be able to work with them." For one thing, not all hags are evil. In 3.5 D&D, creatures had alignments like "always CE" or "usually LN" but in Pathfinder, the rules for alignments have changed:

"Alignment, Size, and Type: While a monster's size and type remain constant (unless changed by the application of templates or other unusual modifiers), alignment is far more fluid. The alignments listed for each monster in this book represent the norm for those monsters--they can vary as you require them to in order to serve the needs of your campaign. Only in the case of relatively unintelligent monsters (creatures with an Intelligence of 2 or lower are almost never anything other than neutral) and planar monsters (outsiders with alignments other than those listed are unusual and typically outcasts from their kind) is the listed alignment relatively unchangeable.

"Only unintelligent monsters and planar monsters is the listed alignment unchangeable"! Two kinds of hags are monsterous humanoids, and their alignments are flexible! That means there are neutral, and even good sea hags and green hags out there in the game.

Note that the Coven Hex rule specifically says, "whenever the witch with this hex is within 30 feet of another witch with this hex, she can use the aid another action to grant a +1 bonus to the other witch's caster level for 1 round. This bonus applies to the witch's spells and all of her hexes." (emphasis mine)

The Aid Another rule says, "Multiple characters can aid the same friend, and similar bonuses stack."

What could be more clear? Multiple witches within 30 feet can use Aid Another to boost the center witch's caster level. Okay, maybe packing 50 into a 30 ft diameter circle is a lot, but how about 10? How about 20?

And with the Leadership feat, it is very possible to have that many witch followers. Say you make them stay at home, just for their own safety. Once a party hits level 10-14, they are teleporting commonly from place to place. Each morning, at home, boost your caster level by +10 or +20 and cast all your longer duration buffs for the day. Then cast some sweet shorter term buffs, like extended greater invisibility, which can get into the 60 round range, say. Then blip to attack your foes.

Here's the thing ... if you have lots of friendly witches around, or if you have a friendly hag in your pocket, then the Coven hex is bogus. But that is actually seldom the case. So most of the time, for most players, the Coven hex is useless.

Why have a rule that is lame most of the time and crazy some of the time? And would you blame a PC who wanted to maximize useful time and minimize useless time? Come on, it is a bad rule. You can't blame PCs who concoct schemes to amass followers and to find and befriend hags.

As for the Cackle Hex and Fortune Hex ...

Cackle (Su): A witch can cackle madly as a move action. Any creature that is within 30 feet that is under the effects of an agony hex, charm hex, evil eye hex, fortune hex, or misfortune hex caused by the witch has the duration of that hex extended by 1 round.

Fortune (Su): The witch can grant a creature within 30 feet a bit of good luck for 1 round. The target can call upon this good luck once per round, allowing him to reroll any ability check, attack roll, saving throw, or skill check, taking the better result. He must decide to use this ability before the first roll is made. At 8th level and 16th level, the duration of this hex is extended by 1 round. Once a creature has benefited from the fortune hex, it cannot benefit from it again for 24 hours.

Here's how it works. In round one you use a Fortune Hex on yourself. You Cackle. Just as you Cackle, are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Your Fortune Hex is extended by a round.

In round two, you Cackle again. Are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Your Fortune Hex is extended by another round.

In round three, you Cackle again. Are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Your Fortune Hex is extended by another round.

Keep on keeping on.

Then add in the ability to put a Fortune Hex on your friends each round, too.

In round one you use a Fortune Hex on yourself. You Cackle. Are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Your Fortune Hex is extended by a round.

In round two, you use a Fortune Hex on George. You Cackle again. Are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Is George a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes he is. Both Fortune Hexes are extended by another round.

In round three, you use a Fortune Hex on Sally. You Cackle again. Are you a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes you are. Is George a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes he is. Is Sally a "creature under the effect of a fortune hex"? Yes she is. All three Fortune Hexes are extended by another round.

It gets real ugly fast, and you can sustain it all just by Cackling each round.

Then you get into a battle. Everyone gets a free reroll each round due to Fortune. You keep Cackling. With your standard actions, you start Evil Eyeing enemies. Even if they save, it lasts a round. No wait, you are Cackling. Those Evil Eyes keep getting extended by a round every round. The only defense is to get more than 30 feet away (or cast a Silence on you (the witch) or pin you and shut your mouth!

Now let's consider the Oracle.

Take the Oracle with the Lame Curse at level 5 multiclassed with Barbarian. Lame Oracle 5 is immune to fatigue. That means no penalty on Barbarian rages (and the Barbarian +10 move cancels out the Lame -10 move nicely). Is that a feature or a bug? Overpowered? OK?

What about a rogue archer with the ability to see through fog/smoke? Obscuring Mist and Fog Cloud spells, plus many items, some mundane, others magic, offer this at low levels. The issue, of course, is that if the rogue can see the target and the target cannot see the rogue, then all the rogues shots are sneak attacks (within 30 ft).

The Oracle's Water Sight lets you see through fog and mist at will -- does not work through smoke. The Gaze of Flames lets you see through smoke too, but it may only work for rounds per day, depending on how you read the rules. Still, for a one level dip, the Water Sight is sweet for a sneak attacker.

Giving a half-orc witch's familiar an extra skill rank is completely dumb since familiars share their master's skills. Just give the rank to yourself and share it with your familiar, duh.

Oracle Lore Mystery, Focused Trance (Ex): You can enter a deep meditation, blocking out visual and auditory stimuli and allowing you to concentrate on a single problem, philosophical issue, or memory. This trance lasts 1d6 rounds, during which time you can only take move actions. During this period, you gain a bonus equal to your level on all saves against sonic effects and gaze attacks. When you come out of your trance, you may make a single Intelligence-based skill check with a +20 circumstance bonus. You may enter your focused trance a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier.

Why is it broken? Because low level crafters should not be making items as if they had an extra 20 ranks in Spellcraft. In PF, item crafting checks are Spellcraft checks, that is, it is an Int-based skill. Using Focused Trance, these oracles gain a +20 on checks to make magic items! Since the Spellcraft DC is a primary way to control the power of what can be crafted, using Focused Trance you can make things that will unbalance the game. I also worry what adding a +20 to Craft checks (also Int-based) will do, especially with a Fabricate spell or the Master Craftsman feat.

Note: The same problem comes up with the Nature Oracle's Natural Divination mystery, which grants a +10 to any skill check, presumably even spellcraft checks to make items. Granted, +10 is not as bad as +20, but still.

Solution: Remove it? Disallow its use in making items of any kind? Some patch is needed.

Look at these two Oracle mysteries, the first Lore, the second Nature:

Sidestep Secret (Su): Your innate understanding of the universe has granted you preternatural reflexes and the uncanny ability to step out of danger at the very last second. Add your Charisma modifier (instead of your Dexterity modifier) to your Armor Class and all Reflex saving throws. Your armor's maximum Dexterity bonus applies to your Charisma instead of your Dexterity.

Nature's Whispers (Ex): You have become so attuned to the whispers of the natural world, from the croaking of frogs to the groaning of great boulders, that your surroundings constantly keep you preternaturally aware of danger. You may add your Charisma modifier, instead of your Dexterity modifier, to your Armor Class and CMD. Any condition that would cause you to lose your Dexterity modifier to your Armor Class instead causes you to lose your Charisma modifier to your Armor Class.

If you wear armor with Sidestep Secret, apply the max dex limit to your chr modifier. It says so. But you do not lose your bonus due to conditions such as Cowering.

If you have Nature's Whispers and you lose your dex bonus due to a condition (such as Cowering), then you lose your Chr bonus. It says so. But your armor does not limit the size of your AC bonus. Plate Armor is fine.

What happens to the max armor limit with Nature's Whispers? What happens if you have a condition that makes you lose your dex with Sidestep Secret? What happens with both if you have a condition that just penalizes dex, like Entangled, but does not make you lose it? Why would they mention max armor limit with one but not the other? Why would they mention conditions with the other but not with one? The logical answer is to treat charisma exactly as dexterity for AC in all cases -- but why not say that then? Very poorly written rules.

Let's detour a moment to consider the Cavalier.

4) Cavalier Challenge (Ex): Once per day, a cavalier can challenge a foe to combat. As a swift action, the cavalier chooses one target within sight to challenge. The cavalier's melee attacks deal extra damage whenever the attacks are made against the target of his challenge. This extra damage is equal to the cavalier's level. The cavalier can use this ability once per day at 1st level, plus one additional time per day for every three levels beyond 1st, to a maximum of seven times per day at 19th level.

Why is it Broken? Because a medium level spirited-charging mounted lance-wielding Cavalier can kill a god. They will all take the Spirited Charge feat and use those charge attacks to get triple damage. Spirited Charge is already close to broken in the hands of a power optimizer. Take this example. 8th level Cavalier with Spirited Charge (+2 to hit, 3x dam), +2 Lance used Two-handed, 22 Str (+9 damage), Power Attack (-3 to hit, +9 damage), Cavalier Challenge (+8 damage), and Cavalier Mounted Mastery (+5 damage from his horse). Ignore allied help such as Inspire Courage and Prayer spells. That's damage with a lance of 1d8+33 damage. Triple that on a charge and its 3d8+99 damage. With Ride By Attack (a prereq for Spirited Charge), the Cavalier may be able to do this trick every round, or at least every other round.

Now, the Cavalier class abilities only contributed 13 of the 33 hp of extra damage. But who uses the spirited charge trick? Few players. The thing with the Cavalier is that every single Cavalier will want to pull this strat. Do we want to encourage that?

Solution: Change the Cavalier Mounted Mastery and Challenge abilities? Give them something other than bonus damage? Bonus DICE of damage would be fine, seeing as extra dice do not multiply. Let them make an Intimidate check as a free action with a charge? Some patch is needed.

The Battle Herald is another example of this.

First off, as it stated in the original D&D version 3 DMG, new PrCs should not require specific classes. Although the Battle Herald lists class abilities as prereqs, not classes, tell me how anyone other than a bard/cavalier can qualify for this PrC.

Second, you get rounds per day of Bardic Performance (BF) from your bard class and you get rounds per day of Inspiring Command (IC) from this PrC. The battle herald can use BF rounds for BF functions AND for IC functions. He canNOT use IC rounds for BF functions. Moreover, the size of your Inspire Courage bonus is determined by your combined bard and battle herald levels, but you can only use your BF rounds to activate Inspire Courage. So you have to keep track of two pools, a BF pool and an IC pool, and you have to be careful which pool you draw from for which functions. And the Battle Herald also has to keep track of Challenges per day, some of which also stack with Battle Herald functions. It is a bookkeeping nightmare, and a great example of very poor design.

I will also note that the battle herald also has several short range aura effects, which almost require the use of a battle map. If allies within 30 feet get the Diehard feat, for example, you really have to be careful how far you are from your dying pals!

For more on the APG and splat books generally, read my all splat books are bad screed.

This screed was posted here on 22 Aug 2013, but it was mostly written as a message board post on 18 May 2011.

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