Saturday, 16 February 2013

Playing the cleric in Pathfinder

As it happens, we finally managed to complete our current Pathfinder story arc, namely the second part of the Carrion Crown campaign. What, with one thing and another, I think we only managed to get a single session of Pathfinder in since New Year. Instead, we've been veering off into the likes of Lords of Waterdeep, Delta Green and Savage Worlds, but we're here now, and that's what's important.

Last night we had Ric back at the table, playing Doctor Pruce, the half-crazed alchemist. With my daughter's growing enthusiasm for RPGs, it won't be long before we have six players! It was good to have the whole gang together, and to finally finish off the current story arc. Once again our party was able to uncover the foul influence of the Whispering Way, working behind the scenes to bring madness and terror to all.

We're now all 7th level, which is fun. We've been having a bit of a debate about the so-called power curve in Pathfinder, the point at which characters become increasingly powerful and hard to contain within a pre-written environment like a published adventure.

In some Pathfinder scenarios, it becomes very clear that the author has a certain idea about the way in which encounters should play out: taking the castle of Count Caramac as a case in point, one of the dungeons we have explored in Carrion Crown, the entire castle is really just a series of buildings on rocky islets in a fast flowing river, connected by bridges. The party has to clear each house, one by one, before proceeding to the final encounters inside a cliff on the other side of the river. They have to be dealt with in sequence.

The problem with Pathfinder, is that as PCs become more experienced, with more magic under their control, it becomes harder, I believe, to contain them in such an environment. Once they break past 10th level, for example, the power at their disposal allows them to by-pass some encounters quite easily. The debate we're having at the moment is whether magic users, particularly arcane magic users, should be restricted in terms of the powers they can use. The danger here is that players will stop choosing these classes, and the party will become unbalanced and possibly unable to cope with some encounters. My impression from playing Pathfinder is that it is a finely balanced game which has undergone an enormous amount of play testing. Any changes which do get made, should be made with great care.

Which brings me on to my own role as the cleric of the party. I've been having some issues with my character, Veneticus, in the second story arc. This has been largely because many of our opponents have been constructs, often variants on the flesh golem template, with appropriate damage reduction, often DR 5 or DR 10 even. Many of the spells Veneticus has learned, while potent, have been next to useless against constructs, being reserved more for undead and evil outsiders. In addition, as a cleric his ability in melee has not been keeping up with the difficultly of the encounters.

Our paladin, Sir Erudil, is becoming the tank of the party, able to mete out a severe thrashing to many of our opponents, and last night Pruce in his bestial form was able to take down a boss in short order. While encounters are being tailored to offer the likes of Erudil a challenge, they are becoming tough enough that the party spell casters sensibly won't risk entering melee at all, and will actively seek to avoid it. Spells like bark skin can help to protect Veneticus (taking his AC up to 22), but he is still vulnerable if hit by monsters dishing out 30-40 hit points of damage per round on their targets. His most useful role is as a combat medic, supporting other characters by channeling divine energy.

I'm hopeful that the nature of the opposition will change in the next story arc, as we turn our back on Lepidstadt and its distinctly Shelleyan themes, and Veneticus might become a little more useful. On the upside, he picked up the ability to create scrolls at 7th level, and with the bounty from a greatful Count Caramac, he can start to store a few of the less widely used spells as scrolls (e.g. water breathing).

1 comment:

  1. Got you Stuart.

    Things change a lot in the next arc.

    But you are correct to observe the critters you were up against, the constructs, were tough. That DR of 5, sometimes 10, was a real nasty nerfing of non fighting specialists ability to dole out pain. Add that to those critters massive damage output....they were nasty! But Ric did the right thing, as did you all at the end. The extra summonsed monsters slowed it down, charging up the device to heal Frank could have been more game changing if Dr Pruce had not been healing the pcs kept them in the game.

    Fingers crossed you get more mileage from Veneticus against the werewolves!