Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On creating a character. . . then demolishing the DM's ambitious plans

So, let me tell you about my 2nd level fighter*. . .

I'd be lying if I said I don't care about character statistics.  It's not the reason I play, but it certainly adds to the fun.  My typical approach to creating a character is first visualizing a role within the party, then using the rules to create a character that fits that image.  However, sometimes I will try to create a character around a specific rule.  Mind you, I still try to create a character with depth and personality.  Also, the goal isn't necessarily to create the most powerful character imaginable.  So, DM, if you're reading this post, I swear I did not mean to break Pathfinder.  In all honesty, that was just a pleasant surprise. :D

System:  Pathfinder
DM Conditions: "High Fantasy" point buy, 2nd level characters (including +1000gp to starting money), access to Advanced Player's Guide and Advanced Race Guide

Race:  Sylph
Class Levels:  Fighter 2
Abilities (adjusted):  Str 12, Dex 20, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 10, Cha 8
Traits:  I swapped out the Air Affinity and Energy Resistance for Like the Wind (+5 to movement) and Breeze-Kissed (+2 AC bonus vs. non-magical ranged attacks).
Feats:  A 2nd-level fighter gets three feats, so I picked Agile Maneuvers, Combat Expertise and Improved Disarm.
Key Items:  Masterwork flail, masterwork sling, masterwork studded leather armor and a masterwork small shield.

Basic combat stats:
Flail attack:  +4 attack, 1d8+1 damage
Sling attack:  +8 attack, 1d4+1 damage
Saves:  Fort +3, Ref +5, Will +0
Armor Class:  19 (10 base, +5 Dex, +3 armor, +1 shield)

. . . not bad.  High AC and mediocre attacks definitely makes for a "stick and move" type.  I decided this was a female named "Tempest" because I liked the idea of a woman overcoming a lack of raw power with finesse and technique; also, in my current group if someone else didn't play females now and then it'd be a lonely time for the only woman in the gaming group.

Our first adventure took us into some city sewers where we were ambushed by kobolds.  The first few altercations were run-and-gun affairs in close quarters.  These were largely inconclusive and frustrating for both sides.  While we could see each other (Tempest and the kobolds both had darkvision), my sling wasn't doing much, they couldn't hit my (Breeze-Kissed) 21 AC and much to my dismay, various obstacles discouraged melee combat.  When melee was a valid option, neither side could engage in numbers more than one-on-one in the narrow tunnels.  That turned out to be disadvantageous for the undersized kobolds, so eventually they lured us into an open area where they attacked us en masse.

The legendary horror of kobold ambushes died in that dark, slimy room.

I declined to mention one statistic, because the DM overlooked it as well.  My Flail Disarm bonus was +2 for base attack (2nd level fighter), +5 for Dex (via Agile Maneuvers), +1 for masterwork weapon, +2 for Improved Disarm feat and +2 flail bonus.  (Yes, flails bestow a +2 bonus for disarm attempts.  Look it up.)  Total Combat Maneuver Bonus:  +12.

A kobold's base Combat Maneuver Defense is 10.

The bonus to my attack roll exceeded the final target number.  I quickly made a routine of tearing weapons from the helpless kobolds' claws, picking the weapons up, and tossing them away.  As I moved from target to target with brutal efficiency, the rest of the group gleefully followed to finish off the unarmed kobolds I left in my wake.  The DM literally had no answer for this.  Both sides' darkvision extended to 60' and my maximum movement in a round ("double move") was 70', so there was no distance they could engage from that I couldn't see and close in one round.  Their ranged attacks couldn't touch my defense, anyway.  When one side closed the distance, the kobolds had no chance.  My shield was small so while I couldn't use the weapons, I could still grasp them.  Picking up a weapon with a kobold in my face provoked a counterattack ("attack of opportunity"), but that wasn't a concern because my AC was high and the kobolds were disarmed.  I'm honestly not worried about a fist of fury coming from a waist-high lizard.  We didn't encounter any traps, but that wouldn't have made a difference either because our rogue was a Trap Spotter with a killer Perception bonus.  This was supposed to be a difficult adventure that bordered on frightening.  Our biggest problem once Tempest had room to maneuver was timing the session's bathroom breaks.

I said the goal wasn't to create the most powerful character.  Tempest is by no means unbeatable.  Rather, I had made the ultimate specialist, an aptly-named storm on legs to anyone who fights with weapon in hand.  The DM worked hard to craft a challenging adventure that unexpectedly played right into her hands.   I would express sympathy for a seemingly wasted effort, but we all had tons of fun and no DM should ever consider that a sign of failure.  However, for the next three adventures, for some reason we faced critters that didn't use hand-held weapons.

*What, you thought I was kidding?

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