Buffing up to be Fighting Fit

Last night saw the group return to Ilmurea and face the foes that defeated them last time at the mouth of the Hunters Maze.  I was interested to see the approach that the party would take this time as they had activated around five encounters at once last time.  I thought they might take a more progressive approach this time and attempt to eliminate the encounters one at a time.  But that was not to be.

As a player or a GM make sure
you know of what buff resources
are in the core rules.

The start of each game tends toward a lot of chatting and gradual immersion into the plot and yesterday proved to be no different.  I allowed my players around forty minutes before I began to push the issue.  In this time the party chose their spells, discussed their tactics and most importantly buffed their characters in preparation for the battles to come.  Now buffing, to those of you new to role-playing is the process you go through (generally with the use of potions, spells and other magical equipment) to improve the statistics and attacks of your character above base levels.  Think of Popeye and his spinach   or Roger Ramjet and his Proton Pill.  The players in my campaign are now fluent enough with the rules to make this have a massive effect on in game play.

Let me give you one example of last night, being the monk Kaleb.  Now monks are pretty nasty to start with and Kaleb has a base armour class of 35 and when he takes a full round to attack with a flurry of blows he gets in five attacks with the following bonuses +19/+19/+14/+14/+9! He does 2d8+4 damage as a base with hands that are magically enhanced and infused with the power of good!  So, yes he is horrendous as a base character. Last night he started talking to Stark (the NPC Cleric cohort to Seleca the Cavalier) to obtain certain buffs.

Now bonuses to abilities (or buffs as they will now be referred to) may only stack (add on to one another) if the bonuses come from different types of buffs.  For example if one spell gave you a +3 enhancement bonus and you had another spell cast on you that gave you a +4 enhancement bonus you would only receive the +4 bonus and not the total of +7.  But if the second bonus was instead a +4 luck bonus you would receive the total benefit of +7.  So Kaleb wanted a buff in the form of a spell called Weapon of Awe which gives a +2 sacred bonus to damage rolls.  As he was talking to Stark the cleric also gave him the spell Greater Magic Weapon which gave him a +3 enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls and finally he took a Divine Favour spell also which allowed a +3 luck bonus to both attack and damage rolls.  Finally he was also gifted a haste as a group spell which gives a +1 general bonus on attack rolls and a +1 dodge bonus to armour class as well as granting extra movement and the ability to make one extra attack a round.  Some of these spells have only a short duration BUT as they teleported in Kaleb had almost a full ten rounds with his base statistics gone to the following.  His armour class was now 36 and on a full attack action he attacked at +28/+28/+28/+23/+23/+18 with damage of 2d8+12.

You would think that horrendous enough however, it does not end there.  In the combat the group also has an NPC bard (they used to have a much higher level one but he died) who begins to inspire the courage of the players by performing a rousing poem.  This poem gives an additional +2 morale bonus to attack and damage rolls.  Also a common tactic with Kaleb was using his Ki ability to increase his armour class each round giving a +4 ki bonus to his armour class.  So, in the full swing of battle the monk had an armour class of 40 and with a full attack action attacked with +30/+30/+30/+25/+25/+20 doing a grand total of 2d8+14 damage.  Totally insane.  Now consider that the whole party was pretty well buffed (except the Cavalier who kind of avoided it which may be due to a bit of inexperience) the poor old creatures guarding the Hunter’s Maze did not have any idea what hit them.

Having trouble balancing your
game due to buffs? Look for
advice in books and online.

They teleported in, triggered the same encounters but because they were ready this time the enemies were victim to a total blood bath.  the group then started to storm their way through some more of the maze until around ten P.M. they called it quits for the night as the resources began to run out.  It was a resounding victory for the players who had lost none (one character died but was bought back to life the next round) against the enemies who had lost thirty CR11 creatures and four CR14 creatures.  Also the party had foiled several traps along the way.  It was the largest haul of experience the group has ever received (around 175,000 xp for the game) and they all levelled up to level sixteen.

So, as a player make sure you research what will help you get your proton pill on.  Kaleb at his base level would have had nowhere near the success he enjoyed yesterday if he had not done his homework.  Of course, different classes need to buff differently.  Spell-casters tend to need to layer defences on themselves as they are often the targets of attacks and so on.  Experience your character, consider there role in a stress situation like combat and pack your correct flavour of spinach.

As a GM it is a little trickier as when you design your games your players will increasingly be able to buff themselves as they go through the levels.  Do you try to anticipate this as you design and make the encounters harder due to it or just stick to a standard approach recommended by the core rule book of the game master guide?  If you try to anticipate the buff and catch the players unprepared you may face a TPK (Total Party Kill) which the entire blame lies at your feet for designing too tough.  One thing you can alter is the way you play the creatures.  If they are unprepared you can choose to play your enhanced creatures not to their full potential, or if they are prepared and you are using the standard designing suggestions, make sure you play the creatures to full potential.

Overall, feel the rhythm of how your players go about their game.  Work with the players who feel they are being left behind (Courtney who plays Seleca will get a basic how to use buffs talk later this week from me) and most of all make sure that the game is fun and the story continues to develop!

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