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Tonight out group just finished up our second session into our latest campaign. Everyone is enjoying it and it has been running rather smooth. I have realized, though, that one PC in particular is way overpowered compared to the other members of the group. He is running a Psionic class, which I am not familiar with, and seems to have optimized his character. Right now all the characters are level 3, and are hitting as I expected. His character on the other hand is dealing 30 points of damage a round due to his feats/abilities. I checked them out and it all is by the rules but it is severely throwing off the CR of the group. I can't seem to find a happy medium where I can have something challenging to him but not overpowering the other members of the group.

Any tips on how to what to do as a DM in this situation?

How can I adjust the CR where it is at a happy medium where its a fair fight for everyone?


We have a ranger, a wizard, two rogues, a fighter, a cleric, and the psychic warrior(the optimized character)

There is also some backup characters but they have not enter the story yet. One of our players is playing two rogues at once.

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It would be helpful to know exactly which classes everyone is playing. The problem may be that the one player is playing a class on a tier much higher than the others. –  Ryan Raten Kuhar Feb 9 at 2:42
Do you have a summary of the Psy char? It may just be a misinterpretation of the rules in effect. –  CatLord Feb 9 at 3:01
Just a minor note on his powers. Inertial armor will not stack with his breastplate, force screen will not stack with his shield, and metaphysical weapon will not stack with enhancement bonuses already on his weapon. For all of these the highest value is used, for example if the shield is just a heavy steel shield with no magic (which give a +2 shield bonus) then force screen will override it. One the other hand since a breastplate gives +5 armor bonus to AC the inertial armor power will never give him a bonus unless he spends extra power points to augment it. –  Ryan Raten Kuhar Feb 9 at 3:27
Those attribues are way to high for a lvl 4. I assume you allowed rolled character attributes. Allowing randomness like this in, is going to mean that people aren't going to be equal. (Unless you didn't do rolling, and did some kinda of huge point buy) –  Oxinabox Feb 9 at 5:06
@kleinschmidt I strongly urge you not to accept answers so quickly; give a question a few days so that everyone can see it. An accepted answer usually means that a question is “done” and so people skip it; you may miss out on useful input by doing it too soon. In particular, as much as Ryan’s answer sounds good, I really think it is a quite poor solution. –  KRyan Feb 9 at 16:51
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4 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

From looking at your group I would put my chips on the problem just being that the psychic warrior is optimized while the rest are not.

In a brute force manner you could do the following, but I do not recommend any of these:

  1. Increase the CR of encounters. Doing so would make it more challenging for the Psychic Warrior, but would run the risk of making it too hard for the other characters.
  2. Decrease the CR of encounters. Doing so would allow the other characters to be able to handle things like the psychic warrior is now, but the psychic warrior would just be stronger in comparison.
  3. Nerf the psychic warrior. Doing so would make him more on par with the rest of the party, but the player would likely feel targeted and punished. In my opinion this is never the answer.
  4. Buff the rest of the party. Doing so would put everyone on par with the psychic warrior, but if that player is the type of gamer who min/maxes and optimizes he will want the buffs too, and would likely feel left out.

Since none of those solutions will solve the problem in a fair way I would recommend is tuning the game to give everyone a chance to shine. A few examples:

  1. For the ranger include times when an enemy needs to be tracked, or include the ranger's favored enemy in encounters more often.
  2. Include enemies that are resistant to physical attacks, either through high AC or DR, that the wizard can better handle. And at higher levels include encounters with a lot of weaker enemies that can be taken care of with area spells like fireball.
  3. Include more traps for the rogues to take care of, or make sure that there are enemies that can be sneak attacked. Or if the rogues are more charismatic you can include social encounters.
  4. Include undead for the cleric to deal with using turning or positive energy (I assume he is a good cleric).

As a final note, your campaign is still in the very early levels. Eventually you will likely find that the Wizard and Cleric will start outshining every one else, that is just the nature of D&D 3.5. This is an idea called Class Tiers, which says that some classes are just better than others because of their raw mechanical power and versatility. This system does however rely on all characters being played at an equally optimized level, so if the one character is much more optimized than the others then this may not apply.

TL;DR Don't just try to buff or nerf the encounters or the party. Try to include situations where each character can shine, including outside of combat. The problem may just resolve itself in time as some characters become more powerful than others at higher levels.

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Ultimately, I disagree with “don’t” numbers three and four; those are entirely appropriate possible responses, and a mature player shouldn’t take exception to them if the issue is properly explained out of game. And I think your suggestions for “letting other characters shine” will feel gimmicky and forced, because, well, they are. The goal should be to have everyone contributing all the time, not “ok now you get a scene, then he gets a scene, etc.” –  KRyan Feb 9 at 16:13
@KRyan Having different moments in which a specific character can shine more is very common in many fictions forms, such as comics, TV series or books. If it's well done it doesn't feel forced (although it is). On the other hand, forcing a player to make his character worse can be perceived as unfair and decrease the player's moral. –  Flamma Feb 9 at 18:32
@Flamma You are playing a game not reading a book. There’s a difference. Actual people have to contribute their free time to play the game, so not letting them contribute because it’s the only way you can think of to let others have a turn is just poor DMing. A scene can focus on a character without gimmicks and while keeping the other players involved, if you know what you’re doing. Finally, perception can be controlled by communication. If you think you can’t, there’s a more serious problem; the group’s dynamics aren’t working. –  KRyan Feb 9 at 18:37
@KRyan And who exactly said something about not letting people contribute? Ryan Raten Kuhar talked about creating conditions where one of the player perform better, not about letting down the rest. In the ranger example, if the favored enemy are goblins, and the group are attacked by goblins, that doesn't mean the rest of the players don't fight. It only means the Ranger get some advantage. You either didn't understand the answer, or are just using a straw man. –  Flamma Feb 9 at 21:11
@KRyan Really? 1a Ranger following tracks is only a small part of the encounter, the rest of the group are involved in the fight. 2a When I read "physical resistance" I don't understand "physical immunity", so the rest of the group still fight. 2b Nobody says all enemies are wiped by the fireball, you can include some strong enemies that survive it. 3b usually if the enemies are in groups, you can only sneak one of them. 3c nobody says the rogue is the only one allowed to talk. 4 again, not all enemies are needed to be undead, or the cleric can't manage all of them. –  Flamma Feb 9 at 23:36
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Two answers immediately come to mind, and I apologize for any insult implied:

  • Someone's math is wrong
  • Someone's dice are funny

Or most likely

  • He's renewing his Psionic Focus more than he should

Admittedly I'm still combing through the information you gave me repeatedly to see what I'm missing, but ultimately, I don't see how he's doing this sort of damage every round. From what you listed, he does not have Psionic Meditation, therefore his Psionic Weapon ability could only take effect once every other round unless there's some other affect allowing him to attack after his full round is complete. If I'm doing the math right, he has 13PP for his abilities. For all figures below I'll take the higher digit for split for benefit of the doubt.

lvl 4 psychic warrior abilities: STR-18 DEX-16 CON-18 INT-15 WIS-16 CHA-11 HP 48 AC 20 feats: psionic weapon, wild talent, psicrystal affinity, weapon focus, psionic body special abilities inertial armour, metaphysical weapon, force screen, dissolving weapon. . . He also uses a longsword, wears a breastplate and has a heavy steel shield

I'm willing to assume the Metaphysical Weapon is pre-generated to the combat, which he can at best turn into a +1 Longsword, which is 1d8+5 (10) every round.

Using the Psionic Weapon feat, he could deal 1d8+2d6+5 (17) every two rounds since he needs a full round action for the psionic focus and at least a standard action to attack. which according to AnyDice averages at ~11.11%, and at most scores 25.

Additionally, Dissolving Weapon costs a standard action to be prepared which would also imply that he can't get that charged an attack in every round, although a maximum of four uses. So yes, every two rounds he could deal 1d8+5 Lethal and 4d6 Acid (24) averaging according to AnyDice ~9.3% and ~7.41% chance of getting a 30+ as a result.* Since he is only level 4 yet, this is the best effect the spell can get. With lucky dice rolls you can get the damage but it's still unlikely and take two rounds.

Now let's get the ultimate attack down.

  • He's already created his Metaphysical Weapon +1 Longsword and we're in the 4min time limit (1PP)
  • He's spent a full round meditating for Psionic Focus for +2d6 damage (lose PF)
  • He's used a standard action to make his weapon Dissolving for 4d6 damage for (3PP)

End result requires: Two standard actions and one full round action

Effectively dealing: 1d8+6d6+5 damage (34) which yes, can easily get 30+ with a ~58.12% chance according to AnyDice. This attack takes quite the investment to make (a max of 4x a combat) though so I don't see how he's getting the kind of damage he seems to be getting every round.

Addressing what you might do about him if he is scoring too much damage in a single hit or too often, I might suggest for challenges meant to be difficult to him that you use more encounters with multiple opponents rather than a couple of powerful ones. Even if he uses the large attack, he will probably go too high on damage and only one of the enemies is down. Eventually he will wear out and only be able to deal the mundane damage and if you keep them running, without a magic weapon at that. So even if with full charging he can deal 51 damage, give the party a couple dozen critters with 20HP. The Ranger's attack spread will become handy as will the area spells from the magic users. The rogues can continually sneak attack if they set each other up especially with the fighter whom I might assume has cleave. It's all a matter of tactics rather than making a dogpile on the big boss.

Swarms are also a fun way to go since they are traditionally immune to weapon damage.

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-1: He cannot augment his powers nearly as high as you describe. The psionics rules limit total pp per manifestation, including augmentation, to the character's manifester level (in this case, 4). –  Matthew Najmon Feb 9 at 7:54
Thank you for pointing out that limit. My answer has been changed to reflect. –  CatLord Feb 9 at 16:02
There are so many more possibilities that don’t involve having the rules wrong. –  KRyan Feb 9 at 16:10
Granted there's party intervention and buffs but I am using the information I've been given. –  CatLord Feb 9 at 16:21
There is no party intervention or buffs up, that was just what he called out. What was happening is he would just call out "Hey Psionic focus/Dissolving" and whatever else and hit with max dice every round. I did not know it takes 2 standard actions and a full round to get his max rolls. He told him it just costs power points and you declare it before you attack. Thank you for clearing this up. So the question now is, who wants to tell him that he is all wrong? haha –  kleinschmidt Feb 9 at 16:34
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Do: Try to talk to your party and make sure everyone’s on the same page

The party needs to be on reasonably even footing, or else it’s impossible to create one encounter that challenges them all evenly. If this is not the case, you need to discuss with the party what can be done about it.

The optimizing player can be a resource here, provided he’s mature and helpful. Ask him to offer his help to other players if they want it. If they don’t, you need to have a discussion about what power/optimization level is desired for the game. A compromise should be possible. This may involve the psychic warrior agreeing not to use certain tricks, or the rest of the group agreeing to some retcons to their characters to improve their optimization. Most likely (this is a compromise), both.

This is an entirely out-of-character issue, and no one is wrong. The error is entirely one of a failure to communicate: people had different ideas of what is expected of their characters. By having this discussion and making a compromise, and allowing some retcons to characters, you can fix that. Particularly if the optimization-minded player is honest, mature, and interested in helping: if he knows what he’s doing, he should both know how to improve the other characters and de-optimize his own charcter.

Do: Consider houserules to improve the weaker classes that have been chosen

Cleric and wizard: should be fine

The cleric and wizard can, if they want to, wake up tomorrow, prepare better spells, and surge far ahead of the psychic warrior. There just are not options for the psychic warrior that can keep up with what those classes can do, with the right spells. This will also become more apparent as they get more levels/more powerful spells and the psychic warrior falls further behind in terms of highest-power level and total power points. So those two should be fine; they can catch up with the psychic warrior whenever they want, and will start to do so naturally.

The fighter, ranger, and rogues, however, have a lot of problems.

Fighter: bonus feats just aren’t valuable enough; go warblade if possible

For the Fighter, two levels of Fighter (i.e. a feat each level) is not a bad choice. A feat every other level, though, is just not that good, and ultimately there are only so many fighter feats you should really need, which means after Fighter 2 the class should be about done. So ultimately, you don’t necessarily need to houserule the fighter, just... recognize that it’s not a class to take until 20.

Thus, I would strongly recommend retconning the third Fighter level, and multiclassing to something else. A level of barbarian does wonders, particularly with Lion Spirit Totem from Complete Champion, as does the warblade class from Tome of Battle.

Alternatively, Dungeonscape has a really solid dungeoncrasher fighter variant, which does tons of damage when bull rushing someone into a wall, so that extends the fighter class out to 6th level, and the Zhentarim soldier variant from the Champions of Valor web enhancement makes Fighter 9 an excellent level for an Intimidation build.

But mostly, the warblade from Tome of Battle is everything the fighter should have been, but done right, and I really recommend that your player consider it. It will do a lot to help. The best part about the warblade is that you can get it completely free, along with the full text of all the maneuvers. All you need to know is that warblade Initiator Level is equal to warblade level + half your other levels, and you need the same Initiator Level to pick a maneuver as a wizard would need Caster Level to pick a spell.

Ranger: needs damage, better pet, better spells

The ranger class... just doesn’t have a lot going for it. It has full-BAB, good HD, and lots of skills, which is nice, but lackluster class features mess that up. Track is kind of gimmicky; whether you track or not is usually more a matter of plot than feats. Favored Enemy bonuses are extremely small and conditional, so most people forget they have them. Ranger spells are decent enough, but too little, too late. The bonus Combat Style feats allow lots of attacks, which favor combatants who have lots of bonus damage, but rangers don’t. And the Animal Companion is so low-level that it can’t do more than scout.

A good solution to the ranger’s damage problems are to use the Swift Hunter feat from Complete Scoundrel along with four levels in Complete Adventurer’s scout class. Another thing I like to do is swap the ranger and druid’s Animal Companions, so the ranger gets a full, big pet, while the powerful spellcasting druid gets the scout. Finally, giving the ranger (and paladin) a spell progression like the bard’s (you’ll have to make up some 5th and 6th level spell lists) does a lot to help.

Rogues: Too many things immune to damage, not enough mobility

The rogues aren’t as bad off as the previous two, but the number of things immune to Sneak Attack are a huge problem. I’d suggest eliminating the automatic immunity of Constructs, Elementals, Plants, and Undead, as a start. Oozes aren’t super-common and tend to be kind of “puzzle monsters” anyway, so those can probably stay immune.

Also, it would be really nice if the rogue could get a way to move, and attack repeatedly. Maybe a rogue special ability that works like Spring Attack, except that you get all your attacks? Might be too much, but then there are ways to get that anyway (and the psychic warrior definitely can move and attack with hustle or psionic lion’s charge).

Don’t: Engineer situations where the psychic warrior is useless

Right now you have a problem where the psychic warrior outshines everyone else. You could engineer situations that require the other classes’ specific talents and he can’t do anything. This solves nothing. It’s basically “giving up” on the idea that everyone can play together at the same time and contribute meaningfully; it feels forced and gimmicky (because it is forced and gimmicky). Furthermore, “two wrongs don’t make a right” – having everyone take a turn being useless isn’t really better than someone managing to avoid that. It’s a game, no one wants to be told “oh, you don’t have Trapfinding, so you don’t get to play for this next bit.” It’s a non-solution that I cannot recommend more strongly against.

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In regards to the sneak attack immunity, I had a DM that just required you to have an opposing weapon. E.G. If you have a cold weapon, you can sneak attack a fire elemental. –  CatLord Feb 9 at 17:06
@KRyan while I completely agree with your assessment, I think that many people playing pathfinder do really care about class balance, and a 'I gave you a power-up because your choices made for a weak character' (even if phrased much better) might lead to bad blood. –  Mala Feb 9 at 17:48
@Mala A. 3.PF is an astoundingly bad choice for that, B. there should be no bad blood so long as everyone is mature and it’s explained well. –  KRyan Feb 9 at 18:02
That do should have been a don't. Hmmmm. –  Mala Feb 9 at 18:10
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I have a similar situation in my game that I am DM'ing,

The ways that I am overcoming it are to find out what people like to get out of the game, (our party are very combat focused and find more joy in getting the last hit than the amount of damage dealt) But other players may enjoy puzzle solving or riddles (be careful not to make anyone feel excluded because they cant contribute)

For My party I have done a few things, When the OP player does some ridiculous damage I often 3/4 the actual result when applying it to the creature. Or if I see that another party member is feeling in-adequate then I often keep the monster alive until that party member gets its turn to give them the final hit. (recommend adding descriptive fluff to emphasise the victory), or adding extra damage from the rest of the parties attacks (without telling the party).

If you need to buff the party without making the OP character feel left out, give them a item which would be very useful in particular situations. Ie, I gave the party high enchanted weapons specific to each person, And for the OP character I gave them a ring that makes a sound when near magical traps. This way the player felt that they were still getting something awesome as they were unable to detect magical traps, but at the same time the ring doesn't help in disabling the trap, ie it has very little use in combat.

The Key thing is to make sure that everyone is having fun. Its good to nerf the OP players provided they dont know they are being nerfed, or likewise Buff the rest of the party without the OP player knowing everyone else is buffed.

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