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One of our guys is a summoner, and I feel he has become overly powerful. He defeats enemies first every time, so he always get first pick* of treasure and loot. As DM, am I allowed to nerf his abilities and stats? He earned them fairly through smarts and hard work, but he’s severely unbalanced the team. Please give me a good answer as what I should do.

Is there something in the rulebooks about this?

* He uses his summoned monsters to protect him while he picks defeated enemies clean in the middle of combat while everyone else has their hands full.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[H]e defeats enemies first every time, so he always get first pick of treasure and loot" because "he uses his conjured monsters to protect him while he picks defeated enemies clean in the middle of combat while everyone else has their hands full." Did the players agree that this is how loot should be divided? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 14 '18 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Closely related question and answer: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/25028/how-to-divide-up-loot/… \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 14 '18 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, someone being too strong and them stealing loot is 2 separate problems. You don't need to be overpowered to only consider your own interests, and you don't need to only consider your own interests when you're overpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – NotThatGuy May 15 '18 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a question does the summoner use the items he picks up on his eidolon himself or both? \$\endgroup\$ – Voromir Kadien May 15 '18 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoromirKadien both, but the important thing is he keeps the items he picks up for himself \$\endgroup\$ – Hobo_warrior May 15 '18 at 16:58
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You don't have a balance problem, you have a treasure thief problem.

A common type of problem player is the treasure thief: typically a rogue who sneaks ahead and claims the best loot for themselves before the party can find it.

However, the other players probably have an expectation that all loot will be divided evenly and fairly. The treasure thief is breaking an unwritten rule, and effectively stealing from his party. It's just that he's stealing the items due to other players before anyone else can claim them, so it's not immediately obvious that what he's doing is theft.

The solution here, as with many player problems, is talk to your players about this. Ask if fair distribution is their expectation, and if so, ensure that everyone officially agrees to this . The next time the player tries to take extra loot, remind everyone that he's violating that agreement.


To answer your question directly, however: You technically have the power to do anything, including change any rule or nerf any character's stats, but in practice, as you may have surmised already, most players consider this unfair.

A more egalitarian approach, as suggested in Alkano's answer, is to occasionally throw up opponents who are resistant to his power. Don't do this too often, though. Arcane spellcasters are supposed to be quite powerful, especially at high levels, and it's considered unfair to nerf a player's abilities just because they're successful (the common example is making every monster fire resistant just because someone played a fire-specialist mage).

Also, check that both you and your player are understanding the rules correctly. Sometimes, an overpowered character is the result of someone missing or misunderstanding a rule in a way that would benefit a character.

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Yes, you can, you are the DM, but no, you shouldn't. Changing the rules during the game is really frustrating for a player.

Adjust your encounters instead.

A summoner uses monsters to fight for him. There are spells to counter that:

Don't forget that theses spells use the summoned creature’s will save, not the summoner’s.

He may be surprised when a monster he summoned to protect him suddenly attacks him ;)

Also (thanks to @YogoZuno and @Ifusaso):

  • lvl 1 protection from chaos/law/good evil ward off summoned creature (except the eidolon).
  • lvl 3/4 Bite the Hand

If the conjurator uses exclusively his eidolon, don't forget that the eidolon:

  • Doesn't heal naturally
  • Goes back to their plane if their conjurator is unconscious (or sleeping)
  • Takes 1 minute to invoke
  • Is invoked with their last pool of hit points (unless they've been killed...if so, they come back with half their hit points)

Area spells like fireball can also deal with bunch of summoned monsters. :)

Looting issues

When looting, it is at minimum the pick up action => provoke an attack of opportunity. I would personally also add a modifier to the AC (kneel +2 AC against projectiles, -2 AC against melee)

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As DM, you not only can do something about this, it’s actually your responsibility to do so. The DM is given a most powerful tool, known as Rule 0, to do this: you can change anything and everything in the game in order to produce a more fun game. Since you are responsible, in large part, for making the game fun, you are empowered to make that happen.

However, it’s not clear to me from your description how best to make that happen—and it’s not clear to me that you even yet have all the information you would need to have (or to give us) to make a good decision. Straight nerfing the conjurer’s ability scores may work, or at least help—but it also may not. Conjurers don’t usually rely that heavily on their stats, since they’re using the stats of summoned monsters instead of their own anyway.

The absolute first thing you need to do is talk to the players, out of game. You need to raise this concern, that the conjurer is too-easily defeating encounters, and also using that strength as a justification for getting first pick—possibly making the problem worse as he just gets stronger and stronger and the other players only get his leavings. You need to ask them a number of things:

  1. Have they noticed what you have? It is entirely possible that they have not; if they’re so wrapped up in their characters and the story they’re telling, this may be a thing that’s not even on their radar.

  2. Having noticed it, how is it affecting their enjoyment of the game? Is the conjurer’s player feeling bored by how easily he beats encounters? Are other players feeling left out? Again, the conjurer might enjoy destroying everything, the other players may be focused on other parts of the game and not care.

  3. How do they feel about various approaches to changing the game? If the conjuerer is bored, but the other players don’t really mind the situation, maybe you can just get away with throwing tougher monsters and have the party rely more on the conjurer. If the conjurer is enjoying himself, but the others feel left out, maybe it’s better to empower them than to nerf him—or maybe it’s not. A simple improvement here might be to include more items in the loot that the conjurer cannot use, and encourage the group to stop allowing the conjurer to be so selfish with items—after all, “he defeats enemies first every time, so he always get first pick of treasure and loot,” is an extremely unusual loot-allocation scheme; most groups don’t play things that way.

  4. Don’t forget to include yourself in these discussions, and to point out the ways in which this is making your life more difficult than it needs to be and how that affects all of them. Maybe the group likes the idea of empowering everyone to play on the conjurer’s level, but if that makes it harder for you to create encounters and you can’t provide as much game content as you could with weaker heroes, you’re allowed to point that out and suggest that, even if they like the high-power idea, it’ll still be more fun to be lower-power. And so on.

In short, there are a lot of ways that you can approach this problem, and there are a lot of ways the group might or might not respond to them. Far, far too much variation for us to discuss here. You need to talk to your group and figure out where they stand. That might just lead to more questions! You might know what, roughly speaking, the group wants, but not know how to change the characters, the encounters, or the rules to accomplish that. You can ask a question like that here, and with more details about what exactly you’re trying to achieve, we can offer more help.

But the first step is, always, to talk to the group and make sure you’re all on the same page. Changing the game is an ability the DM to improve the game, but no guarantee is given that a particular change will actually be an improvement. Having the group on board, and understanding what you’re trying to fix and how your changes are supposed to help, goes a long way to making sure your players actually enjoy any change you end up making.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have talked to the team, (excluding the conjuror) and they want me to do something about it because they feel they are having too hard a time leveling up. But what should I nerf on a conjuror? And how might I explain my reasoning for doing this? \$\endgroup\$ – Hobo_warrior May 14 '18 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobo_warrior You need to talk to the conjurer-player too—he’s a player at the table, and entitled to enjoy the game. In fact, since he knows his character so well, he might very well know how best to nerf him. Or he might push back, and suggest the other player’s characters should be improved—and if he knows how to make a strong conjurer, maybe he knows how to make their characters strong too. Or he might want to remain dominant in the group, and then you need to have a group discussion about how that’s not OK, because he’s the only one enjoying it and everyone needs to enjoy the game. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 14 '18 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobo_warrior After you’ve had that conversation, you should probably ask another question, and include all the details—game details like the classes and levels of everyone and their relevant feats and strategies, social details like age and relationships and the preferences you learned from talking to everybody, and your general idea of the goal—nerfed conjurer, buffed everybody else, some way of balancing things without changing anyone’s characters, or whatever it is you’re looking for. We can help, but only with more detail. Your current question as is doesn’t really give enough info. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 14 '18 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobo_warrior can you clarify "having too hard a time leveling up"? If you literally meant "gaining levels", that strikes me as very odd given how Pathfinder experience points are normally awarded in a party - possible XY problem, if so. If you mean "acquiring gear on leveling", then carry on with the question as stated. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan Kaminski May 14 '18 at 20:00
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What do the other players say about the one player's behavior? I'd expect they are not thrilled. Maybe this problem can be solved within the group without your intervention. If the other players are OK with the behavior, but you aren't, then you should use the tools that are at your disposal, which is control over the world and the game setting.

Here is a suggestion how you could teach that player a lesson:

Introduce the concept of Karma

Karma is the Buddhists' belief that your actions in this life defines how well you will start your next life. Do good and you will be better, do bad and you will be worse. Obviously there is no next life here, so you introduce instant Karma here, which means that if a character behaves well, he will be rewarded with better outcomes. Or in that case that selfish actions will be eventually punished. Of course instant punishement is boring and obvious. Here is a more indirect suggestion:

Phase 1: The trap

The character in question finds an item in a situation you have described and loots it. The kind of item is at your discretion, but it should make the character significantly more powerful. It should be also obvious that the item is powerful, so that your player is guaranteed to loot it. Unbeknownst to the player though, this item carries a curse.

Phase 2: The investment

Shortly after acquiring the item, the character discovers that he can make the item even more powerful by "investing" in it. This can be a material (gold, gems, other items) or immaterial (abilities, points etc.) investment of items that he already has into the new shiny item that makes it more powerful at the expense of the invested item. He loses something to gain power through his looted item. A variation on this is that from a mixed loot that is found somewhere he gets "extensions" to his item and leaves other (though still valuable) loot to the other players.

The character has now gained an even greater attachment to the item, which makes it more valuable to him.

Phase 3: Group dynamics

EDIT: As it has been pointed out in the comments, this is a risky option since it is somewhat pitting the players against each other. Actually, this step is entirely optional. You know your players best and it is up to you to decide how they would take it. If you're unsure, just skip this step.

The curse on the item is starting to slowly show an effect. It turns out that the item gives its bearer some benefits which come at the expense of the other members of the group. For example:

  • Things get harder to achieve for the other group members, while they get easier for the bearer of the item.
  • Some NPCs appear that have an interest in the item. Since the item makes the summoner untouchable for them, they are harrassing the other group members.
  • Some NPCs appear that see the summoner as the leader of the group because he holds the item. The other group members are seen as his subordinates, servants or even slaves. He is given the best food, a good place to rest while the others are not treated the same. When the group is asked for council, the other members' opinion is obviously ignored, while the summoner's opinion is held in the highest value, regardless of what he says.

This enhances the effect that the character's looting behavior has on the group. Most likely the other characters will start to resent him.

Phase 4: The comeuppance

When you feel there is enough tension in the group (it still is a game, so you don't want a fully fledged conflict), you can finally close the trap on the player.

The group will find itself in a situation where the only escape from certain death is a door that can be only unlocked with the looted item. During this process the item is inevitably and completely destroyed. All the investments the character has made in it are lost forever. If you fear the character will rather let everyone go down with him than giving up his loot, just put him in the situation and leave the others out of it.

You can enhance the effect by giving the other players an extra benefit at this point while the former holder of the item gets nothing.

That will set an example to all the players that you won't interfere with their actions, but also that their actions will have consequences.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello Sefe and welcome! If you have time take the tour to find out more about the site. Regarding your answer, have you actually tried the things you are proposing and can you share your experiences? How did things turn out? How did the players take this? \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz May 15 '18 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a high risk course of action, in terms of increasing the amount of friction between the players (not the characters). Have you done this, and did it work? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 15 '18 at 12:51
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The alternative approach is to view this from a roleplaying perspective. Do the other players' characters notice this behavior? How do they feel about it?

I could see this turning into a great chance for RP, and while it may split the party (or even cause some Player vs Player combat), it could turn out to be a really positive experience.

I foresee characters noticing the actions of the Summoner, or noticing that they have lots of shiny new equipment from an unexplained source. At this point, characters could feel jealousy, and demand that the loot is shared out in an equitable manner.

If the summoner disagrees, the characters could attempt to reason with them, or attempt to force the issue by subduing the summoner and claiming some of their loot for their own. If the behavior is continued, there could even be a party split, with the summoner being cast out of the party (I would only do this after discussing with all players, perhaps talking to the summoner on their own). If the summoner agrees, you could even arrange to take control of the summoner when they are cast out, and turn them into a recurring bad guy in the future.

Ultimately, at least one person is going to be unhappy at the end of this incident. You can choose to deal with it completely out of character, with the players, or you can encourage them to find an in-game solution, with all the ramifications which may arise.

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The other characters should notice that this person has all sorts of cool stuff and wonder where it's coming from. If the characters have an in game reason to suspect Bogarting of the loot, they should address the situation in character, demanding to be paid reparations, split loot together in the future and possibly refusing to adventure with the character if the problem behavior continues.

Hopefully at least one of the characters is intelligent enough and observant enough to figure out what is going on and clue the rest of the group in...

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The top answer is correct, you have a greedy loot stealer, but there's also other measures you can take to counter a summoner. To that end, a lot of campaigns don't have summoner characters or monsters written in; I'd take a look at some of the spell options. There's things like "detonate summoned creature" at as low as CL2

There's a whole archetype dedicated to counter-summoning. Don't be afraid to use it, or drop in a few ad-hoc enemies!

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No

While this is certainly handled differently in different settings and groups, in my environment one clear rule has always been that the DM is the master of everything except the player characters: they belong to the players. While the DM acts as their senses, he does never control their thoughts, emotions or actions.

That extends to the character's stats and abilities. If a character is overpowered, give him harder challenges specific to him or find ways to boost the other characters.

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