I've been GMing a Pathfinder campaign that uses the monsters as PCs rules. It's been an blast, but recently things have been unbalanced.

The party's equivalent to level 12 right now, and the PC nymph has 5 levels of fighter.

This has been causing problems. The PC's AC hovers around 60 due to her Charisma 37, +3 full plate, +3 shield, the Improved Natural Armor feat. Nothing with a comparable CR is hitting her with a weapon, and spells are laughable as her Charisma bonus applies to her saves, too. Her hp aren't great, but that doesn't matter because anything that manages to hit her deals minimal damage, and she can cast her druid spells to heal herself anyway.

She isn't much of a threat, but that doesn't matter when she's got the contemplative evoker hiding behind her.

Social situations aren't just as bad—Charisma 37 tends to make a mockery of those.

The rest of the party was originally okay with the PC, but now some of them feel like it's gone too far.

How do I fix this? I really don't want to talk to the player outside of the game. I also don't want to rebuild the character myself or make the player rebuild her; it'd make the story inconsistent.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 11:40

8 Answers 8


Monsters-as-PCs causes this

Unfortunately, the rules for monsters-as-PCs don’t work. This is basically what you get when you use them.

Consider: a nymph is CR 7. She casts spells as a 7th-level druid. She doesn’t have the druid’s other class features, but those are mostly pretty mediocre—wild shape is good enough, nature bond is OK, but everything else is mostly just fluff (“ribbons” in game-design parlance). The big draw of the druid class is the spellcasting.

So by being a nymph rather than a druid, you effectively trade all your mostly-mediocre druid class features, keeping the by-far-best one, for colossal ability score bonuses, a paladin’s best class feature plus a far-superior version of one of the best of an oracle’s revelation options in unearthly grace, incredibly cheap crowd control in blinding beauty, and stunning glance for when she doesn’t feel like wasting a spell slot or getting her hands dirty. Inspiration is top-tier support for one ally, that requires zero effort on the nymph’s part. And she gets dimension door once per day because why not?

In short, if this was presented as an archetype, would you allow it? No, you probably would not. It would be preposterously overpowered. In some significant ways, this is a druid plus a paladin plus an oracle, plus absurd ability score bonuses.

Monsters were never intended to be played. Pathfinder even went so far as to eliminate shapeshifting options for doing it, in what was easily the best improvement on 3.5e to be found in the system. That means that CRs were not set with PC use in mind. It was supposed to be impossible.

So now what?

Unfortunately, you have already started a campaign with this as the premise. Your options for this are:

  • Just bite the bullet, accept it as a lesson learned, and just try to make the best of things. In combat, maybe just try to walk right past the nymph (who, despite everything, has actually squandered a lot of the opportunity here, and so has little ability to actually stop people from ignoring her). In social situations... maybe have people recognize her supernatural allure and be unwilling to work with her, forcing the other characters to handle social interaction? That kind of sucks, but it makes a certain amount of sense and one person being left out is probably better than everyone-but-one person being left out.

  • Accept it as a lesson learned, and end the campaign one way or another, and start over with a new one, not allowing monsters-as-PCs. Or even contrive some reason why the current PCs (at least the monstrous ones) have to be retired, in-character, and have the affected players write up new, non-monstrous PCs.

  • Attempt to homebrew some non-monstrous nymph.

Homebrew non-monstrous nymph

Here are my thoughts on this nymph:

First, for the race, we want a typical, playable race. Net +2 to ability scores: +2 Cha, +2 Dex, −2 Str perhaps. No native spellcasting, no dimension door spell-like ability, no bonus feats. No unearthly grace, it’s just far too good. If any DR is retained, it’s DR 2/cold iron or DR 3/cold iron, at most. Wild empathy can stay, as can the +6 bonus: it’s huge but also, who cares? Then blinding beauty, inspiration, and stunning glance can become daily-limited abilities, perhaps something like

Inspiration (Su): [...] As long as the nymph retains her favor for this creature and as long as the creature carries the nymph's token, the creature can gain a +4 insight bonus on a Will saving throw, a Craft check, or a Perform check. A bard who has a nymph for a muse in this way can instead use his bardic performance for an additional round in a day. However it is used, the nymph’s favor can only be used a number of times per day equal to her Charisma modifier.

Honestly, even that is really good. Once per day would not be unreasonable.

Stunning Beauty (Su): Once per day as a standard action, all humanoids within 30 feet of the nymph must make a Will save (DC 10 + half the nymph’s hit dice + the nymph’s Charisma modifier) or be blinded for 1d3 rounds. Creatures can avert their eyes to avoid being blinded, as if this were a gaze attack.

In addition, the nymph may single out one creature within 30 feet while using this ability. That creature must save (again, if it was already subject to the blinding effect), or be stunned for 1 round. This effect may apply to non-humanoids.

This is a powerful effect, but at 1/day it’s limited enough that maybe it’s OK. I wouldn’t feel too bad ditching the stunning effect, though, to be honest. That blinding is already really powerful.

Then we can have a druid archetype for her. Note that several oracle revelations offer Charisma-to-AC (but either replacing Dex and limited by armor’s max Dex, or only while unarmored), and the paladin’s divine grace offers Charisma-to-all-saves. Enlightened paladin gets both divine grace and confident defense, which is Charisma to AC while unarmored. But since this character is heavily-armored, allowing a druid to trade nature bond, trackless step, wild shape, and woodland stride for the nature’s whispers revelation from the nature mystery, and divine fey? grace from paladin, would be... well, it would still be ridiculously good. I probably wouldn’t allow it. But it would be closer to fair.

Then you could have a nymph 7th-level druid/5th-level fighter that is far closer to a balanced player character.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ People often make fun of 3.5's Level Adjustment system, but hoo boy: straight CR as level has obvious problems that this question shows. That system is flagrantly unworkable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael W.
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 15:38
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelW. A group of mixed PCs will lead to unhappiness for someone, but "the best way to allow monster PCs is to [have the GM] pick a CR and allow all of the players to make characters using monsters of that CR," says the game's rules. I don't think the asker followed this advice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 19:10

Out of game

Double check the character is built within the rules

The PC as you describe is far stronger than a standard Nymph. More than 5 levels of fighter strong. You should check that you have followed the rules correctly and if you find an error you can use this as a basis for re-building the character without breaking anything dramatically. Admit you made an error allowing it and take away abilities she should never have had in the first place.

Some areas I have noticed just from your description (there may be more if we see the full character sheet):

  • You allowed +4 to any stat from the monster advancement rules these rules are not intended to work with the monstrous pcs rules. If you advance a monster under these rules before adding class levels you should calculate the new CR as a base to add levels to.
  • Nymphs do not have natural armour and she is therefore not eligble for the Improved Natural Armor feat.

This will go some way to address the issue but may not solve it entirely.

Talk to the player(s)

You mention that some of the players aren't enjoying it, it's possible that she isn't enjoying the session either. You need to talk to her to she where she stands.

If she doesn't want to change you can discuss with the entire group what a good solution would be. Potentially you can buff all the other characters to level out the party and then just crank the combat difficulty right up to compensate.

In Game

Above I present how I would approach the situation. However, you have indicated you would prefer not to talk to her outside the game, or rebuild the character. If you won't consider out of game options it will be difficult to make major changes but there are a few things you can do.

Consider the advice given in this question about de-powering a high AC character without hurting the party.

Impose Druid limitations

Another potential fix would be to take away some of her Nymph abilities for wearing armour. Nymph's are considered Druid Spellcasters:

A nymph casts spells as a 7th-level druid, but cannot swap out prepared spells to cast summon spells.

So it wouldn't be unreasonable that some abilities don't work properly while wearing armour. You could potentially impose other druid limitations on her as well at your discretion.

Spread Rumours

She is the most persuasive and beautiful creature to have ever walked the earth. NPCs will be aware of her. Powerful NPCs may take precautions to avoid being convinced by her, or will always start as hostile (increasing the DC). Others may seek her out, professing their love or whatever other motives they may have for wanting a Nymph as an ally (or slave).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Obligatory comment about wasting a feat to increase natural armor is a pretty bad waste of a feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty sure it's only useful for animal companions with a strict DM that will only let them take animal feats. Other than that, yes a whole feat for +1 AC is pretty terrible \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 14:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The problem isn't that its +1 AC, its that its +1 natural AC, its as bad as stacking armor AC. Dodge is pretty bad at higher levels and its recommended it is retrained later on should you take it at first level (which actually helps a little). \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 14:26

First, double check her stats, you certainly will notice some discrepancies and errors.

Keep in mind that, the default nymph casts a Druid, and as such, will have her spells based on her wisdom, not her charisma. The standard nymph has 17 wisdom, which is fairly high, and the PC probably has increased this as well. But still probably not her primary stat (very likely charisma), meaning that her spells save DCs aren't that difficult to overcome. This means she has druid spells as an average 7th level druid fighting against CR 12 creatures. At best, she can only use those spells for their utility.

Then, considering my other answer on a similar subject, you can discard the tips about targeting her saves, which are as high as overoptimized paladins and probably in the +25s and higher, and about touch AC, because the deflection bonus also applies to touch. Which leaves us with generic strategies against slow, heavy-armored, melee-focused characters:

Difficult Terrain

Unlike a druid, she cannot walk through vegetation or other types of difficult terrain. This leaves her vulnerable to the same tricks she could pull out (Entangle and Obscuring Mist) and also others, like Web or Black Tentacles. Spells like Darkness still can be used to great effects against her, as it allows no save and she has no natural means of seeing in darkness or dispelling it.

This means that a mohrg or nightshade will cause her some problems with their darkness SLAs. Invisible creatures should also keep her at bay, as she won't be able to do much against them and they can safely ignore her.

Target CMD

Even with her naturally high dex and good BAB, which will leave her on the high 30s of her CMD (possibly in the 40s), that is still a number easier to reach than 60 (her AC). So, monsters focused on high strength with a few good feats for combat maneuvers will manage to pull their maneuvers most of the time against her. An example of this would be a purple worm, with +36 grapple.

Her armor's AC (+14 or so) and her shield's AC (+5 or so) should not apply to her CMD and touch AC. So, we are looking at numbers at least 20 points lower than her armor AC. For touch attacks, this number is still too high, but maneuvers usually benefit a lot more from high strength, which monsters usually got, and feats.

Keep your distance

As a character with druid spells available, this becomes a problem, as she has tools like Entangle and Flame Sphere. But those low-level spells won't help as much against CR 12+ creatures, which can easily pass the spells DC (again, still based on wisdom, not charisma). She may still attempt to close in with her 1/day dimension door, but that also means you can lay traps for her, such as using an illusion of being at a certain location casting spells, only to have her teleport there and attack "you", automatically dismissing the illusion, but too late for wasting her only mobility trick.

As a druid, she has access to Air Walk (druid 4), so this trick may not work as often as you would like.

And now, adding another topic to my original answer...

Swallow her

Being swallowed also will cause damage automatically, so you can take advantage of her weak offensive power. It won't be difficult to swallow her after a successful grapple check with that purple worm, for example.

I would replace at least two of the worm's feats by Improved Grapple and Greater Grapple, which would allow it to attempt to grapple as a standard action, and should it succeed, attempt to swallow as a move action, which can be done instead of trying to Pin the target. And now, the creature also has +40 CMB on grapple checks.

But even the worm's strong swallow damage can easily be avoided with only 21 AC and 20 hp to escape. Just remember that she can only use light weapons to cause damage while inside the creature's stomach.


One option is to just not have the monsters attack her much. After the first few rounds of combat, monsters should be targeting whatever's doing the most damage, walking around her if necessary.

In this scenario, the chance of a full tpk is quite low; the tension comes from the risk that the nymph might fail to protect one of her allies.

Another option is to use a larger number of monsters with aoe attacks, such as breath weapons or fireball spells.

If the above don't work for you and you need to remove the character, I had to do this once and I framed it as a victory.

Well, I've looked at the next few scenarios and honestly they're not going to be very hard for the group. (Character) has enough armor that the monsters won't hurt her, and she can persuade her way past everything else. You guys run through the dungeon with no problem, you collect the pieces of the Doom Scarab, and you use it to vanquish the Apocalypse Demon -- it's pretty easy, actually. Congratulations: you win! But I still want to play this game with you guys, so let's talk about parallel universes. There's a nearby universe where everything is pretty much the same, except that it doesn't have X character in it -- your group has some other character instead. What do you say -- want to continue the game in that universe?


Well, if you really don't want to talk to the player about it, you could make the character an in-game offer.

Is there a local noble or king who would like a bodyguard who is quite effective, and extremely good-looking? Rulers who want to be the center of attention might feel she'd overshadow them; smarter ones would welcome the idea of having a follower whose mere presence tends to distract people.

A wealthy merchant might also think this is a good idea. You might even have several people bidding for her services, and maybe even prepared to bribe the other player characters to suggest that she takes one of these jobs.

Now, if the player is determined to carry on playing the character, this won't work. But if they're a good player, they'll be aware of the disruption to the campaign the character is causing, and may well take such an offer. If they haven't realised yet, run another adventure or two, and then make more offers.

This kind of deal doesn't have to mean that the character vanishes entirely. She'll still be around, in her new job, and the other characters will see her when they see her employer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Works even better if you tune it to her in-character motivations rather than raw money (unless that is her in-character motivation). Figure out what she wants in-character and have someone offer it to her... possibly after coming up with a way for them to find out in-character. If she's that much of a find (and she kind of is) then people who are good at what they do will have reason to seek out that sort of information. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 18:43

Send her undercover.

This isn't a total solution, but give the party some adventures where her abilities have to be subdued or hidden.

If they're hired to find the assassin at an embassy party, they can only wear armor that can be concealed under their wait-staff uniforms.

If they're supposed to break a foreign prince out of prison by letting themselves be thrown in with him, fine -- but the guards are wights or golems or something else immune to the powers that come with a pretty face.

Any clandestine mission - meaning one where no one is supposed to know they were ever there. What good is a high Charisma if you can't let anyone see you?


I was able to allow a Dryad PC that was very well balanced in the party of by the book characters by paring down the CR6 to a CR2, (The game started at lv3, so she was lv 1 with a 2CR adjust) and cutting out some of the abilities entirely. Basically, we cut the template to 1/3 power across the board.

This made her effective, but not brokenly so, because her bonuses were no higher than the racial stats of any other group. I dealt with the Dryad being tied to her tree by making her a 'sapling', that is too young to put down roots yet, which she'd be compelled to do eventually, becoming an NPC in the process and gaining the rest of the 6CR of a Dryad. By the end of the campaign, she was still well-balanced with the other party members, and retired to her grove and planted herself in a lovely little scene that closed out the story quite nicely.

This can work if you add some sanity to the monster as pc rules and be willing to cut deeper than those rules specify to keep things in line with a regular character's progression. Front-loading power on a low-level PC, expecting later progression to 'catch everyone else up' is a terrible idea and should be avoided for exactly the reasons your situation is exposing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, I agree with this as a general concept, but the devil’s really in the details, isn’t it? What did you do with the dryad to accomplish this, and how can the lesson learned there help with the nymph? For that matter, the problem here isn’t that the nymph has too-high a CR to play (her CR 7 + 5 fighter levels matches the other 12th-level characters), but that the nymph is much too powerful for a 7th-level character (so the nymph 5th-level fighter is much too powerful for a 12th-level character)—if you scale the nymph down, should she still count as 7th level? If not, then what? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 19:41

She's very clever... Let her win!

Okay, so one thing that I like to do in these situations is what I call "Solve it with the story".

It feels bad when a DM tells a player, "I'm sorry but I can't let you do ____ anymore". However, if the DM makes a side quest in which the player really gets to shine and beat a powerful foe the player will feel great about their accomplishment. At the end of the quest, one of the "Rewards" will be that some grateful divinity transforms them (non-optionally) into another race and/or class with some sort of bonus. It's up to you what you allow him to be, she just can't be a nymph druid anymore. Just make whatever you do on theme with the deity.

This has the effect of rewarding the player with the OP character with new (still powerful) fun character that you can at least hit. Maybe a glass cannon type of build.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain how making her less powerful would be considered a "reward"? It's one thing if she's changed into an angel or spirit-of-the-woodlands that's more (or equally powerful), but as part of the reward she can no longer stay with the party because she has to do the deity's bidding full-time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 5:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's only the deity that has to consider it a reward. The deity could say "Oh you poor nymph, I pity your limited state so I grant you the boon of ____ you are now a _____ (race) and all your levels of ____ are now levels of ____". I didn't propose that she would have to do the deity's bidding, only that a grateful deity granted her a boon. It isn't necessary that the character even worship the new deity at all. In fact, if you want you could make it a retaliation of an angry evil deity who curses her into another form in retaliation for destroying his servant. But, that feels worse. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mathaddict
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there is a core of a good option in here if it were refined a little bit. "Winning" in such a way that the PC must be retired could be awesome, but you should probably coordinate with the player first. Winning in a way that transforms the PC into something weaker does not feel like a win... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, the better answer is to retire that character, maybe give them a send off with a bang and have them roll up something new, without the absurd power progressions. Honestly, a better system than the moster as pc rules is to take the CR of the monster, cut it down to 1, and ensure that later level progressions don't outpace regular characters mechanically. Yes, they won't be exactly like other creatures of their type, but if you populate your world with more of the same type as your 'fixed' PC and make the regular ones a more 'developed' version, you'll problably be able to make it work \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Really this is just a way of retiring the character and roll up something new. You could easily arrange with the player beforehand so that she has input on what her new race/class might be. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mathaddict
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:53

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