So, in the Pathfinder Campaign I am running, we decided not to max out everything with "optimal builds". The players had a concept for their character in mind, which led to the group consisting of the following people (we are now at lv 3)

  • Half-Elf Cleric of Desna (Mainly focusing on healing and support spells)
  • Dwarf Necromancer (Focusing on summoning and necromancy spells)
  • Gnome Rogue/Fighter (2 levels Rogue, 1 Level Fighter atm, focussing on ranged combat with crossbows and uses the "Crossbowman" Rules for his fighter levels, which come from the expert rules 1)
  • Halfling Barbarian (focusing on two handed weapons)

The problem is: Our Halfling Barbarian rolled pretty poorly for her stats, and now has a pretty low strength of 13 or 14, with Con + Dex at the same, and all other stats at 10 I think (something around that, Con could be higher, I am not quite sure, don't have her stats in front of me)

This might not seem like such a big problem, but when I compare the damage values, the dwarven mage not only has pretty much the same chance to hit (her stats are all between 14 and 18 I think, with tendencies towards the 18), but would do pretty much the same damage if she had access to a two handed axe (which is the weapon our barbarian is using) Sure, the base attack bonus (+ bonus from Rage) might differentiate that on later levels, but atm it's quite a problem.

Long story short: Any tips/ideas on what I could do to make her feel a bit more powerful? I don't want to tell her "well, you'll have to make a new character I guess", and I don't really think that is necessary.

My ideas so far:

  • give her something like an armband of strength that basically just increases her strength, but that is not my favourite option...
  • encourage the spellcasters in the party to use buff spells (like Bears Strength or however the spell that increases strength is called, I only know the german names)

Note that neither I nor my players are experts in pathfinder, I have more experience with Shadowrun, Savage Worlds, The Dark Eye (Das Schwarze Auge), Dungeon Slayers and a bit of knowledge about DnD from playing Games like Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A level 3 halfling barbarian with with Str 16 will have +7 to hit, whereas a level 3 dwarf necromancer with Str 18 will have +5 to hit. Not much of a difference yet, but that disparity will grow due to the BAB progression difference between wizard and barbarian. With rage + feats,the halfling should hold her own as the group levels, but she'll always be hindered by using weapons small-sized weapons. \$\endgroup\$
    – LAK
    Nov 21, 2014 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not a solution for the current problem, but for the future I'd advise to have a look at different character creation rules such as buy points or fixed stat arrays if you are afraid of imbalances at character creation. In my experience it generally makes players happier than rolling for stats. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bielna
    Apr 16, 2017 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea, I am quite a bit smarter about Stuff like that now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Apr 16, 2017 at 13:50

3 Answers 3


Let them die or be a hero despite their flaws. Those who live by the [dice] die by the [dice].

By rolling characters, and choosing not to build for combat prowess, you clearly have a very specific and challenging game in mind. While I would recommend investigation into other systems that may better fit your needs; the situation you've set up here has a very traditional solution: the character attempts to do the quite difficult, as built into his/her narrative arc. The character will either succeed or fail on their own merits, making the story that much sweeter or bittersweet, as appropriate.

In the gaming tradition, characters were played as long as they lasted. Let the arc play out for this character, as his/her choices dictate. Any changes to the character would by definition be optimising, as you're now trying to accomplish a specific mechanical goal (likely combat prowess.)

To avoid optimising, tone down the monsters you throw at the party, to suit their skill and the narrative requirements. Alternatively, the player can look at Anger Management, the pathfinder handbook for barbarians, and on their next level up (assuming they survive so long) make a more informed (nay... optimised) choice as suggested by the options presented in the handbook. I choose to build to requirements because random chance has not been merciful to my prior characters (to avoid a rather more vulgar hardware related phrase.) A quick review of the document suggests that the addition of a mount can do quite a lot to compensate for the halfling's ... diminished capabilities. Provide an opportunity to quest1 for a Giant Gecko mount and a quiet retcon to the mounted fury archetype.

1 Bonus points if it alludes to the QFG2 Saurus mount


The thing is, no amount of lucky rolling is going to solve this problem I think. A Halfling Barbarian is going to have, at best, 16 strength at the time of her creation because of the strength penalty. Ending up with 14 is really not that bad for a Halfling, because that means she had 16 before modifiers, which is well above average.

However, they do get a +1 to hit because of their size, which in essence is that 2 strength back.

If you really want to start being scary as a melee Halfling however, consider going towards Halfling Outrider. Generally speaking, being on a mount and charging things with a Lance is a lot stronger than normal melee combat, but a mount's large size makes it impossible to take them into dungeons, which means you don't see these kinds of builds in adventures that might go underground. A Halfling has no such problem however, as they can quite easily ride into a dungeon on a medium-sized creature and power attack stuff with their lance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a suitable halfling mount that can use ladders? Or have natural climb speed? For dungeons, it might be needed, so if you know any, it would improve your answer I believe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 21, 2014 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that would indeed be a problem. I don't think that mounting would be a suitable option for her anyway, but I will keep this in mind for later character creation, e.g. if someone dies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Nov 21, 2014 at 12:54
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Patta actually, Baboon mount might work, and would be a crazy-cool idea. Admittedly, not for everyone. But maybe... somehow ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 21, 2014 at 12:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the idea of a Halfling riding around on a Baboon. I suppose you could also go with a Panda: d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/animals/panda \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Nov 25, 2014 at 8:24

A bonus by any other name

My advice would be to grant your player some kind of stat increasing bonus, since it is the simplest way to level the playing field numerically. You said you aren't a fan of just giving her a stat boosting item so I'll try to give you a few other options to consider.

Give her a stat boosting item

Now, bear with me here, because at first blush this probably sounds just like that thing you don't want to do. But I would argue that when done right stat boosting gear can be a fun and flavorful way to pump up a player's abilities. The key is to do it in a way that makes sense for the story and that interests your player.

The first thing I would do is to find an item that is obviously perfect for your player. In this case I would suggest something like the Belt of Perfect Body, which grants bonuses to Str, Dex and Con.

The next thing I would do is to make it so that the item is thematically suited for your player. A Belt of Perfect Body would be useful to both your Gnome Rogue and Halfling Barbarian players, so if you are explicitly trying to get the Halfling better stats you need a way to make sure the Belt is obviously for her. There are a couple ways to accomplish this.

The first way would be to design your item to be strictly better for your Barbarian than it would be for your Rogue. You could do something like This item grants an additional +2 Bonus to Str, Dex and Con while the wearer is Raging. Essentially what you are saying is "This item is made for Barbarians!" Technically the Rogue could still use it but it would obviously be more effective on the Barbarian. I would avoid more obvious limitations, like racial restrictions, since they tend to feel like you are playing favorites.

The second way to make sure items go to who you intend to give them to is to use the story itself as a delivery method. Why does your Halfling Barbarian get this useful item instead of the Rogue? Because that belt is a family heirloom and it would be shameful to let anyone else wear it. This method takes a bit more planning, since you need to come up with a plausible reason in-game for why a particular character gets a particular item. But when done right I think that it makes for much more player investment. If you say that the player's new weapon was passed down to them from their dead father, and someone tries to steal/sunder/mock that weapon, I guarantee your player will take that action personally and react much more strongly than they otherwise might.

Learn your lessons

If you are dead set against using items to power up players another option is one-time, permanent stat boosts. These can be a bit game-breaking, which is why they are so rare in the normal game. But there is no reason why you can't add a few into your campaign to get power levels where you want them. The most important thing to remember when going this route is that where these bonuses comes from has to make sense in terms of the story. If a bright light shoots from the heavens and gives a character a stat bonus for no reason, it is going to come off as cheesy and lazy.

One way to handle this is to have your Barbarian run into a grizzled veteran who offers to teach them a few tricks. The nice part about this is that you aren't limited to just stat boosts this way. The character can be taught to read an opponent's body, giving a bonus to hit. Or where the most vulnerable places on the body are, giving a bonus to damage. This way you can tailor what bonuses you give out to the character's play style without risking pushing them to the other end of the power spectrum.

It doesn't count unless you earn it

Regardless of how you handle powering up players you should make sure that you aren't just handing them things on a silver platter. If your players don't feel challenged then it doesn't matter how awesome a reward they get, they won't feel like they have earned it. If you make your party overcome some sort of challenge first, they are going to be more invested in the rewards.

Want to give a character a family heirloom? Make them clear out all of the Ghouls that have made the family tomb into a nest first.

Want a character to learn from an ancient master? They have to prove themselves worthy first.

Not every challenge has to be a fight, or even physical. But every reward should be earned, and the bigger the reward the harder the challenge to get it should be.


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