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I'm running my first campaign and decided to start out with a module called The Dragon's Demand, which brings players from level 1 to level 7.

I've heard that modules are fairly easy for both DM and player which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but my players are just one-hitting everything. Their overall strength will probably be a problem in the later stages of the module, and things will only be briefly challenging when they reach the kobolds at the end of chapter one. Is there an easy way for me to up the ante on small battles with this strong of a party without adding in additional fights to wear them down? Since I'm new I'm willing to try almost anything to see what works for me and my group.

The party is composed of a ronin, a ghost blade psion, a regular swashbuckler, and a battlefield control wizard. The ronin and psion are played by my most experienced players.

So far they are still in the first dungeon, The Collapsed Tower, and are on their way to area A10. They don't have the crest, and don't remember the pass-phrase for disarming the trap in A10. The party split at one point. The wizard and psion handily defeated the Lightning Elemenatal in A7 with the help of colour spray, and the ronin and swashbuckler did the same to the imp in A8.

I have incorporated Hero Points, Honor Points, Unchained, and Mythic Tiers into the module and decided that they should have their ascension after they defeat a mythic version of Roaghaz at the end of chapter one.

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Let's talk gaming philosophy. My belief is that, most of the time, what players want out of combat is to show off how awesome their characters are. Sometimes they might want interesting tactical choices, sometimes they might want roleplaying, but most of the time what they want is to get to actually use their cool new spells and techniques.

With that in mind, the best way to handle "my players ended the combat too early" is just to add more monsters. Start asking for Perception checks; the first time someone gets above a ten, tell them they've noticed another group of monsters running toward the battle. Keep doing that until the battle has gone three rounds at least; most players will probably feel like it was a good fight after that point.

This has the advantage of not requiring you to come up with any new monster stats. Coming up with new monster stats is (1) more work, and (2) dangerous, because you might accidentally create a monster that is too powerful for your group to handle. If you're adding more monsters of a sort your party has already shown it can deal with, there's very little risk of wiping the party.

Of course you'll need to occasionally include a combat that actually threatens them, but not every combat needs to do that.


Relatedly: I actually don't know what "Hero Points, Honor Points, Unchained, and Mythic Tiers" are, but they sound like they might be causing problems for you. Adding these sorts of optional rules to the game can make your experienced players much more powerful, because they know how to take advantage of them. Your less experienced players might be overwhelmed by all the rules, and might mostly ignore the new features or else not use them optimally.

This can lead to party balance issues (where some players are sad because their characters aren't as good as the others'), and it can lead to game balance issues (where the monsters are not a threat to the party because the characters are much more powerful than expected at this level).

One useful thing to learn, as a DM, is that when your most experienced players come to you and they have all these crazy new splatbook rules they want to try out that will make their characters so awesome -- one useful thing to learn is the ability to say no to that. As a new DM, vanilla Pathfinder is more than enough rules already. ^_^;

You might consider having a talk with your players, explaining that their characters are causing balance issues, and removing any of those rules that you can easily remove. (As experienced players, it's likely that they already know that they're causing balance issues, but they're unable to bring themselves to voluntarily weaken their characters.) Or you might decide to leave those rules in, and let them have their fun.

Good luck with it.

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Utilize Advanced Creatures.

If your PC's are absolutely rolling through the opposition, its clear that the opposition needs a buff to get them on the same level of challenge, this is probably your best bet. This will have them likely digging into the many resources like Hero points that you've provided and up the Ante on any Encounter.

At first I would use this sparingly, maybe one or two creatures per encounter. This template is a Quick CR increase of +1 that can be applied to any creature. It simply means that this creature is tougher than its normal kin.

However, its not to be used lightly. Be sure that you're absolutely ready for your PCs to take up a more challenging fight before you throw these creatures at them. An advanced creature gets all of the following bonuses:

Advanced Creature Template
+2 to all attack rolls, damage rolls, and skill checks.
+2 to any Spell DCs
+4 to Armor class and CMD
+2 Hit points per Hit Die

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Total help, this will definitely help against the two large critical threat ranges and large amounts of damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Abu Jun 28 '15 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Glad I can help. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jul 2 '15 at 12:07
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Your player’s characters sound rather well built. In general I tend to be okay when players do this, but if the party becomes internally imbalanced it can be a problem.

1. Without altering the CR of an encounter can we simply rearranging the layout to fix the problem? Some creatures really need to know their own strengths and play to them, especially when they have home field advantage.

Example: Kobolds are weak and the smarter ones know it. Rather than fighting in the open make the passages between rooms small and long. This forces the party to squeeze. As they go down simply have a kobold in the tunnel above or below stab his spear though the holes in the floor, or have a kobold or two at the end of the hallway firing crossbows down it.

2. If a caster is becoming a problem we start having environmental effects accounted for. These can range from disgusting to clever.

Example 1: Sentient soldiers can drop (the pathfinder equivalent to) a smoke grenade. Allot of casters need line of sight, and breathing in smoke requires a concentration check.

Example 2: We all know everyone poops and a fowl beast that has been locked up in a dungeon room will make it awful to be there. If you remember the reaction of reporters who tried to show what the post Katrina Louisiana Superdome bathrooms looked like… Needless to say anyone with a low fortitude or constitution may be sickened in such a room (throwing up, or just watery half shut eyes).

3. Replace a small combat encounter with an equivalent social one. Maybe the party needs something from here. Maybe as good adventurers they cannot mug an innocent individual or disturb a holy place. It may be that reputation is important, and you did say the players get hero points.

Example: The adventurers arrive in a room to find that the ornate vase they need for a puzzle has already been found by a Halfling Rogue. The Halfling, who thinks the vase will make a great wedding gift for his niece, refuses to give it up. After all he found it first, and the party must find a peaceful way to acquire it. If the party insists on a fight the Halfling willingly gives up the vase, but tells the locals he knows what jerks the party is. Later when the players are going shopping they find out that shop owners will not sell to them or only at inflated prices. Finding and apologizing to the Halfling may fix this, but more may also be required. This gets even better if a player commits murder and is considered fugitives by the kingdom (or equivalent principality).

4. If the problems come from fighter classes damage try challenging these same classes in a different way. Add new elements to traps and puzzles that cannot be fixed by killing.

Example 1: Integrate a heavy weight into a puzzle. In order to solve it the weight must be held up a curtain amount and lowered slowly as the other elements of the puzzle are handled. Maybe the players see a powerful monster in a room and must use the weight to bar the door closed.

Example 2: A particularly dangerous, potentially deadly, trap is easy to see but must be crossed before it can be deactivated. It may even be as easy as pulling an imbedded lever on the far side of the hall. To get over the trap climbing walls, digging a hook in the ceiling or similar feats may be necessary. It is best to include multiple checks in the scenario with two consecutive failures being defeat. Two successful climb checks (acrobatics can substitute) and a reflex save at the end as something gives under the characters weight can be very exciting.

5. This is a dangerous one if your players have a hard time separating their roll playing from the real world. Be very, very careful when using anything like this. Trying hitting the alignment button and holding down. Create a hard moral situation that has already gone wrong and the players are to blame. This tends to be easier with hardened players and games like World of Darkness and Call of Cthulhu where soul ripping horror is the expected theme.

Extreme Example See Warning:

While clearing out a goblin den the players come to a doorway at the end of one of the hallways. Both armed and unarmed goblins (equivalent to commoners) throw themselves on the players trying to protect the door. When the party opens it they find the dens nursery. The racial equivalent of teenagers charge the players with sticks and rocks trying to protect the younger children as they huddle in the comers in the room. One teen goblin runs at the players with a piece of paper and reads off exploding runes killing himself and several others. The players get their reflex saves, but can they survive the internal struggle of what to do next?

I hope some of this is helpful, and good luck with your game.

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Run Different Modules

When we run 3.5 or Pathfinder published adventures, we always aim for a party of characters half the lowest recommended level. This is quite difficult, especially at higher levels, but it is quite doable and a fun challenge for high-op games. Probably half the expected level would be a bit steep for new players, but some lesser adjustment, such as 3/4 expected level, could work well in the future. You indicated that you're willing to try things and see what works for your group; I suggest doing a couple short adventures at various level scales, both multiplicative and additive, to find what works best for you.

To implement this in the current campaign, if you wish to do so, rather than reducing the XP gain from monsters, let the party skip through a couple of the modules. Both the Kobold Camp and the Wizard Manor dungeons should be fairly easy to remove; in the case of the wizard manor just have NPCs deal with it and don't bring up that the innards were particularly difficult to navigate. In the case of the Kobold Camp, have the ranger and his assistants return to camp before the party arrives. The party will then acquire their information about the dragon from either the Wizard Manor (feel free to add a few notes on the Wizard's involvement with the Kobolds or a more explicit (green) dragon reference) or just be a little less prepared when Mr. Great Wyrm Black Dragon shows up at the auction. Either will have the effect of lowering the PCs' relative level to the part of the campaign they next encounter.

This all assumes, of course, that your players want a challenge.

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