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I'm currently working on a bit of a custom pathfinder world built from the ground up. First step is the races and I really wanted to try and balance the three core races in terms of power. All in all, I've decided to work for a 10RP per race option (I know RP is probably a terrible way balance races, but it seems decent enough for my options.)

For those of any interest on the actual race template.

Arluxian

Size: Medium (0RP)

Humanoid (0RP)

Base Speed: 30ft (0RP)

Ability Score Racial Trait: Dex +2, Wis +2, Strength -2 (0RP)

Standard Language (0RP)

Racial Skills: Fly, Acrobatics (1RP)

Trait: Nimble Attacks (2RP) Weather Savvy (1RP)

Supernatural Ability: Energy Wings (???RP) (See below description)

tl;dr What is an appropriate RP value for this flight modification?

Energy Wings

As a full round action the Arluxian can channel their natural energy into the wing runes on their back. Doing so causes them to sprout ethereal wings of their natural energy colour. During the time the wings are active they gain flight and a base flight speed of 30ft plus an additional 10ft for every 2 dexterity modifiers (40ft at +2, 50ft at +4, etc). Their base flight manueverability is clumsy and improves by 1 modifier for each 2 dexterity modifiers. Energy Wings lasts for 1 minute(or round, I haven't decided yet) + character level + dexterity modifier. The Arluxian can dismiss the wings at any time as a completely free action, or they vanish at the end of the time period, causing the Arluxian to fall to the ground and incur any falling damage that might happen as normal (Reflex save Half).

I know standard flight is a 4RP buy in the AVG, but I'm not sure where this falls. Is flight alone mechanically powerful, or is it the permanency of the effect? As bonus questions, what if this became a 1 or 3/day power instead of at will?

As you can see from the template above, depending on how this question turns out, I might have a significant RP buy left or next to none. I'm budgeting 6RP for the ability right now, but it might be much weaker than I think.

I also wouldn't be completely adverse to any opinion on the race as a whole (despite not having bothered to include the flavor text out of laziness. But, the question is the main point.

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Permanency or otherwise of the effect is irrelevant; what matters is availability versus opportunity. If the effect is available for every opportunity where it could be used then it is effectively permanent. So, an at will effect, even with a full round action activation that lasts for the entire encounter is effectively permanent. Similarly, a 3/day power where reasonable expectation of use is 2/day is effectively permanent.

If the Arluxian can expect to use this power in any encounter they want to then it is same as giving them normal flight.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is better than normal flight because your flight speed increases with your dex mod. \$\endgroup\$ – Bishop Jan 6 '16 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the full-round action to be irrelevant, merely lasting through an entire encounter is not sufficient. It has to last long enough to be something you can activate ahead of time, and expect to still have when you do get into a fight. Having to turn it on in combat is a huge blow to one’s combat effectiveness. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 12 '16 at 18:57
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The full-round action is a big deal, in that it makes using this in combat a wise choice only in the situations where it is absolutely necessary to do so. Combats in Pathfinder are short—giving up a turn is a huge deal. That will often be half or a third of your opportunities to meaningfully affect the fight. Even in particularly long fights, at the very highest end it is still 15-20%. Those are very large numbers, particularly in the critical early rounds.

If the duration is long enough to use the power before combat, then it’s still somewhat valuable. A few minutes will sometimes be long enough, but often it won’t.

And if it’s not, then the power is only meaningful at low levels where flight is not otherwise available (which, if we’re honest, is available to some characters right at 1st level); at higher levels, this race will still want to get a more permanent form of flight.

What does this mean in RP? Who knows. I’m sorry to say, but RP is basically useless. It’s a mess of a “system,” and looking at races that Paizo has published both before and after the RP system, they barely pay any attention to it themselves.

So is it worth less than 4 RP? Yeah, probably. I mean, assuming we buy that flight at 4 RP is fair to begin with. Is it worth 1 RP, 2 RP, or 3 RP? Depends on how often and for how long the power lasts.

If it takes a full-round action to start, lasts only a minute or so, even a minute per level, and can only be used a couple of times per day, that’s not even half as useful as real flight, so 1 RP, I guess? It’s still way better than some other 1-RP options, but that’s what happens when a system doesn’t work.

If the flight is a workable replacement for real flight, but still less good—lasts a few hours, say, but still has a limited number of uses and takes a while to turn on—then that’s probably worth 3 RP. I mean, again, purely in comparison to flight’s own 4-RP cost.

But ultimately, RP is worthless, and it cannot meaningfully be used to balance things. The real question is whether or not you want this race, as a whole, to be available to players and whether that’s going to cause problems, or whether this race will cause problems balancing encounters when you use them as NPC opponents. Does flight cause any of these kinds of problems? Yes, it absolutely does. Unfortunately, as already noted, flight is pretty easily available to the right characters, even as early as 1st. So regardless of what you do with this race, Pathfinder is always going to have this problem.

So does a flying race with free Weapon Finesse and a Dexterity bonus cause its own special problems? No, I don’t really think so. It’s going to be an awesome pick for finesse builds, but oh well, it’s not as if there aren’t other races that are just clearly “the best” for certain kinds of things, and finesse builds are underpowered anyway. Particularly if the flight has inconveniences built in that make the character look to replace it with the flight they’d get as any other race.

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I think a lot depends on the sorts of encounters you're planning to have.

If you're planning for the party to spend a lot of time outdoors, getting attacked by wolves and bears etc, then flying is very very powerful because it makes the character immune to those encounters. In the worst case, you might have an encounter where you say: "you're surrounded by bears!", and four of your five players are arluxians and they all fly away, and that last guy gets mobbed and eaten. (And then the arluxians use ranged attacks to kill the bears from the sky, without taking any damage.)

If you do plan to have these sorts of encounters, then you need to fix the power so that it doesn't make arluxians immune to the encounter. I'd recommend fixing it as follows: an arluxian can spend a move action to fly 30ft using their wings, but they have to end their movement on a solid surface (such as on the ground, or maybe in a tree). Also, if they fall a long distance, they can spend a full-round action to slow themselves with their wings and not take damage.

If you're planning for the party to spend most of their time in dungeons with low ceilings, or if they're going to mostly fight intelligent opponents that have ranged attacks, then flying isn't a get-out-of-peril-free ability, and it's not nearly as powerful and does not need to be nerfed in this fashion.

I'm not very familiar with the RP system, so I can't directly comment on how many RP flying should translate into.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The encounter point is absolutely wonderful. Honestly, I hadn't really thought about that as much. Mechanically it won't matter terribly much, as after the first 2 or 3 levels encounters will start containing mixes of the three races more and more. So, after level three it won't be uncommon for an encounter to contain an Arluxian or another thing with capability to reach. Honestly, I focused probably too much on tying to nerf it. I thought making the activation a full round action was probably more important than it was. \$\endgroup\$ – Naryna Jan 6 '16 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ This issue already exists for other options that get fly early (and don't have to spend a full round at the start of combat to utilize it). Why is it a different consideration here? \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Jan 13 '16 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the games I've played, I actually haven't seen anyone with a level-1 character with flight. It doesn't seem to be something that people do that often in practice. (What are the usual ways to achieve this? Small druid with a flying animal companion, I guess; are there other tricks?) I suppose it's a different consideration here because the questioner is taking a rarely-used mechanic (perhaps one available only to highly optimized characters) and making it commonly available. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Jan 13 '16 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanB: There's the Strix which has an innate fly speed of 60 feet (average). If you work with your DM, you could optimize an Aasimar to have an innate fly speed of 20 feet (poor). Those are the only two races I am aware of that offer fly at level 1. \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Jan 14 '16 at 4:29

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