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I'm running a campaign and at the moment. The world in which they live is low-magic (and so the major way to have magic items is to create them), but also the amount of gold they get after each encounter is very low (they're all at level 8 at the moment, with less than 3000 gp per PC).

Now that the difficulty of monsters is becoming increasingly higher and I don't know how handle this.

I'm getting concerned about their survival in the near future. I can't find suitables rewards, different from money and magic items, to give the players the power level needed to face harder enemies. I can't speed up the leveling, because I'm already doing it quite fast. In brief, I don't know how to allow their survival without lowering the combat difficulty and without providing money and magic tools. I'm finding difficulties in choosing rewards for my players.

I sometimes let a PC find a very powerful weapon/armor/item, but I don't think it is enough, nor do I want it to become a sort of habit.

Background on the characters

At the moment the party is made up of:

  • Human Rogue (with a very powerful magic rapier)
  • Half-elf Barbarian
  • Human Knight
  • Tiefling Wizard with the spellslinger archetype
  • Ifrit Swashbuckler
  • Asimaar Magus
  • Human Ranger.

The players like role-playing, but they're mainly focused on beating bad guys and gaining acclaim and reputation for it. They especially like the rewards of money and fame. Most of them are good aligned, so they want to help and protect the weak and the poor; the knight and the rogue in particular prefer gaining power and reputation as rewards.

The knight is the only one who's part of an organization (a kingdom) and aspires to becoming the king (something that I'm intend to focus on later). The others are just wanderers without shared goals, except for the wizard and the magus who both want to achieve the greatest knowledge possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why is the trivial answer not "just give them monsters that are a challenge but not overpowering given their power level?" If they are leveling quickly, then they'll be able to kill bigger critters quickly. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Mar 11 '16 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why not give them power/fame/acclaim AND gold/items? Is there a reason you need to substitute one for the other? I'm sure that the Rogue and Knight will be happy when they gain acclaim for their deeds, but I can't imagine they are less happy with acclaim and some +2 magic armor. Is there a specific reason you want to restrict their rewards to either monetary/physical items or acclaim/fame instead of both? \$\endgroup\$ – Percival Mar 11 '16 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the campaign an adventure path, hence resisting easy modification? (Also perhaps answering the concerns voiced by @mxyzplk.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 11 '16 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ You need to specify EXACTLY what you mean by "low magic" I see you have casters in the party, what limitations are with that? What magic items will you allow? \$\endgroup\$ – TREB Mar 11 '16 at 22:56
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3k at level 8 is abysmally poor.

I can see why your PCs are clamouring for wealth, it's not vanity, Pathfinder is balanced around wealth being used for magic items for survival so they are going to be struggling to survive.

If they are point-buy-20 or higher they should have over 66'000gp by this point.

Things you are going to have to do to reduce the difficulty:

Limit high crit weapons

As you play the game longer and longer the chance of any player ever getting hit by a crit goes up to something like 80% (this is ever being hit, not any single chance). Also, critical damage can go up hugely as well. As you have been so stingy they cannot afford anything like a Buffering Cap you must never have weapons with 3x crit range and ideally no 19-20/2x crit range either. They aren't going to be able to take a critical hit and you have left them no opportunity to protect themselves.

Limit weapon damage

Because you haven't left wealth for things like Shawl of Life Keeping to give a buffer for general damage loss you need to dial things back a lot. If game guides would suggest enemies armed with greatsword (2d6), arm them with something like a Longsword (1d8) instead.

Makes things close yet environment to your PC's advantage

The utter lack of wealth of course is going to limit PCs ability to extend the range of their attacks, for example Rogue could never afford Assassin's Sight, so you're going to have to keep things a lot closer yet leave plenty of leeway for your players to disengage or use a height or cover advantage. They are going to need it.

Nerf enemies' stats

Your players should have been able to afford items to boost their core stats by now but obviously cannot. So knock a few points off enemy NPC strength and constitution. Or at least impose some limit like they've been fighting and are lower HP already or are suffering from a disease, tired from travelling, their weapons are damaged or are inherently intimidated by the PC's combat prowess (see sickened, fatigued, broken and shaken respectively).

Still, all is not lost, there's still a lot of very good cheap stuff out there that I can recommend that will be appreciated despite their low cost.

Talisman of Beneficial Winds (50gp)

This very cheap item can be hugely appreciated should they be in fear of falling.

Individual Enchanted Ammunition (46gp)

Ammunition can be enchanted in groups of 50, so individual units of ammunition would cost 1/50th of enchanting the lot. This can be a great way of cheaply handing out single use bonuses such as Bane Bolt/Arrow against a particular troubling enemy type.

Contracting Rope (50gp)

Another cheap item of huge use IF you are a generous GM and give opportunity to use it such as flat roofs nearby that with contracting rope they could quickly get up onto.

Fervor juice (50gp) + Troll Oil (50gp)

Short of being able to boost their Constitution or have a magic item buffer their HP, this will have to do for the big fights. This allows them to stay conscious but staggered when they go to negative HP and Troll Oil stops the steady tick-tick loss of HP when reduced to sub-zero HP.

Grappler's Grease

Very cheap item but gives a considerable buff to protect them from being grappled.

Baneberry (90gp)

A cheap poison with a very useful effect in how since it requires two saves to end the effect it always works. If your PCs are worries about self poisoning then Blackfinger Paste can cover that concern.

Low CL Potions (50gp+)

There are many 1st level spells which are really good but hard to get out and are viable even at the absolute minimum caster level.

  • Touch Of The Sea: can make up for inability to buff stats to be a good swimmer.
  • Enlarge Person: is a 1 Round to cast but as little as a Standard action to imbibe
  • Blend With Surroundings: great for your rogue when he gets into a pinch.

Buckler made of Living Steel (100gp)

This is a really good way to give your players the edge in the long run, especially if you are unwilling to drop high value items.

Be generous with traits

This could be a houserule or just a favourable interpretation of the rules but one thing I do is allow players to get a new trait every level and ignore the limit on how they cannot have more than one trait per "list". Considering there are over 1000 traits and normally players can only pick two of them at the beginning of the game that makes this a rather untapped resource.

It can reflect how the PCs have been developing as characters in acquiring new traits. This can do a huge amount to help keep them viable despite such a paucity of wealth.

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