Spurred on by a discussion where someone suggested monster tactics as a product line, I took a quick pass at looking at some tactics for iconic monsters, to see if I think they can be useful and generic enough to make a good product. I’m not convinced wither way yet, but sharing my first draft seemed a great way to test the waters. Thus, here I present my ideas for ogre tactics. As the first giants PCs are likely to run into, ogres make a good stand-in for all Large humanoids, though obviously things like spell-like abilities and rock-throwing may give true giants better options. (Or you could use this with ogres that have orc ferocity, and call them orrocs!)
First, many GMs intentionally give ogres terrible tactics because they have an Intelligence of 6. But remember that this is three times as smart as a wolf. Would the smartest wolf you can conceive of make the bad tactical choice you are considering? No? Then neither should an ogre. Further their typical Wisdom of 10 and the fact they have Perception as a skill suggests ogres can recognize and analyze a situation even if they may do a terrible job describing it with good grammar. Certainly an ogre can recognize a spellcaster, see the issue with allowing foes to heal, know when to press the attack o have one unconscious foe and one healthy foe as preferable to two injured foes who can both fight back, and so on.
Indeed, recognizing spellcasters will often drive ogre tactics. With reach (which you can augment with various options below) an ogre has a decent chance of being able to strike a spellcaster in melee, and an ogre should know that they let their guard down when they cast spells, so desire to keep spellcasters close enough that they must cast defensively to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity from the ogre.
If facing foes without reach, an ogre with no adjacent enemies can safely attempt combat maneuvers against foes 10 feet away without provoking attacks of opportunity, and their Large size and high Strength makes them reasonable likely to succeed. Tripping foes can help with battlefield control (especially as the foe is likely to provoke an attack of opportunity when it stands), and disarming an enemy at least reduces the chance of suffering a full-attack action.
Some tactics are more like customizations, in that they move the ogre away from the base stat block of the bestiary, while staying a legal monster build.
Even if using slow progression, an ogre should average 550 gp of treasure, There is no need for this to all be gold and gems it hoards away in a pocket to be looted off its body. An ogre can have some of its treasure as gear it might use. As simple a choice as allowing it to carry a Large longspear (10 gp) gives the ogre an impressive 20 foot melee range, and it can drop the weapon and draw its greatclub if needed. With that much reach melee foes might well feel the need to risk a charge, and that means the ogre can brace to receive charge. (If this seems likely, consider a boar spear, which costs the same and gives a bonus to AC in that situation).
Similarly a Large heavy crossbow (100 gp) may only fire once every two rounds, but it gives the ogre a much heavier, longer-range initial punch. Since an ogres hide armor proves it is proficient with medium armor, upgrading to a Large breastplate (400 g, though it can save by not also buying Large hide armor for 30 gp) gives it +2 AC. A cure light wounds potion, thunderstone, tanglefoot bag, or other alchemical weapons can also increase it’s flexibility in battle, and are useful to 3rd level PCs as treasure.
If using multiple ogres, one throwing javelins and one with a boar spear can be an effective ranged-combat options until PCs manage to close in. If you have three or more ogres, you might consider giving one a kumade (which is a simple weapon with the grapple special weapon property) or a sickle (a simple weapon with the trip special weapon property) to keep foes worried about combat maneuvers.
If considering adjusting the ogre’s feats, Toughness can generally be swapped out for better choices. Improved Iron Will makes the ogre less likely to be defeated with a single bad Will save, or Power Attack gives it an excellent trade off of damage for a little reduced accuracy. If your campaign allows retraining, consider having two or more ogres with the Crowd Control teamwork feat to make it harder for foes to get inside their reach. If an ogre is going to be alone, the Desperate Battler feat may be useful.
And Now, A Tactical Mention of my Patreon
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A friend posted some Jeff Dee Halfling art from the 1981 D&D Expert Set today, and it really reminded me of my early view of RPG halflings. Short – VERY short, with large hairy feet – but otherwise bold, trim, and confident looking. Such characters seemed neither unable to use human weapons, nor rolly-polly.
Inspired by them, here’s a quick Halfling sub-race for Pathfinder.
Stouts are a sub-race of haflings found in some of the roughest, oldest human lands. They are short and have pointed ears as their typical Halfling cousins, but are more trim, broad of frame, and with differently proportioned hands and feet. Their feet, in particular, are broad and rough-bottomed, and kept warm with thick patches of curly hair that generally match the color and texture of the hair on their heads.
Stouts are humanoids of the (Halfling) sybtype.
Ability Score Racial Traits: Stouts are nimble and strong-willed, but their small stature makes them less strong than other races. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, and –2 Strength.
Size: Stouts are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls, a –1 penalty to their CMB and CMD, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.
Base Speed: Despite their reduced stature, stouts have a base speed of 30 feet.
Languages: Stouts begin play speaking Common and Halfling. Stouts with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Dwarven, Elven, Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Troll.
Firm Grip: Stouts have hands larger than a human of the same height would, with strong fingers and a firm grip. They receive a +2 racial bonus to Climb checks.
Additionally, a Small stout can use weapons sized appropriately for Small and Medium creatures normally, without any size-based penalties. If for some reason a stout stops being Small, or is using a weapon that is not actually sized appropriately for Small or Medium creatures, this ability has no affect.
Hairyfoot: Stout feet are broad, strong, tough, and topped with curly, warm hair. They gain all the benefits of being barefoot, but also all the benefits of wearing protective foot-coverings, despite always being barefoot. While theoretically a stout could put on boots or shoes, when they do so they take a -2 penalty to Initiative checks and all Dex checks, because it’s just never comfortable.
Additionally, they receive a +2 bonus to Stealth checks, and to any check regarding movement thought difficult terrain, on narrow spans, or over hazards, while using their feet.
Minor Exclusive Patreon Expansion
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Monday Bad Idea
Monday Bad Ideas are periodic, and not fully fleshed out. because, you know, they’re bad ideas.
A gelatinous ghoul is a rare from of ooze undead that generally occurs when some object an undead is connected to and which allows it to reform after destruction (sometimes the phylactery of a weak rich, or an object tied to a ghost’s reason for existence) is consumed by a gelatinous cube, but not destroyed, When the undead’s essence reforms around the object, the necromantic energies infuse the square ooze, creating a hybrid mix of gel and corpse.
Gelatinous ghouls generally look like a skull or severed head floating in a cube of transparent snot, though sometimes only a single hand or a glowing green tibia is sign of the deathly influence. Gelatinous ghouls have all the powers and immunities of both the ooze and the undead, and any ability that affects only one or the other has only a 50% chance of affecting it.
On the other hand they lack appendages, and are generally pretty ticked off (though a few ex-lich gelatinous ghouls are telekinetic, and describe the new state as “surprisingly comfy”).
If I Haven’t Scared You Off Yet:
Spring elves are between 25 and 110 years old—physically adult, but still in what staid and traditional elven society considers their “Spring Years,” too emotional and impulsive to be allowed to leave the safety and education of the home. They are essentially eternal teenagers, sure of their own intellect and ability, but largely incapable of considering the long-term consequences of their actions—a particularly troubling trait for the long-lived race. Spring elves are always, always supervised and watched over by older, most experienced elves, and kept from adventure, and as much as possible kept from any decision-making. While spring elves are physically and mentally capable of the same kind of training and education as young humans, these decades are a time when they are so wild, so free of consideration, that over the course of eight decades they only manage as much preparation for life as a typical human manages by age 16.
However, in rare circumstances, a spring elf lacks any of the careful parenting and sheltering from life the races has learned from long experience is necessary to prevent the just-post-adolescent elves from setting the world on fire. For example, the Elves of Solstice are an entire race rules by spring elves, given power and authority with no sense of responsibility. And the gods help everyone else.
Standard Racial Traits
Ability Score Racial Traits: Spring elves are nimble and amazingly likable, and still have their youthful resilience, which is the only reason they aren’t all killed for weeklong benders and experimental magic, but they lack the intellectual focus of properly raised, adult elves. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, and –2 Wisdom.
Size: Most spring elves are Medium creatures and thus have a 30 foot base speed and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size. Some are still size small, and have all the normal bonuses and penalties for that size and a base move of 20 feet.
Type: Elves are Humanoids with the elf subtype.
Languages: Spring elves begin play speaking Common and Elven. Those with high Intelligence scores are drawn to “fun” languages and can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Cyclops, Dark Folk, Draconic, Gnome, Necril, Protean, and Sylvan. See the Linguistics skill page for more information about these languages.
Keen Senses: Spring elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception checks.
Impulsive: Spring elves gain a +2 bonus to Initiative checks, but they cannot delay an action (though they can ready), and take twice as long to take 20 on skill checks (as they are constantly distracted).
Elven Proclivities: Spring elves are immune to magic sleep effects, but take a -2 saving throw penalty against enchantment spells and effects. They gain a +2 bonus to charisma checks, and to the save DCs of their own enchantment spells and effects.
Low-Light Vision: Spring elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
Reckless Abandon: A spring elf can reroll a single attack roll, ability check, skill check, or caster level check (but not concentration check) per encounter, immediately after determining the result of a failed roll. However, if the spring elf does this, the GM earns an impulsive token. The GM can later spend a token to force the spring elf to move to anyplace within the spring elf’s base move that is not obviously hazardous, as the spring elf is overcome by an impulse. This can begin a fight, set off a hidden trap and so on, though the spring elf gains +4 to AC and a +4 to saves against the initial effect of anything set off by this impulsive move.
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Though it is far from universal, there are several common styles of Pathfinder RPG play that cause groups to decide classes that lack any spellcasting ability are at a disadvantage, and that the disadvantage grows as other classes gain increasingly powerful spells. This is especially frustrating for players who have a character concept for someone who shouldn’t have spells (spellcasting would invalidate the character concept), but seem to then be penalized with fewer options in many encounters due to their lack of access to magic.
Item Mastery Feats are a great way to add magic abilities to characters that don’t gain spells or spell-like options from their class features. In a nutshell, they allow characters to force magic items to do things the item isn’t normally able to do. Since the Use Magic Device skill proves that spells are necessary to use magic items, and numerous classes can pick up just a little spellcasting without being a spellcasting class (such as minor magic from rogues), the idea that there is a technique to manipulate magic in new ways to do new things without being a spellcaster is in keeping with the suggested metaphyscis of the Pathfinder rules.
Item Mastery Feats can patch one or two holes in a character’s options easily, but using them to alter how nonspell classes play in general requires some new options. Some of those should be limited to characters who really focus on these feats, which is nromally rep[resented with the relic master archetype. However, that archetype can only be taken by fighters, and there are a lot of classes that don’t gain spells.
So, step one is to give rules for the relic master archetype to be usable by every class with no automatic access to spells, extracts, or similar broad-utility magic options. That means we need replacement options for the relic master’s powers at the appropriate levels for the barbarian, brawler, cavalier, gunslinger, kineticist, monk, rogue, slayer, swashbuckler, and vigilante.
Below are the rules for a “More Universal” Relic Master, that also tweaks the archetype itself to fix weaknesses that have been found in play since the archetype was published.
“More Universal” Relic Master
The relic master receives Knowledge (arcana) and Use Magic Device as class skills, but doesn’t receive two class skills of the base class, as noted below: as class skills.
Barbarian: Handle Animal and Ride
Brawler: Handle Animal and Ride
Cavalier: Bluff and Swim
Fighter: Handle Animal and Ride
Gunslinger: Handle Animal and Ride
Kineticist: Intimidate (already receives Use Magic Device)
Monk: Intimidate and Knowledge (history)
Rogue: Intimidate (already receives Use Magic Device)
Slayer: Intimidate and Knowledge (geography)
Swashbuckler: Intimidate and Ride
Vigilante: Knowledge (engineering) (already receives Use Magic Device)
Improved Item Mastery (Su)
At 3rd level, once per day, a relic master can use an item mastery feat she knows with a magic item that doesn’t have an appropriate spell in its construction requirements. The magic item must meet all other requirements of the item mastery feat. Alternatively, if she is using a magic item with an appropriate spell in its construction requirements, she can use an item mastery feat without it counting against the feat’s total uses per day. She can use this ability one additional time per day at 7th, 11th, and 15th levels.
This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 3rd level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:
Barbarian: Trap sense
Brawler: Maneuver training
Cavalier: Cavalier’s charge. (The cavalier still receives mighty charge and supreme charge at their normal levels)
Fighter: Armor training
Gunslinger: Any 2 of the following 3 deeds: gunslinging initiative, pistol-whip, utility shot. Anytime the gunslinger gains new deeds from any source in the future, she may choose to forgo the new deed in favor of gaining one of these deeds.
Kineticist: Infusion gained at 3rd level
Monk: Still mind
Rogue: Trap sense
Slayer: The slayer does not gain the slayer talent normally gained at 2nd level.
Swashbuckler: Any 2 of the following 3 deeds: kip-up, menacing swordplay, precise strike. Anytime the swashbuckler gains new deeds from any source in the future, she may choose to forgo the new deed in favor of gaining one of these deeds.
Relic Channeler (Su)
At 5th level, a relic master can increase the potency of a magic item she wields by investing it with a bit of her vitality as a swift action. If the item is armor, a shield, or a weapon, its enhancement bonus increases by 1 to a maximum of +5. If the magic item creates a spell or has a save DC, its effective caster level increases by 1. The bonus gained increases by +1 at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter, to a maximum of +4.
A relic master can use this ability for a number of minutes per day equal to 1 + her Constitution modifier (minimum 1 minute). This duration doesn’t need to be consecutive, but it must be used in 1-minute increments.
This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 5th level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:
Barbarian: Rage powers gained at 4th and 12th level.
Brawler: Brawler’s strike or close weapon mastery (once this decision is made, it cannot be changed)
Fighter: Weapon training
Gunslinger: Gun training
Monk: Purity of body
Rogue: Sneak attack is 1d6 lower than normal for a rogue of the same level.
Slayer: Has 1 fewer studied targets than normal for a slayer of the same level
Swashbuckler: Swashbuckler weapon training
Vigilante: Startling appearance
Improvised Item Mastery (Su)
At 19th level as a full-round action, the relic master can select one item mastery feat whose prerequisites she meets but that she doesn’t already have. She gains access to this feat, though she can’t use it as a prerequisite for other feats or options. If she selects a different item mastery feat, she loses access to her previous use of improvised item mastery and any magic effect created with it ends immediately. Any daily uses of a selected improvised item mastery feat count against all improvised mastery feats selected in the same day.
This ability replaces or modifies a class feature gained at or before 19th level depending on the relic master’s base class, as detailed below:
Barbarian: Damage reduction does not increase to 5/–
Brawler: AC bonus does not increase to +4 at 18th level
Cavalier: Challenges does not increase to 7/day
Fighter: Armor mastery
Gunslinger: Any one deed gained at this level is not gained. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.
Kineticist: Metakinetic master
Monk: Empty body
Rogue: Rogue talented not gained at 8th level
Slayer: Improved quarry
Swashbuckler: Any one deed gained at this level is not gained. Once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.
Vigilante: Social talent
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