Tactics Tips from the GM

Principles of Pathfinder Combat:

Pathfinder is all about resource management. For an average encounter, you should expect to use all of your reusable abilities and about 20% of your expendable abilities (including things like spells, items, potions, wands, etc.). This means you need to understand what your resources are, track them at all times, and use them efficiently. Know your character sheet and know your items.

Actions are your most important resource. You only get one move action and one standard action per round. With the exception of a few spells, that doesn’t change as you level up. You get more of everything else – more spells, more attacks, more damage – but not more actions. Your goal should be to use every action every turn efficiently. Your enemies have actions too. The number of them they have depends on how many enemies there are. This is why fighting many moderately strong opponents is often more dangerous than fighting one extremely strong opponent. The group of several opponents, even if they are weaker individually, will have many more actions at their disposal.

Pathfinder favors offense over defense. Every opponent, even the lowliest of mooks, has at least a 5% chance to hit you, even if your AC is 97. Monsters with multiple attacks become more and more common as you level up. Damage output outpaces healing. While you should not neglect defenses, like AC, Damage Reduction, and so on, they will not win fights for you. You want to be on the offensive, hitting as hard as possible to take opponents out of the fight as soon as possible.

Implications of These Principles:

Reducing the number of actions your enemies have is very good. There are many ways you can do this, including clever positioning on the battlefield, use of controlling spells, and killing enemies.

Increasing the number of actions you have is very good. This is harder to do, but try to ensure that you’re in a good position on the battlefield to do what you want to do. This is also why feats like Rapid Shot and Quicken Spell are so powerful and why Lay on Hands is so good (swift action!). Or take a look at Toppling Spell. It gives you a bonus action (getting to make a trip check) and it takes actions away from the enemy (making them waste time standing up). Awesome!

You must use your actions efficiently. Which is the better spell, Cure Serious Wounds or Slow ? Both are level 3 spells, so they should be equally good right? Well, here’s one way to think about it. Cure Serious Wounds negates about two enemy actions by undoing the damage they did with those actions. Slow can negate dozens of enemy actions if you cast it on a group of enemies.

You should use your actions to do one of these things:

  1. Gain more actions for your group.
  2. Take away enemy actions.
  3. Kill enemies.
  4. Help your group achieve superior positioning on the battlefield.
  5. Boost your group’s numbers (to-hit chance, damage, etc.) , enabling them to do these things better.

Killing enemies is good. Offense trumps defense and you want to reduce the number of actions the enemies have. So you want to kill enemies. It’s more efficient to deploy overwhelming force and end the encounter quickly than to get into a war of attrition. If you get into a war of attrition, you’ll end up having to use your resources anyway after the bad guys have used their actions to hurt you.

If you’re killing enemies by hitting them with a sharp object, great. You must hit them hard! Don’t try to save your resources for when you need them. You need them now to kill the enemy! You’re expected to use these resources in your encounters.

If you’re killing enemies with spells, great. But spells that cause damage don’t scale so well with enemy hit points. So you need to keep a few things in mind with blasting spells:

  1. Blasting works best if lots of people blast the same target – ideally one who’s also being poked with a sharp stick. That way, you’re more likely to actually kill it. If you haven’t actually killed anyone, the enemy still has all their actions.
  2. Blasting works best if you attach some kind of “rider” to the blast. A spell like Shout, for example, deals damage but also causes a status effect. Metamagic feats like Rime Spell or Toppling Spell can also do this.

You can also kill people with “Save or Die” spells like the ever-popular Hold Person. Then your tactics become a matter of maximizing your Save DC and minimizing your opponent’s saving throw rolls.

Tactics Tips from the GM

Salem Jade Regent OutsiderSubtype