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Pathfinder: Mundane/non-full caster only game

All you really need to do to make sure everything works out is make it so that the player characters can resist and recover (little magic = little healing) from encounters as if they did have a dedicated spellcaster in the group. Spellcasters aren't needed for offense in D&D unless a monster/opponent is specifically chosen and designed for that. They're only really needed to counter effects, heal and recover from injuries, and get you around faster and easier than purely mundane means would allow.

You can cover the countering aspect by introducing some new feats. Feats that duplicate effects like a Paladin's divine grace ability and/or allow non-casters some means to counterspell are quick examples of what I mean. The recovery bit is easily handled by having relatively inexpensive or easily obtained magic items that grant Fast Healing or even Regeneration. They don't help much in combat, but once the fight is over they can be ready to move on in short order. etc.

For everything else, it's all a matter of creating plot devices that the players can obtain as appropriate. The nice thing about that is you can turn that into an adventure in and of itself. You could even go a step further and make it a gestalt game, allowing players to compensate for the lack of magical firepower and "buffing" by instead relying on versatility.

Mundane parties are perfectly valid and easily dealt with as long as you keep these concerns in mind. And since you're not worried about the game being low-magic, all of those things and more are totally reasonable and easily dealt with. In fact, I'd love to play in just such a game. Mundane characters are, by far, the most fun to play.

Another option that might help is, if you don't run games like this already, is run encounters a little more "realistically" in terms of enemy behavior, specifically morale. The PCs need to learn that running is an option, but it helps if the NPCs are also seeing that as an option.

I've seen so many games run like a video game, where every single monster, whether they're a random bunch of cutpurses in an alleyway, a mindless golem guarding a chamber, or the villainous arch-enemy the group has been foiling again and again for in-game months, will stay and fight until they're knocked unconscious or killed. There is zero survival instinct in most pen-and-paper RPGs, and most of the time people just accept that as how it works. However, if you add morale and intelligence into those it's appropriate for (pretty much anything with an intelligence score that isn't being mind-controlled), encounters can be made easier with tactical assaults.

Hit points are a representation of damage taken... only a complete idiot is going to stand around and take it when he's getting carved up by a barbarian's greataxe, unless he has dire reason to risk his life to stop this guy and his group. Even a basic animal is going to run away if it realizes it's outmatched... an animal with no survival instinct is an animal that does not grow to adulthood. Even among disciplined groups, if you identify and take out the commander, it can often break morale and cause the lower-level troops to retreat, since if there's no one to identify the fact that they broke ranks and retreated, they're not as likely to stick around and get slaughtered like their leader just did.

Creating encounters that don't have to last all the way until one side runs out of hit points can make things easier on a group with less access to healing/magical buffs & damage. Another thing this opens up is tactical situations that open up less-often-used abilities and feats... I've never seen a character take Improved Bull Rush, or rarely even use it, since it's a standard action that does no damage outside pushing someone off a cliff or into a fire, but if that standard action instead allows you to push a minion out of your way in order to get closer to the commander that you need to kill to make said minion (and his buddies) run away, it suddenly becomes a much more alluring feat/action choice.

Ya Again I agree, you could run a game completely without magic but the problem is that makes it very hard because of No Healing / No Curing.

And the removal of magic doesn't truly effect anything else. Every other role does in fact get filled by some one else.
So you might think about making wands/potions cheeper in the game along with having Inquisiers/Bards in the game.

I'm currently in a group which had just an Inquisitor and Summoner for the first two levels

we are running on one healing potion per person per dungeon, a Druid and his companion didn't raise the overall healing when he joined (he needs the prepared extra healing for the companion)
it's amazing on how careful you get with the risk your character is willing to take when there is no healer around to keep you alive.

Originally Posted by blackstarraven View Post
Ya Again I agree, you could run a game completely without magic but the problem is that makes it very hard because of No Healing / No Curing.
I can't remember the last time my players cast a healing spell (lots of wand and lay on hands, never an actual spell). Granted, I use the VP/WP system from Unearthed Arcana - that helps out a great deal, as I have 'em recover 1 VP per level per hour of rest and 1 WP per day of rest. They recover quicker from most fights, but a real beating sticks.

My players rarely run casters, and when they do they tend to be gishes or blasters - so playing a mundane-only party is certainly viable with minimum modifications to the rules, provided they get useful magical equipment and the DM does what he's supposed to do and not throw impossible encounters at them (unless he intends for them to be impossible).

Some brought up the potential for anything other than humanoids and mundane beasts to be a problem - that's easily solved. Save 'em for boss fights. If the players get ready access to things like Oil of Magic Weapon, there's no problem having them use that for the odd fight with a DR-protected monster. As the characters themselves demonstrate, ordinary humanoids can be a threat at any level - you just have to slap class levels on 'em.

I'll try to summarize this;

Less Encounters - Even with someone with a bag full of wands of Cure Light Wounds, at any level past 5 other things like ability loss or conditions or poison or disease are going to come up a lot and the party will have basically no way of dealing with it - it'll be 'go back to town get the town cleric to cast spells' time. You could give them anime-style recovery to counteract this, sleeping removes everything but plot-related conditions, and fast healing 1. You'll also have to be careful with Extended Encounters, i.e. wave after wave of enemies, because normally they could heal up in between waves but 1d8/turn is not very fast.

Easier Encounters - Without a wizard to shut down enemies, a cleric to buff the party, a bard to DFI everyone up, melee are vastly less powerful. Even optimized melee will feel the pinch, so you'll have to go even lower than your group's normal level of optimization in terms of encounters, in order to not TPK the party.

Puzzle Monster Encounters - Some puzzle monsters require certain spells or magic weapons or whatever and this could be a problem for your group especially if they haven't planned ahead (and without ubiquitous divination it's hard to plan ahead). Additionally they probably won't have spellcraft or Kn:Arcana unless the rogue takes it.

Horde Encounters - These can be boring if you haven't got someone set up to cut through dozens of enemies per round (and doing that is so prohibitively expensive in DnD that likely if you do he'll be useless at everything else). So i'd limit them a touch, or use a smaller horde of tougher monsters, or just handwave a scene with real threats and a horde and say 'and after the shaman and chief go down you stab all the mook goblins and they die or run away'.

Magical Runes, other puzzles - a rogue might be able to cover this but you might want to steer away from it if your rogue doesn't pick up spellcraft or kn: arcana.

Flight - things with flight should get a +2-+4 CR adjustment because the best thing your party is going to be able to do is plink away at them from the ground for the first 8 or so levels, and even after, a hit to their flying mount or sundering their flight item is going to really screw with them (and no wizard to cast featherfall).

Ambushes - will screw with them a lot more without divination or insta-BFC (solid fog halves the ambush round 1).

Harrying - seen as the way to defeat a spellcaster heavy party, it's actually more true for mundanes that are relying on wands to heal and potions to buff and stuff. If they can't get back to town, they'll eventually reach the 'we're screwed' point without any healing or ways to fly or whatever. So if you intend to harry them, you'll have to reduce the severity of the encounters accordingly.

Originally Posted by Viletta Vadim View Post
At that point, why are you playing D&D? It's an extraordinarily high-magic system, and E6 is one of the few elegant ways to even begin to get around that. You'd be better off with something like Burning Wheel or Pendragon or L5R.

Also? If a GM tells me the PCs aren't allowed to be full casters in order to create a low-magic setting, and then has full casters as NPCs and enemies, I'm pissed. You're denying me over half the classes in the game (literally), and most of the material in the game. That's not something I'll let over easy.

If you want the game to not work like D&D, play not-D&D.
I'm recalling a Conan module for AD&D that was low-magic. Wizards were NPC enemies, never players. No clerics either. They added faster healing I think too, to help with that last part. I remember, one encounter was your party versus 100 2nd level fighter horsemen. Good times.

Another way to change the magic setting level is to make spellcasters a prestige class. Say you need 8 ranks of K: Arcana to become a wizard, 8 ranks of K: Religion to become a cleric.

Originally Posted by Arentak View Post
I'm recalling a Conan module for AD&D that was low-magic. Wizards were NPC enemies, never players. No clerics either. They added faster healing I think too, to help with that last part. I remember, one encounter was your party versus 100 2nd level fighter horsemen. Good times.
1) Comparing AD&D to Pathfinder is about as apt as comparing AD&D to Shadowrun. They are extraordinarily different systems.

2) AD&D was not a good system. It was an incoherent and incomplete mess. Yes, you can have a blast with an incoherent mess of a game; it's still an incoherent mess. Most who enjoy it have a combination of nostalgia from their youths when game design really wasn't any good and there wasn't much to compare to, plus a slim selection of games to begin with so that if you wanted to do anything odd, you had to kludge something, and familiarity hard-built over a great deal of time from decades spent learning how to iron out the wrinkles from this specific game.

3) All games have their strengths and weaknesses. Pathfinder is, on its most basic level, a high-magic game of killing things and taking their stuff. You can add more on top of that framework, yes, but in the end, if that's not what you want, you should play a different game because Pathfinder is not very flexible outside of its niche. Problems are meant to be solved by magic, to the detriment of nonmagic; there just aren't rules for getting lots of things done by mundane means, and those that are there tend to be glossed over and not much of a game. For example, if you have a +10 Heal skill, you're pretty much as good as a doctor can be, succeeding on absolutely everything by taking ten save a scant few diseases and poisons so long as you have a medical kit.

Point being, if you want a low-magic game, you're pretty much excising or downplaying so much of the game that you've stopped playing to its strengths. Why not run Savage Worlds, for something simpler that's just as robust for what you want emphasized, or Burning Wheel, or Pendragon, or L5R, or GURPS, or 7th Sea, or Dungeon World, or Dragon Age, or FATE, or Primetime Adventures, which would all be playing to their strengths here?

4) Give the players the toys. If the game's biggest, most involved subsystem for doing Cool Things (tm) is pretty much exclusive to the NPCs, that's a recipe for disaster. If you don't want the PCs to be super super magic heavy or solving their problems with spells, don't pick a game that devotes over a quarter of the core book to wall-to-wall magic; find a game that actually focuses on not-magic.

Actually Shadowrun is a lot more like ADND than Pathfinder, having played all three systems.

You can run a low magic game. You just have to be realistic about what you're doing. Some people like the minimalist approach, and it does work in DnD if you design the campaign and world with that expectation.

The problem is when you throw non-magical characters into a standard dnd world with standard dnd magic and standard dnd threats.

If you're running Tome, nonmagical classes can handle a lot more, too.

My Goddamn series of classes are designed to handle not having a spellcaster on hand, and do so with a decent amount of style.


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