Author Topic: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems  (Read 6909 times)

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Necrosnoop110

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Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« on: September 23, 2011, 01:45:51 AM »
My groups 8th level Psion Shaper is causing two minor problems at the table these days.

(1) His astral constructs are starting to become so strong at this level that they are overshadowing the fighter and ranger in combat.

(2) I'm having trouble opposing these astral constructs without obviously designing opponents who can best them.

Any ideas?

Thanks,
Necro

AriasDerros

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2011, 01:55:51 AM »
(1) This really ends up being more about the fact that Fighter and Ranger fail to scale up at the proper rate compared to other classes than the construct spell, even with specialist feats, being strong. EDIT: Couldn't remember the term earlier. They got CAPed.

(2) What kind of issues are you having opposing it? Examples would help analysis and suggestions.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 02:47:48 AM by AriasDerros »

Necrosnoop110

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2011, 03:25:48 AM »
(2) What kind of issues are you having opposing it? Examples would help analysis and suggestions.
The astral constructs just grapple (huge grapple scores) and then ground and pound with full round attacks regularly outputting 50+ hps of damage per round. And at 8th level they can now fly. Most of the time I feel like my NPCs have no room to breathe and are always being pinned down by relentless astral constructs. (Note: my campaign is largely set in the deep underdark)

Now, I realize that constructs have weak saves but still. It seems like I either have to throw in meat shields who specifically tie up the astral construct over and above anyone else or have casters target them. I can only do this if the NPCs are intelligent and/or coordinated. Last game the astral construct just about soloed a guardian naga before the rest of melee combatants could get close enough to even attack. (Note: My PCs are largely unoptimized in the CO sense of the term but yet they are all "play" smartly, for the most part).

I guess I'm looking for alternate ways to tone down the effectiveness of the astral construct without my psion feeling like I'm unfairly picking on him and his tactics. (Note: the psion is the most optimized in the group) I realize that everyone should have their moment to shine but it seems like the astral constructs are hogging the spotlight too often.      
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 03:36:04 AM by Necrosnoop110 »

AriasDerros

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2011, 03:47:51 AM »
(2) What kind of issues are you having opposing it? Examples would help analysis and suggestions.
The astral constructs just grapple and then ground and pound with full round attacks regularly outputting 50+ hps of damage per round. And at 8th level they can now fly.

Now, I realize that constructs have weak saves but still. It seems like I either have to throw in meat shields who specifically tie up the astral construct over and above anyone else or have casters target them. I can only do this if the NPCs are intelligent and/or coordinated. Last game the astral construct just about soloed a guardian naga before the rest of melee combatants could get close enough to even attack. (My PCs are largely unoptimized).

I guess I'm looking for alternate ways to tone down the effectiveness of the astral construct without my psion feeling like I'm unfairly picking on him and his tactics.     

So the main issue is the grapple-monkey effect.

Option A) Freedom of Movement is a 4th level spell, it would not be unimaginable for some enemies to have access to it
Option B) Dimension Door is a 4th level spell
Option C) Martial Adepts: Swordsages can Shadow Jaunt or Stride; Warblades have stances and maneuvers that are good for grappling
Option D) For lulz, Monks. They normally suck, but they can survive.
Option E) Find monsters with high grapples for their CR (Balhannoth out of MM4)
Option F) Find monsters with odd abilities (Balhannoth out of MM4, if you are using magic-psionic transparency. Or the Summoning Ooze, for is medicine)
Option G) As you said, tactics. Dungeonscape has a few ideas, and I like them a lot.

The list goes on. It doesn't really matter what abilities he has, there are ways to shut them down. The problem is challenging the powerful character, and not wiping the rest of the party. And a Psion vs a Fighter and a Ranger might not be as bad as a Cleric in the hands of someone who knows how to use him, but the disparity is just going to get much worse as levels get higher. As I said. They got CAPed.

rot42

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2011, 04:06:43 AM »
1) Hand out targeted magic items in treasure hoards? This lets you selectively break wealth-by-level. You can guard against the players selling them by, say, having them find "Gloves of the Balanced Hand of the Ogre's Power" or whatever that bumps two-weapon fighting *and* enhances strength. Eighth level is a good time to look into becoming airborne; Astral Constructs can select flight, but it is a bit slow and precludes selecting a different option. Astral Constructs get a whopping +0 to Spot, and have no native means of seeing invisible creatures; enforce the rules for directing the construct - if the Psion sees an invisible creature they can direct it to attack the correct square, but it is still fighting blind.

Add a War Weaver (Heroes of Battle) cohort if nobody likes buffing the party. Their signature ability relies on specifying buff targets at the beginning of the day.

2) More combats per day (and night). A level 8 Psion with a 20 Int gets 78 power points per day, or nine full-power manifestations before running dry. This works especially well with drawn out combats (reinforcements are drawn to the scene by all the clanging, or the trees are full of archers using mobile sniping tactics). A dungeon with yet another CR-1 encounter around every corner should at least make them consider being less profligate with the pp.

Battlefield control spells - the PCs should have a way of getting out of the Black Tentacles, but the construct will just have to power through unless someone spends an action teleporting it. Bonus points if the Psion has access to Dimension Swap (Expanded Knowledge, UMD, or whatever) and has to swap the construct in to a dangerous situation; as a player, this feels like someone just kidnapped Bruce Banner and is not unfun at all.

Unbeliever

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2011, 03:08:14 PM »
...
2) More combats per day (and night). A level 8 Psion with a 20 Int gets 78 power points per day, or nine full-power manifestations before running dry. This works especially well with drawn out combats (reinforcements are drawn to the scene by all the clanging, or the trees are full of archers using mobile sniping tactics). A dungeon with yet another CR-1 encounter around every corner should at least make them consider being less profligate with the pp.
This is a really important balancer when you have spellcasters and melee'ers in the same party.  Only a few encounters really tips things in favor of the spellcasters, especially(?) for a psion. 

I might also use things like Beholders that can still attack while grappled and demolish the constructs.  I wouldn't use them all the time, mind you, but selectively.

Finally, we can do some build help with the Ranger and the Fighter.  The constructs are going to have more brute force than most characters can muster (size, strength, etc.), so those will have to focus on tactics or feat synergy to maintain some level of awesomeness.

PhaedrusXY

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2011, 04:03:54 PM »
Add an NPC bard with optimized Inspire Courage. Since it is Mind-Affecting, the constructs won't benefit from it, but the party ranger and fighter will.

More fights per day and adding items for those PCs are also good suggestions. However, Astral Construct is one of the most efficient powers a psion can use. So just adding more combat encounters might not actually work, if he's very careful about conserving power points. It's not like the rest of the party doesn't have resources that get depleted, after all. Even beatsticks have to worry about healing/hit points. The ranger and fighter might not like being pandered to with artifact swords, either.
[spoiler]
A couple of water benders, a dike, a flaming arrow, and a few barrels of blasting jelly?

Sounds like the makings of a gay porn film.
...thanks
[/spoiler]

archangel.arcanis

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2011, 04:14:47 PM »
Keep in mind the higher level constructs get pretty big. Just have an occasional fight in a space too small for the psion to use his max level of construct. Also 4th level construct only has a +10 grapple, that isn't huge for this level so there must be something more going on here.
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Risada

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2011, 04:54:33 PM »
Keep in mind the higher level constructs get pretty big. Just have an occasional fight in a space too small for the psion to use his max level of construct. Also 4th level construct only has a +10 grapple, that isn't huge for this level so there must be something more going on here.

Maybe the psion is using Overchannel to make 5th level ACs? IIRC, these are Large, with nearly +20 to grapple... right?

Sjappo

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2011, 05:14:31 PM »
Maybe have a talk about classes and the tier they're in? Compliment the Psion for having good tactics but politely ask him to tone it down a little? As has been said, Tier 2 will easily overshadow Tier 5 PC's in the same party. So without player consent you'll get nowhere.

archangel.arcanis

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2011, 05:29:28 PM »
Keep in mind the higher level constructs get pretty big. Just have an occasional fight in a space too small for the psion to use his max level of construct. Also 4th level construct only has a +10 grapple, that isn't huge for this level so there must be something more going on here.

Maybe the psion is using Overchannel to make 5th level ACs? IIRC, these are Large, with nearly +20 to grapple... right?
Level 5 is large and +18 grapple.
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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2011, 03:05:47 AM »
What about encouraging rebuilds for these physical characters?  A Fighter can become a Warblade and a Ranger can become a Sublime Ranger.
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Necrosnoop110

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2011, 10:10:07 PM »
Finally, we can do some build help with the Ranger and the Fighter.  The constructs are going to have more brute force than most characters can muster (size, strength, etc.), so those will have to focus on tactics or feat synergy to maintain some level of awesomeness.

What about encouraging rebuilds for these physical characters?  A Fighter can become a Warblade and a Ranger can become a Sublime Ranger.
Thanks for the offer guys but over half my group just will not optimize. They actively resist it. The reasons vary. Some think it is "cheesy" some think that you can only roleplay "weak" characters.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 05:00:05 AM by Necrosnoop110 »

PhaedrusXY

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2011, 10:18:44 PM »
Finally, we can do some build help with the Ranger and the Fighter.  The constructs are going to have more brute force than most characters can muster (size, strength, etc.), so those will have to focus on tactics or feat synergy to maintain some level of awesomeness.

What about encouraging rebuilds for these physical characters?  A Fighter can become a Warblade and a Ranger can become a Sublime Ranger.
Thanks for the offer guys but over half my group just will not optimize. That actively resist it. The reasons vary. Some think it is "cheesy" some think that you can only roleplay "weak" characters.
My level of sympathy has reached a new low...
[spoiler]
A couple of water benders, a dike, a flaming arrow, and a few barrels of blasting jelly?

Sounds like the makings of a gay porn film.
...thanks
[/spoiler]

veekie

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2011, 10:55:41 PM »
You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

You can drown him just fine though!
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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #15 on: October 05, 2011, 11:12:38 PM »
DROW HORDE!

Seriously.  Roll up a bunch of Drow mooks in the level 3-5 range, and send a half-dozen of them at the party at a time.  In spite of the lower level, a level 5 Cleric/Wizard/Psion is still perfectly capable of giving the party some issues for a minor encounter, especially when spells randomly fizzle on them, and a level 4 Fighter wielding a Guisarme with Close-Quarters Fighting, Combat Reflexes, Improved Trip... Difficult to get past.

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2011, 02:15:08 AM »
Thanks for the offer guys but over half my group just will not optimize. That actively resist it. The reasons vary. Some think it is "cheesy" some think that you can only roleplay "weak" characters.

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The tier system in a nutshell:
[spoiler]Tier 6: A cartographer.
Tier 5: An expert cartographer or a decent marksman.
Tier 4: An expert marksman.
Tier 3: An expert marksman, cartographer and chef who can tie strong knots and is trained in hostage negotiation or a marksman so good he can shoot down every bullet fired by a minigun while armed with a rusted single-shot pistol that veers to the left.
Tier 2: Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything, or the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.
Tier 1: Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything and the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.[/spoiler]

Necrosnoop110

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2011, 05:04:35 AM »
Finally, we can do some build help with the Ranger and the Fighter.  The constructs are going to have more brute force than most characters can muster (size, strength, etc.), so those will have to focus on tactics or feat synergy to maintain some level of awesomeness.

What about encouraging rebuilds for these physical characters?  A Fighter can become a Warblade and a Ranger can become a Sublime Ranger.
Thanks for the offer guys but over half my group just will not optimize. That actively resist it. The reasons vary. Some think it is "cheesy" some think that you can only roleplay "weak" characters.
My level of sympathy has reached a new low...
It makes balancing encounters crazy difficult. Not only do I have optimizers and non-optimizers at the same table I also have classes that range from tier 5 to tier 1. It's a juggling act. I will give them credit though they pull together as team and often implement smart strategies. It has been holding together so far but the party level has just turned over to 9th level and the cracks are really starting to show. The astral construct upstaging the fighter and ranger is just one example.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 05:07:07 AM by Necrosnoop110 »

PhaedrusXY

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2011, 05:19:44 AM »
And do these clowns people even realize that?
[spoiler]
A couple of water benders, a dike, a flaming arrow, and a few barrels of blasting jelly?

Sounds like the makings of a gay porn film.
...thanks
[/spoiler]

Mooncrow

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Re: Help at the Table: Astral Construct Problems
« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2011, 05:58:57 AM »
And do these clowns people even realize that?

Do they care?  I mean, picking relatively weak classes and then actively not optimizing - that's going to be painful no matter how you handle this. 

That said, X-Codes has the right idea.  You're going to have to swap to encounters with more bodies, probably at least equal to the size of the party.  That lets the Construct guy still do his grapple shtick while negating a smaller percentage of the threat.