Another day, another string of bad luck with my rolls…
I admit that during our last meeting (Tuesday) I was beginning to doubt the statistical reasonableness of my rolls – I consistently rolled below 5 on attack rolls with my bow for the first half of the evening. I shouldn’t complain, though, since later on I ended up rolling a natural 20 on a melee attack with my scimitar that felled a goblin with a single blow. I have some thoughts on criticals that I want to discuss, but I’ll return to that point in a moment.
Moving on to more serious matters, Tuesday’s game went a little more smoothly then previous sessions, since we’re all starting to get comfortable with the flow of gameplay. Combat was still far from fluid, however, and we only got in one complete battle encounter (it was admittedly more challenging than what the GM threw at us last time), in addition to some general progression of the story. What I was happy to see is that we’re all starting to settle into the idiosyncrasies of our characters, learning where they specialize and what their weaknesses are. Pathfinder is game that strongly rewards an effective division of labor, so to speak, between party members, with different players settling into distinct roles that complement each other in combat. We have a ‘tank’ (a barbarian with a devastating attack roll bonus and a great axe dealing 1d12 damage), a healer, a rogue who’s weak in head-on combat but extremely effective at sneak attacks, and myself, an archer with high dexterity that gives me solid ranged attacks. I’m very much looking forward to reaching level 2, however, since that will grant me the ‘precise shot’ combat feat, which will allow me to fire on enemies engaged in melee without penalty.
It’s worth noting that trial and error has been a big part of learning how to use our characters effectively. The biggest lesson of Tuesday? Protect the healer. She got right into the heat of the action, and with her low HP level was taken out very quickly. We ended up stabilizing her, but unfortunately she was forced to waste all her daily spells healing herself, a rather inefficient allocation of our party’s abilities. As for my own character, I’ve definitely learned the value in keeping my distance and using my longbow – it’s range is huge compared to any other weapons we’ve encountered so far. Luckily my strength is sufficiently high that I can get involved in close-quarters combat from time to time and be of some help (though I don’t have a whole lot of hit points, so I do have to be cautious.)
Back to the subject of crits. It’s definitely VERY satisfying to land a crit, dealing double or triple the typical amount of damage, but I do question the game mechanic. The probability of actually landing one is quite low (there’s a 5% chance of rolling a 20, but then you must make a second attack roll exceeding your target’s AC, which I’ll generously estimate to occur 40% of the time, meaning there’s only a 2% chance of landing a true critical hit), but then again the reward is extremely great. I just wonder if it would be better to implement some slightly less powerful bonuses that can be achieved with higher probability. This seems especially important for weaker characters, who can sometimes feel like getting a crit is the only way to deal any real damage. I suppose, however, that this will be less of an issue as our characters level up and further specialize, but it’s definitely something I’ll be thinking about. If nothing else, the ever-present chance (small though it may be) hope for a 20 does make the sometimes monotonous dice-rolling much more exciting.