The Game Changes at Level 5

19 Dec

As your character gains levels, they will become more specialized. Your character has a couple things that they are really good at, and they will certainly try to spend most combats following that one strategy, whether it be summoning monsters, full attack power attack with a greatsword, or yelling insults at enemies to get them to attack your super high AC instead of squishy party members. The problem is, your enemies also have some things that they are very good at and sometimes their strategy trumps yours. A lot of these are things you can prepare for if you know they exist. However, if this is your first higher level character, you may not be aware of the effects and strategies at these levels. Here are some things you can expect.


You’re starting to make enough money a scenario where dropping 750 gold for a consumable item is something that is reasonable to do. If you don’t want to spend the gold, a potion of fly is also conveniently 2 prestige. Of course, if you’re an arcane caster, you either have access to fly or will be getting it shortly, and divine casters are getting air walk in their next spell level. Druids meanwhile turn into a bird and laugh at all the silly non-wild shapers down there trying to take to the air. The fact is, sometimes the terrain will be so inhospitable that flying is your best option. Or the enemies are flying and your ranged weapons aren’t doing much to them. Or your ranged weapons are doing things to them, but you need a melee person to get up in their face so the flying archers stop focusing on the squishy guys in the back. Flying becomes very important as you level up and every character should think about how they will fly as they level.

Flying Gorilla

Even gorillas think about how they are going to fly…


PFS loves darkness effects, especially deeper darkness. It’s possible that you may have come across deeper darkness already. Up until now, daylight was a hard spell to access, but now you can start preparing it. If you’re not a spellcaster, an oil of daylight is 750 gold or 2 prestige. (Of course, original flavor aasimars are laughing at us.) That being said, there are two ways of interpreting the way daylight and deeper darkness interact. The first says that daylight cancels out deeper darkness and it is bright light in the area, the second says that daylight cancels out deeper darkness’ light reducing clause but doesn’t stop the natural lights from being shut off so it’s still dark. If you 100% want to make sure you can see no matter who your GM is, you might want to also pick up some way of getting darkvision.

Or you could do my favorite anti-darkness tactic. Obscuring Mist. You’re stopping us from being able to see? We’ll do the same to you. Even if you only get 20% concealment, that stops the sneak attack that a lot of darkness-users have.

Damage Reduction

At low levels, you probably had to deal with DR/bludgeoning, DR/piercing, DR/slashing, and potentially DR/magic. Now you’ll have some more types to deal with. Monsters are going to start caring more about what type of material your weapon is made out of, so you should look to make sure you have a weapon made out of silver, cold iron and adamantine. In fact, adamantine tends to be a popular special material due to the fact that a lot of the things with DR/adamantine tend to be golems and therefore immune to most magic and have high amounts they shave off if the attack isn’t adamantine. When you’re looking to update your golf bag of weapons, it’s worth poking around the special materials section of Ultimate Equipment to see what cool stuff you can get. (Also, if you can get your weapon’s enhancement bonus really high, you can overcome some types of material DR.)

Not only that, but alignment-based DR is starting to show up. Evil outsiders tend to have DR/good. Be careful, this doesn’t mean that you have to be good, it means that your weapon has to be good-aligned. Pretty much the only way to do this permanently is to have a holy weapon, but that is expensive. Other options include getting align weapon (good) cast, either as an oil or by asking your nearest divine caster, or getting bless weapon cast, again either as an oil or by asking your nearest paladin. Generally, if you’re picking up a consumable, you’re better off picking up bless weapon since it’s cheaper (1st level spell vs. 2nd level spell) and it has some other cool effects. That being said, a lot of low-level evil outsiders have DR/good or material, so if you’ve been keeping up with materials, you shouldn’t be too bad off.

Of course, you will occasionally run into strange DR. My favorite is the Penanggalen, which has DR/silver and slashing. It’s great because slashing silver weapons do 1 less damage by default, so nobody ever buys silver slashing weapons. Occasionally you will run into DR that you aren’t prepared for, but with proper buying, you can bypass most types of DR with a couple cheap weapons.


Rawr! Your silver mace has no power vs me!

4th Level Spells

It’s a good bet that enemy spellcasters are going to have access to 1 level of spells higher than you. Now that your wizards and clerics have access to 3rd level spells, some of your enemies are going to have access to 4th level spells. Let’s check them out to see what we need to worry about.

Black Tentacles This spell is a game changer. Grappled is a brutal condition, especially if the thing that is grappling you isn’t another person, but a spell effect that you can’t attack. This spell is why everyone, especially spellcasters, want some way of getting out of grapple. Teleportation effects off of magic items work well, although they tend to be a little expensive at this level. Grease is a great spell for defending against grapples, although you’ll have to make a concentration check if you’re grappled to cast it. (Unless you thought ahead and put it in a cracked vibrant purple prism ioun stone ahead of time.) If you managed not to get caught in the black tentacles but other party members have, liberating command is an absolutely amazing spell from Ultimate Combat you should consider, especially if you are a spontaneous caster. That being said, if you are a full BAB, high Strength character, you might just have the CMB/CMD to defend against this without needing to prepare. Oils of grease are pretty cheap though…

Confusion Spells like this make me never want to dump wisdom. The random actions may seem harmless, but the real problem comes when one of the confused people rolls “Attack nearest creature” and attacks another confused person. According to the text of confusion, both parties must now continue to attack each other until the end of the spell. There are a couple ways of getting around this. If you’re currently confused, a simple surmount affliction if you roll “Act normally” will clear it for a couple rounds. If you don’t have access to surmount affliction, throwing your weapons far away from you and running in the opposite direction tends to be a good plan. If you did make your save but somebody else didn’t, the Inner Sea World Guide continues to show the ridiculous stuff it has in it with the spell unbreakable heart. But most importantly – the best way to defend against confusion is just to not have a bad will save. Don’t skimp on your saves!

There are a lot more spells that show up at this level, but black tentacles and confusion are the two big ones. If you want to see what other spells you might be up against at this level, check out the 4th level wizard and cleric spell lists. Here are some other notable spells to look up if you’re not aware of them: bestow curse, dimension door, fear, freedom of movement, phantasmal killer, rainbow pattern, resilient sphere, stoneskin, and summon monster IV.

Spell Resistance

If you’re a spellcaster who casts offensive spells, you’re going to start running into spell resistance if you haven’t already. Spell resistance is really annoying, since a lot of spells allow for it and creatures tend to have a high SR. An average creature’s spell resistance is 11 + the creature’s CR, which means if you’re fighting a CR 7 creature in a scenario, they have an average SR of 18, which a 5th level caster needs a 13 on the dice to beat – a 40% chance to have your spells go off, as opposed to the 100% chance that you’ve normally been enjoying.

Babau Demon

Demons are also known for their Spell Resistance. Seems like a good thing to know for Year of the Demon…

Fortunately, there are a number of ways of beating this. If you’re an elf, you have a +2 to beat SR baked into your racial traits already. Also, if you’ve been building up to cast one spell at a really high caster level, that really high caster level also helps you overcome SR when you cast that one spell. For those of us who are not elves or focusing on one spell, the Core Rulebook helps us out with Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration. If you don’t have the feat slot to spare but don’t mind spending a bit of money, a lesser rod of piercing metamagic will help you get through 3 times a day, and dweomer essence is a 500gp consumable that you use in a spell to give it a +5 bonus to spell resistance checks. Combine both for super SR punching power!

However, the best way of beating spell resistance is to just use spells that don’t allow for them. Conjuration specialist wizards have been rocking at this forever since most conjuration spells don’t allow for spell resistance. (Your SR won’t help you when you fall into this pit!) Also buff spells like haste and bless tend to be really good since your allies don’t tend to have spell resistance. (Unless they’re a dwarf, but that’s a special case.)

Finishing Thoughts

First of all, that was a lot of info and a lot of things to buy. Even though I advocate spending a lot of money, in reality you should be spending most of your money making sure that your main strategies work well. Prioritize your spending – you don’t need everything right away, and you also don’t have to take care of everything by yourself. Read over the article, click on the links, and learn about what you could face. Because even if you can’t protect yourself against everything on this list, knowing is half the battle. Besides, you would be surprised by what you can overcome by retreating back, resting for a moment, and re-entering the fight with a brand new battle plan.


Posted by on December 19, 2013 in Advice, Articles


5 responses to “The Game Changes at Level 5

  1. Rudolf

    December 19, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Calm Emotions counters Confusion (and a lot more), it’s really on the must-have scroll list by 5th level.

    My other bit of advice is…spread out a bit. Packing the entire group into a 20′ blast radius isn’t healthy.

    • GreySector

      December 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      I’m not sure that calm emotions works without a save (it isn’t a harmless spell like unbreakable heart) so a scroll might not be the best option.

      • phillypfs

        December 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        That’s one problem with Calm Emotions. Another problem is that any aggressive action towards a calmed creature breaks the spell on all creatures, which means that if you don’t happen to get the bad guy to fail his will save against calm emotions, he attacks one of the confused targets and the spell ends. Not only that, but since the target wasn’t confused when the attack happened, he doesn’t even focus on the bad guy – he goes back to either focusing on someone else or rolling randomly, depending on what he started out doing. Calm Emotions seems like a great spell, but it has way too many holes for it to be useful in my opinion.


  2. Steven Sior

    December 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Re: DR/Silver – While more expensive than alchemical silver, mithral weapons deal damage as if silvered, without the pesky -1 to damage. They also weigh 1/2 their weight when compared to non-mithral items. Yes, 2,015gp for a mithral longsword vs 105gp for a silvered longsword is a BIG gap, even against the 405gp for a *masterwork* silvered longsword, but consider that they’re also harder to sunder, and easier on your carrying capacity. Just a thought.

  3. Benn Roe

    December 19, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Don’t forget that magical enhancement bonuses will help with overcoming DR!

    +3 counts as cold iron or silver
    +4 counts as adamantine
    +5 counts as all alignments


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