Feat Observant: What would balance swapping passive perception bonus for active perception

My DM doesn’t tend to use passive perception of the players, he’ll just get us to roll active perception in most cases. We tend to use perception far more than any other skill in the game.

When a new player joined playing a monk, they wanted to take the ‘Observant’ feat, but didn’t like that the +5 to passive perception would probably not be used. The DM said fine, we’ll just make that +5 to your perception skill, which pushes him to +9 perception at level 2. I’m concerned this overpowers the feat, as he’s already getting an ability point boost from it as well.

How might we change the ‘Observant’ feat so that it’s not useless, but also not inbalanced?

How to balance combat for a duet campaign with non-frontliner classes?

I’m in the process of creating a campaign and in the time leading up to it I’ve been running a few duets, or one-on-one, campaigns via a play-by-post format. I’ve been struggling though to create tense or threatening combat without being outright unfair. I’m used to creating combat encounters in which there is a full and diverse party, a couple casters, martials, and utility, but balancing combat for a single player is quite difficult, especially when one of my duets is with a Cleric, and another is with a Rogue.

The players are able to temporarily recruit companions during the Duet, which will usually just be NPCs or friendly creatures, using CR rather than essentially giving the player a second character (entering Trio territory). They will only ever be able to have one of these companions but will typically be alone.

I’m confident with creating encounters for a lone Fighter, Monk, Barbarian or other frontline class, but less so when it comes to pure casters and utility classes like Clerics, Rogues, Bards, etc.
If it helps, I am running a homebrew module and setting, so I have large amounts of flexibility when it comes to how I run the encounters. I also have access to most the official sources for creatures and will use a variety of them, including re-flavours to mimic combat diversity.

How do I balance the combat fairly in a duet campaign for non-frontline classes without diminishing threat or perceived threat?

How to balance an encounter with Challenge Rating zero creatures against PCs?

The Homonculus is described as a Challenge Rating (CR) 0 creature with five hit points and a poison attack that if PCs fail a DC10 CON check by five causes unconsciousness for 1d10 minutes.

According to the MM (p.9):

A monster’s challenge rating tells you how great a threat the monster is. An appropriately equipped and well-rested party of four adventurers should be able to defeat a monster that has a challenge rating equal to its level without suffering any deaths. For example, a party of four 3rd-level characters should find a monster with a challenge rating of 3 to be a worthy challenge, but not a deadly one.

As we understand it, a CR1 creatures is considered an even match for four level 1 PCs. A CR 1/8 creature would need eight creatures to be an even match for level 1 PCs.

That math doesn’t seem to work out for CR0 creatures as it seems to imply an infinite number of creatures would be required to create an even match.

How does one calculate an even match with CR0 creatures? Given the Homonculi’s rather powerful poison attack, how many Homonculi would be an even match for a party of Level 1 PCs?

How to balance a low level adventure for higher level players?

I am the DM of a group just finishing the 5E starting adventure – Lost Mines of Phandelver.

I intend to tie the story we created directly into Tyranny of Dragons. The problem is that the players are already level 4, while Horde of the Dragon Queen is and adventure set to start at level 1.

What are the best techniques to balance the encounters to the player levels?

What would the balance implications be of removing the spell school restriction of learning spells for Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters?

Both Eldritch Knights (a subclass of fighters) and Arcane Tricksters (a subclass of rogues) pull their spells from the wizard spell list, albeit in a limited way. The way in which they do this is by only being allowed to choose spells from the evocation and abjuration schools, in the case of eldritch knights, or from only choosing from illusion and enchantment, in the case of arcane tricksters. Both classes also get very small amounts of any spell they want from the wizard spell list.

How unbalanced would it be to allow both these subclasses to choose spells regardless of school from the wizard spell list? Good comparisons may include comparisons to half casters, and of course to changes in how these classes could play.

Two-Weapon Fighting Mechanic Balance

Two-Weapon Fighting Mechanic: proposed alteration

When you take the Attack Action and you attack with a light melee weapon that you are holding in one hand (called your Main-hand), you can make an equal number of attacks with a different light melee weapon in our other hand(called your Off-hand). You don’t add your ability modifier to the Off-hand damage unless it is negative.

If you do this, the damage die of both weapons is capped at 1d4 and you cannot disengage or hide this turn and stop disengaging or hiding if you already are.

If either weapon has the thrown property, you can instead throw the weapon, instead of making a melee attack with it.

Two-Weapon Fighting Style- proposed alteration

When Two-weapon Fighting you add half your ability modifier, rounded up, to both weapons instead of all of it to one. You can draw or stow an additional weapon, if it is one-handed.

Dual Wielder- proposed alteration

You master fighting with two weapons, gaining the following benefits:

  • You gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a separate melee weapon in each hand.

  • You can use two-weapon fighting even when the one handed melee weapons you are wielding aren’t light. Both weapon’s damage die is instead capped at 1d6 rather than 1d4.

  • Once per round, if you are wielding a light melee weapon in each hand, you can make an Opportunity Attack without using your Reaction. You may at this time, make a second Opportunity Attack against the same target if you wish.

A while ago I put up a question for a balance pass on a homebrew fix for the Two-Weapon Fighting Style found here.

A lot of people gave good advice and critiques by pointing out that my proposed solution had nothing/little to do with the problems I stated were the issues fueling the fix. So I changed my angle and took some time to really boil it down to what was needed and, hopefully, what would help.

To reiterate, the issues that I have with vanilla Two-Weapon Fighting are as follows:

  1. In order to have both weapons out at the start of any fight a player has to either always have one weapon drawn, take a feat, or use an action. This one is almost entirely flavor oriented, but it makes it feel very clunky.

  2. It is the most costly of the various methods of fighting (sword and board, great weapon, ranged, etc) since it requires a bonus action to make the secondary attacks. None of the other ways of fighting require this level of a player’s combat resources to work and as the player gets more uses for their Bonus Action, it becomes costlier.

  3. It doesn’t scale in any shape other than increasing your fighting stat or acquiring a second magical weapon. It doesn’t benefit from Extra Attack features and so for most classes, it has diminishing benefits for an increasingly expensive cost.

All these issues work together to make the mechanic feel both underwhelming and underperforming. So I figured that the Two-Weapon Mechanic, its Fighting Style, and the Dual Wielder feat all had to be addressed simultaneously to work.

Taking all of this into consideration, do the above alterations to the mechanic, Fighting Style, and Feat address the raised issues in a way that retains the innate elegance the Vanilla versions have while also not being better than competing methods of fighting, such as great weapon or sword and board? Does it allow for multiple flavors of dual Wielders? Or is there any edge case that makes this go topsy-turvy in a bad way?

If you could show the math involved with answering any of these or leaving a link to a spot that does would be very appreciated. Thoughtful answers are welcome though!

Polearm, reach homebrew weapon for Kensei Monk balance

I will be running a campaign and one of my players wants to play specifically a Kensei Monk with a polearm weapon that has reach and is not heavy or special, so he can use it as kensei weapon. He wants to play variant human with the sentinel and polearm master feats. At level one I presume he would pick one of those. To balance a weapon for him I read this question and they say it would be balanced with either a 1d6 long quarterstaff or 1d8 long spear. But it seems to me that the combinations with feats is still too strong especially with the sentinel feat at level 1. I wanted to allow either a 1d6 weapon with any starting feat, or a 1d8 weapon with the condition that the first feat cannot be sentinel. My reasoning is that the character would have too much damage and too good control at level 1. Reducing the movement speed to 0 on a wrong move seems very strong.

So I see two possible solutions:

  1. The answer to the linked question applies to this one regardless of feats, in which case sorry to bother.
  2. My reasoning would be a better balance and can be applied.

Which of the two proposed solutions is correct?

Let me know if any more information is necessary.

Thank you for your time!

How to balance encounters after the loss of the frontline fighters?

I’ve been running a pathfinder game for some time. Up until now I think I have done a fairly good job of balancing encounters, the party is about to reach level 7 and there have only been 2 deaths but many many close calls. This is exactly the kind of risk level I want in this campaign.

The party has consisted of a barbarian, bard, druid, paladin and wizard. A fairly balanced party composition that have learned to synergise reasonably well. The barbarian and paladin are the main frontliners with the other supporting them with spellcasting and ranged attacks.

My issue is the barbarian was killed last session and the player is most likely to replace them with an oracle instead. Additional my paladin player informed me that he will be moving overseas for a year next month so he is out as well.

What changes do I need to make to my encounter design to allow for the loss of the frontline fighters?

I’m looking for advice from GMs who have experience similar situations, or have run campaigns for parties that are lacking in melee characters.

What are the possible balance implications for houseruling INT as Paladin’s spellcasting ability and class features?

Related (yet different): What is the source of a Paladin’s spell-casting ability?

Related (strongly): What are the impacts of changing a Ranger’s spellcasting ability? (I don’t know if everything that’s said about the Ranger is applicable to the Paladin)

My player wants to create (L1) an investigator-type paladin (of the Inquisition) and asked that Intelligence becomes the character’s spell-casting ability and, if possible, also class features ability (e.g. Lay on Hands).

PHB states that:

Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your paladin spells, since their power derives from the strength of your convictions. You use your Charisma whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a paladin spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Since they are not asking for extra skills than the ones already provided by race, class & background, i.e. Paladins can pick from two Charisma skills (Intimidation, Persuasion) and one Intelligence skill (Religion) at character creation, I don’t see any system-unbalancing issue in this approach.

To be clear, my issue is not the fluff of “the strength of convictions” (I’ll probably trump it as “rigorous reasoning” ala Sherlock Holmes) but whether the PC becomes over/under -powered, compared to the normal Charisma-based option, over the short and long run.

In case it is relevant, it is a Human-only (for PCs) campaign, with options only from PHB (feats included) excluding multi-classing.