dnd 4e – What to do when a curse makes a character useless?

So, one day my party and I were walking through the woods, just having a grand ol’ time. I was a Wilden fighter, spec’d for sword-and-board. Suddenly, an owlbear leaped out of the bushes, and after technically putting my flat-footed fighter down in a single hit, the DM intervened and I instead survived the encounter.

Well, most of me did. We then spent the next few sessions seeking out a way to regenerate my severed shield arm, and in the meantime half of my build’s powers and abilities were either useless or significantly less effective.

The point being that if some terrible ill like this has befallen the party, turn it into an adventure/plot hook all on its own. Make a big deal out of what really is a big deal. Drop some hints about where the characters can go, what they can do, to find/make a cure. Send them on a quest to solve this problem.

And in the meantime, be a good GM and take into account your party’s makeup when planning future encounters, but don’t make it obvious that you are. Does this fight call for a dozen minions? Make it 8 instead. Is this supposed to be a L12 Elite? Make it L11.

The entire point of the game is to overcome challenges. Usually these are fights or skill challenges, but diseases and curses are challenges to be defeated, too! If it’s a big enough deal, though, remember to hand out XP for overcoming it! ;-]

dnd 5e – In a low-combat campaign, most PC abilities seem useless; what few fights there are barely use up resources. How do I deal with this as the DM?

This isn’t an uncommon problem, and there are techniques for dealing with it.

I could’ve written this post, a couple years ago. I learned at session 0 that everyone wanted less combat and more intrigue, and had to make that style fit for 5e D&D. As such, everything I suggest below are techniques that I’ve discovered through long-term play of a combat-light D&D5e campaign (about 3 years running, at this point, with characters at 11th level).

“My character sheet is mostly useless!”

Remember that a class is more than the set of bonuses you get. Every class comes imbued with some flavor that gives the character hooks and knowledge outside of combat.

A fighter is a martial expert – someone with a deep understanding of tactics and strategy, and maybe one who the fellow party members look to when violence has already happened or may happen, to avoid a solution. A monk is usually part of an order – their path isn’t necessarily something they’ve discovered on their own. Tie them into an NPC group, especially a powerful or resourceful one. Warlocks create their own story hooks, via the existence of their patron, and most spellcasters have enough out-of-combat utility that they get to use a lot of their abilities on the regular. Give the rogue advantage to notice someone has a concealed knife, even if there’s no hard mechanic for it. If this isn’t enough, find reasons for the party to use their “abilities” outside of the rules. This will often require homebrew, but find something the characters are interested in, and tie it in to the game mechanicaly.

In short, bring out the flavor part of their classes and abilities, and make them matter.

Combats aren’t draining resources in a meaningful way

This is an easy trap to fall into. Once you realize you are only going to have one combat per adventuring day at best, you have to start changing the way you build fights. Throw out CR and the combat deadliness charts from the DMG (almost) entirely while using this advice.

Note that all of these solutions can cause a session or two to be very combat heavy. As long as this isn’t all the time, you’re still fulfilling your promise of lower combat, but verifying that the party is happy with the occasional extended bit of combat is a good idea.

The two major solutions I’ve used to great effect are the gauntlet, and the extended combat. both solutions somewhat hinge on time pressure to some extent. A third option provides an alternative for when you cannot provide pressure the same way. You can have all kinds of hooks for the time pressure, including ones that might make the out-of-combat intrigue easier or more interesting if the party beats a deadline. Tiered rewards based on completion time might cause the party to expend more resources faster in order to get the better “reward”. For example, the party discovers that Tim is going to destroy some evidence then perform a ritual that does “bad stuff”. If they go in guns blazing, they might be able to preserve the evidence while burning a bunch of resources, but if they go in a little safer, they might come out a bit safer, but at the cost of the evidence.

1: The Gauntlet

This is a whole adventuring day compressed down to a small period of time. The time pressure keeps the party from backing down and taking a rest. Tim the Enchanter will finish his ritual in 2 hours if the party doesn’t get through his dungeon and encounter him in his lair, and the party must fight through a small number of linked encounters in a mini-dungeon crawl to get to him, for example.

2: The Extended Combat

This is, in a sense, the same solution as the Gauntlet, but even more compressed. This could be something like a phased fight, with Tim the Enchanter standing behind a wall of force while his minions attempt to kill the party. After the party grinds through the minions, Tim summons more minions and joins the fray. After Tim takes serious damage, he transforms into his true demonic form, and fights the party one last time at “full power”, only after this is he defeated.

Do not build your combats with higher CR monsters, expecting the party’s resources to keep up. The higher tier monsters will just crush the party before they can expend enough resources to win. Instead, you want a slow release of monsters of a reasonable combat equivalence to the party. Draw out the resources over time during a longer combat.

3: The Inescapable Dungeon

My campaign world includes dungeons that the party can optionally enter that provide a reward at the end that hinges on the party completing the task in one go. These can be somewhat meta, if you aren’t careful, but the ancient magical ruins that can tell when someone has left and lock them out of rewards can provide a more traditional session or two that lets the combat-focused characters shine. These are something that got added to my world specifically to help solve the one encounter adventuring day problem, but they do require a spot in your world and a reason to exist.

Use Milestone Experience

This isn’t something you asked about, but I found it very important. Milestone experience helps you abstract advancement away from combat. With you running less combat, advancement will be unbearably slow, unless you stop tying combat to XP.

dnd 5e – In a low-combat campaign, most PC abilities (features, etc.) seem useless; what few fights there are barely use up resources. How do I deal with this?

This isn’t an uncommon problem, and there are techniques for dealing with it.

I could’ve written this post, a couple years ago. I learned at session 0 that everyone wanted less combat and more intrigue, and had to make that style fit for 5e D&D. As such, everything I suggest below are techniques that I’ve discovered through long-term play of a combat-light D&D5e campaign (about 3 years running, at this point, with characters at 11th level).

“My character sheet is mostly useless!”

Remember that a class is more than the set of bonuses you get. Every class comes imbued with some flavor that gives the character hooks and knowledge outside of combat.

A fighter is a martial expert – someone with a deep understanding of tactics and strategy, and maybe one who the fellow party members look to when violence has already happened or may happen, to avoid a solution. A monk is usually part of an order – their path isn’t necessarily something they’ve discovered on their own. Tie them into an NPC group, especially a powerful or resourceful one. Warlocks create their own story hooks, via the existence of their patron, and most spellcasters have enough out-of-combat utility that they get to use a lot of their abilities on the regular. Give the rogue advantage to notice someone has a concealed knife, even if there’s no hard mechanic for it. If this isn’t enough, find reasons for the party to use their “abilities” outside of the rules. This will often require homebrew, but find something the characters are interested in, and tie it in to the game mechanicaly.

In short, bring out the flavor part of their classes and abilities, and make them matter.

Combats aren’t draining resources in a meaningful way

This is an easy trap to fall into. Once you realize you are only going to have one combat per adventuring day at best, you have to start changing the way you build fights. Throw out CR and the combat deadliness charts from the DMG (almost) entirely while using this advice.

Note that all of these solutions can cause a session or two to be very combat heavy. As long as this isn’t all the time, you’re still fulfilling your promise of lower combat, but verifying that the party is happy with the occasional extended bit of combat is a good idea.

The two major solutions I’ve used to great effect are the gauntlet, and the extended combat. both solutions somewhat hinge on time pressure to some extent. A third option provides an alternative for when you cannot provide pressure the same way. You can have all kinds of hooks for the time pressure, including ones that might make the out-of-combat intrigue easier or more interesting if the party beats a deadline. Tiered rewards based on completion time might cause the party to expend more resources faster in order to get the better “reward”. For example, the party discovers that Tim is going to destroy some evidence then perform a ritual that does “bad stuff”. If they go in guns blazing, they might be able to preserve the evidence while burning a bunch of resources, but if they go in a little safer, they might come out a bit safer, but at the cost of the evidence.

1: The Gauntlet

This is a whole adventuring day compressed down to a small period of time. The time pressure keeps the party from backing down and taking a rest. Tim the Enchanter will finish his ritual in 2 hours if the party doesn’t get through his dungeon and encounter him in his lair, and the party must fight through a small number of linked encounters in a mini-dungeon crawl to get to him, for example.

2: The Extended Combat

This is, in a sense, the same solution as the Gauntlet, but even more compressed. This could be something like a phased fight, with Tim the Enchanter standing behind a wall of force while his minions attempt to kill the party. After the party grinds through the minions, Tim summons more minions and joins the fray. After Tim takes serious damage, he transforms into his true demonic form, and fights the party one last time at “full power”, only after this is he defeated.

Do not build your combats with higher CR monsters, expecting the party’s resources to keep up. The higher tier monsters will just crush the party before they can expend enough resources to win. Instead, you want a slow release of monsters of a reasonable combat equivalence to the party. Draw out the resources over time during a longer combat.

3: The Inescapable Dungeon

My campaign world includes dungeons that the party can optionally enter that provide a reward at the end that hinges on the party completing the task in one go. These can be somewhat meta, if you aren’t careful, but the ancient magical ruins that can tell when someone has left and lock them out of rewards can provide a more traditional session or two that lets the combat-focused characters shine. These are something that got added to my world specifically to help solve the one encounter adventuring day problem, but they do require a spot in your world and a reason to exist.

Use Milestone Experience

This isn’t something you asked about, but I found it very important. Milestone experience helps you abstract advancement away from combat. With you running less combat, advancement will be unbearably slow, unless you stop tying combat to XP.

postgresql – Postgres: Faster query when adding useless JOIN

I was looking at a query to make it more performant and I encountered an interesting case. This query executes much faster when I add a (redundant) JOIN that doesn’t change the actual result set.

Original Query:

EXPLAIN (ANALYZE, COSTS, VERBOSE, BUFFERS, FORMAT JSON)
select
    *
from
    product_reservations l1_
inner join product_occupancy_items l0_ on l1_.id = l0_.id
inner join products l2_ on l0_.product_id = l2_.id
where
    l2_.customer_id = 'a19917c2-5ee8-47c2-a757-7799c0e54b0d'
    and l0_.date_range && '(2019-08-09,2019-08-11)' = true

The query executes at ~88ms, this is the explain
https://explain.dalibo.com/plan/yJG

Adding a redundant JOIN:

EXPLAIN (ANALYZE, COSTS, VERBOSE, BUFFERS, FORMAT JSON)
select
    *
from
    product_reservations l1_
inner join product_occupancy_items l0_ on l1_.id = l0_.id
inner join products l2_ on l0_.product_id = l2_.id
inner join products l3_ on l0_.product_id = l3_.id
where
    l2_.customer_id = 'a19917c2-5ee8-47c2-a757-7799c0e54b0d'
    and l0_.date_range && '(2019-08-09,2019-08-11)' = true

This produces the following explain https://explain.dalibo.com/plan/Op3

This query runs at 20ms. About 4 times faster. As you maybe noticed, the only difference is just an useless JOIN on a table already JOINed (products).

When looking at the EXPLAIN for differences, we can find something in the product_occupancy_items section:

  • In the 1st query, the planner uses only the index of the external key with products and takes all the matching products applying the date range filter without index. This is much faster even though there are ~12k matching products to deal with (and then after applying the filter just 65)
  • In the 2nd query, the planner uses the index idx_occupancy_items_date_range to filter rows with the overlap (this is a gist index on date range) that’s actually good on paper, but it takes a whole 80ms. This is understandable since it’s used as bitmap index scan and there are many rows with that date range (~40k)

What’s going on is kind of clear from a “what” point of view. I’m not sure to understand the “why”. It looks to me that purely for an implementation point of view, it changed the part of the plan to access product_occupancy_items and got lucky.

I’m wondering if we can do anything to allow the planner to make the same decision without requiring that JOIN.

Note how while the difference may sound in the order of few ms, this query is executed many times for a bulk process. The whole bulk execution runs at about 3s with the double join and at about 30s without it. So the difference is sensible.

calculus and analysis – Useless result of Integrate

Considering a Fourier sine series, I calculate

int = Integrate(Log(1 + Sin(x))*Sin(i*x), {x, 0, Pi}, Assumptions -> i (Element) PositiveIntegers)

1/4 (-((2 E^(-(1/2) I i (Pi)))/i^2) + (2 E^((I i (Pi))/2))/i^2 + E^(-I i (Pi))/i^2 - E^(I i (Pi))/i^2 + ( 4 (E^((I i (Pi))/2) - Cos((i (Pi))/2)) HurwitzLerchPhi(-1, 1, 1 - i))/i - ( 2 I (1 - E^(-I i (Pi))) HurwitzLerchPhi(-I, 1, 1 - i))/i - ( 2 I LerchPhi(-I, 1, 1 + i))/i + ( 2 I E^(I i (Pi)) LerchPhi(-I, 1, 1 + i))/i - ( E^(-(1/2) I i (Pi)) (-1 + E^(I i (Pi))) PolyGamma(0, 1 + i/2))/ i + (E^(-(1/2) I i (Pi)) (-1 + E^(I i (Pi))) PolyGamma(0, ( 1 + i)/2))/i + ( 4 HypergeometricPFQ({1, 1, 3/2}, {2 - i/2, 2 + i/2}, 1) Sin(( i (Pi))/2)^2)/(-4 i + i^3) - ( 2 HypergeometricPFQ({1/2, 1, 1}, {3/2 - i/2, 3/2 + i/2}, 1) Sin( i (Pi)))/(-1 + i^2))

Unfortunately, the result is useless in view of

Table(int, {i, 1, 5})

{Indeterminate, Indeterminate, Indeterminate, Indeterminate, Indeterminate}

and

Limit(int, i -> 3)

which returns the input.

It should be noticed that

Table(Integrate(Log(1 + Sin(x))*Sin(i*x), {x, 0, Pi}), {i, 1, 5})

results in {-2 + (Pi), 0, 1/9 (10 - 3 (Pi)), 0, -(46/75) + (Pi)/5}.

Is there a workaround for the general case?

Is it not useless to increase iterations in KeePass?

So if increasing the number of iterations makes the computation power needed more in a linear way. Wouldn’t that be a small increase compared to even a single more character added to your password?

Even assuming you make your iterations take several seconds, that would only be as much as somewhere around 3 added characters, which isn’t considered much.

In that case, wouldn’t increasing the number of iterations be kinda pointless and not increase the difficulty that much when it comes to guessing the password (so like, you still can’t get away with passwords that a dictionary can guess and still have to use better passwords, just like when you didn’t use a high number of iterations)?

index – Rebuild indexes makes switch partitions useless (SQL Server)

I have a big table containing multiple indicators per ticker. The table is partitioned by indicator. Each indicator has nearly 50 million rows and currently there are about 30 indicators and they will become more in the future.

In order to update indicators I use switch partitions. Instead of delete I insert the filtered data in new table. Then I make the necessary calculations and insert them in that same table. I rebuild indexes (the same as in the main partitioned table) and finally I switch partition so that the updated indicator is back in the main table.

Rebuilding the index though takes so much time that the saved time from deleting and calculation into the main table is pointless.

I am not a pro in sql I also do not have permissions to modify the database structure in any way. Basically I am looking for solution linked to either faster index rebuild or some advice (sources to read too) on what could be the best architecture of a table in which I insert values, and sometimes use current values to calculate new ones and insert them back. On top of that we talk about table with size 30 * 40 million rows.

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pathfinder 1e – Building a Dagger Bard for flavour, that isn’t completely useless

I’m going to apologize up front: I don’t think this is going to answer your question. It’s a partial answer, at best, and while I hope some of this is helpful, it doesn’t present a complete build. I aimed to offer one, but basically, I came up empty: unfortunately, Paizo really doesn’t seem terribly interested in helping you to do what you want to do. There just aren’t any good options available. I realize that you don’t have particularly high expectations for what any given build can do, so maybe you’ll want to use this anyway, but I cannot in good conscience recommend much of what I offer below.

Basically, dagger-throwing is really, really bad, and dagger-stabbing is only slightly better because it’s easier to do cheaply. There are some exceptions (e.g. a fighter might be able to pull enough feats together to do dual-throwing, a knife master gets d8 sneak attack dice with daggers), but none that apply to you as a bard.

If you really want to insist on trying to make daggers a serious part of the character, though, here are the best options I can find for you:

  • Weapon Finesse—if you’re going to be both melee and ranged, you’re going to need Dexterity, so you might as well drop the need for Strength.

  • Blinkback belt—this 5,000-gp magic belt returns weapons you throw with it as soon as the attack completes. Which means you can immediately throw it again if you have another attack (e.g. Rapid Shot, BAB +6/+1), unlike returning for example (which would cost more anyway). This is without a doubt your absolute first priority as far as treasure and wealth is concerned.

    Note that blinkback belt, being a belt, does conflict with the belts that enhance physical ability scores. First, I absolutely must recommend that you talk to your GM about fixing this, as it is a serious design flaw in Pathfinder: having physical ability scores appear only on belts is a massive tax on physical characters. Magic Item Compendium from 3.5 allowed every score to appear in multiple slots, and also made those kinds of bonuses freely combinable with “real” magic like blinkback (i.e. no 50% surcharge for having two things on one item). I strongly recommend that all games use that rule instead of Paizo’s. Paizo’s is insultingly terrible.

    But barring that, yes, you do want enhancement bonuses to Dexterity and probably Constitution. Yes, that will make blinkback more expensive (7,500 gp)—and it is still worth it. Even if you have to bribe the party mage, or quest in search of someone willing to do custom crafting for you, it is still worth it. You must have a blinkback belt if you ever plan on throwing a magic dagger, or plan on making more than one ranged attack in a round.

  • Quick Draw—if you want to make multiple thrown attacks, you need to be able to draw weapons quickly enough to keep up, and that means Quick Draw. Blinkback belt specifically teleports the dagger into your sheath, so you still need to get it again.

  • Far Shot—note that range penalties apply for each range increment you meet, rather than exceed: that means that you take a penalty from range with daggers even if the target is just 10 ft. away. Any closer and they’d get to make an attack of opportunity, so that means that , you will pretty much always take those penalties. This feat halves those penalties.

  • Distance—this special weapon property doubles the weapon’s range increment (like the 3.5 Far Shot did; why they felt the need to nerf that feat, I’ll never know). It’s ludicrously overpriced as a +1-equivalent, but you’re probably going to need it. Between this and Far Shot, dagger throwing is almost kinda-sorta functional.

Finally, once you have paid the above taxes, the typical ranged-attack feats become useful to a dagger-thrower: Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Cluster Shots, maybe Deadly Aim (unfortunately, your ¾ BAB is going to make it hard to use).

On the melee side, there isn’t really much to be done beyond Weapon Finesse: you don’t want to dual wield (and don’t really have the feats to do so in any case), and that leaves you with few avenues to substantially improve your dagger use.

If you could somehow tack useful effects onto your dagger attacks, that would be something, but unless your GM agrees to allow a dagger-adapted arcane archer, there aren’t many options available. Magus (e.g. eldritch archer) could tack spells onto dagger attacks, but only for magus spells, which doesn’t help you much as a bard, even if you multiclassed. Poisons could be perfect, except that they are terrible and not worth the effort. Sadly, I really do not think there’s much else available.

So ultimately, even with all of these feats and items, your dagger use is unlikely to be more than a curiosity, something to do when a fight is well in hand that’s marginally more interesting than twiddling your thumbs. Music and spellcasting will always be much more useful things for you to do, so this is really only after you’ve done all that and the party just needs to mop up.

As such, I would probably just take Weapon Finesse, equip a dagger, and call that good enough. But that’s just me.

Either way, your bard class levels don’t really come into play. They just don’t really have much in particular to offer dagger use, and the character you describe is, aside from the dagger thing, a pretty typical buffer bard—which is a fine thing to be. This is what the bard class is all about, after all, and it’s pretty… OK at that. Paizo, for reasons unknown, badly nerfed it from 3.5, but it’s still mostly functional.

dnd 5e – Is my Warlock useless to the group now that we have a wizard with Eldritch Blast and two Bards who focus on utility?

Recently the other players in my group got tired of their characters; now they’ve turned up with new ones and I’m worried that my Warlock has nothing to add to the group anymore.

My Character

Level 5 human Pact of the Tome warlock, Fiend patron.
Stats: STR 14, DEX 12, CON 13, INT 14, WIS 14, CHA 19
Invocations: Agonizing Blast, Repelling Blast and Devil’s Sight.
Feats: Spell Sniper
Spells: hex, darkness, hunger of Hadar, invisibility, and comprehend languages

My group: a barbarian, two bards, a wizard and a rogue/druid multi-class (sorry I don’t know specifics on their classes); a Sorcerer or Cleric might be joining soon.

I am thinking that now that we have a wizard (with EB), it’s stupid to have the ritual invocation (Book of Ancient Secrets). One bard is the face whilst the other has utility spells like charm person and darkness; I’m not a Hexblade so I can’t go melee.

I feel like I’m just an extra mouth to feed; is there anything more I can do to contribute to the party that someone else isn’t doing better?

The DM rolls to see if we have night-time encounters or not.