Tediousness of Pathfinder session prep

I just finished three NPC stat blocks for my upcoming Pathfinder Planescape session. Once again it felt rather tedious, the whole process took couple of hours. So many little details you have to get right and reference from different books.

There is little help in form of d20pfsrd.com where you can search all crunchy stuff in one place but it still takes time. One great time sink is selecting feats for characters, there is simply so many options that you can’t know them all and you have to read through very long lists to find what want. Or then you think you remember feats and pick something but later notice that the feat had requirements your NPCs don’t fulfill. Happened with my Harmonium guys, who didn’t have Dex of 13+ but 12 and I had given them Dodge.

The fighter types are relatively simple, you just calculate saving throws, attack bonuses, AC etc. pick skills, feats and equipment and you are done. Spellcasters, on the other hand, define tedious when you get to picking their spells. The amount of options is absolutely ridiculous. It is more manageable if you have specific role for the caster in mind (for example healer, anti-caster, damage) but you still have to read through long spell lists. You go back and worth when you find interesting spells that could possibly replace some other spells or go read the spell descriptions in middle of the process.

I didn’t bother to look the exact amount of money I should spend on NPC equipment, I just gave them something that looks appropriate, they where low level Harmonium street patrols so it probably doesn’t matter if their equipment is not worth exactly what their level should entail, I don’t think my players start stalking them just to loot their armor.

I don’t know what I should do to streamline the process of writing NPC stat blocks. If the NPC get involved in a fight with the PCs they are absolutely essential since the Pathfinder combat system is so fine tuned that every +1 counts and it feels kind of silly of not putting as much effort to NPC stats as players put in their own characters. On the other hand I have many characters while each player only has one (plus possible familiars and animal companions). The main issue is that writing NPC stats tends to burn out me badly when running Pathfinder. Then I’ve shot myself in the foot by taking Planescape as my setting that has all stats in AD&D 2nd edition rules. I must be stupid.

Any ideas how to ease the pain of writing Pathfinder NPC/monster stat blocks? I’ve searched for software that would help but the only good candicate I’ve found, Hero Labs, seems to be rather expensive with their licensing being per game system and per book, meaning I’d have to buy separate data files for each Pathfinder supplement I would like to use in the software. Not good.

Obvious choice would be to change to less crunchy rule system but I’ve already invested quite bit of time in Pathfinder Planescape so it probably isn’t that simple change and I don’t if my players are that keen on playing something else. Time will tell.

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One thought on “Tediousness of Pathfinder session prep

  1. Have you checked out the NPC Codex? It’s a collection of pre-made NPCs. Just grab something of the appropriate class and level from there. You’ll probably need to make some adjustments, such as what weapon they’re using or swapping out a feat for something more specific to the NPC you have in mind. You can reference it for free here: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/

    Also, I tend to stick to the Core Rulebook when selecting feats and spells and equipment just to cut down on the material I have to look through. Unless there’s something specific out of one of the extra books I know I want, or I’m creating a specificly important NPC, it’s typically not worth the extra time and research.

    Hopefully you’re not actually detailing out every shopkeep, patrol, and city guard that the PCs are going to encounter. Despite what you think, the combat system isn’t so finely tuned that every +1 counts. Did your players actually notice that your Harmonium guys had the Dodge feat with a Dex score of only 12? If not, then who really cares? If they did notice, well then, that’s another issue.

    I think it’s a classic trap for GMs to fall into over detailing every aspect of their games. We have to remember that the player’s aren’t going to see or care about all the gritty details, so long as we can present them with a fair and reasonable experience. It’s like a stage play, the audience (i.e. the players) aren’t going to care what’s holding the scenery up as long as it looks believable from where they’re sitting.

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