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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design

CapnZapp

Legend
@Retreater: this is also a thing PF2 has in common with 4E.

(And before the outrage starts: claiming two games share a similarity is not the same thing as saying they work the same)
 

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dave2008

Legend
In the Pathfinder 2e adventure path I was just GMing, I found the opposite to be true: every fight was a harrowing life or death struggle. We didn't like that dynamic either.
I think part of the distaste for me comes from the "X number of encounters per level" paradigm present in all post-TSR D&D, meaning there are going to be countless pointless battles to advance in level so the GM can further the plot. By which time most players and GMs lose interest and the campaign ends by 8th level.
Aren't most recent WotC APs recommended (or at least suggested) to use milestone advancement?
 

dave2008

Legend
Aren't these two quotes (taken from the same post) contradicting each other?

I would say PF2 APs doesn't do whatever you want. I would say they do the exact opposite - they do a very specific thing, and if that's not what you want you have to start changing things around.
I think the "you" in the quote is the OP, not the general you as in "everyone."
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
Thanks for this thread. I have no experience with PF2, but this is intriguing to me. I loved 4e precisely because it was oriented to climactic set piece battles, and eschewed what I called 'trash fights'. Meaningless battles that pose no dramatic risk, but existed to spiphon resources so later fights are artificially 'harder'. I hate the attrition model of D&D, where you are expected to manage your resources and rests across 6-8 encounters. I walked away from 3e and PF1 because both were mired in this type of play and it was too much work to rewrite the systems. I loved 4e, but my critique is that it swung the pendulumn a bit too far in homogenized game class mechanics. But it was a dream to DM!

I love 5e, but my two biggest complaints are a return to emphasizing the attrition model of play, and monster stat blocks that are no longer self-contained and tactically lacking. Most 5e monsters are boring one note wonders. I also hate looking up spells and feats to run monsters. I want to run them right out of the book with no flipping around. 4e did this right. If PF2 is built around per encounter play where it assumes PC's are full strength at every encounter, that is very appealing to me.

I've been tinkering with 5e house rules to get that style of play in 5e. Seems like I should check out PF2.
 

Retreater

Legend
Aren't most recent WotC APs recommended (or at least suggested) to use milestone advancement?
Those guidelines are also in the PF2 AP I was running, and I followed them as I also do in WotC APs. (I dislike the level grind necessary in APs that don't use milestone advancement.)
However, the default assumption for both systems is traditional XP awards - after all that is built into the GM's encounter design. And that means a pedigree of grindy, unimportant encounters dating back to the inception of TTRPGs. (And honestly, it was even worse in the TSR days.)
The pacing I want is easier to do with milestones, even though I would prefer a variant that uses XP awards but levels characters faster - for example, three sessions of combat/exploration/etc. for a level.
 

Retreater

Legend
I've been tinkering with 5e house rules to get that style of play in 5e. Seems like I should check out PF2.
For all my complaints about PF2, I think it's definitely worth a look and a test run for every group of 5e/D&D players. I'm not sorry I tried the system. I also rather liked 4e. However, compared to PF2, I find 4e to be better designed, tighter in execution, easier to run. 4e has some terrible adventures though.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Thanks for this thread. I have no experience with PF2, but this is intriguing to me. I loved 4e precisely because it was oriented to climactic set piece battles, and eschewed what I called 'trash fights'. Meaningless battles that pose no dramatic risk, but existed to spiphon resources so later fights are artificially 'harder'. I hate the attrition model of D&D, where you are expected to manage your resources and rests across 6-8 encounters. I walked away from 3e and PF1 because both were mired in this type of play and it was too much work to rewrite the systems. I loved 4e, but my critique is that it swung the pendulumn a bit too far in homogenized game class mechanics. But it was a dream to DM!

I love 5e, but my two biggest complaints are a return to emphasizing the attrition model of play, and monster stat blocks that are no longer self-contained and tactically lacking. Most 5e monsters are boring one note wonders. I also hate looking up spells and feats to run monsters. I want to run them right out of the book with no flipping around. 4e did this right. If PF2 is built around per encounter play where it assumes PC's are full strength at every encounter, that is very appealing to me.

I've been tinkering with 5e house rules to get that style of play in 5e. Seems like I should check out PF2.
Please do.

Though PF2 doesn't get you quite to to the finish line - spells still require look-up during play. And there is needless clutter in the between-fights healing up.

But monsters are deadly and varied, and easily the best feature of the game.

Class design isn't as homogenized as 4E (in particular: spells are spells), but unfortunately still rather homogenized.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Those guidelines are also in the PF2 AP I was running, and I followed them as I also do in WotC APs. (I dislike the level grind necessary in APs that don't use milestone advancement.)
However, the default assumption for both systems is traditional XP awards - after all that is built into the GM's encounter design. And that means a pedigree of grindy, unimportant encounters dating back to the inception of TTRPGs. (And honestly, it was even worse in the TSR days.)
The pacing I want is easier to do with milestones, even though I would prefer a variant that uses XP awards but levels characters faster - for example, three sessions of combat/exploration/etc. for a level.
Official adventure paths are absolutely written with milestone leveling in mind.

There are even complaints (over at the Paizo forums) of the "we vacuumed the entire level and still ended up 14 XP short of levelling!" sort. The official response is always a polite "we encourage the GM to come up with extra encounters to make sure the heroes start each new chapter at the correct level"...

...instead of the blunter, but IMHO much more honest: "just stop calculating XP and simply level up when the text tells you to. Much simpler and the entire problem goes away. Bonus: you can skip fights without falling behind!" :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
However, compared to PF2, I find 4e to be better designed, tighter in execution, easier to run. 4e has some terrible adventures though.
The big difference in our experience is that PF2 fights consume less playing time than 4E fights. PF2 fights are much more comparable to 3E or 5E fights in that regard.

It isn't the combat rules that let PF2 down, imo. It's the... other rules. The crafting, the medicine, the climbing, recall knowledge, magic item abilities etc etc ETC ETC etc etc and not the actual combat itself.
 

dave2008

Legend
I love 5e, but my two biggest complaints are a return to emphasizing the attrition model of play, and monster stat blocks that are no longer self-contained and tactically lacking. Most 5e monsters are boring one note wonders. I also hate looking up spells and feats to run monsters. I want to run them right out of the book with no flipping around. 4e did this right. If PF2 is built around per encounter play where it assumes PC's are full strength at every encounter, that is very appealing to me.
Just to be clear, PF2 monsters require you to look up spells just like 5e monsters do (well newer 5e designs included one spell in the stat block).

Also, not all PF2 monsters are more interesting than their 5e counterparts (dragons being a big one for me - and I don't think 5e dragons are even that good). The big advantage PF2 monsters have, IMO, is that at just +3 levels they hit much harder and can soak much better than their 5e variants.
 

The grinding down of resources is very much the 5-8 encounter day of 5e, the floor number in that range is after all, held to be the minimum number of encoilunters to sufficently deplete a parties resources. The paradigm you are discussing is the 5e one, where difficulty is a product long term resource depletion.

2e can support a grind with no issues (its not like encounters sub moderate difficulty are especially difficult) the distinction is that you won't really be grinding down their redpurces in the process unless they decide to be super irresponsible with their spell slots. But if you and your party like to do a bunch of small encounters that arent threatening, the core rulebook has you covered with building them. The adventure templates in thr GMG even has recommendations for their numbers in a traditional dungeon crawl.

As for a wave encounter, its different than a swarm encounter, a wave encounter is one where one encounter follows directly on the heels of another, e.g. you finish fighting a group of adult dragons, and an ancient dragon shows up.

The players deal with the encounters seperately but they don't have a chance to heal or recharge focus points, theyll have maybe a round or three.

They're super intuitive and work well to soften the pcs and disrupt their go to strategy for a real bossfight, the only risk is if youre party is completely void of consumables or other incombat healing to touch up on the interim round.
 

Retreater

Legend
The big difference in our experience is that PF2 fights consume less playing time than 4E fights. PF2 fights are much more comparable to 3E or 5E fights in that regard.
Yes. One single low-level fight in 4e was a short game session unto itself. I got used to the Encounters format. Most published adventures needed only 5-8 combat encounters - instead the designers wrote them the same way the have been writing since 1st edition.
 


BigZebra

Explorer
When you think about it, that's huge praise.

(Sure it would be most excellent if every single last critter was a clear improvement over 5e, but that isn't a necessary bar to set, I think.)
Can you elaborate what you mean here?
I am GM'ing 5e (with great success, we all love it), and haven't GM'ing PF2. I have some of the PF2 books though, and when looking at the monsters in PF2 I do feel like some of them seem more interesting.
 

Zsong

Explorer
I personally hate the adventure design structures where every fight is a challenge. I think as you raise in level you will have more easier fights. And u should have fights where you may not even know how difficult it is when u enter the fight. Also fights just to see if u r going to waste precious resources. I don’t like games where this area is cr 10-12. And this area is for 4th level adventurers. It just to meta for me.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I personally hate the adventure design structures where every fight is a challenge. I think as you raise in level you will have more easier fights. And u should have fights where you may not even know how difficult it is when u enter the fight. Also fights just to see if u r going to waste precious resources. I don’t like games where this area is cr 10-12. And this area is for 4th level adventurers. It just to meta for me.
Sounds like you have just described pretty much the opposite of what Pathfinder 2 (or rather, it's official adventures) is about, except the "waste resources" bit.
 

Zsong

Explorer
Sounds like you have just described pretty much the opposite of what Pathfinder 2 (or rather, it's official adventures) is about, except the "waste resources" bit.
Oh I love watching players burn through resources unnecessarily and dying in agony in a fight they would have won if they weren’t wasting magic and resources getting there. Those that play with me for a few months become afraid to action burn a spell slot unnecessarily or waste a rare or action surge.
 

There is nothing inherent in the system that "forces" a GM to write adventures that resemble official APs in any way, specifically regarding encounter difficulty.

[...]

That doesn't mean it isn't relevant to discuss the game as envisioned by Paizo. It means we need to remain able to distinguish what the rules lead to as separate from what the official application of them leads to.

Saying "PF2 forces me to TPK my characters" would be wrong. But saying "PF2 and 5E are equally deadly" would be misleading, and just as useless.
[...]
From a game design perspective, I’m coming to the conclusion that the “4 degrees of success” model inherently increases table variance, because if small changes to bonuses result in larger swings to results, different interpretations of rules/ways of playing the game (which may not appear at first glance) to impact bonuses also result in large swings in the results.

First, the math. In a 4 degrees system, if a critical hit does double damage, a +1 to hit is the equivalent of a +2 to hit in a system that doesn’t use a 4 degrees system. This is the case even if the other system uses critical hits.

In other circumstances, if a critical success is worth more than twice a simple success (or a critical failure is more than twice as bad as a simple failure), than a +1 is worth more than a +2 in a system without degrees of success. I would argue that generally speaking, spells in PF2 fall into this 2nd category (a crit failed save is more than twice as bad as a simple failed save).

Now for the link between table variance and degrees of success. I don’t have data for this, just anecdotes.

On the PF2 forum, a poster who clearly plays the game and understands the game suggested that all else being equal, it didn’t make a difference if an attack was rolled by the player or a save by the monster. I don’t think he was wrong, but he was definitely playing the game differently from my group. We were playing on a VTT, but the DM was rolling with his physical dice. If a monster saved or critically saved, I had no idea if I was unlucky or if I was unlikely to succeed given the save targetted (given level differences, this would be case regardless of the outcome of Recall Knowledge). Obviously, that would not be the case on an attack roll.

For another example, using Recall Knowledge on a unique monster, or using Recall Knowledge based on the traces of the monster before you see it. Neither directly affects your rolls, both are likely to have a large impact on a combat.

To summarize, if small bonuses are likely to have a big impact on gameplay due to how your game is designed, typical GM decisions are also likely to have a huge impact on gameplay. This will increase table variance, and may be the reason why people have such different experiences from playing PF2.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I personally hate the adventure design structures where every fight is a challenge. I think as you raise in level you will have more easier fights. And u should have fights where you may not even know how difficult it is when u enter the fight. Also fights just to see if u r going to waste precious resources. I don’t like games where this area is cr 10-12. And this area is for 4th level adventurers. It just to meta for me.
Out of the box, PF2 encounter balance is such that you can’t really have a lot of variance. If you throw something of party level + 4 at a party, it’s almost certainly going to end in a TPK. Proficiency Without Level helps here some by expanding the range dramatically (especially at the traditional “sweet spot”), but the nature of the system is that higher-level threads are dangerous.

You also can’t really do a traditional, attrition-based approach. The game is set up to make it easy to recharge your resources. It’s possible to induce a caster to waste a spell, but healing is not in short supply. Focus pools can be restored between encounters. Martial characters are also very good, so they can handle a lot of the monster-killing duties.

You can kind of fake hit point attrition by imposing an opportunity cost to rest, but that doesn’t generalize (i.e., it only really works in dungeons). I did it by incorporating a bunch of old-school techniques like wandering monsters tables. As far as I’m aware, none of the official adventures are designed that way, and I doubt balanced-oriented groups would be willing to take that approach. For them, attrition is just not a thing.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Can you elaborate what you mean here?
I was posting a reply to Dave, and my response is only meant to be interpreted in that context.

Oh I love watching players
Okay?

I was just observing that in Paizo APs, (nearly) every fight is a challenge, at every level. You can rest assured all these fights are appropriate for your level - the rare fight you aren't meant to win will be clearly signaled as such. Every "area" is your own level plus/minus four levels, which is just the writers following the game's encounter creation guidelines. I wasn't commenting on whether this is good or bad, I just noted how different the game is in my experience to your stated goals.
 

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