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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design


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@UngeheuerLich you have exactly the kind of (perfectly reasonable and normal) expectations that is likely to trip you up if and when you run Pathfinder 2, or its official adventures at least.
Thank you. So I trust your reasoning here and am sorry for those buying those adventures. I hope Paizo gets it sorted out witheir next ones. I think it is great for the hobby to have an alternate more crunchy version of DnD.
I also like that they were not afraid of using things that were thrown out from DnDnext, because it was too similar to 4e or too innovative at that time (when wizard needed to recover from past mistakes).
 

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
No, the point is that in PF2, the game breaks utterly if the GM makes the heroes fight two encounters at the same time.
It doesn't, actually.

A Low Threat Encounter has an EXP Budget of 60 EXP, a Severe Encounter has a Budget of 120 EXP (fun fact, these scale linearly up and down with more or less players, but the severe encounter scales slightly faster, more than 4 players means you're mathematically safer to combine encounters) if you have two low-threat encounters that can combine, they only become severe, which while difficult, is pretty handle-able.

Two moderate encounters all at once hits the extreme budget, also handle-able, albeit very dangerous (but then again, that was the point of keeping them apart no?)

Meanwhile, to bring in another thought brought up from this thread, the "adding fleeing enemies to the next encounter" thing, you're usually pretty good to just do that, since it probably won't shoot the encounter out of the guidelines entirely, unless the encounter they flee to was already stuffed.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
It doesn't, actually.
Actually the better summary is "it does".

Yes, Low + Low is still manageable, but let's not let that case obscure the (by far) more important take-away, that if you just pick two adjacent encounters at random from an official AP, you are far too likely to end up with a too-lethal fight on your hands. So the general messange needs to be "don't smush your encounters together". Yes, a GM that understands this and has mastered the skill of GMing PF2 can find ways to make it work, but for the general reader the only reasonable message to send out is:

"Don't have your guards flee or bring in reinforcements. Don't have monsters act intelligently by seeking out safety in numbers."

If a reader reads only that, at least he or she won't unnecessarily TPK his or her party, and that needs to be the main takeaway imo.

Best Regards,
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Thank you. So I trust your reasoning here and am sorry for those buying those adventures. I hope Paizo gets it sorted out witheir next ones. I think it is great for the hobby to have an alternate more crunchy version of DnD.
I also like that they were not afraid of using things that were thrown out from DnDnext, because it was too similar to 4e or too innovative at that time (when wizard needed to recover from past mistakes).

Thing is though, it isn't an "issues" per say. Most of published adventures of any system don't usually seem to assume combining encounters unless the adventure itself states they do so. Like I said, issue is more of that in most systems, game isn't actually in balanced, so adding mooks to "difficult" encounter doesn't make it "impossible" encounter.

Like in 2e, you can easily combine "easy" encounters with each other to make them into "sem difficult" or "difficult just in sheer numbers" depending on the monsters itself, but you can't combine "easy" encounters with "difficult" encounters and keep them as just "difficult".

Like thing I disagree with CapnZapp is this particular feature being 2e exclusive per say. Like yeah the balance being stricter means its harder to do in 2e without killing PCs, but if you go with logic of "Don't have monsters act intelligent" then problem with that is... Well, most intelligent thing for monsters to do technically and game mechanics wise would be "after alarm starts, gather EVERY monster in same room". Which even in PF 1e or 5e tends to be a tpk unless PCs have passed the "they are so broken they are basically gods on earth" level. So I think its false to say that in "2e you have to make monster act dumber than they usually do" since that is core of how dungeon design works in almost every system: Either the dungeon is designed as "massive single encounter where by time pcs deal with first wave, the second wave arrives", or its designed as series of roms with their own challenges where the encounters aren't assumed to combine as its assumed players go the rooms one by one :p

In terms of Paizo adventure designs, they avoid the old school D&D thing of "Wizard built a room of challenges just because" and tend to go more with "the dungeon is ancient ruins with different creatures having their own different territories and they don't like interacting with each other" or "this dungeon is base of a gang or group that took it over and uses it as fortress". In first case, combining encounters doesn't make much sense because the creatures in dungeon aren't aligned together, in latter its easy to assume that "well, why wouldn't they just combine the encounters, they could kill pcs easily that way!" but its not like in real life castle sieges were solved with "throw all the men in large pile in one cramped room!" so you can justify it in character why the bandits would stay in their "defense positions" waiting for pcs to reach bottle neck they are protecting.

But yeah, game design wise most dungeon don't seem to be designed with intent of "okay, its like monsters pour out of their cool locales to find pcs" and more of "pcs go deeper and deeper into the dungeon" and that isn't just PF thing, its universal D&D thing as far as I can tell.

If you design the dungeon yourself, then yeah, you can pretty easily plan it around concept of encounters combining as long you know system well enough. But that is the thing, I don't actually think most gms either design dungeons around with concept of "all encounters combine into one", when they tend to do large scale encounters, the dungeon seems to be more of "you walk through several traps or series of enemy free rooms into one big room with lot of enemies" rather than dungeon being composed of lot of small rooms with each having their own encounters. That is my impression from internet tales and livestreams and such at least :p Like I think its way more common for gms who read published adventures to combine encounter because "well it seems like it would make more sense" than combine their own dungeon encounters. Because usually the gms design it in same way as adventure writers do: as a series of encounters rather than as one single encounter. But when they read someone else's adventure, they tend to be like "well from enemy perspective, wouldn't it make sense to do this instead?" Does that make sense? Dunno if I explained my thought process there well
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Like thing I disagree with CapnZapp is this particular feature being 2e exclusive per say.
In theory you are correct and it isn't something "exclusive". It's not binary, it's a sliding scale. You are far less likely to end up with a TPK in 5e in general, and so you are far less likely to end up with a TPK if you just have a squad of guards retreat, or if two monsters decide to co-habitate.

In practice, however, I've seen (=read about) several GMs fall foul of PF2's balance/lethality, and I can easily see why it is happening. Even two encounters your DM's intuition would tell you is fine will severely increase the risk of a player (character) death.

So again, the only simple and direct message to budding PF2 gamesmasters needs to be "don't smush your encounters together".
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
I do think its side effect of being used to older D&D editions yeah. There ARE systems that are far deadlier than any of D&D of PF2e, but using older D&D as basis on PF2e can be deadly.

(on sidenote, my experience of adventuring on D&D 5e at levels 1-2 is that it is relatively more deadly than 2e is actually <_<; Lot of "well shit enemy hit you once without a crit and you are down" happened to me x'D)
 

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
Actually the better summary is "it does".

Yes, Low + Low is still manageable, but let's not let that case obscure the (by far) more important take-away, that if you just pick two adjacent encounters at random from an official AP, you are far too likely to end up with a too-lethal fight on your hands. So the general messange needs to be "don't smush your encounters together". Yes, a GM that understands this and has mastered the skill of GMing PF2 can find ways to make it work, but for the general reader the only reasonable message to send out is:

"Don't have your guards flee or bring in reinforcements. Don't have monsters act intelligently by seeking out safety in numbers."

If a reader reads only that, at least he or she won't unnecessarily TPK his or her party, and that needs to be the main takeaway imo.

Best Regards,
You know, I think this is the flaw with your emphasis on official adventures-- no adventure can be designed for every type of play, usually in this genre when a monster has the kinds of interactions you're claiming pf2e can't handle, they instruct you on where the monster wants to go and what encounters come in. If the game assumed all encounters have to be combine-able, then by nature, no encounter could ever be truly challenging on its own.

I've seen that lots of times in various adventure modules in other places, but I think the Pathfinder modules are designed to tax the GM less, they can just play out the encounters as singular set pieces, for the most part and they'll be a fairly balanced challenge-- they don't have to set up or juggle some complicated series of interactions to offer their players a challenge.

But that's a choice the adventure itself makes, and I don't think it makes any sense to assume that new GMs are defaulting to shoving encounters together, the kind of behavior involving retreats and such that we're discussing is actually something the community has to train new players to do, its a very common point of advice for how to spice up games when players get bored of stand and deliver encounters. It makes more sense to assume they aren't doing that, and give them satisfying and challenging encounters right out of the box.

I Don't think most people are actually running OSR style dungeon crawling games, I think they're running pretty linear set pieces, and those of us that are running OSR style dungeon crawling games have the experience to make it work, and the system supports us very well in that endeavor (exploration rules, accurate encounter guidelines with linear scaling on encounters, etc.)

Similarly you don't have to be skilled to make it work, not every Pathfinder GM has Age of Ashes to base their encounters on, but every GM has the Core Rulebook where the encounter building guidelines I keep referencing can be found, its more or less required reading. Placing encounters with the idea they could be combined as relatively low difficulty by themselves isn't some skilled technique, it just means paying attention when the book tells you whats already difficult by itself. Most players aren't running published adventures, even in Pathfinder, they're running home games where the encounter guidelines are the only example that matters.

This reminds me of the killer encounters at the beginning of 4e's Keep on the Shadowfell, and 5e's Rise of Tiamat. Neither of which I would consider to be especially 'killer' games in terms of difficulty, and no one else really considers them as such either (though I suppose level 1 5e has a reputation.)

EDIT: In fact, literally just now, a designer wrote a super cool post about how encounters are designed in terms of static vs. dynamic that describes this exactly.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
@The-Magic-Sword

I'm not attacking adventures for being static. I'm talking about how the design of Pathfinder 2 makes it difficult or risky to combine encounters in "natural" or "intuitive" ways. I'm talking about how a d20 or 5E DM that feels confident about her gamesmastering skills can easily end up inadvertently causing a PC dead, since you can't rely just on "natural" or "intuitive" here.

So if you readers out there take only one thing away from this discussion, let it be "don't smush encounters together".
 

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
@The-Magic-Sword

I'm not attacking adventures for being static. I'm talking about how the design of Pathfinder 2 makes it difficult or risky to combine encounters in "natural" or "intuitive" ways. I'm talking about how a d20 or 5E DM that feels confident about her gamesmastering skills can easily end up inadvertently causing a PC dead, since you can't rely just on "natural" or "intuitive" here.

So if you readers out there take only one thing away from this discussion, let it be "don't smush encounters together".
Let it be "Read the encounter building rules for the game you're playing" so we don't decieve people about the game system they're playing.
 

Zsong

Explorer
Let it be "Read the encounter building rules for the game you're playing" so we don't decieve people about the game system they're playing.
I hope it’s just a tweak like 1E to 2E. But big deal if they radically change it. I still have all my books and play whatever I like.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
I'm not attacking adventures for being static. I'm talking about how the design of Pathfinder 2 makes it difficult or risky to combine encounters in "natural" or "intuitive" ways. I'm talking about how a d20 or 5E DM that feels confident about her gamesmastering skills can easily end up inadvertently causing a PC dead, since you can't rely just on "natural" or "intuitive" here.
I’m trying to wrap my head around your reasoning, but I can’t. Is the criticism that applying intuition from other systems with unreliable encounter-building guidelines results in adverse outcomes in PF2 where its guidelines generally do work?

Where I’m struggling is that the same kind of reasoning could be applied to any of the encounter-building guidelines. If my experience tells me a balor is a fair fight for a 13th level party in 5e, and I throw one at a 13th level party in PF2, then I’ve created something like a triple-extreme encounter in PF2. How is expecting that to work at all reasonable?
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Yeah, I'm not really seeing how this is unique feature of PF2e specifically.

Like you wouldn't design encounters same way in Runequest and in D&D for obvious reasons <_< I can see it from perspective of "Oh PF 1e was D&D based, so I assume same logic applies in 2e as well", but even then I think most D&D DMs understand to run non D&D games differently when they GM them.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Let it be "Read the encounter building rules for the game you're playing" so we don't decieve people about the game system they're playing.
Again, technically true - but also downplaying or missing the real point. You can't just rely on your regular old GM skills. You need specific PF2 skills.

It's much easier to go "it makes sense for this squad to flee back to the sergeant" and end up with a TPK in Pathfinder 2 than any other D&D game I can remember.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Yeah, I'm not really seeing how this is unique feature of PF2e specifically.
It's presence is pronounced in PF2 - especially coming from 5th Edition (which most PF2 GMs will be).

So I thought to broadcast a simple message. Yes, it is broad and unnuanced - but that's how messages get across.

Don't smush your encounters together.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
The encounter-building guidelines work in PF2. As long as you are mindful of them, you can combine encounters and do whatever you want. Expecting the difficulty of a dynamic encounter not to change dynamically is unreasonable.

The message should be: don’t make bad assumptions.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
To put it another way: I’m looking at running OSE. I could prep encounters like I do PF2, and that would be wrong. I could do it like 5e, and that would also be wrong.

The idea that a system has a problem due to bad assumptions is silly. That it’s because of some hypothetical GM coming from the market-leading system borders on toxic.
 

nevin

Adventurer
I agree. Really the problem is that they flipped the curve as far as deadly.
New DM's without experience or guidance are far more likely to kill off their parties at lower levels as a result. In other systems things get swingy and crazy at high levels as the DM struggles to balance things and challenge the party. If you follow encounter design in PF2e things get "safer" at higher levels. It's not intuitive at all.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
The message should be: don’t make bad assumptions.
You could phrase this as:

Don't make the assumptions that work in nearly every other iteration of D&D.

In other words, I'm not attacking the game. I'm observing that the incidence of TPKs due to combined encounters is much higher in PF2. You can't combine encounters in the natural, intuitive way you can in 5th Edition.
 


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