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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design

GrahamWills

Adventurer
So, here's stuff I think we can agree on:
  • In all D&D variants, low level encounters are more likely to TPK than high level ones
  • In all D&D variants, combining two encounters makes them more likely to cause a TPK
  • PF2 is designed to be more deadly than 5E
So, combining these, it seems pretty obvious statement to say:

If you are playing low-level PF2 scenarios, combing two encounters is going to be very deadly

From a realism point of view, this is 100% the right answer. I fought a junior olympian at martial arts and he could score on me at will -- modeled in pretty much anytime system he defeated me without spending a single resource. But when we fought him 2 on 1, it was pretty much a draw. PF2 is much more realistic than 5E in this respect. Whether that is more or less fun is a preference issue.

Compared to other D&D systems, it doesn't seem as far out of line. I've been playing 4E at epic levels, and I think combining two dangerous encounters there would TPK us more of the time than high-level PF2 combinations would. I'd rate PF2 as slightly safer for combining than 4E, but not much in it. It's been too long since I've played 3x, but I ran AD&D recently and, at least at low-mid levels, it seemed similar. Being outnumbered by ranged attackers in AD&D was very nasty, but melee and spell-casters -- not so bad.

Overall it feels more like 5E is the departure (from what people report). For me, "You can't combine encounters in the natural, intuitive way you can in 5th Edition" runs counter to what I feel is natural. For me, "natural" is that if 4 opponents are a challenge, 8 will probably kill you. For me, "natural" means that if you double the enemies, you quadruple the risk -- saying it doesn't make much difference feels highly unnatural.

In 5E, it seems like the response to an enemy raising the alarm and pulling more guards in is "oh well, I guess we kill them all in one go". In PF2 and 4E it seems more like "oh *****, fall back -- let's find some way to handle this or we will ALL DIE". My preference is for the latter -- at least for the traditional fantasy genre (for pulp games and space opera, the former -- I don't care how many stormtroopers arrive!).

As people have pointed out, this is a problem for APs -- it makes perfect realistic sense that players might cause an extremely deadly situation by combining fights. As a GM, you have a few options:
  • Swap to a more pulp-y system, like 5E
  • Have enemies behave unrealistically
  • Mitigate by allowing non-combat solutions and making it clear that retreat might often be the best solution.
A mix of 2 and 3 seems a good option for my GM style. If the party is blatantly foolish, they reap the consequences. If they re just unlucky or the adventure seems weakly written, decrease the intelligence of the guards.

Our PF2 party for Age of Ashes was pretty well-tuned. At high level we steamrollered all but the extreme combats; we almost never had a full rest except when we hit a level. Apart from a lich who cast two nasty area effect spells on the party before any of us went (half of us crit failed at least one of the saves) the most dangerous time was when we triggered a fight with four groups each of 3 ranged archers at the same time as a high defense solo. We ran away, dodged through tunnels and triggered yet more combats as we tried to get to the archers individually at close range. So no chance for any form of 10-minute healing / re-focus or the like for maybe four rolling encounters. THAT was pretty hairy. But it felt right -- I'm not sure that the 5E approach (added archers would not make much difference) would have made the scene feel right. We screwed up and it made us the underdogs, forcing us to adapt and recover. Quite a memorable day.
 

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kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
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.
Well, what then? Should GMs be able to carry assumptions from game to game regardless of whether that’s reasonable?

More importantly, how do you address problems in a system’s structure without invalidating those assumptions? That seems to be how PF2 got to have this problem. PF1’s math was broken, so Paizo fixed it. Any intuition for dealing with the PF1 guidelines no longer applies. It’s a catch-22.

The only way out I can see is to stop caring. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s a big part of OSR-style adventuring, so it’s not unprecedented. I’d argue it even brings PF2 more in line with 5e. I’m not sure how well that would be received.
 

I wouldn't say Pathfinder 2e encounter building needs any unique skills, in theory this is how a 5e encounter was supposed to work as well, a 'Deadly Encounter' is 'Deadly' after all, it just doesn't actually work that way because 5e's encounter guidelines are fundamentally broken. It worked super well in 4e and less well in 3.5e/Pathfinder.

The use case being presented as ubiquitous is specifically a GM who has maladapted to non-functional encounter guidelines in other systems by ignoring the warning labels, who switches systems and takes for granted that not only should they continue to ignore the encounter guidelines, but also actually runs an encounter, sees its difficulty, and then takes for granted that this is how encounters are supposed to feel, without intuiting that less exp used would make their encounters comfier.

That seems like a really, really, specific user problem.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
I think the issue is that when you say "I'm just making this big PSA about how everyone should beware" it kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda sounds like "I'm saying this system has unique problem and you should just run 5e instead" <_<

Like umm, it sounds like you are making it sound like more unique situation as it is and more scary than it is. As said before, in theory same should apply in 5e as well, only reason it doesn't is that encounter guidelines in 5e aren't accurate. So while it is accurate to warn people who are used to D&D guidelines never working, you are kind of making it sound like its this super big dealio that you should be afraid of rather than something you adjust pretty simply.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Let me repost Rot Grub's post from Paizo forums in full, because he's completely on the money describing the issue:

"I am running 5 Paizo adventure paths at the moment (Age of Ashes, Agents of Edgewatch, and 2e conversions of Rise of the Runelords, Shattered Star, and Hell's Rebels). I enjoy Paizo APs for the wealth of story, locations, encounters and other material that I can tailor for my needs.

However, I see a prevalence of "monsters sitting in their room waiting to die" in most dungeons in APs. I like to play monsters with at least a modicum of intelligence, so when they hear that life-and-death struggle in the next room, they will consider joining in or at least check out what's happening.

This is more of a problem in 2nd Edition, where combining encounters makes for Extreme and often even more-difficult encounters when you combine them. And 2e's expectation that the party will take heal between encounters makes the idea that NPCs will stay in their room for 2 hours while their burglars/murderers sit down and "heal up" in the next room all the more unbelievable.

In Age of Ashes as we enter the final encounters of Chapter 2, this has been really prevalent. I chalked it up to growing pains with the new RPG. But as time has gone by, the AP designers seem committed to this pattern of moderate to severe encounters with intelligent enemies being clustered together. (Spoiler for the new Beginner Box: they encounter kobolds early on who are written as being unaware of the party, even though the party had just had a fight about 80 feet away, in an otherwise-silent dungeon no less.)

It's not like the designers are unaware that monsters can respond dynamically to the PCs' actions: there are a number of places, particularly in Age of Ashes volume 2, where the text describes how enemies will respond to a fight breaking out in other areas. (Still, even running as written it can quickly get out of control, as there are about 11(!) encounters, most of them ready to reinforce some of the others, all in a single open-air area. With 2e's tight encounter math this can quickly get deadly even with smart play.) )

It seems as if the designers of 2nd Edition have found a winning formula for making individual fights tense and exciting, but the AP designers are designing dungeons like they used to in 1st Edition, where you could combine encounters without killing the party. You could gather 12 Goblins in 1e, but that Fireball or that Black Tentacles could handle it. Not so in 2e.

So what I do, is when preparing for an area in 2e, I anticipate when encounters will combine and lower the difficulty of individual fights with the expectation that some of them will combine. It keeps the dungeon dynamic, and it rewards the party for finding ways to isolate groups of enemies. 2e at least has the advantage of giving us the tools so we can predict how hard things will get.

Still, I think it would be better if the designers didn't assume that every monster sat in their room waiting to die. The overarching stories in Paizo's APs can be strong; this seems like a story weakness."
 

dave2008

Legend
From a realism point of view, this is 100% the right answer. I fought a junior olympian at martial arts and he could score on me at will -- modeled in pretty much anytime system he defeated me without spending a single resource. But when we fought him 2 on 1, it was pretty much a draw. PF2 is much more realistic than 5E in this respect. Whether that is more or less fun is a preference issue.
You need to step back from the ledge a bit. While I generally agree with your thesis, there is all kinds of errors in this paragraph. Comparing hand-to-hand marital arts (assumption) combat to sword and shield and magic combat is extremely flawed. Then of course comparing 1v1 to 1v2 instead 4v4 to 4v8 is another level of flawed abstraction. It isn't even the same on a realism level; however, add magic it goes out the window.

Killing 3 Kobolds or 6 more that entered form another room doesn't take more than one fireball.
 

dave2008

Legend
I wouldn't say Pathfinder 2e encounter building needs any unique skills, in theory this is how a 5e encounter was supposed to work as well, a 'Deadly Encounter' is 'Deadly' after all, it just doesn't actually work that way because 5e's encounter guidelines are fundamentally broken. It worked super well in 4e and less well in 3.5e/Pathfinder.
Actually that is not how the 5e guidelines are supposed to work. A "deadly" encounter only provides a "chance" of a player death or two. This is also with in the context of an assumed daily attrition model. So these are not intended to be full powered heroes. Now I agree the 5e guidelines and 5e in general is less balanced and accurate on this front. But the guidelines are actually doing different things. Also, the 5e guidelines are very accurate for certain type of group; however, because the system is less constrained / controlled than PF2 it has a much wider set of groups, compared to PF2, that it doesn't work for.
 

dave2008

Legend
Well, what then? Should GMs be able to carry assumptions from game to game regardless of whether that’s reasonable?

More importantly, how do you address problems in a system’s structure without invalidating those assumptions? That seems to be how PF2 got to have this problem. PF1’s math was broken, so Paizo fixed it. Any intuition for dealing with the PF1 guidelines no longer applies. It’s a catch-22.

The only way out I can see is to stop caring. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s a big part of OSR-style adventuring, so it’s not unprecedented. I’d argue it even brings PF2 more in line with 5e. I’m not sure how well that would be received.
I really think CapnZapp is speaking less about the game design itself than the official AP design. PF2 gives you the tools to design intelligent adventures, it just seems the APs are not taking full advantage of them.
 

Retreater

Legend
I guess the best options when designing encounters are to either present them in ways that they can't be combined (rival factions, unintelligent, or spread out too far a distance), or make them easier with the idea to join them together into a Moderate challenge?
We didn't really start to have issues until we tried to play it as more than a game of tactical skirmish encounters. It is like, enjoy the character creation mini game and then fight. Trying to depict an internally realistic world just didn't work for us.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
While I generally agree with your thesis, there is all kinds of errors in this paragraph. Comparing hand-to-hand marital arts (assumption) combat to sword and shield and magic combat is extremely flawed.
Dave, simply stating you disagree is not an argument. Is this just your gut feeling? The school I trained at also taught 6' staff and Japanese sword combat. That experience taught me that being outnumbered 2v1 is never good. I have been friends with some boffer combat people, and 2v1 is hard to defeat there also.

Perhaps people who have direct experience of 2v1 sword combat might comment -- is Dave's point of view that two skilled people attacking you is not much different from one justified? I'd prefer people with actual experience, but if you've been involved in SCA and feel good about your expertise, it would be helpful.

Then of course comparing 1v1 to 1v2 instead 4v4 to 4v8 is another level of flawed abstraction.
I believe that in typical military strategy the goal is to outnumber your opposition at the point ofcontact. Your statement would have value in the situations where all eight could not focus on the four, yes, but in most gaming environments that is not the case. I'd agree that in some cases it might be different, but typically, not so much.

I'm sure this will trigger your "that's unrealistic" meter, but if you have played any war-games, then both at tactical and strategic level, a 2v1 advantage is extremely significant. I'm tempted to copy in some old Avalon Hill Combat Result Tables, but I think you get the idea -- a 2v1 advantage is always a serious issue, at the individual, group and mass combat levels.

It isn't even the same on a realism level; however, add magic it goes out the window.
Killing 3 Kobolds or 6 more that entered form another room doesn't take more than one fireball.
Apologies -- I made the poor assumption that you had been following the thread. We are not talking about combining two baby challenges and suddenly fearing a TPK. If you read through the thread you will see that we are discussing combining two serious threats -- perhaps looking back at the messages relating to average encounter difficulty in APs might give some context to you.

I think you have played PF2, so you should be aware that a fireball, assuming you can target it only at opponents and not engulf friends (which in my experience as a PF2 caster is by no means even likely), is not going to take out any average opposition.

At 5th level a fireball does an average of 21 points of damage. 5th level opponents have between 60 and 120 hit points and about half of opponents save for half damage, so taking an average of about 16 points, so somewhere between 25% and 10% of their hits. The ones who Crit Fail will be worried (but still not taken out) but the rest will not even be bloodied by the attack. In 3.x and AD&D games it was indeed much more dangerous, but even so, fireballs don't take out serious opposition -- which is what we're discussing.

Finally, I note that you said "enter from another room" which implies that the two groups are not iclustered together -- which is indeed the way many combined encounters work. Or another common situation is that you are melee-engaged with one group when another arrives. In neither situation is it possible to cast a fireball that includes the newcomers.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I really think CapnZapp is speaking less about the game design itself than the official AP design. PF2 gives you the tools to design intelligent adventures, it just seems the APs are not taking full advantage of them.
I addressed that in a previous post: it may be possible if you mind the guidelines, but it’s likely not without the GM having to rework the adventure. As far as I understood it, that point wasn’t under contention. What I was trying to do is explore the argument and its implications since it seemed like we had moved on to a more general context. If we’re still hung up on official adventures, then I’ll just reiterate my point above and add that portraying a problem with official adventures as a general problem does a disservice to those reading these threads without the context of having run the system.
 

Zsong

Explorer
Official Adventure Paths routinely place multi-Extreme numbers of monsters in close proximity, like all the time. (Of course, sometimes, they're strung out. But maybe half of the levels in each AP - i.e. about ten - consist of a single dungeon map with all that level's monsters on it. And that dungeon map can be as small as 40x40 squares, placing all its dozen encounters all within as little as a few hundred feet of each other)

The easiest way to run a PF2 dungeon is to have your players go room by room in a dungeon, fighting each room's inhabitants by themselves (and take a 30-60 minute break every now and then). And just have the monsters stand where they are placed.

If you think that's unrealistic, you're pretty much on your own (there's rarely instructions that acknowledge monster repositioning - not in the adventures, not in the core rulebook, and not in the gamesmastery guide), and if you aren't mindful of the encounter XPs we just discussed, that's when you start seeing TPKs.

Few rpgs are as constrictive when it comes to a GMs creative freedom to combine encounters.
I’m a hardcore 1E/2E player that also plays 5E. and I had a really hard time designing for 5E because of this. If you want to do the 1E/2E style with the wandering monsters and random encounters then you are going to have a lot of trial and error. In my games it is near impossible to take a short rest with monsters in close vicinity. Yes I roll for a random encounter every 10 minutes in dungeons. But rope trick has become very very useful in my games. I use random encounters in the wilderness. It can be done. But it changes the game dynamic and does increase tpk. My players are cool with that as they prefer a more naturalism with encounters. Just realize you are going to have to do trial and error and the ball is in your court because the system doesn’t support this playstyle.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
Let me repost Rot Grub's post from Paizo forums in full, because he's completely on the money describing the issue:

"I am running 5 Paizo adventure paths at the moment (Age of Ashes, Agents of Edgewatch, and 2e conversions of Rise of the Runelords, Shattered Star, and Hell's Rebels). I enjoy Paizo APs for the wealth of story, locations, encounters and other material that I can tailor for my needs.

However, I see a prevalence of "monsters sitting in their room waiting to die" in most dungeons in APs. I like to play monsters with at least a modicum of intelligence, so when they hear that life-and-death struggle in the next room, they will consider joining in or at least check out what's happening.

This is more of a problem in 2nd Edition, where combining encounters makes for Extreme and often even more-difficult encounters when you combine them. And 2e's expectation that the party will take heal between encounters makes the idea that NPCs will stay in their room for 2 hours while their burglars/murderers sit down and "heal up" in the next room all the more unbelievable.

In Age of Ashes as we enter the final encounters of Chapter 2, this has been really prevalent. I chalked it up to growing pains with the new RPG. But as time has gone by, the AP designers seem committed to this pattern of moderate to severe encounters with intelligent enemies being clustered together. (Spoiler for the new Beginner Box: they encounter kobolds early on who are written as being unaware of the party, even though the party had just had a fight about 80 feet away, in an otherwise-silent dungeon no less.)

It's not like the designers are unaware that monsters can respond dynamically to the PCs' actions: there are a number of places, particularly in Age of Ashes volume 2, where the text describes how enemies will respond to a fight breaking out in other areas. (Still, even running as written it can quickly get out of control, as there are about 11(!) encounters, most of them ready to reinforce some of the others, all in a single open-air area. With 2e's tight encounter math this can quickly get deadly even with smart play.) )

It seems as if the designers of 2nd Edition have found a winning formula for making individual fights tense and exciting, but the AP designers are designing dungeons like they used to in 1st Edition, where you could combine encounters without killing the party. You could gather 12 Goblins in 1e, but that Fireball or that Black Tentacles could handle it. Not so in 2e.

So what I do, is when preparing for an area in 2e, I anticipate when encounters will combine and lower the difficulty of individual fights with the expectation that some of them will combine. It keeps the dungeon dynamic, and it rewards the party for finding ways to isolate groups of enemies. 2e at least has the advantage of giving us the tools so we can predict how hard things will get.

Still, I think it would be better if the designers didn't assume that every monster sat in their room waiting to die. The overarching stories in Paizo's APs can be strong; this seems like a story weakness."
I could have sworn this was linked here earlier, but I can’t find it. 😅

Anyway, I’m not sure this agrees with you. You’ve been saying you shouldn’t smush encounters together, but that’s exactly what he says he’s doing there at the end. If the general message needs to be “don't smush your encounters together”, I don’t see how this supports that. Even James Jacobs chimes in to say they expect people to adjust things and run them dynamically and reactively to what the PCs are doing.

If the problem is that official adventures (published so far) seem like they want you to do one thing but don’t support that very well as written, then I’m not sure there’s much contention here about that. Maybe we’re just talking past each other, but I also think it’s not is not particularly helpful for clarity to frame something as a general message when it’s actually more specific.
 

dave2008

Legend
..., then I’ll just reiterate my point above and add that portraying a problem with official adventures as a general problem does a disservice to those reading these threads without the context of having run the system.
Agreed, but not mentioning that it is an issue with official APs would also be a disservice, IMO. Now I don't use published adventures, so I don't think using the guidelines would be a problem for me as a DM, except...I don't like using guidelines! I want to be a dungeon, wilderness, swamp, lair, etc. "naturally." I like to think about what makes sense for the world and then populate the area accordingly and the difficulty be what it is without consideration for PCs. I do fear that would get me in some trouble in PF2 until I get a better hang of it.
 

dave2008

Legend
Dave, simply stating you disagree is not an argument. Is this just your gut feeling? The school I trained at also taught 6' staff and Japanese sword combat. That experience taught me that being outnumbered 2v1 is never good. I have been friends with some boffer combat people, and 2v1 is hard to defeat there also.
Disagreeing is a way to start an argument, but in reality I don't have a lot of desire to get in an argument and do the required research. I really only want to give my first hand experience and experience from videos I've watched. I am not an expert by any means. Here is what I consider my relevant experience:
  • 6 years of taekwondo
  • 4 years of tennis (highschool)
  • 2 years of track (state regional in the 800m) highschool + 1/2 hr at University
  • 12 years of soccer (football) through highschool (all conference defender)
  • 5+/- years of recreational soccer as an adult
  • 4 yrs of LARP style sword fighting
  • 6 years of coaching soccer
  • 4 years of attending competitive judo and jiu jitsu classes and tournaments (my son's competed) including state and national tournaments.
  • Observed competitive fencing and longsword fights in person and online over 2+ yrs
I believe that in typical military strategy the goal is to outnumber your opposition at the point ofcontact. Your statement would have value in the situations where all eight could not focus on the four, yes, but in most gaming environments that is not the case. I'd agree that in some cases it might be different, but typically, not so much.

I'm sure this will trigger your "that's unrealistic" meter, but if you have played any war-games, then both at tactical and strategic level, a 2v1 advantage is extremely significant. I'm tempted to copy in some old Avalon Hill Combat Result Tables, but I think you get the idea -- a 2v1 advantage is always a serious issue, at the individual, group and mass combat levels.
I agree that generally a 2-to-1 advantage is significant and a worthy goal in any combat game or RL combat. My point was simply that 2v1 is different than 4v8 despite that both a 2-to-1 advantage. History is riddled with accounts of the smaller force routing a much larger force (I'm talking about in the thousands / 10's of thousands here). This is, IMO, much less likely with a 2v1 combat. I can provide an example if you want.

Apologies -- I made the poor assumption that you had been following the thread. We are not talking about combining two baby challenges and suddenly fearing a TPK. If you read through the thread you will see that we are discussing combining two serious threats -- perhaps looking back at the messages relating to average encounter difficulty in APs might give some context to you.
I've been loosely following the thread from the beginning, but not consistently. My understanding was that we were talking about combing two "moderate" threats, which then equal an "extreme" threat in PF. Please correct me if I am wrong as I have been jumping back and forth through many threads and could have gotten them confused.

EDIT. A quick check, I was indeed thinking about a different thread.
I think you have played PF2, so you should be aware that a fireball, assuming you can target it only at opponents and not engulf friends (which in my experience as a PF2 caster is by no means even likely), is not going to take out any average opposition.
I have not played PF2. I have the books, but I could find a group to play before the pandemic. My local gaming store pretty much dropped PF and I don't really play online. Though I might have to change that as I haven't really had a chance to play anything sense the start of the pandemic.
Finally, I note that you said "enter from another room" which implies that the two groups are not iclustered together -- which is indeed the way many combined encounters work. Or another common situation is that you are melee-engaged with one group when another arrives. In neither situation is it possible to cast a fireball that includes the newcomers.
As I mentioned I have not yet played PF2, so I may not understand the changes to fireball, but what I was trying to say was:
  1. Scenario A: There are 3 goblins in the room and you cast fireball = 3 dead goblins
  2. Scenario B: There are now 6 goblins in the room (3 just came from an adjacent room) and you cast fireball = 6 dead goblins.
Scenario B is 2x the opponents, but the same "cost" to resolve. Does that make sense? If that is not how it works in PF2 then my apologies, that is how it works in every version of D&D I've played (1e / D&D, 4e, & 5e)
 

Retreater

Legend
As I mentioned I have not yet played PF2, so I may not understand the changes to fireball, but what I was trying to say was:
  1. Scenario A: There are 3 goblins in the room and you cast fireball = 3 dead goblins
  2. Scenario B: There are now 6 goblins in the room (3 just came from an adjacent room) and you cast fireball = 6 dead goblins.
Scenario B is 2x the opponents, but the same "cost" to resolve. Does that make sense? If that is not how it works in PF2 then my apologies, that is how it works in every version of D&D I've played (1e / D&D, 4e, & 5e)
In the case of PF2, you would never face goblins when you have access to fireball, or would simply get no experience for fighting them. Monsters would be tougher and it would be unlikely you could one shot them with a spell. Plus all spells are greatly limited in effectiveness.
Players simply don't have the AoE output to deal with large groups of suitably challenging monsters.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
Agreed, but not mentioning that it is an issue with official APs would also be a disservice, IMO.
Sure, but that’s not what I’m saying. One can discuss a context-specific issue without portraying it as a general problem.

Now I don't use published adventures, so I don't think using the guidelines would be a problem for me as a DM, except...I don't like using guidelines! I want to be a dungeon, wilderness, swamp, lair, etc. "naturally." I like to think about what makes sense for the world and then populate the area accordingly and the difficulty be what it is without consideration for PCs. I do fear that would get me in some trouble in PF2 until I get a better hang of it.
The way I handled this was to use the guidelines as a way to understand the nature of what was living there, so I could communicate an appropriate level of danger to the PCs.

For example, my PCs stumbled actoss a shambler’s lair while exploring. I knew it would be a really dangerous encounter, so I described the effect it had on its environment. They saw skulls and other signs that something nasty lurked within. And then my PCs got to decide what to do (avoid the area in this case).

When I talk about having tools that work, this is what I mean. I can look at the numbers and say “this situation will be X dangerous” and use that as one of my tools in my toolbox.
 

I'm also unconvinced that is a problem even in the context of official APs because 'fixing' it would just make the APs harder to use for tables that would rather run it without the kind of dynamism we're talking about, which I think applies to a significant portion of the AP audience. Jacobs stated as much in the thread that Zapp quoted from, they design the AP to be as usable for as many tables as possible, with the expectation that experienced GMs can hack it into an alternate shape if they find it to be too static or something.

That makes sense, it isn't hard to weaken encounters so they can interact, and the player-base who wants that is the experienced one that's bored of treating monster encounters as set piece fights, they're more than experienced enough to read the guidelines and make adjustments. But the players and GMs who are happiest with the monsters being nice and static are the ones who are probably inexperienced and who would have a harder time adjusting it. Viewing that as a 'problem' is short sighted.

Which is kind of a running theme on this forum, not gonna lie.
 

Actually that is not how the 5e guidelines are supposed to work. A "deadly" encounter only provides a "chance" of a player death or two. This is also with in the context of an assumed daily attrition model. So these are not intended to be full powered heroes. Now I agree the 5e guidelines and 5e in general is less balanced and accurate on this front. But the guidelines are actually doing different things. Also, the 5e guidelines are very accurate for certain type of group; however, because the system is less constrained / controlled than PF2 it has a much wider set of groups, compared to PF2, that it doesn't work for.
You're misremembering, here's a quote courtesy of DND Beyond:

Medium. A medium encounter usually has one or two scary moments for the players, but the characters should emerge victorious with no casualties. One or more of them might need to use healing resources.

Hard. A hard encounter could go badly for the adventurers. Weaker characters might get taken out of the fight, and there’s a slim chance that one or more characters might die.

Deadly. A deadly encounter could be lethal for one or more player characters. Survival often requires good tactics and quick thinking, and the party risks defeat.
Compare this to the encounter guidelines from 2e, courtesy of Archives of Nethys:
Moderate-threat encounters are a serious challenge to the characters, though unlikely to overpower them completely. Characters usually need to use sound tactics and manage their resources wisely to come out of a moderate-threat encounter ready to continue on and face a harder challenge without resting.

Severe-threat encounters are the hardest encounters most groups of characters can consistently defeat. These encounters are most appropriate for important moments in your story, such as confronting a final boss. Bad luck, poor tactics, or a lack of resources due to prior encounters can easily turn a severe-threat encounter against the characters, and a wise group keeps the option to disengage open.

Extreme-threat encounters are so dangerous that they are likely to be an even match for the characters, particularly if the characters are low on resources. This makes them too challenging for most uses. An extreme-threat encounter might be appropriate for a fully rested group of characters that can go all-out, for the climactic encounter at the end of an entire campaign, or for a group of veteran players using advanced tactics and teamwork.
Both games define their ultimate difficulty as having a risk of the party being defeated and requiring good tactics. Their penultimate levels both cite defeat and death as a real possibility. There are differences between the two games (2e isn't reliant on an attrition model, so its encounters are a little fiercer by themselves) but on a basic level they map pretty well in terms of stated expectation-- the main catch is that 2e is more expressive about what 'risks defeat' likely means in the 5e entry and what kind of party can take on its extreme encounter-- note the 'or' used at the end, extreme encounters are still ok if used rarely, even when the party has suffered some attrition.
 

Retreater

Legend
Moderate-threat encounters are a serious challenge to the characters, though unlikely to overpower them completely. Characters usually need to use sound tactics and manage their resources wisely to come out of a moderate-threat encounter ready to continue on and face a harder challenge without resting.
I guess the "resting" is not referring to a 10-minute rest to regain focus points, use battle medicine, repair checks, etc.? Should we infer that "resting" after a moderate-threat is a 8-hour/full/long rest?
Because I've yet to have a single encounter after which the party didn't want to take at least 10 minutes to recharge those particular resources.
 

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