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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I hope you're still talking about 5E or Pathfinder 1, because when it becomes "all a big battle" in Pathfinder 2, then is when the heroes start dying...
Actually, I think he’s talking about 4e. The DMG2 (IIRC) discusses using multiple rooms when building encounters. Instead of budgeting room by room, you build over an area with an objective in mind. It’s sort of a middle ground between combat as sport and combat as war. You’re still designing with appropriate encounters in mind, but the scope of the action is bigger than just one fight in a room.

For example, suppose the PCs need to make their way past the barracks into an enemy base. You would budget your encounter for the entire barracks complex as e.g., a severe encounter and not just room-by-room. If they’re clever, the PCs can engage it a piece at a time or even bypass it. If they screw up and someone raises the alarm, you’re still okay because you budgeted for a complex-wide fight.

For a PF2 official adventure, you’d want to look at an area to see how the combined encounters added up. If they’re together an extreme or worse encounter, then you can’t really run that area dynamically. If they’re not, then I don’t see why not because you know how dangerous the encounter will be in aggregate. And if it’s too dangerous, and you want to run it that way anyway, then just change it. The CRB says that’s okay.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Ok.

You can totally take an Encounter and split it up over several rooms, or make it a running battle.

What you can't do (intuitively*) is the reverse: go "oh there heroes are soon here, let's have the monsters act smart and pool up".

Why? Because even two moderate encounters become an Extreme one bunched up. More generally: taking one hard encounter and splitting it up into easier encounters is safer than taking many easier encounters and combining them into one hard encounter. The outcome where the many encounters end up being too easy is seldom a problem (and seldom even a thing in PF2 :) ) The outcome where the one encounter ends up being too hard is much more of a real problem.

*) Of course, you can do it, as in, it isn't impossible. But you need to have encounter budgets in mind - you can't just make the choices that make sense narratively. That's what I mean by "intuitively" above.

If four guards isn't insurmountable, eight of them usually isn't much more of a threat in role-playing games. This is the intuition that leads you astray in PF2.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
For a PF2 official adventure, you’d want to look at an area to see how the combined encounters added up. If they’re together an extreme or worse encounter, then you can’t really run that area dynamically.
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.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
I should add that I'm chiefly talking low levels here.

At high levels heroes start becoming able to handle even Extreme encounters, and heroes also have many aces up their sleeves to turn the tables when up against unexpectedly stiff resistance.

At low levels, where even one Moderate encounter can kill the unwary party, facing two at the same will be absolutely brutal.

At high level, any enemy that isn't higher level is inherently easy thanks to how Incapacitation works. And spellcasters shine when facing lots of mooks.

At low level, there's very few ways to "incapacitate" an enemy outright, and no good area attacks, so there really is no such thing as a "mook" (except when the level difference starts to become pronounced)
 

I hope you're still talking about 5E or Pathfinder 1, because when it becomes "all a big battle" in Pathfinder 2, then is when the heroes start dying...
No matter what edition, that js exactly tge point of those two guards. Be too conservative with your resources and one might get away.
 

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.
This is sad.
That is exactly the design, which made me stop playing 4e.
We played Gardmore Abbey and it was fun. Then my Players entered Gardmore Abbey and went to the dungeon. Every dungeon wa finely balanced and a fun encounter... but playing those out took in a tactical enjoying fashion took several hours each... there was no story progression and no way to bypass encounters or win a distinctive advantage so you can kill the enemies and move on.

If the encounter design in 4e would have been: one nigh impossible encounter that you can break up in several small ones by playing clever in actual play, we might have played it longer...

In 5e it also should be in mind: combining 2-3 encounters in a big one with a short rest in between actually makes the encounter guidelines work.

Fight, attract reinforcements and fight them, fight a poissble next wave, rest.

This pattern allows every class to shine.

I don't know Pathfinder2 well enough to make predictions here, but the Idea, that you can fight room by room without monsters intelligently fleeing if given the chance seems a bit ancient design.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
I mean, in theory you shouldn't combine encounters in other games either unless they were designed to be combinable :p But in practice it works out because enemies are weaker than they are in "theory". (or in case of published 5e adventures, sometimes they are just straight up under powered even by guidelines)
 


CapnZapp

Legend
I mean, in theory you shouldn't combine encounters in other games either unless they were designed to be combinable But in practice it works out because enemies are weaker than they are in "theory". (or in case of published 5e adventures, sometimes they are just straight up under powered even by guidelines)
I guess it's really a slippery slope, a gradient.

If the game works like people intuitively expect things to work, there's no problem.

And, yes, for games with levels, you obviously need a baseline experience with such systems (you can't simply count the enemy) - not talking the intuition of regular people (who have never played rpgs) here...

The point here is that you are significantly more likely to be taken by surprise when you gm an official PF2 game than, say, d20 or 5E.

And it is when the GM is surprised (by the resulting encounter difficulty) that the risk of sustaining character deaths increase.
 

I mean, in theory you shouldn't combine encounters in other games either unless they were designed to be combinable :p But in practice it works out because enemies are weaker than they are in "theory". (or in case of published 5e adventures, sometimes they are just straight up under powered even by guidelines)
Why shouldn't you?

In many older and newer adventures, guard posts often may ring alarm and then it becomes one big encounter.
This is how a normal defensive position works.

Going room by room should actually be the outlier. So the normal design should expect to have reenforcements attracted by sound, so after a very brief first encounter, the next one starts.

For 5e at least, that makes the guidelines of 2 to 3 encounters befire short rest actually very natural.
It also allows for using the actual guidelines, because in the possible third fight, you will have those characters, not relying on limited powers actually really shine. The champion might get his crits when the battle master is out of SD. The rogue can do everything he could in the first fight. The warlock can still blast away with agonizing blast. The wizard can now use his conserved 3rd level slot he didn't want to waste just in case.

Allowing everyone to heal up after every single encounter might make 5e (and probably Pathfinder2) way less or more deadly than designed.

Why more deadly? Because the usual answer to "to easy" battles is making every single fight way too hard, which in return just teaches the players to rest all the time.
 

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