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Paizo A question about Paizo/PF adventure design

So I looked up the encounters:

I'm gonna put aside the fact that you didn't just combine the encounters, you explicitly ignored the text stating that the creatures in the next room don't leave the room, taking for granted the previous creatures, including the Golem there to guard them, have it and continue their religious service.

But even if you did decide that it was stupid for the Dragon Priest and Elekos to not rush out, it didn't occur to you that ignoring that should probably be a trigger for you to alter the adventure for some reason (since you were now intentionally, and not accidentally, in homebrew territory), I'm not sure why it didn't, but that was a major screwball.

Even then, i want to note its only barely an extreme encounter (and only for a party of 4, if you have any more than that its just severe) so its actually something your party can handle with good play, which you've suggested your party doesn't really do... but that kinda makes it a fair loss.

But wanna know something fun? Slap the weak template on any of the three creatures, (you can do this on the fly easily) and the encounter is only severe, eliminate a creature entirely, say one of the two level 7s, the gathering room encounter is only trivial by itself, and everything together is 130 exp, just barely over the Severe Threshold.

This post, including acquiring a pdf off a friend, plating dinner, checking the encounter, and checking the guidelines, took me about 10 minutes.
 

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Retreater

Legend
So I looked up the encounters:
Well, I guess you weren't at the table.
First off, the door trap's DC to find is ridiculously high. I think the character in the lead rolled pretty well and got a mere "31" instead of the 32 required to find it. Granted the fine print of the adventure says (and I'm just going off memory here) that when a character touches the door, the trap is sprung. But I'm running for 5 players, on a VTT, going back and forth from voice chat software, VTT, a PDF of the adventure, Archives of Nethys, and helping 5 players manage their character sheets. So when the player tells me his character opens the door (not merely touching) the door, it sets off the trap.
So before initiative is rolled, his character crit fails his saves and immediately dies (even after spending a Hero point to try to change his crit failure into a success or even just a regular fail). Bad luck to fail both saves, but the DCs are pretty high for that level. The door is open now and the enemies can't just stand there.
So my mistake was reading "touches" as "opens." For that, my group is punished with a TPK.
And adding templates is nowhere nearly as easy as you'd suggest, especially when you are changing automation on an adventure you had to custom insert into Roll20 because that VTT doesn't fully support PF2.
So congrats on being an expert GM who can do all this in 5 minutes while making dinner. You can keep celebrating as this game continues to drive away new groups, alienate fans, and frustrate a GM who honestly wants to provide a good experience for his players.
 

Well, I guess you weren't at the table.
First off, the door trap's DC to find is ridiculously high. I think the character in the lead rolled pretty well and got a mere "31" instead of the 32 required to find it. Granted the fine print of the adventure says (and I'm just going off memory here) that when a character touches the door, the trap is sprung. But I'm running for 5 players, on a VTT, going back and forth from voice chat software, VTT, a PDF of the adventure, Archives of Nethys, and helping 5 players manage their character sheets. So when the player tells me his character opens the door (not merely touching) the door, it sets off the trap.
So before initiative is rolled, his character crit fails his saves and immediately dies (even after spending a Hero point to try to change his crit failure into a success or even just a regular fail). Bad luck to fail both saves, but the DCs are pretty high for that level. The door is open now and the enemies can't just stand there.
So my mistake was reading "touches" as "opens." For that, my group is punished with a TPK.
And adding templates is nowhere nearly as easy as you'd suggest, especially when you are changing automation on an adventure you had to custom insert into Roll20 because that VTT doesn't fully support PF2.
So congrats on being an expert GM who can do all this in 5 minutes while making dinner. You can keep celebrating as this game continues to drive away new groups, alienate fans, and frustrate a GM who honestly wants to provide a good experience for his players.
oooh 5 players? then let me clarify for you, the encounter was only severe to begin with, if you had adjusted it with a template (no really, just subtract an additional two as the automation does its thing) or by flushing a single monster, it likely would have dropped to moderate. Its well within the realm of possibility that your party could have trounced it.

While you did misread the trap, that wasn't what killed your party, it was a combination of bad tactics, bad dice rolls, and your unwillingness to adjust the adventure they're playing after the first two TPKs demonstrated they need easier content.

I mentioned the time it took me to write the post to point out how little time it takes to check and adjust an encounter, that doesn't just apply to me, it applies to you too if you don't just throw up your hands and give up. Sure, it maybe would have taken you marginally longer, so what?

I don't appreciate the bitter, manipulative tone I'm picking up from you concerning that last part, you're allowed to be wrong, and your party is allowed to lose encounters sometimes, I don't have some moral obligation to leave you unchallenged and the implied threat where refusing to jump when you say jump has some kind of dire consequences for the game is so karen it hurts. You haven't been alienated, you're trying to get back at someone who made you feel as if you were wrong on a forum, cool it.
 

dave2008

Legend
Plus, there's something to be said for the idea that not every game is for every player-- maybe you would be happier with another system, or retreater would, if they're unwilling to adjust encounters to suit their style and group. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink, the encounters they're referring to are probably pretty easy to adjust down to accommodate combination-- and easier than an adjustment in 5e would have been, which I know because I've done a bunch of adjustment in both.
As I have already mentioned, if I get a chance I would probably play a PC in PF2, not GM. That is OK, as you say not every system is for every GM. However, your point about it being easier to adjust encounters in PF2 than it is in 5e is pretty much exactly the viewpoint that is, for me, a problem I have with PF2 from GM perspective. I never need to adjust encounters in 5e, they just work, and the concept of doing so is foreign to how we play the game.

So for me:
  • Not really interested in GM PF2 at this time (to much difference from what I am familiar with / comfort zone)
  • I am (or was) interested in playing PF2, but the pandemic and lack of PF2 groups in my area is causing a problem with that. Hopefully things change soon.
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't appreciate the bitter, manipulative tone I'm picking up from you concerning that last part, you're allowed to be wrong, and your party is allowed to lose encounters sometimes, I don't have some moral obligation to leave you unchallenged and the implied threat where refusing to jump when you say jump has some kind of dire consequences for the game is so karen it hurts. You haven't been alienated, you're trying to get back at someone who made you feel as if you were wrong on a forum, cool it.
Wow, you might want to re-read some of your posts, your coming off as a poor ambassador for the game (which I don't think you want to be) and bit of a jerk. I get that your buttons are being pushed about a game you love, but chillax a bit. You're not helping people enjoy the game.
 


Retreater

Legend
I don't appreciate the bitter, manipulative tone I'm picking up from you concerning that last part
Sorry. I took your tone as differently than you were intending and responded on the defensive and passive aggressively. I apologize.

Its well within the realm of possibility that your party could have trounced it.
The party's fighter went down before initiative was rolled (per the description of the hazard). So we weren't really dealing with 5 characters at that point. The next round, it took out the champion, leaving the monk, wizard, and cleric behind. It was brutal.
Part of the extenuating circumstances at my table was that the group wanted no modifications to how the AP was intended to run. However since things were so difficult, they requested I not up the challenge when we added a fifth player.
 

Wow, you might want to re-read some of your posts, your coming off as a poor ambassador for the game (which I don't think you want to be) and bit of a jerk. I get that your buttons are being pushed about a game you love, but chillax a bit. You're not helping people enjoy the game.
Honestly, I just looked over my posts expecting to see some obvious thing jump out to me that was rude. I can't really find what you're alluding to. I'm a bit wary of accepting it out of hand because I've noticed some posters use rudeness to broadly denounce disagreement they can't otherwise counter. I'm not thinking of you when I say that, but just in general, I'm aware of it's status as a useful tactic. I'm also not a 'brand ambassador' I prefer to be more real than that, and no one pays me to promote Pathfinder-- I am a person, just like you, or Zapp, or Retreater, who is reading what you are saying, and is trying to clear up the misunderstandings that I see. I'd be glad if people used the content of my posts to enjoy the game, but I can't force them to see the wisdom in the things I say, and sometimes nothing helps but having your position broken down for you, I have had to learn to value it when someone does it to me.

That doesn't seem to be possible from what you and others have said
I'm not seeing why not? When those systems don't care about balance, it means that the GM places the challenges throughout their dungeon with the expectation that players don't have to be able to fight their way through everything directly. In other words, its not much different than if I ignore pathfinder's encounter guidelines and drop what happens to be deadly or beyond encounters here and there. If we were playing one of those games, and you were GMing, you'd drop whatever monsters felt right, and if they were more than I could handle, I'd die trying to fight them head on. You'd have to improvise (and use simulationist rules) as I tried various plans to survive and overcome-- which is also how you'd have to run a game that doesn't care about balance in this game. if you want to create an encounter of orcs thats obviously way more than a party can take on, but want to place a portcullis that can be dropped to divide it into manageable chunks, nothing stops you.

Nothing about the game precludes that play style, and its probably easier than 4e to run that way, since the game has more of the simulation mechanics you need to run the 'alternate plans' we'd use. You're working a little up hill, but it ain't too bad for a game that didn't explicitly have OSR style play as a design goal. Those games all have a reputation of lethality for a reason after all.
 
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Sorry. I took your tone as differently than you were intending and responded on the defensive and passive aggressively. I apologize.


The party's fighter went down before initiative was rolled (per the description of the hazard). So we weren't really dealing with 5 characters at that point. The next round, it took out the champion, leaving the monk, wizard, and cleric behind. It was brutal.
Part of the extenuating circumstances at my table was that the group wanted no modifications to how the AP was intended to run. However since things were so difficult, they requested I not up the challenge when we added a fifth player.

Apology accepted and thank you for it.

I can see that, and don't misunderstand, I definitely think the game's encounters can be on the hard side. In this instance you technically modified it out of how it was intended to run via encounter combination. Which is what killed your players, while I understand it was an honest mistake, I'm pushing back because it still was one. In addition to misreading the 'touches' language of the trap, it was noted that the wards on the door are designed to keep people out in the preceding text (which I'm reading for the first time, since I don't run APs, I'm not used to how they're structured.) So I'm really just saying the warning there was fair, its also cool that you missed it. Usually when I make a mistake like this, in a way that screws my players, I tend to go to the other side and make adjustments in other ways, I run on an automated VTT as well, so I know it complicates things.

To compare, Not long ago, my party was level 17 and assaulting a massive citadel, they were 7 people (because I'm crazy, but also never doing that again) and I placed their encounter weight in Skulltakers in the room. The healer won initiative, and stepped out despite knowing most of the skulltakers had their turn right after his. He got whammied by multiple horrid wiltings, and then got finger of death'd by the following round, as did another player. I realized something was off, narrated their retreat once they declared it (faking a couple of die rolls behind my screen to ensure it worked, since I suspected they didn't deserve this TPK) and we left the encounter behind and roleplayed the resurrection sequence for the rest of the session.

I did some checking and realized the problem was that the encounter math has no way of accounting for the fact that AOE damage scales up linearly in total as you increase the number of players, and seven players brings enough +1 creatures, that can pack that AOE, they can get whammied pretty fast. Even two such creatures is a lot of damage to take in one turn, since the players can't use their numbers to soak it, the way they normally can with big boi attacks.

I kind of want to recommend to you that you step away from official modules, not because I think they're bad, but because I can see how much the idea of altering them for the party is stressing you, that your party doesn't really wanna get better to compensate, and that playing them as written is straining your sense of realism (regarding reasons some encounters wouldn't combine.)

I can report the system is a pleasure on the homebrewer side, and it would be super easy to scatter very easy encounters around that could chain, the exploration rules actually make that kind of game play better than it was when I tried it in 5e, since this game manages the passage of time better. Even barricading a door so the monsters can't get through ala Moria from the LOTR movies, can be useful for the sake of buying the party the 10 minutes they need to refocus and such. If you want advice on automating this game, I can provide that as well-- I run way low prep because my depression and anxiety often get in the way, so speed is my middle name.
 

dave2008

Legend
Honestly, I just looked over my posts expecting to see some obvious thing jump out to me that was rude.
IDK, I find this rude (assuming you actually read the tread referenced, though perhaps you only read the encounter:

"oooh 5 players? then let me clarify for you, the encounter was only severe to begin with, if you had adjusted it with a template (no really, just subtract an additional two as the automation does its thing) or by flushing a single monster, it likely would have dropped to moderate."

Perhaps it come off as more condescending than rude, but they are in the same ball part IMO. In reality I think that was what was triggering me personally more then general rudeness. Bad choice of words on my part, Very much a: "your doing wrong, here is how it should be done" attitude. It is more tone than content, which a bad place to make a judgement over an online post - so probably as much my fault as yours.

Though, I am surprised you can't see how this is rude:
"... has some kind of dire consequences for the game is so karen it hurts."

Now I will freely admit that what appears rude when written on an internet forum may indeed have no intent to be rude in reality.
I'm not seeing why not?
I know. Unfortunately I don't see the value in trying to explain my position much more. If it is really something you are interested in I will give it one more shot. Let me know.
 

IDK, I find this rude (assuming you actually read the tread referenced, though perhaps you only read the encounter:

"oooh 5 players? then let me clarify for you, the encounter was only severe to begin with, if you had adjusted it with a template (no really, just subtract an additional two as the automation does its thing) or by flushing a single monster, it likely would have dropped to moderate."

Perhaps it come off as more condescending than rude, but they are in the same ball part IMO. In reality I think that was what was triggering me personally more then general rudeness. Bad choice of words on my part, Very much an attitude of your doing wrong, "here is how it should be done" attitude. It is more tone than content, which a bad place to make a judgement over an online post - so probably as much my fault as yours.

Though, I am surprised you can't see how this is rude:
"... has some kind of dire consequences for the game is so karen it hurts."

Now I will freely admit that what appears rude when written on an internet forum may indeed have no intent to be rude in reality.

I know. Unfortunately I don't see the value in trying to explain my position much more. If it is really something you are interested in I will give it one more shot. Let me know.

I don't consider expressions of irritation with someone who is already in the process of disrespecting me to be rude. This is honestly what I was worried about when you made the comment accusing me of rudeness, the problem you have with me is that I'm coming across as uppity, because I'm teaching someone something in the process of rejecting their argument. Yes, I was a little frictive about the '5 players' comment because Retreater was directing heat at me for my disagreement, so it was phrased flippantly but I hardly think I've been especially 'hotter' than the temperature of this room, including you.

As for the second part, if you feel like you want to throw in the towel here, then honestly I encourage you to do so. I know you're framing here is meant to convey that I'm just not understanding something that hasn't been touched by my arguments to the contrary, but I've seen nothing of the reasoning of your position, you've been holding it back, I have no way of judging its quality. My post was a response to a paragraph outlining in exact terms, what I don't understand, and why I think it does work just fine. If that isn't sufficient to convey engagement or respect, or whatever it is you're looking for, I'm afraid I don't have anything to offer you and I have no intention of begging.
 

Retreater

Legend
After the encounter I realized I handled the hazard incorrectly and we replayed it, after I boosted them a level. Playing the encounter one level higher, knowing the challenges beyond, the group did fine. However, it would be a frustrating thing to keep replaying encounters, especially when we had such limited gaming time (3 hours every two weeks).
The other restrictions the players were placing on me, interpersonal drama, and the lack of Roll20 support for that Adventure Path caused me to drop the campaign.
Maybe Age of Ashes wasn't a good fit. Maybe it was other circumstances, but I didn't have a good time with it. Like @The-Magic-Sword suggested, I did enjoy better making my own encounters, which I would run as tests before bringing in new characters after each TPK.
Each was hard for the group, which I tested at Low, Moderate, and Severe thresholds, accounting for 5 characters this time. The Moderate and Severe especially were beyond the comfort level of most players.
From my experience there's not a lot of wiggle room. A mistake (by a player or GM) can easily result in a character death, which compounds the challenge for the entire group.
I do believe that Paizo should've released a different AP for their inaugural campaign, or at least a series of beginner adventures to guide players and GMs. It doesn't play like 5e or PF1. Having good adventures to show us how to run it is crucial to the success of their line, which was certainly a failing of 4E.
 

dave2008

Legend
I don't consider expressions of irritation with someone who is already in the process of disrespecting me to be rude. This is honestly what I was worried about when you made the comment accusing me of rudeness, the problem you have with me is that I'm coming across as uppity, because I'm teaching someone something in the process of rejecting their argument. Yes, I was a little frictive about the '5 players' comment because Retreater was directing heat at me for my disagreement, so it was phrased flippantly but I hardly think I've been especially 'hotter' than the temperature of this room, including you.
It is hard to see things from outside our own perspective, I am sorry if I was adding to the heat. That was not my intent, sometimes I make reactionary comments without thinking them through. I do think there is some value in that too though.

I also think it is possible to teach without coming across as "uppity," but it can be a fine line (particularly in this medium). Really just a few words different here and their and I don't think I would have reacted at all.
As for the second part, if you feel like you want to throw in the towel here, then honestly I encourage you to do so. I know you're framing here is meant to convey that I'm just not understanding something that hasn't been touched by my arguments to the contrary,
No, my point was not that you lack an understanding, but that I haven't put in the effort to properly explain. I can't expect you to understand something I haven't thoroughly explained.
 

It is hard to see things from outside our own perspective, I am sorry if I was adding to the heat. That was not my intent, sometimes I make reactionary comments without thinking them through. I do think there is some value in that too though.

I also think it is possible to teach without coming across as "uppity," but it can be a fine line (particularly in this medium). Really just a few words different here and their and I don't think I would have reacted at all.

No, my point was not that you lack an understanding, but that I haven't put in the effort to properly explain. I can't expect you to understand something I haven't thoroughly explained.
Well, do as you will, in so far as explaining things go.
 

As I have already mentioned, if I get a chance I would probably play a PC in PF2, not GM. That is OK, as you say not every system is for every GM. However, your point about it being easier to adjust encounters in PF2 than it is in 5e is pretty much exactly the viewpoint that is, for me, a problem I have with PF2 from GM perspective. I never need to adjust encounters in 5e, they just work, and the concept of doing so is foreign to how we play the game.

So for me:
  • Not really interested in GM PF2 at this time (to much difference from what I am familiar with / comfort zone)
  • I am (or was) interested in playing PF2, but the pandemic and lack of PF2 groups in my area is causing a problem with that. Hopefully things change soon.
I've mentioned this before, but my main group and I are 5E babies who got introduced to the hobby via Critical Role. I take issue with the idea that encounters "just work" in 5E: as has been noted in earlier threads, low level is deadly and higher levels become trivial unless you significantly alter the challenge ratings. If your players are fine with combat being cruise control, there is of course nothing wrong with this, but my players (and myself as GM as well), were highly unsatisfied with that state of affairs even after my work modifying encounters. In 5E, that's significantly harder than it is to do in Pathfinder 2, especially when I have to account for less/extra players.

While my main group and I will always love 5E for introducing us to the hobby, Pathfinder 2 hit at the perfect time when we had outgrown it and craved something more complex. I believe the encounter building guidelines in Pathfinder 2 "just work" and I find combat is fast and highly meaningful. I don't need to modify encounters unless another player shows up and, as a bonus, it is extremely easy to do so.

I'm in the process of converting more non-Pathfinder 2 groups to Pathfinder 2, but learning how to do things via VTT instead of in person is definitely a stumbling block for me. Learning how to use Foundry is like learning a new game system, haha.
 

dave2008

Legend
I've mentioned this before, but my main group and I are 5E babies who got introduced to the hobby via Critical Role. I take issue with the idea that encounters "just work" in 5E: as has been noted in earlier threads,
Perhaps I should have clarified, but I thought it was clear from the context of my post. 5e encounters "just work' for my DM style and my group. I realize it may not work for others (I think I addressed that as well somewhat). What I mean by this is: I don't have to worry about designing an encounter for a specific XP budget or encounter difficulty. I can make an encounter simply based on what makes sense for the area. No need to check if it is "moderate, "easy," or "extreme." I fear that approach will lead to a lot of TPKs in PF2. Now, once I'm more familiar, maybe not, but I am really not interested in having to design encounters with a budget or difficulty in mind.

So for me, 5e encounters work and I don't have to worry about XP budgets or challenge ratings. However, I will agree the encounter guidelines in the DMG are hit-and-miss and of limited use compared to PF2. Of course what I like about 5e is that I don't need to use them at all to have an exciting and interesting adventure or combat. They are, IMO, completely unnecessary and that is how I like it!
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Perhaps I should have clarified, but I thought it was clear from the context of my post. 5e encounters "just work' for my DM style and my group. I realize it may not work for others (I think I addressed that as well somewhat). What I mean by this is: I don't have to worry about designing an encounter for a specific XP budget or encounter difficulty. I can make an encounter simply based on what makes sense for the area. No need to check if it is "moderate, "easy," or "extreme." I fear that approach will lead to a lot of TPKs in PF2. Now, once I'm more familiar, maybe not, but I am really not interested in having to design encounters with a budget or difficulty in mind.

So for me, 5e encounters work and I don't have to worry about XP budgets or challenge ratings. However, I will agree the encounter guidelines in the DMG are hit-and-miss and of limited use compared to PF2. Of course what I like about 5e is that I don't need to use them at all to have an exciting and interesting adventure or combat. They are, IMO, completely unnecessary and that is how I like it!
Do PCs run from some encounters, or have you developed an intuitive sense of what works for your group? How did things go when you first started running 5e?

I tried just doing what made sense for my group in 5e, but I ended up accidentally killing them with flying snakes. 😅
 

dave2008

Legend
Do PCs run from some encounters, or have you developed an intuitive sense of what works for your group? How did things go when you first started running 5e?

I tried just doing what made sense for my group in 5e, but I ended up accidentally killing them with flying snakes. 😅
Some of both. My group is generally cautious and likely to retreat if they get in a pinch. 5e as few things that can take a group down in 1 round so retreat is almost always an option.

When I started 5e I used the encounter guidelines and it worked well for my new group, less so with my veteran group. With the new group I used the guidelines until about 5th-6th level when I got to an intuitive feel for them. That campaign ended at 10th lvl. With my veteran group I dropped the guidelines and just went with my traditional design (what makes sense for the area) after the 2nd session I think. That group is 15th level now. I've been playing with that group since 1e and we just have style that works for us and I quickly realized the guidelines didn't really matter to how we played.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
Some of both. My group is generally cautious and likely to retreat if they get in a pinch. 5e as few things that can take a group down in 1 round so retreat is almost always an option.

When I started 5e I used the encounter guidelines and it worked well for my new group, less so with my veteran group. With the new group I used the guidelines until about 5th-6th level when I got to an intuitive feel for them. That campaign ended at 10th lvl. With my veteran group I dropped the guidelines and just went with my traditional design (what makes sense for the area) after the 2nd session I think. That group is 15th level now. I've been playing with that group since 1e and we just have style that works for us and I quickly realized the guidelines didn't really matter to how we played.

Question just because I'm curious: are there firm differences in playstyle between the new group versus the veteran group? Or is it just party makeup?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Some of both. My group is generally cautious and likely to retreat if they get in a pinch. 5e as few things that can take a group down in 1 round so retreat is almost always an option.

When I started 5e I used the encounter guidelines and it worked well for my new group, less so with my veteran group. With the new group I used the guidelines until about 5th-6th level when I got to an intuitive feel for them. That campaign ended at 10th lvl. With my veteran group I dropped the guidelines and just went with my traditional design (what makes sense for the area) after the 2nd session I think. That group is 15th level now. I've been playing with that group since 1e and we just have style that works for us and I quickly realized the guidelines didn't really matter to how we played.
Thanks for the explanation. Actually being willing and able to retreat is a big deal. That goes a long way towards mitigating the danger of difficult fights. It’s cool your players do that.

I think you could run PF2 like that, especially if you used Proficiency Without Level. You’re not just setting up fights and having at it, so your PCs can just disengage when things get too dangerous. Essentially, your organic approach to determining difficulty ought to still work in PF2.

However, if I recall correctly, you have other reasons why PF2 is not a good game for you to run, but I thought it was worth pointing out. What you do sounds similar to what some of us have discussed in our approaches.
 

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