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Pathfinder 2E Advice for a 5E DM moving to PF2E

CapnZapp

Legend
You will want at least one player with Battle Medicine, and one player with access to Healing magic
Yes. If you read the CRB, this will not be indicated at all. You'd think Medicine is just one skill out of many. You'd think the Heal spell is just one spell out of many.

But in reality the CRB should have said "if you opt to play a party without both these options, you'll be playing the game on Nightmare mode".
For spellcasters there is a ton of trap options, especially at low levels.
You could argue all of the low level spells are trap options*... compared to instead playing a second fighter (or somesuch), that is.
*) except Heal of course
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Is this true? If so, it makes me a bit sad. I hate the idea that you have to have a maxed stat.
Since every +1 is so valuable, it really is not worth it to start with 16 instead of 18 just because you get to put a 14 instead of a 12 in something else (or whatever).

Pathfinder 2 is the literal opposite of those other D&D games where your ability scores are more descriptive in nature, but doesn't change much about your character's statistical prowess, as it were. Put otherwise, while playing a Fighter with Strength 13 or a Bard with Charisma 8 is at least feasible in OD&D (and perhaps even in 5E) if maybe more "fun" than "workable" it is unthinkable in PF2. And by that I literally mean that nothing about this game even considers such an eventuality - everything instead expects you to fight nail and tooth for every little +1.

Consider this: if a Wizard is expected to enjoy having her main contribution to a fight be debuffing the monsters by slapping a -1 penalty on them, somethinga 5E player might consider the most boring and least flashy contribution ever; what do you think the designers would think about a character that voluntarily abstains from a +1 already from the start - and remember, that's a permanent decision; you will never be able to catch up.

So it isn't that you "have" to have a maxed stat. Instead, as Magic Sword says, there's just no reason not to.

There was no reason implemented in the game since it suggests the player are interested in more of a friendly casual game, and everything about PF2 is instead geared up for a competitive game where every little +1 is intended to mean a lot.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
My group's opinion is that anything below an 18 is terrible for a primary stat, and will feel super bad, so I'd go with what they say, given that they seem to do better than most of the people I read about, and with harder encounters.
Word.

I tried suggesting adding randomness to character generation. Not quite "roll 3d6 in order" but at least "you get the chance of starting with 20 if you also accept the risk of starting with 16".

No dice.

I got push-back so hard I was completely blindsided. All players unanimously decreed that while a 20 was nice it was not worth the risk of starting with a 16, despite that only being -1 compared to the standard.

After recovering from the shock (random chargen is after all core to the D&D experience) I of course acquiesced and dropped the idea (going with the standard char-build rules). But it really opened my eyes to how important each +1 bonus really is viewed from the player side (as I'm the GM I hadn't really looked into the particulars of building my own character)
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
Yes. If you read the CRB, this will not be indicated at all. You'd think Medicine is just one skill out of many. You'd think the Heal spell is just one spell out of many.

But in reality the CRB should have said "if you opt to play a party without both these options, you'll be playing the game on Nightmare mode".

If your characters are dead -- Are you really playing?

Since every +1 is so valuable, it really is not worth it to start with 16 instead of 18 just because you get to put a 14 instead of a 12 in something else (or whatever).

Pathfinder 2 is the literal opposite of those other D&D games where your ability scores are more descriptive in nature, but doesn't change much about your character's statistical prowess, as it were. Put otherwise, while playing a Fighter with Strength 13 or a Bard with Charisma 8 is at least feasible in OD&D (and perhaps even in 5E) if maybe more "fun" than "workable" it is unthinkable in PF2. And by that I literally mean that nothing about this game even considers such an eventuality - everything instead expects you to fight nail and tooth for every little +1.

If I were running a PF2 game I would probably houserule that whatever your class's primary attribute is, automatically consider that an 18 irrespective of stat boosts. This might mess with the game's math a little bit, but messing with the math in the players' favor is fine in this game.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
Word.

I tried suggesting adding randomness to character generation. Not quite "roll 3d6 in order" but at least "you get the chance of starting with 20 if you also accept the risk of starting with 16".

No dice.

I got push-back so hard I was completely blindsided. All players unanimously decreed that while a 20 was nice it was not worth the risk of starting with a 16, despite that only being -1 compared to the standard.

After recovering from the shock (random chargen is after all core to the D&D experience) I of course acquiesced and dropped the idea (going with the standard char-build rules). But it really opened my eyes to how important each +1 bonus really is viewed from the player side (as I'm the GM I hadn't really looked into the particulars of building my own character)
I was going to reply to your first comment regarding randomizing ability scores, but this one is much more appropriate. 😂

When I was prepping for my Winter’s Daughter one-shot, I looked at randomizing ability scores. I don’t think there’s any dice-based method that will work out well for PF2. The possible spread of results is just too high. However, the card method (with an appropriate distribution of cards) pair with gradual boosts seems to work out okay.

I’m not going to delve into which distribution of cards is most appropriate (because I’m not really sure, though I think I used 445556778899), but as long as you start with a 17, then you can take a gradual boost at 2nd level and be on par with someone who started with an 18 and took one (17 + 2 = 18 + 1).

However, that’s not going to be for everyone or even many people. My group likes the card method, so it’s an easy sell. What I think Paizo should have done is used the Beginner Box method in core. You get three boosts with your class, and you have no option to spend them a different way. All you have to do is pair an appropriate ancestry or background with your class to max things out.

For new GMs, it might be worth looking at what the BB does, but it’s going to require a bit of work to use at the table. A quick conversion of the core method to the BB method might look something like:
  • Ancestry: drop the flaw and free boost (e.g., a goblin gets a Dexterity boost and a Charisma boost).
  • Background: drop the free boost (e.g., the artist background gives you a choice of a Dexterity or a Charisma boost).
  • Class: start with 16 in your primary ability score and get 3 free boosts to spend on other scores.
  • Restriction: you cannot start with higher than an 18 in any score. Any boosts that would take you over 18 are lost.
  • Optional: you can take two optional flaws for a free boost. The free boost may be spent on any score except for the ones boosted by your ancestry.
My players managed to mess up the default character creation procedure. They forgot to spend boosts (including a full set of free boosts). The BB method makes things work a little more like older editions without having rolling and without the fiddliness of point buy.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
Is this true? If so, it makes me a bit sad. I hate the idea that you have to have a maxed stat.
You get tons of boosts by default. Unless you avoid spending boosts on your primary score, it’s going to be maxed out or close to it. I wish the game had embraced a wider spread of scores (to make alternate methods of score generation more feasible), but it didn’t.
 
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dave2008

Legend
You get tons of boosts by default. Unless you avoid spending boosts on your primary score, it’s going to be maxed out or close to it. I wish the game had embraced a wider spread of scores (to make alternate methods of score generation more feasible), but it didn’t.
Is there no random stat generation? I will have to look at the character creation rules again (it has been close to 2 years), but I am not liking what I am hearing. It seems very rigid.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
Is there no random stat generation? I will have to look at the character creation rules again (it has been close to 2 years), but I am not liking what I am hearing. It seems very rigid.
There is, but it’s not the default.

My guess is Paizo went this route as an alternate way of solving the problem with classes in PF1 that were multiple ability dependent. Instead of making it easy to attack and deal damage with your primary stat (like 4e and 5e), they give out tons of boosts instead, so MAD classes have an easier time keeping up.

If you rolled ability scores in PF1, MAD was less of an issue because the nature of the method provides for starting with multiple high ability scores, which is impossible in point buy.

Another way to solve the MAD issue is to give out point buy points as characters gain levels. Because of the increasing costs for higher scores, MAD classes have an easier time catching up. That’s what I did in PF1, and that’s how the point buy variant in the GMG works. The only tweak to the variant I’d suggest making is increasing the starting points from 15 to 25, which yields characters closer in power to those made using the boost method.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
Is there no random stat generation? I will have to look at the character creation rules again (it has been close to 2 years), but I am not liking what I am hearing. It seems very rigid.
Its an optional rule. I would say the regular rule isn't actually very restrictive , the reason is because of the way stat generation actually works and its place in the rest of the game. You start with 10s, and each category of starting character creation gives you boosts (+2 each, until you hit 18, in which case it becomes based off what you picked.

So pretend I'm playing a farmer turned fighter.

Being a fighter gives me a boost to my choice of Strength or Dexterity.

Being a Dwarf gives me a Boost to Constitution, and a Boost to Wisdom, as well as a Free Boost (as well as a flaw to Charisma, -2)

Being a Farmhand for my background gives me Constitution OR Wisdom for another boost, and a Free Boost

Then I have 4 boosts I'm directed to apply to different stats.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

Dwarf can actually do either Strength or Dexterity equally well, but I'll go with Strength for the classic sort of Dwarf, so I'll take that in my Fighter choice.

My Free boost from being a Dwarf will also go to Strength since I already get Constitution and Wisdom from it.

My farmhand is going to take whichever for the choice (they're both fine choices) and make the Free Boost Strength.

Then for my four boosts, I'll throw one last boost into Strength, One into Constitution, One into Wisdom, and finally Dexterity, Intelligence, or Charisma. In this case probably dexterity or intelligence, since Charisma is already dumped (incidentally, if I have a Dwarven Sorcerer, there's an optional flaw rule I can use to get that up to the same degree my Strength is here) so I'll go with Dexterity for the example and for sneaking/reflex. This gets me to something like

18 Strength, 14 Constitution, 14 Wisdom, 12 Dexterity, 10 Intelligence, 8 Charisma

without changing the actual choice of class/background/ancestry it could just as easily become:

18 Strength, 16 Constitution, 12 Wisdom, 12 Dexterity, 10 Intelligence, 8 Charisma, or many other similar permutations, especially with different ancestry and background choices-- this same fighter could be quite intelligent, stealthy, or even charismatic if I really want. Having 18 strength is important for me to hit reliably, but I'm still making a lot of choices. Every few levels after this will give me more boosts, while I'll want to continue raising strength, each time it happens I get 3 other choices that can't be strength, and your progression speed halves after a stat hits 18. So I can put it in whatever suits my concept of my Fighter, and I can choose whether to bring anything else past 18 or not to be more specialized or more well rounded.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Honestly, its more customization than any other d20 TTRPG I've played, my stats usually felt more constrained in 5e because while you could tank your primary it was never actually a good idea, and even the 'still kind of valid' 16 I used on Gish builds wasn't adding much customization at that point.
 

dave2008

Legend
Its an optional rule. I would say the regular rule isn't actually very restrictive , the reason is because of the way stat generation actually works and its place in the rest of the game. You start with 10s, and each category of starting character creation gives you boosts (+2 each, until you hit 18, in which case it becomes based off what you picked.
Thank you for the clarification; however, you misunderstood (I failed to explain) what I meant by restrictive. What I meant by restrictive is the idea you have to have an 18 in your primary stat to be effective. Not how you get to your stats.
 

dave2008

Legend
Honestly, its more customization than any other d20 TTRPG I've played, my stats usually felt more constrained in 5e because while you could tank your primary it was never actually a good idea, and even the 'still kind of valid' 16 I used on Gish builds wasn't adding much customization at that point.
Again, I'm not asking for customization in generating stats, but flexibility in using them. A STR 16 or even 14 fighter in 5e is completely acceptable. From what I am hearing here, that is a death wish in PF2.

Really this gets to a lot of differences between the systems and not stat generation. It was just this discussion that made it home a bit more.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
Gotcha I assumed that when you called it a straitjacket you thought that ability score arrays in the game were rigid themselves, e.g. two fighters with a similar way of fighting wouldn't be very different.

I would hesitate to draw conclusions from that reaching into the rest of the system though, not having a starting 18 is one of the game's vanishingly few traps. It isn't indicative of what most people would say it was in 4e, 5e, or PF1e/3.5e.

Also speaking from my 5e guild game experience with interchangeable group a starting 14 in strength would not be acceptable in 5e. Those were the characters that ended up feeling kind of bad for the player if the rest of the group wasn't similarly badly optimized and the GM wasn't pulling punches for their sake.
 

Yardiff

Adventurer
In my opinion a 16 in a stat isnt that much of an issue. The biggest difference that extra +1 gives is the increase crit chance.

My ranger has a 16 str/dex because he constantly switches between bow and duel wielding. He hits only slightly less often then the champion in the group who has an 18 str.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Is there no random stat generation? I will have to look at the character creation rules again (it has been close to 2 years), but I am not liking what I am hearing. It seems very rigid.
There is. It is the classic one - generate six scores each using 4d6-droplowest and assign freely to your six abilities.

It is a classic case where you might add a variant not because you intend it to be useful, but more to simply shut those up who would otherwise complain.

Now these people can't say "there's no option for random stat chargen" - because there is.

But that's likely the only intended value of it.

The fact the system absolutely isn't designed to support it, well, that's not Paizo's problem is it. (They can just shrug and say "you didn't use the default system, use that if balance is important to you...")
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Thank you for the clarification; however, you misunderstood (I failed to explain) what I meant by restrictive. What I meant by restrictive is the idea you have to have an 18 in your primary stat to be effective. Not how you get to your stats.
The math in PF2 is incredibly tight, where every +1 counts.

So the game pretty much can't pretend it doesn't expect every character to start out with exactly 18.

Instead of offering meaningful leeway in this, those posters are pointing to how your 18 doesn't preclude you having good stats in other abilities, since that is one common underlying reason for wanting leeway to choose to start with a 16 or a 14 (because it allows you more points elsewhere).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Again, I'm not asking for customization in generating stats, but flexibility in using them. A STR 16 or even 14 fighter in 5e is completely acceptable. From what I am hearing here, that is a death wish in PF2.
Well, no, that's putting it too simply.

If you start with a 16 you are effectively giving you a permanent -1 penalty to most of your important tasks (such as striking if you're a fighter).

This won't suddenly transform you from a successful hero to a dead corpse in a ditch.

But over the course of many hundreds of die rolls, you will end up regretting the choice. Many monsters are very hard to hit, and if you need a 17 instead of a 16, that reduces you by one fifth or 20%. (You go from hitting on five of the outcomes, to four of them. Four is 20% less than five)

And don't think most monsters are easier to hit! They are, but even if you hit on 7 instead of a 6, the critical rules then mean you're back to scoring a crit on a 17 instead of a 16 - again reducing you by a full 20%!

You will never feel the 5E feeling that you can be generous in not caring about plus bonuses "because you hit anyway". Sure, if you're high level and you're battling entirely insignificant mooks that you hit when you roll a 2 (and where you crit even when you roll lower than 12), then you can say the starting 16 doesn't meaningfully affect you there... but that very rarely happens.

And don't forget what Magic Sword says - in PF2 you simply have no good reason to do this.

In older D&D games you would choose to accept a 14 or a 16 when it considerably shored up another ability score, but Pathfinder 2 is designed to give you lots of other ability boosts, so you never need to accept a 14 or a 16. Your secondary scores will be acceptable anyway.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I was going to reply to your first comment regarding randomizing ability scores, but this one is much more appropriate. 😂

When I was prepping for my Winter’s Daughter one-shot, I looked at randomizing ability scores. I don’t think there’s any dice-based method that will work out well for PF2. The possible spread of results is just too high. However, the card method (with an appropriate distribution of cards) pair with gradual boosts seems to work out okay.

I’m not going to delve into which distribution of cards is most appropriate (because I’m not really sure, though I think I used 445556778899), but as long as you start with a 17, then you can take a gradual boost at 2nd level and be on par with someone who started with an 18 and took one (17 + 2 = 18 + 1).

However, that’s not going to be for everyone or even many people. My group likes the card method, so it’s an easy sell. What I think Paizo should have done is used the Beginner Box method in core. You get three boosts with your class, and you have no option to spend them a different way. All you have to do is pair an appropriate ancestry or background with your class to max things out.

For new GMs, it might be worth looking at what the BB does, but it’s going to require a bit of work to use at the table. A quick conversion of the core method to the BB method might look something like:
  • Ancestry: drop the flaw and free boost (e.g., a goblin gets a Dexterity boost and a Charisma boost).
  • Background: drop the free boost (e.g., the artist background gives you a choice of a Dexterity or a Charisma boost).
  • Class: start with 16 in your primary ability score and get 3 free boosts to spend on other scores.
  • Restriction: you cannot start with higher than an 18 in any score. Any boosts that would take you over 18 are lost.
  • Optional: you can take two optional flaws for a free boost. The free boost may be spent on any score except for the ones boosted by your ancestry.
My players managed to mess up the default character creation procedure. They forgot to spend boosts (including a full set of free boosts). The BB method makes things work a little more like older editions without having rolling and without the fiddliness of point buy.
I'm trying to follow this post but I'm afraid I failed. Perhaps it would be easier if you explained the pertinent differences between the core rules, your rules, and the beginner rules?

Pathfinder 2 doesn't use point buy (not in the sense you get points with which you buy)...?

What is "the card method" and how does "445556778899" translate into a guaranteed 17?

What do you mean by a "gradual" ability boost? If you apply an ability boost to a value of 18, yes, you gain +1. But when you apply it to a 17 you get 19, no? Or are you talking about ability modifiers, not scores?

Your proposed BB-inspired chargen method, could you explain what you're trying to accomplish? Which steps (from the core rules) are you eliminating and why? Are you talking about how the Beginner Cleric gets +3 (effectively +6) to Wisdom instead of the core rulebook giving you the option not to max out Wisdom?

Thank you for your patience
 


kenada

Hero
Supporter
I'm trying to follow this post but I'm afraid I failed. Perhaps it would be easier if you explained the pertinent differences between the core rules, your rules, and the beginner rules?
The proposed changed is meant to make the core method work more like the Beginner Box. I’ll touch on that more below.

Pathfinder 2 doesn't use point buy (not in the sense you get points with which you buy)...?
There is a point buy variant in the GMG, but that’s not what I was discussing. I was contrasting the core method in PF2 with the point buy method from PF1. You get the same kind of control with both methods, but point buy requires doing a bunch of math to value your scores and make sure everything adds up correctly.

What is "the card method" and how does "445556778899" translate into a guaranteed 17?
The card method is a way of generating ability scores. You take a deck of cards, shuffle them together, and deal them out a set number at a time (usually two cards per score), adding those cards up for your ability scores. The “445556778899” notation indicates which cards to use. It comes from a thread here on ability score methods. It seemed self-explanatory, but if one’s not familiar with the card method, then it may not make a lot of sense.

The card method generates characters with a lot less variance than rolling dice. Everyone is guaranteed to have the same sum of scores, and the variance in comparative costs if they were treated as point buy is very small. If you get a bad score, you’re guaranteed a good score (or a couple of pretty good ones). It’s random but feels equitable to players. However, it doesn’t guarantee a 17.

If you want to guarantee a 17, then you’d need to allow players to redeal in case someone couldn’t get that score through a combination of their cards plus ancestry and background (per the optional rules for rolling scores). I expect in most cases players won’t have to deal more than once or twice total, which is not something I would say about using 4d6 or other dice-based methods.

What do you mean by a "gradual" ability boost? If you apply an ability boost to a value of 18, yes, you gain +1. But when you apply it to a 17 you get 19, no? Or are you talking about ability modifiers, not scores?
Gradual ability boosts is a variant in the GMG. You receive one boost at 2nd level, 3rd, level, 4th level, and 5th level. You receive no boosts at 6th level. None of these boosts can be spent on the same score. This pattern repeats up through 20th level.

I like it particularly for Proficiency Without Level games because it gives players a sense of progression (after losing that from having their proficiency go up every level). For a game with randomization, it helps a PC with a 17 catch up quickly to one with an 18, which can make starting with a 17 more palatable.

Your proposed BB-inspired chargen method, could you explain what you're trying to accomplish? Which steps (from the core rules) are you eliminating and why? Are you talking about how the Beginner Cleric gets +3 (effectively +6) to Wisdom instead of the core rulebook giving you the option not to max out Wisdom?
Exactly that. It takes away the option not to max out your primary score. You can still opt for a 16 if you really want to split things (e.g., you’re an alchemist and want 16s in both Dexterity and Intelligence), but you can’t accidentally (or intentionally) play a character with a low value (14 or less) in your primary score.

Effectively, my method assumes you spent your ancestry boost to negate the flaw, applied your background boost to your primary score, and spent one of your four free boosts on your primary score. That leaves you with two assigned ancestry boosts, one choice of boost from background, and three free boosts to assign (plus their starting 16).
 


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