Pathfinder 2E Another Deadly Session, and It's Getting Old


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Retreater

Legend
Look at the GMG’s dungeon crawl recipe: 6 moderate and 6 severe encounters (in addition to 2 trivial and 4 low). If I followed that recipe, my PCs would have died repeatedly in the first dungeon. We ought to be the ideal audience (former PF1 group that shifted 5e somewhat begrudgingly), but my players were never hardcore builders or tacticians. We had one TPK early in my PF2 campaign, and I got some static for that. Multiple TPKs would have prompted us to find a different game.
That is the kind of thing I was jokingly said made my eyes bleed - how they have an exploration activity listed with defined rules of what a "dungeon crawl" is. There are things you don't have to codify, which should be the purview of the GM. Having advice on how to create a dungeon - that's a valuable resource; however, making rules about it, how many sessions it should last, etc., just borders on ridiculousness to me.
 

That is the kind of thing I was jokingly said made my eyes bleed - how they have an exploration activity listed with defined rules of what a "dungeon crawl" is. There are things you don't have to codify, which should be the purview of the GM. Having advice on how to create a dungeon - that's a valuable resource; however, making rules about it, how many sessions it should last, etc., just borders on ridiculousness to me.

Can I say I find the idea having a set of rules you can use to structure something "ridiculous" seems like its really privileging a certain approach to the game as all that's acceptable.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
That is the kind of thing I was jokingly said made my eyes bleed - how they have an exploration activity listed with defined rules of what a "dungeon crawl" is. There are things you don't have to codify, which should be the purview of the GM. Having advice on how to create a dungeon - that's a valuable resource; however, making rules about it, how many sessions it should last, etc., just borders on ridiculousness to me.
Having procedures for dungeon crawling is pretty old-school. Both OD&D and B/X have them. It’s not like GMs are born knowing how to properly run a dungeon. They need to learn it from somewhere. If you’re not lucky enough to start playing in a group that does those things, or you don’t find a stream that does (or a blog that teaches them), then you’re left emulating what you know: linear storytelling.

The Alexandrian has a pretty good article on this issue (which I’m pretty sure I’ve linked here before, but it’s worth sharing again).

It’s not perfect. We’re probably not being prescriptive enough with our exploration activities, so things don’t always go smoothly. I expect that’s true for many groups with prior experience in other systems (particularly 3e and newer). In spite of that, I think PF2 did a good thing for trying to bring forward old-school structures into a modern system.
 

Retreater

Legend
Can I say I find the idea having a set of rules you can use to structure something "ridiculous" seems like its really privileging a certain approach to the game as all that's acceptable.
If you look at my quote, I ended it with "to me." So that's my opinion, not that I am saying it's the only acceptable way of looking at it.

The "dungeon crawl" activity is just far more than the amount of detail that I need in any aspect of my life. It feels to me like they created a downtime activity called "play role-playing game" that detailed how long sessions last, how many players could come, and who brings the Doritos.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
The "dungeon crawl" activity is just far more than the amount of detail that I need in any aspect of my life. It feels to me like they created a downtime activity called "play role-playing game" that detailed how long sessions last, how many players could come, and who brings the Doritos.
Perhaps there’s a misunderstanding. The dungeon crawl recipe I linked is in the section on designing adventures in the GMG. My point was if we had followed that recipe, I’d have probably TPKed my group repeatedly (because the default tuning is too hard for us).

As for whether it’s ridiculous, I think having suggestions for designing adventures in a book targeted at GMs is a pretty reasonable thing to do. These recipes aren’t even heavily prescriptive. You’re encouraged to use them as a starting point and then tweak them.
 

Retreater

Legend
Having procedures for dungeon crawling is pretty old-school. Both OD&D and B/X have them. It’s not like GMs are born knowing how to properly run a dungeon. They need to learn it from somewhere. If you’re not lucky enough to start playing in a group that does those things, or you don’t find a stream that does (or a blog that teaches them), then you’re left emulating what you know: linear storytelling.

The Alexandrian has a pretty good article on this issue (which I’m pretty sure I’ve linked here before, but it’s worth sharing again).

It’s not perfect. We’re probably not being prescriptive enough with our exploration activities, so things don’t always go smoothly. I expect that’s true for many groups with prior experience in other systems (particularly 3e and newer). In spite of that, I think PF2 did a good thing for trying to bring forward old-school structures into a modern system.
I can agree with procedures and advice for how to run a dungeon, but to have it distilled to a paragraph using delineated game terms seems artificial, almost to the point of parody.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I can agree with procedures and advice for how to run a dungeon, but to have it distilled to a paragraph using delineated game terms seems artificial, almost to the point of parody.
Is it really all that different from e.g., OSE? On some level, these things are just games, and we have to engage them as such. I’ll leave the greater discussion of aesthetics to the thread over in the D&D section of this site.
 

Retreater

Legend
Is it really all that different from e.g., OSE? On some level, these things are just games, and we have to engage them as such. I’ll leave the greater discussion of aesthetics to the thread over in the D&D section of this site.
I guess the differentiation I see is in OSR games (like OSE) is that the design and crafting of the dungeon (or other adventure) is done by the experience of the GM (obviously referring to advice provided by the game or other sources). Sure, many systems might have the player-facing elements codified (how long does a torch burn, how much area can I search in ten minutes, etc.), but the design of the adventure isn't laid out like a recipe card stating: 1 session to walk to the dungeon, 3-4 sessions to explore the dungeon, with X # of fights at each of the following challenge levels - A, B, C, and D, with Y # of roleplaying encounters and Z # of traps. And that recipe is presented as a formatted stat block as if you were looking at an ironclad rule of the game.
And perhaps it is the presentation looking at it out of the context of the rest of the GMG, but to me (and YMMV) it is very off-putting and seems an attempt to restrict the creativity of GMs by giving them a Procrustean Bed in which their adventures must fit.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
And perhaps it is the presentation looking at it out of the context of the rest of the GMG, but to me (and YMMV) it is very off-putting and seems an attempt to restrict the creativity of GMs by giving them a Procrustean Bed in which their adventures must fit.
Thanks for the rest of your explanation. That helped me understand better. I just wanted to respond to this part because I think it’s the lack of context.

These recipes are part of a larger section on putting together an outline of an adventure. GMs are told at several points that these are just seeds, a framework, something they should customize as they see fit.

There’s a perception that creating one’s own adventure is something that’s difficult. Having a set of steps to put something together, even if it’s a bit ham-handed in places, is a boon if it helps demystify that.

Some of it is just plain good advice. Story arcs? “Imagine a logical end point the arc would reach if nothing else changes. Then, adjust it based on events in the game.” It’s like someone read “Don’t Prep Plots”.
 

If you look at my quote, I ended it with "to me." So that's my opinion, not that I am saying it's the only acceptable way of looking at it.

I still find referring to something that may serve other people as "approaching the ridiculous" at best does not really understand other people's needs.

The "dungeon crawl" activity is just far more than the amount of detail that I need in any aspect of my life. It feels to me like they created a downtime activity called "play role-playing game" that detailed how long sessions last, how many players could come, and who brings the Doritos.

And again, everyone isn't you.
 

Thanks for the rest of your explanation. That helped me understand better. I just wanted to respond to this part because I think it’s the lack of context.

These recipes are part of a larger section on putting together an outline of an adventure. GMs are told at several points that these are just seeds, a framework, something they should customize as they see fit.

There’s a perception that creating one’s own adventure is something that’s difficult. Having a set of steps to put something together, even if it’s a bit ham-handed in places, is a boon if it helps demystify that.

In particular, putting it together in a way that is coherent and not either boringly trivial nor overwhelmingly is not intrinsically self-evident, especially for people entirely new to the hobby (or even just the D&D end).
 

(Wizards underpowered)
From reading a lot of discussion on the Paizo forums, there seem to be two things that lead to this impression (and note, that is not me saying that its entirely incorrect, just that whether it is or not it seems so for these reasons):

1. In general, spellcasters have been cut back some from 3e era ones. That's because (and I know this doesn't go over well with some, but I don't know any better way to put it that is honest) they were out of balance with non-casters. That was just taken as a given by a lot of people and was viewed as somehow okay by many, but that didn't make it good design and one of the design choices in PF2e was to push the two types together. One of the areas where this is very visible is that spellcasting is generally a weak way to directly deal with a single opponent--and that's probably the single most visible sign of effectiveness that most people percieve. Spellcasting can still be a good way to start cooking up groups when a spell caster is willing to take some positioning chance, and good ways to buff and debuff (but as I noted, people who haven't internalized the importance of manipulating crit and fumble chances don't always see it that way), but neither of these tends to be as visible (and of course occasionally you'll get GMs who make it really hard to apply the first; personally, I've watched one players lightning-oriented sorcerers dump more damage out on a semi consistent basis than either of my fighting types did, she just doesn't do it all in one place).
I recognize that you are not necessarily endorsing the first point here, but I do feel it is pretty dismissive. I didn't play 3e or Pathfinder, so it simply isn't the case that I am so used to high powered wizards that I don't recognize PF2 balancing act. The argument also cuts both ways: it is just as arguable that PF2 designers, after a 15 years of wizards being overpowered, overcorrected and made them weaker than other characters.

For what it's worth, here is my argument that wizards are underpowered (as mentioned, I played a wizard for levels 1-4, though a couple of other commenters, notably Zapp, have indicated that they feel wizards become competitive at level 9, when they get access to 5th level spells).

Let's consider the restrictions on wizards compared to other character. I make the point here and I will make it again afterwards: restrictions are NOT a bad thing. My problem with wizards is not the limitations on them, but rather, that the spells in PF2 are not sufficiently powerful to compensate for the limitations on the class.

1) AC: Wizards are one of the two classes (along with sorcerers) that are not proficient with any armor (well, half of clerics as well). Neither wizards nor sorcerers are a Dex primary class either. Depending on their Dex, they are between 2 and 3 points below regular armored characters (characters who can hit both their armor and their dex cap), and 4 or 5 points below either the specialist armored characters and characters with a shield. The disparity can be reduced by 1 using mage armor.
2) HP: Wizards and sorcerers start with 2 hp less than the "standard" classes, and 4 hp less than the "high hp" classes (6 hp less than barbarians, but that's fair). The effect of having low AC and low HP is magnified in a system where opponents can take multiple attacks in a single round and have a sliding scale to crit.
3) Limited weapon proficiencies: Yeah, even sorcerers look at wizards and point and laugh.
4) Limited resource spellcasting: Casting is a limited resource. At low levels, it is an extremely limited resource.
5) Vancian casting: You prepped a variety of Will, Ref and Fort saves and only fight one type of enemy that day, you will be ineffective. You prepared some utility spells and run out of combat spells, you will be reduced to cantrips. This also means that playing a wizard (or any prepared spellcaster) is more work than playing other classes. You are taking time to learn your different spells, create spell loadouts (or make them on the fly).
6) Reliance on the Recall Knowledge minigame: The Recall Knowledge takes an action. Often in combat. Maybe you'll succeed, maybe you'll waste your action. Maybe the rest of the party will help...nah, they're spamming attacks. This is a big deal because...
7) Virtually all of your spells take two actions: Note, in a game whose selling point is the 3-action turn, it is extremely frustrating that wizards essentially are the 2-action class. The only thing that is more frustrating is complaining that wizards are underpowered, having people argue that wizards are not underpowered by pointing out the slow spell (which on a failed save removes one action from the creature for 1 minute) and realize "Hey, that means that if the monster fails his save, he has the same number of actions as me!".
8) Spells seem designed in a redundant fashion: Auditory and visual illusions are two separate spells. An illusion that changes your appearance is a 3rd spell. An auditory illusion is a different spell than throwing your voice. You need a separate spells to change the magical aura of an object. Detecting magic and reading auras is two separate spells. There seem to be an extremely large number of spells with niche abilities. This affects wizards at two levels: first, you have to spend money (and have downtime) to actually learn the spells. Second, you need to prepare the spells in specific slots (or spend more money on spell scrolls). (This issue also affect sorcerers).

Once again, the existence of limitations on a spellcasting is not a problem. I specifically chose to play a wizard because I wanted to try Vancian casting. However, in order for limitations to be worthwhile, spells need to be sufficiently powerful to offset the limitations. Frankly, for cantrips, 1st level and 2nd level spells, this is not the case. We were in a fight, and I had saved up my highest level (2nd) spell slots. I'm using my highest spells in a clever way, correctly targeting enemy weaknesses...and barely keeping pace with the fighter next to me. I'm thinking "after this fight, I'm wiped, but he can keep this up all day, has a much better AC and hp than I am, isn't the party just better off with a second fighter?".
 

I guess the differentiation I see is in OSR games (like OSE) is that the design and crafting of the dungeon (or other adventure) is done by the experience of the GM (obviously referring to advice provided by the game or other sources). Sure, many systems might have the player-facing elements codified (how long does a torch burn, how much area can I search in ten minutes, etc.), but the design of the adventure isn't laid out like a recipe card stating: 1 session to walk to the dungeon, 3-4 sessions to explore the dungeon, with X # of fights at each of the following challenge levels - A, B, C, and D, with Y # of roleplaying encounters and Z # of traps. And that recipe is presented as a formatted stat block as if you were looking at an ironclad rule of the game.
And perhaps it is the presentation looking at it out of the context of the rest of the GMG, but to me (and YMMV) it is very off-putting and seems an attempt to restrict the creativity of GMs by giving them a Procrustean Bed in which their adventures must fit.
Interestingly enough. I had the exact same discussion that you and kenada had on a different forum. I had bemoaned the fact that the 5e DMG did not include sufficient guidelines for designing interesting non-combat encounters, and another poster pointed out that I had in the past frequently taken issue with the proliferation of unnecessary rules systems.

My defense was that to me, guidelines and rules are completely different. Most people can benefit from guidelines and best practices in designing adventures and encounters, while there are few things I hate more than feeling my hands are tied with unnecessary rules (except kender. They suck!).

So, I get your point, and the Archives of Nethys entry hewed a bit too close to "this is how you design a dungeon" rather than "here are a bunch of issues you should consider when designing your own dungeon!". In the defence of the Archives of Nethys though, it IS a summary, and the GMG probably is a bit less cut-and-dried.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
For what it is worth I consider Wizard one of the weaker classes in the 1-4 range. Most of its features take a while to come online. I do think low level tuning changes should be made as well as adjustments to the way spell casting attack rolls work. That being said I do not think the class is overall a weak class.

My second PFS character is an illusionist and still a ton of fun to play. I do not feel like I am burden on any group I have played with.

The biggest hurdle when playing a spell caster (or when running the game) to get over is that PF2 combat is not primarily based on an attrition model. Success is primarily about timing, coordination, and positioning. This is particularly true when playing a caster. You have to look for your openings and use the right spells at the right time. It's a playstyle I really enjoy. You basically have to approach the game fresh and learn how to play from square one though.
 

(Wizards underpowered)

I recognize that you are not necessarily endorsing the first point here, but I do feel it is pretty dismissive. I didn't play 3e or Pathfinder, so it simply isn't the case that I am so used to high powered wizards that I don't recognize PF2 balancing act. The argument also cuts both ways: it is just as arguable that PF2 designers, after a 15 years of wizards being overpowered, overcorrected and made them weaker than other characters.

I'm not going to try addressing this point by point, but simply note that at least sorcerers (which have several of the same limits you mention) do not, in my experience, seem underpowered compared to fighters, cloistered clerics, or champions. Wizards specifically I will not comment on beyond the second bullet point I put in my first post, because beyond that would be simply speculation on my part, as I've not seen one in play.
 

Retreater

Legend
I bought the GMG for PF1 and it was a good resource for that system, and I'd likely find parts of this one useful if I were creating my own adventures. However, for all the debate about the GMG and its entry about the Dungeon Crawl recipe, it's largely not relevant to my group's issue. I have been tasked by my players to run PF2's Age of Ashes in as close to a scientific, controlled test as possible. They want to get the "real" PF2 experience, not something I've layered with house rules or redesigned to make it better balanced. They don't want me changing encounters. Honestly, it feels like my role is more an interpreter of Paizo's team than a GM, as if I'm a referee of an Organized Play event or scientist in a playtest. There is no roleplay. There is no continuous story connection. It goes from encounter-to-encounter, precisely as written in the published module. Following any structural outlines from GMG wouldn't be useful - my only guide is the Core Rulebook and the contents of the Age of Ashes AP adventures.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
They want to get the "real" PF2 experience, not something I've layered with house rules or redesigned to make it better balanced. They don't want me changing encounters. Honestly, it feels like my role is more an interpreter of Paizo's team than a GM, as if I'm a referee of an Organized Play event or scientist in a playtest. There is no roleplay. There is no continuous story connection. It goes from encounter-to-encounter, precisely as written in the published module. Following any structural outlines from GMG wouldn't be useful - my only guide is the Core Rulebook and the contents of the Age of Ashes AP adventures.
Given how frustrated your text reads, I think it may just be time to say No and move on to something else or have one of them run it.
 

I bought the GMG for PF1 and it was a good resource for that system, and I'd likely find parts of this one useful if I were creating my own adventures. However, for all the debate about the GMG and its entry about the Dungeon Crawl recipe, it's largely not relevant to my group's issue. I have been tasked by my players to run PF2's Age of Ashes in as close to a scientific, controlled test as possible. They want to get the "real" PF2 experience, not something I've layered with house rules or redesigned to make it better balanced. They don't want me changing encounters. Honestly, it feels like my role is more an interpreter of Paizo's team than a GM, as if I'm a referee of an Organized Play event or scientist in a playtest. There is no roleplay. There is no continuous story connection. It goes from encounter-to-encounter, precisely as written in the published module. Following any structural outlines from GMG wouldn't be useful - my only guide is the Core Rulebook and the contents of the Age of Ashes AP adventures.

Well, honestly, that's a social problem with your group's expectation and its mismatch with yours. Among other things, I don't think AoA is going to give a normal PF2e experience; I played several games of PF2e before I got into the AoA campaign I'm in, and while I'm enjoying the latter, parts of it are distinctly more gusty than seemed at all typical than those prior games (and that's accounting for the fact the characters we're playing in AoA are hybrids).

As I've said before, its legitimate for people to argue that AoA (and as I recall the second AP that Paizo turned out for PF2 had some of the same problems to a lesser degree) has problems with it, but it doesn't have much to do with the overall experience of the game overall.

(As an aside, if they're not roleplaying in AoA, that's on them. There are a number of opportunities to do so in the AP--particularly with the goblins and the hellknight, and if they've chosen not to do so, that's because they don't want to).
 


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