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

They reran the same encounter that was previously a TPK. So it went from a TPK to a cakewalk with some guidance and one extra level.
Which could just mean it was a middle-of-the-road encounter for the prior level, and a combination of not paying attention and bad die rolls did them in then.
 

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Retreater

Legend
Which could just mean it was a middle-of-the-road encounter for the prior level, and a combination of not paying attention and bad die rolls did them in then.
And how I ran it against the intent of the module design and fine print of PF2. Separating the hazard from the second encounter, having the same type of creatures go on the same initiative, etc.
 

And how I ran it against the intent of the module design and fine print of PF2. Separating the hazard from the second encounter, having the same type of creatures go on the same initiative, etc.

I have to admit having anything but really minor opponents all go at one initiative almost always makes them stronger, in virtually every system. I understand the urge to do it (its easier after all) but its really only necessary in systems where you're going to be using a large number of opponents (and PF2e doesn't run in that direction much).
 

dave2008

Legend
Which could just mean it was a middle-of-the-road encounter for the prior level, and a combination of not paying attention and bad die rolls did them in then.
I assume you've read the thread, as it has been pretty thoroughly explained. I don't feel the need to discuss it further.
 


dave2008

Legend
If you're asking did I read the earlier part in enough detail that I'm aware of exactly which encounter this was a replay of, no.
Oh, ok - the OP eventually gave a detail account of the encounter and others described how this encounter can easily be a TPK as written it the creatures in the adjacent room are alerted, which they where. The trap itself is apparently a bit difficult straight up as well. Of course this was just one data point as I believe it was the 3rd TPK in five sessions.
 

Ah, that was one of the "don't lump two encounters together and expect it to go well" lessons.

I've got a serious question for other people in the thread; in any game system you've played in, have you ever found that if you have two encounters that are even moderately intended to be a challenge that having them roll-up into one bigger encounter is likely to go well? I can't really think of one myself.
 

Retreater

Legend
Ah, that was one of the "don't lump two encounters together and expect it to go well" lessons.

I've got a serious question for other people in the thread; in any game system you've played in, have you ever found that if you have two encounters that are even moderately intended to be a challenge that having them roll-up into one bigger encounter is likely to go well? I can't really think of one myself.
Two "moderate" challenges (as these were listed in the adventure) against a fully healed party with full casting potential, I would expect it to not be a TPK within a couple rounds. Especially when it is the second adventure in the inaugural module series for a flagship TTRPG line and the module text actually suggests the two encounters should be run at the same time, that common sense and verisimilitude would suggest that if someone triggered a trap on the door you are guarding that you should probably open the door and try to defend the rest of the headquarters that is under attack.

The only thing that made this a "well, duh" moment is metagame knowledge and that the GM should know that the system cannot handle reasonable responses and rational actions from enemies.

This is probably the only modern system I've run that had such a quick TPK that there was no hope of escape, changing tactics, etc.
 

Ah, that was one of the "don't lump two encounters together and expect it to go well" lessons.

I've got a serious question for other people in the thread; in any game system you've played in, have you ever found that if you have two encounters that are even moderately intended to be a challenge that having them roll-up into one bigger encounter is likely to go well? I can't really think of one myself.
Yes, I have multiple experiences across many systems where the party has aggroed more than one encounter at a time and has lived to tell the tale.

Particularly in cases where monsters are in adjacent rooms (or like here, where monsters are adjacent to a room with a trap), the possibility exists that the players will pull more than one encounter at a time. In fact, it seems weird to me to design encounters where monsters shouldn’t react to stuff going on near them because that will overwhelm the party.
 

Two "moderate" challenges (as these were listed in the adventure) against a fully healed party with full casting potential, I would expect it to not be a TPK within a couple rounds. Especially when it is the second adventure in the inaugural module series for a flagship TTRPG line and the module text actually suggests the two encounters should be run at the same time, that common sense and verisimilitude would suggest that if someone triggered a trap on the door you are guarding that you should probably open the door and try to defend the rest of the headquarters that is under attack.

I wouldn't expect it to be (but wouldn't be shocked if it was). And honestly, as a rule of thumb, inaugural module series are the ones most likely to be messed up in balance; ask people about the first series of modules for D&D 4e sometime.

The only thing that made this a "well, duh" moment is metagame knowledge and that the GM should know that the system cannot handle reasonable responses and rational actions from enemies.

This is probably the only modern system I've run that had such a quick TPK that there was no hope of escape, changing tactics, etc.

As I've noted before, I'm not sure what BRP derived system would have you roll two encounters together without the risk of that going badly and without much time to figure that out. And it would be entirely possible with Savage Worlds. Which doesn't mean there aren't problems with that series, as I've noted; I'm just puzzled by the idea that making two "moderate" encounters into one single encounter isn't likely to be a problem, because in the majority of games I know of, it very much would be (all the way back to OD&D).
 

Yes, I have multiple experiences across many systems where the party has aggroed more than one encounter at a time and has lived to tell the tale.

Particularly in cases where monsters are in adjacent rooms (or like here, where monsters are adjacent to a room with a trap), the possibility exists that the players will pull more than one encounter at a time. In fact, it seems weird to me to design encounters where monsters shouldn’t react to stuff going on near them because that will overwhelm the party.

Yes, but you didn't mention how serious the individual encounters were supposed to be in the first place.

If the encounters were individual weak, then yeah, that can be okay. But if they aren't, I'm hard pressed to see how that's going to go well in most game systems, certainly any where numbers matter at all. The only reason that wouldn't have been a killer in OD&D at lower levels was how overpowered Sleep was for a lot of the life of the game. You might be able to make something work if you had a choke point to work with. Otherwise if the combat was supposed to be at all serious individually, collectively you'd get drowned.
 

!DWolf

Adventurer
!DWolf, I have to admit, I don't run APs and I felt excited in my belly when I read the way that scene is laid out. I think the old school approach really is for me, which is the kick I've been on for quite a while now.

As someone who never really felt comfortable with the “modern school” of game design, I am quite impressed with what I have read of Age of Ashes so far. Despite what some people think, adventure paths are actually written for a variety of play styles and while I can see some flaws with the path (I think hex crawl was the wrong approach for the jungle expedition and a point crawl would have been better for instance) it seems Age of Ashes is very much written for “old school” gms like me - so much so that I am probably going to run it next (at least Hellknight Hill - I stop and gauge interest after running the first part of every AP).

One other consideration that I find interesting for this thread as a whole is the attitude we take toward the difficulty of the game-- the skill level of any given group is static, and so the game is either definitively too hard, or too easy.

But maybe the approach should be taken that the game is somewhat difficult, and so players can learn from there failures and return to the game a little wiser? That's how we approach difficulty in every other genre and medium of game.

I agree completely. Several years ago came across a video addressing Csikszentmihályi flow theory in the context of tabletop rpgs (I think it was by Hawke Robinson at rpgresearch - I can’t check because I currently have limited internet access) and the graph of escalating difficulty and player skill really stuck with me. Specifically, to achieve/maintain the flow state, challenge needs to increase with difficulty and I deliberately try to do that with the games I run - increasing the challenge so that player skill increases (causing me to increase the challenge and so on). The fine tuned difficulty control I can achieve with PF2e along with the exploration level mechanics (which help define/refine decision making at the exploration level) really sold me on the system.

Its complicated by the fact that failure in TTRPGs is often 'dumbed down' to represent an ending to the campaign, but it doesn't have to be that way... and even if it were when your players make new characters and jump into their next adventure, they'll still be a little wiser and more cautious about their play.

A bit off topic: back in the day, PCs had henchmen (max number based on charisma), hirelings, followers, and the like, so when a main character died we just promoted a henchmen to main character status and continued on - or we at least had a method to introduce new PCs that maintained continuity of characters and goals if they didn’t like any of the henchmen as a PC. I still use variants of this in games I run - making sure that the PCs work with or create an organization that contains ‘backup characters’, or character introduction means. You would be surprised at how many APs this is compatible with and running PF1 I liked to give out things like the leadership for free. PF2e has the leadership subsystem in the GMG which I haven’t tried out yet but am definitely going to in about five to six sessions of my jungle game (we started with a survivor pool and when they get off the starting island I will switch to leadership - probably with a couple of modifications inspired by REIGN and integrated with a reputation mechanic).
 

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Retreater

Legend
A bit off topic: back in the day, PCs had henchmen (max number based on charisma), hirelings, followers, and the like, so when a main character died we just promoted a henchmen to main character status and continued on - or we at least had a method to introduce new PCs that maintained continuity of characters and goals if they didn’t like any of the henchmen as a PC.
Having one PC in PF2 is complex enough. Having a background organization for story purposes is fine (honestly, it's just a re-skin of saying "let's go to the fighter store.") The days of henchman, hirelings, etc., ended with 3.x. In our OSR games we'll use them, but in modern D&D it would be madness for our groups.

I think the quadrupling of HP at low levels, 3x the number of actions, and infinite spells in the modern systems make up for the lack of henchmen, but the feel of the game hasn't changed enough to keep up with the other aspects of system design.

As a game of resource management, attrition, dungeon exploration, I don't think PF2 (or for that matter 4E) work very well. It's either over-power and TPK in a couple of rounds or it's a cakewalk - at least that's my experience having run it for nearly a year.
 

I also feel compelled as I always do when this comes up to note that even in the OD&D days, heavy use of henchmen was a highly varied trait relative to local game culutre.. Short of maybe a a guy or two as two legged pack mules (or to manage riding animals when the PCs went in a dungeon) I can't say I ever saw use of henchmen in any of the West Coast games I saw, and progressively saw less and less reference to them over time even in apas and the like.

I'm pretty comfortable saying that even before D&D 3 extensive use of henchmen had long since become an outlier.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
As a game of resource management, attrition, dungeon exploration, I don't think PF2 (or for that matter 4E) work very well. It's either over-power and TPK in a couple of rounds or it's a cakewalk - at least that's my experience having run it for nearly a year.
To be fair, actual exploration-based play isn’t about the fights. I’d suggest that if the fights are all appropriately difficult, it’s either an accident or the GM is doing something wrong.
 

To be fair, actual exploration-based play isn’t about the fights. I’d suggest that if the fights are all appropriately difficult, it’s either an accident or the GM is doing something wrong.
More than one way to handle an emphasis on exploration:

Some groups might want an exploration-heavy experience with multiple paths, loot that's hidden throughout the envronment, significant problem-solving benefits from gathering information, decentralized freeform objectives, and other markers of an exploration-centric game, but still enjoy a gamist mentality toward encounter balance when they do get into fights.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
More than one way to handle an emphasis on exploration:

Some groups might want an exploration-heavy experience with multiple paths, loot that's hidden throughout the envronment, significant problem-solving benefits from gathering information, decentralized freeform objectives, and other markers of an exploration-centric game, but still enjoy a gamist mentality toward encounter balance when they do get into fights.
This seems like a contradiction. If you’re able to to create an advantage from exploration, then the fights can’t be balanced. Maybe they were before, but the advantage negates it. That’s what it means to have an advantage. If you just rebalance the fight, then the exploration was never meaningful. It’s just a façade of exploration.

I suppose you could build those advantages into the design of the content. That seems to be what Age of Ashes has done (based on accounts here). However, not having those advantages seems to be rather punishing. I also wouldn’t consider Age of Ashes an exploration-based adventure given that the driving force is the story (rather than the impetus to explore).
 

This seems like a contradiction. If you’re able to to create an advantage from exploration, then the fights can’t be balanced. Maybe they were before, but the advantage negates it. That’s what it means to have an advantage. If you just rebalance the fight, then the exploration was never meaningful. It’s just a façade of exploration.

I suppose you could build those advantages into the design of the content. That seems to be what Age of Ashes has done (based on accounts here). However, not having those advantages seems to be rather punishing. I also wouldn’t consider Age of Ashes an exploration-based adventure given that the driving force is the story (rather than the impetus to explore).
The main thrust of my point was that exploration doesn't hinge on your ability to negate fights through the environment, it hinges on exploring. A situation where you can explore heavily, and even choose what fights you have to do (or choose to do less fights) using the paths you find, but where the encounter budgets of those fights is individually rigid, isn't in inherently conflict with an exploration-centric experience. It can mean accomplishing overall objectives in different ways, and facing different challenges without any of those challenges having to be overwhelmingly hard or trivially easy.

It can be learning about world around you, not in a way that simply translates to a victory in a fight (although applicable information is important) but as a major facet of the overall story of the campaign-- part of the fun of delving ancient ruins is learning about the people who lived there and what happened to them, and the secrets they hold, so if there are answers you simply won't get without putting in the effort to find them, that's a reward in its own right.

It's also a matter of degree, if you thoroughly explore your environment, you might find extra treasure that can make fights easier indirectly. You might be able to affect fights with the environment, but only in limited ways-- from experience I can tell you the encounter balance is robust, a severe fight that you can knock down to a moderate fight is certainly easier, but both are balanced encounters, they're just different amounts of resistance and risk-- part of the challenge might even just be not facing too many encounters at full blast so that you don't run dry on resources.

I think in your mental framework, you're doing the the equivalent of reducing balanced to a 5 on a 10 point scale, and then imagining environmental advantages as dropping it to like a 1, or significant enough screw-ups as increasing it to a 10, but in my mental framework, and encounter can start anywhere from 3/4 to a 6/7 and then bounce throughout that range based on my players actions, knowledge, treasure, dungeon interactions and so forth. The balance is still gamist-- you aren't say, separating a squad of enemies so completely you can truly pick them off one by one so they aren't a threat to you, but hey maybe you can find a means of getting rid of a monster or two, bumping the encounter the budget down to a lower (but still defined in the game rules) tier of difficulty.

Edit: To make another point that I neglected-- problem-solving also doesn't have to be about fights, imagine you party are currently interfering in elven politics, and the party. decide to head into a dungeon to stop attacks on a certain political figures holding and let them move against their rivals.

Thoroughly searching the area and finding the hidden chamber deep in the dungeon in which is stored the crown of the elves, which grants the holder magical authority over the dragons who once made a pact with the ancient elven king and are sleeping throughout elven lands, probably gives the party more options for dealing with that political situation. When the same party who doesn't explore as diligently might not uncover it, but still puts a stop to the source of the source of the attacks on the political figure, they continue on influencing politics through other means.

That's a massive influence exploration could have if they engage in, and succeed at it, without affecting the difficulty of fights at all.
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
The main thrust of my point was that exploration doesn't hinge on your ability to negate fights through the environment, it hinges on exploring. A situation where you can explore heavily, and even choose what fights you have to do (or choose to do less fights) using the paths you find, but where the encounter budgets of those fights is individually rigid, isn't in inherently conflict with an exploration-centric experience. It can mean accomplishing overall objectives in different ways, and facing different challenges without any of those challenges having to be overwhelmingly hard or trivially easy.

It can be learning about world around you, not in a way that simply translates to a victory in a fight (although applicable information is important) but as a major facet of the overall story of the campaign-- part of the fun of delving ancient ruins is learning about the people who lived there and what happened to them, and the secrets they hold, so if there are answers you simply won't get without putting in the effort to find them, that's a reward in its own right.

It's also a matter of degree, if you thoroughly explore your environment, you might find extra treasure that can make fights easier indirectly. You might be able to affect fights with the environment, but only in limited ways-- from experience I can tell you the encounter balance is robust, a severe fight that you can knock down to a moderate fight is certainly easier, but both are balanced encounters, they're just different amounts of resistance and risk-- part of the challenge might even just be not facing too many encounters at full blast so that you don't run dry on resources.

I think in your mental framework, you're doing the the equivalent of reducing balanced to a 5 on a 10 point scale, and then imagining environmental advantages as dropping it to like a 1, or significant enough screw-ups as increasing it to a 10, but in my mental framework, and encounter can start anywhere from 3/4 to a 6/7 and then bounce throughout that range based on my players actions, knowledge, treasure, dungeon interactions and so forth. The balance is still gamist-- you aren't say, separating a squad of enemies so completely you can truly pick them off one by one so they aren't a threat to you, but hey maybe you can find a means of getting rid of a monster or two, bumping the encounter the budget down to a lower (but still defined in the game rules) tier of difficulty.

Edit: To make another point that I neglected-- problem-solving also doesn't have to be about fights, imagine you party are currently interfering in elven politics, and the party. decide to head into a dungeon to stop attacks on a certain political figures holding and let them move against their rivals.

Thoroughly searching the area and finding the hidden chamber deep in the dungeon in which is stored the crown of the elves, which grants the holder magical authority over the dragons who once made a pact with the ancient elven king and are sleeping throughout elven lands, probably gives the party more options for dealing with that political situation. When the same party who doesn't explore as diligently might not uncover it, but still puts a stop to the source of the source of the attacks on the political figure, they continue on influencing politics through other means.

That's a massive influence exploration could have if they engage in, and succeed at it, without affecting the difficulty of fights at all.
Thanks for the explanation. I think you’re sort of right. I’m assuming that if the players are free to explore, then they have the opportunity to heavily tilt the tables in their favor, and they will. I’m definitely thinking “combat as war” versus “combat as sport”.

I’m probably letting myself be too influence by my preferences, so I’ll concede that “combat as sport” is probably the better assumption in a gamist mentality. Assuming that, then I think I agree. The PCs can may get an edge, but they’re generally going to be playing by your terms. Within that framework, you can give them the balanced fights they want.
 
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Thanks for the explanation. I think you’re sort of right. I’m assuming that if the players are free to explore, then they have the opportunity to heavily tilt the tables in their favor, and they will. I’m definitely thinking “combat as war” versus “combat as sport”.

I’m probably letting myself be too influence by my preferences, so I’ll concede that “combat as sport” is probably the better assumption in a gamist mentality. Assuming that, then I think I agree. The PCs can may get an edge, but they’re generally going to be playing by your terms. Within that framework, you can give them the balanced fights they want.
Yeah, to be fair, you're right in that the system isn't the best at handling combat as war-- but i kind of see that as a given, because systems that are good at combat as war tend to be bad at combat as sport and vice versa. Its because the incentive systems differ so much, a combat as war game wants to punish you for taking a straight fight, and your 'conventional' options are constrained in order to incentivize you to focus on the environment.

In combat as sport, you're encouraged to take a straight fight, and your 'conventional' options are plentiful and powerful, incentivizing you to focus on using your character's standard abilities to their fullest potential.

Combat as war wants you to do cool things with the environment to break the fight because the fight isn't interesting without cool things from the environment, Combat as Sport wants to limit the influence of the environment so it can't ruin the fun of you character's interesting abilities. Both season to taste somewhat of course.

Pathfinder 2e is much more in the combat as sport camp, the actual fighting is fun and while the environment is useful, its more as something that adds spice to your fighting, rather than as something that solves the combat by itself. So while I'm content to let them explore, choose their fights, alter them somewhat through interaction, my emphasis is more on the mystery aspects of exploration than the borderline 'physics sandbox' you might see in OSR games-- though I have been checking them out for better adventure/dungeon design, open tables, and so forth.
 

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