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Complexity vs. Depth -- A Look Inside Pathfinder 2nd Edition

One of the biggest tabletop RPG releases of the decade, Pathfinder 2nd Edition launches today at Gen Con. Many of us have playtested it, others have watched streams and podcasts, but this is the big day. Here are my thoughts on the new iteration of this classic game. I'm assuming here that you're basically familiar with either Pathfinder 1E or D&D 5E.

pf_cover.jpg



Background
Before I start this look at the Pathfinder 2nd Edition core rulebook, let me explain my background so that you can contextualize it. I was a big fan of D&D 3E and 3.5 back in the early 2000s and ran two multi-year campaigns with that ruleset (one being Age of Worms from Paizo). When the D&D 4E/Pathfinder edition war happened, I ran one long 4E campaign (our own War of the Burning Sky adventure path). After that, I played through the Kingmaker AP for Pathfinder as a player, ran a couple of D&D 5E storylines (loved Strahd!), and I've run about half the Pathfinder 2E playtest but having received my pre-ordered copy of the materials after they were on store shelves, struggled to keep up with the pace and eventually bowed out.

Going in to this: I was a fan of the 3.x ruleset, but felt a little left behind after a while with PF1 in terms of system mastery, rules boat, and setting lore. I didn't get on super-well with the playtest, so I was slightly wary as I opened this book. On the other hand, I do enjoy a bit of crunch in my games. A new jumping on point, you say? Let's take a look!

Overview
There are two important concepts to keep in mind when looking at this game: the difference between complexity and depth. I'd like to quickly define them as I use them, just in case your definitions are different. To me, complexity arises from multiple subsystems or different rules, or complicated rules. Depth, on the other hand, resides in the options and available customization. These two things can exist independently, and for me a game works best when it has low complexity but high depth.

The short version of this review: I think Paizo have pulled that off. Compared to PF1, they have reduced complexity. Compared to, say, D&D 5E, they have more depth. I would say that this game is about as complex as D&D 5E, but with more depth. The rules are more standardized than they used to be, but you have important choices at all stages of character development. If you don't want read this big wall of text of a review -- I like it, and it scratches an itch for me. I'm pretty sure I'll run it soon.

I find it amusing that Pathfinder 2nd Edition has the exact same page count as D&D 5th Edition. I don't know if that's a coincidence, some artifact of printing scales, or an inside joke at Paizo, but the Pathfinder 2E core rulebook is 640 pages, while the equivalent content, D&D's PHB plus DMG, is 639 pages. Basically, if you take the PHB and the DMG and smoosh them into one hardcover, it's the exact same size as the Pathfinder 2E core rulebook. Like, uncannily so.

Sticking with format, the edge of every right-hand page has a useful 'bar' which shows you where in the book you are. It's a big book, and this really helps with navigation (though I feel maybe adding each section's page number would help? Or maybe that would look too cluttered. Not sure!)

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.06.39.png

The game now formally codifies some things which were not explicit in the original: the mechanics are divided into three "modes", namely encounter (rounds), exploration (freeform), and downtime (daily). And Golarion is officially the core, default setting and baked into the core rulebook, although under the pen-name of Age of Lost Omens. I don't know much about Golarion or the Forgotten Realms myself (I know FR has a Drizzt in it), and I'm not really a settings guy, but all of Paizo's adventure paths take place in that setting, so the chapter is useful.

Characters
So, let's look at the rules, starting with character creation. A character is built out of feats, which are chosen from lists granted by ancestry (what was once 'race'), background, and class.

At each stage you get a choice of from two to about six feats -- for example, if you choose the dwarf ancestry, you choose one of six feats at first level, then one at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th. The effect of this is that any two dwarves are not the same; ignoring the heritages (basically 'sub-races') which grant minor tweaks like fire or poison resistance, a dwarf is going to choose between the familiar stonecunning, or something like dwarven ore, rock runner, unburdened iron, and so on. And this is what I mean by depth v. complexity: it's easy (you are just choosing one of six feats) but it's deeper (you have more customization to your race); plus you become more like your race as you go up in levels and get more of those race feats. Your ancestry keeps being important. You become more and more dwarfy.


Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.08.17.png



The races are the standard list you'd expect; plus a goblin. Each race has a handful of heritages (sub-races), and half-orc and half-elf are now human heritages.

Moving on to classes, again we're looking at a fairly typical list. The Paladin is now a "Champion", and each class has some sample builds such as the Rogue Scoundrel, or the Ranger Archer. Like with race, you have a free choice of class feats from a list presented in that class -- the Alchemist, for example, has a choice of three at 1st level, three at 2nd level, and again at 4th, 6th, etc. This means that your Alchemist will differ from your friend's Alchemist. Low complexity (you're just choosing from a short list of feats again) but high depth (two characters of the same class can be customized by a choice of three options every other level).

There are other bits -- archetypes (used to pseudo-multiclass) and backgrounds (each gives ability adjustments, skills, and a feat) which customize your character a little more.

Feats & Skills
As with previous editions of both Pathfinder and D&D, this game features the expected skill list. It's familiar ground; each iteration of the d20 engine has a similar list, with some tweaking. In this case we have a list of 17. PF1 and D&D 3.x had skill ranks which went from 0 upwards (a bard character in my Age of Worms D&D 3E campaign was rolling something like +40 on Use Magic Device by the end of the campaign). D&D 5E simplified that to a binary skill proficiency - you're proficient, or you're not. Pathfinder 2E takes a middle ground - there are five skill levels called untrained, trained, expert, master, legendary. Some skill uses require a certain skill level, and can give access to certain skill feats (there's feats again!)

I keep talking about feats. There's a reason for that. Feats are the core of the game's depth: everything is a feat. Race feats, class feats, archetype feats, skill feats, general feats. You can very much customize your character with your choice of feats. At each level you'll be choosing one or more feats. These are literally on the character sheet, so you can see them, and simply fill in the box. That character sheet isn't pretty, but its very functional. You can see them below -- the character sheet tells you what fets you are choosing at any given level and - more importantly - while the game has a lot of feats in it, at any given time you're choosing from a short list. At 5th level, you get an ancestry feat, but you're only choosing from a small handful for your race at that level.


Screenshot 2019-07-30 at 23.22.09.png



It's easy to think that a game with a thousand feats is too complex. It's not. You never have to choose from a thousand feats; you're always choosing from a short list for that level of ancestry, class, skill, or what-have-you. Low complexity. High depth.

Equipment
Like all games of its ilk, PF2 has an equipment chapter. Pathfinder delves into equipment in more detail than its main competitor, but it's not onerous -- about 25 pages of the book. It's mainly familiar ground, with some structural differences -- equipment has a level which defines how hard it is to make, and encumbrance is measured in an abstract value called 'bulk' which takes into account size and weight. Then we have the usual lists of armor, shields, weapons, and gear, including alchemical stuff, animals, services, and so on. When I ran the playtest last year, I struggled with the sheer volume of keywords in the game - especially when they sounded similar, like a weapon that was deadly or fatal (aren't they all?), finesse or agile, and this hasn't changed; it's something which will come naturally with familiarity, I'm sure. Overall, though, this chapter is pretty much what you'd expect.

Magic
So, spells. Magic is a BIG part D&D and Pathfinder, and this book is no exception. You know when you buy a D&D descendant what you're getting into: a big 120-page chapter full of spells. Many you'll be familiar with -- your magic missiles and fireballs and walls of stone and so on. We have lists of spells for four magical traditions -- arcane and divine, plus primal and occult. These four big lists tell you which classes get access to them (wizards cast arcane spells, bards cast occult spells, druids cast primal spells, and so on), and each of the many, many spells listed in the book is tagged with one or more of those four lists.

The schools of magic are familiar, and Vancian magic is still king. Vancian magic has been D&D's core 'fire and forget' spell slot system since the 1970s, based on the books of Jack Vance. So what's changed?

For a start, we now have 10 spell levels (plus cantrips) rather than the traditional 9. All four lists go up to 10, and that top level contains the heavy hitters like wish, gate, time stop, and cataclysm. Generally speaking, you'll only ever have one 10th level spell slot, although there is a way to get a second. You can 'heighten' spells by putting them in a higher level spell slot, and each spell has a little list of what benefits that gives you - usually it's a numerical or damage increase, but other times it's an upgrade in functionality - a 1st level detect alignment, for example, indicates the presence of but not location or strength of aligned auras. If you heighten it to 2nd level, however, you get each aura's location and strength, too.

Most spells take between 1-3 actions to cast (more on the 'three-action economy' later), and this is depicted by a nifty little icon in the spell description. 2 actions seems to be the default, some like guidance take a quick single action, and some vary depending how you use the spell - magic missile is one action per missile, heal increases its range and area depending on how many actions you use, and so on. Others take minutes or longer. Here's magic missile and heal, as an example:

mmhe.jpg


The Core Rules

Pathfinder has a reputation for having a lot of rules. This is where a lot of work has been done. Rather than many subsystems, or weird ways of doing different things, Paizo has streamlined the game here; going back to my theme of reduced complexity, this is the obvious area you'll see the effects. Anybody familiar with d20-based games knows that a check or attack is a d20 plus modifiers to beat a target number, and this hasn't changed, though the actual numbers are slightly different (skills have a limited tier of modifiers rather than running from 0 to infinity).

Sadly, the many itty bitty modifiers are still in there (I love D&D's advantage/disadvantage system, though I recognise it's lack of granularity), but Paizo has done something interesting here: all checks, whether an attack, a save, or a skill check, have four degrees of success baked into the core. You can critically succeed (beat the target by 10+), succeed, fail, or fumble (miss the target by 10+). Many activities tell you exactly what happens in those situations. Let's look at a couple of examples:

Skill Check using Acrobatics to balance:

  • Critical Success You move up to your Speed.
  • Success You move up to your Speed, treating it as difficult terrain (every 5 feet costs 10 feet of movement).
  • Failure You must remain stationary to keep your balance (wasting the action) or you fall. If you fall, your turn ends.
  • Critical Failure You fall and your turn ends.

Saving against the 5th level banishment spell:
  • Critical Success The target resists being banished and you are stunned 1.
  • Success The target resists being banished.
  • Failure The target is banished.
  • Critical Failure The target is banished and can’t return by any means to the plane it’s banished from for 1 week.
You'll see this all throughout the book, whatever the activity.

Combat
Combat has had quite an overhaul. It's faster now, and a little more tactical. I feel like characters are making meaningful choices more often, but from our playtests, I really did feel it ran quicker. Time will tell with big convoluted encounters and high-level stat blocks, of course, the latter of which Pathfinder is famous for.

Notably, there isn't a big section called "Combat". The section is called "Encounter Mode".

Combat begins with Initiative, as always. Initiative has been tweaked here; instead of rolling d20 plus a dex modifier, instead you are making a skill check. The fun part is that it's not always the same skill check -- often it will be Perception, but a sneaky rogue might be rolling Stealth, and sometimes you might even be rolling a Diplomacy check! Even if you don't play PF2E, use this in your d20 game, whatever it is.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.26.39.png

Each character gets three actions, in what people are calling the new "three-action economy". This is a big change. Any given activity takes between 1-3 actions (most are one action, spells are often 2-3, and so on). You could move three times, move and attack twice, attack and then move then cast a 1-action spell, or whatever you like. Available actions are listed, and include things like Aid, Crawl, Ready, Seek, Step, Take Cover, and more. Something those who played the playtest will recall, and which is still in, is the choice to take an action to Raise A Shield in order to gain an AC bonus until your next turn; this initially sounds fiddly and extra complication where it's not needed... but it's not. It works. Everyone I played with reported that it made it feel like their shield was a thing, not just a static bonus on their character sheet, and that its use was a defensive choice (after all, you could use that action to attack or move). It's a little innovation which adds far more to the game than it has any right to do.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.28.10.png

What happens when you die? Well, you can't go below 0 hit points. At that stage you gain the "Dying" condition, which has four levels. Each round you roll to see if you get better or worse, and if you get to Dying 4 you're dead. If you do recover, you gain the Wounded condition, which adds to future Dying values - so you can't keep bouncing up and down; it'll catch up with you. Other than that, you have a fairly standard set of conditions - blinded, fatigued, invisible, and so on.

Game Mastering
This 40-page section of the book is part GM advice, and part collection of miscellaneous rules. Here you'll find the rules for environments, hazards, natural disasters, and traps. You'll also see mechanical advice on appropriate rewards, setting difficulty classes, and using the different modes of play. And, of course, information on how to plan a campaign, create a welcoming environment (there's a sidebar which calls out X-Cards as a veil, and a section on dealing with objectionable content, with a description of what the game's assumed "baseline" is -- PCs don't torture, rape, own slaves, harm children, and so on). It's a useful chapter, although it feels a little eclectic; a grab-bag of stuff that doesn't quite fit elsewhere.

Treasure!
No d20 game is complete without a big list of magic items, and those familiar with PF1 or D&D will recognise many of these. Interestingly, this chapter is actually called "Crafting & Treasure"; 3.x and PF always had a crafting element to magic items, and PF2 is no exception. It's one thing that 5E studiously avoids.

So, in addition to pages and pages of wands, potions, amulets, and other assorted magical items (the categories have actually changed a bit) we have a big section on crafting items. You can make things out of special materials like darkwood or cold iron, and you make them magic by etching runes on them - runes like Invisibility, Dancing, Thundering, Vorpal, and so on. There's also a section on crafting snares (simple traps).

That Character Sheet
The character sheet is not a pretty sight. It looks like a tax form, and I feel like it alone could put people off this game. But it IS functional. The feats section pretty much tells you what you need to know about the game: you start by looking at it and saying "ten million feats!" but then you realise you're just picking a couple from a different short list each time, and the character sheet tells you when you do that. It's much more manageable than you might think at first. I can see why people might balk at this sheet, but I'm sure that fans will create dozens of pretty ones within hours of the game's release.

Screenshot 2019-07-31 at 14.41.57.png

Summary
This was always going to be a tricky launch. Somehow Paizo has to keep the fans of PF1E on board, many of whom are veterans of the D&D 3.x games, switched over when 4E was released and are naturally invested in that system by definition; but the game has reached peak bloat, the engine is 18 years old, and its cracks are really showing. Is that even possible?

For me personally, they pulled it off. They have reduced complexity AND increased depth. I know I keep saying that, but that's the thing I keep coming back to and it's the theme of this article.

Is it perfect? No. It's too keyword heavy for my tastes (requiring a lot of "what does 'deadly' mean?" at the table), and that requires time to gain mastery in. I feel that, if anything, would be the barrier to new gamers. Also, there's still lots of those little +1 or +2 modifiers or penalties which I find too finicky.

But it is good. It's a really good evolution of the d20 system. It's modern game design, with heritage. And it feels weighty in a "reliable" not a "cumbersome" way. Is it D&D 5E? No. Is it D&D 4E? No (although the monster stat blocks do remind me of that game in terms of layout). It is neither of those things. It's very much Pathfinder 2E. Of course, there are some general design principles which are found in most modern RPGs, some of which 5E and 4E created and others which they adopted from elsewhere, and you will see the edges of the Venn diagram overlap with Pathfinder 2E, but it would be a mistake to think it's not its own game.

So who's it for? If you're a new player, it may be a little intimidating as a first game, but the complexity is about on par with D&D 5E. If you're a 5E player, it has some extra depth where 5E leans more into the storytelling, and might scratch that itch for a little more mechanical heft and character customization. If you're a Pathfinder 1E player, it's more difficult -- it depends on how invested you are in that system, and I'm not yet clear on the level of backward compatibility.

Things I personally struggled with:
  • Lots of keywords. I'll be looking up the difference between deadly, dangerous, fatal, and mildly-ouchy weapons for a while (OK, I made two of those up); I'm sure the designers are thinking "What? But that's so simple!" and I am sure it is after a bit of play.
  • Lots of small +1 modifiers.
The people I think would like this game are those who, like me:
  • Like Pathfinder 1E but would like a more modern, streamlined play experience than the aging 3.x engine
  • Like D&D 5E but would like a bit more mechanical depth
  • Were intimidated by the sheer volume of Pathfinder 1E material and are looking for a jumping-on point
  • Want to customise their character more
I wasn't sure going in, but I think this is a better game than its predecessor and scratches an itch for mechanical depth. I'm going to run it.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

CapnZapp

Adventurer
That being said I don't like the idea of gaining ancestry feats as I level. I don't want to continue to get more "dwarfy" as I level, I want to be dwarfy to begin with. But maybe that is just me. Again, thank you for the review, I will probably pick up the PDF at some point and see for myself.
Let's look at the level 1 Dwarf choices, and how "essential" I find them to the quality of "dwarfiness". Is it really true you need them all or you are an incomplete Dwarf (and must wait to get more "dwarfy" as you level up)?

First off, you gain 4 more hit points than an Elf, your slow speed, and Darkvision automatically - no feat choices necessary.

The Heritages give you a choice of:
+1 vs magic (medium dwarfiness. Though I might be mixing it up with Warhammer dwarves here...?)
better success vs Necromancy (low dwarfiness)
minor fire resistance (medium dwarfiness)
+2 vs shove or trip (high dwarfiness)
poison resistance (high dwarfiness)

The Ancestries give:
proficiency in Carving, Religion and Dwarf Lore (medium dwarfiness)
dwarf weapons (high dwarfiness)
ignore stony difficult terrain (medium dwarfiness)
stonecunning (high dwarfiness)
wear heavy armor without speed reduction (high dwarfiness)
+1 vs drow, duergar, giants or orcs (high dwarfiness)

So I'd say that yes, Paizo has taken the traditional D&D Dwarf and portioned out parts of it as the ancenstry and heritage minigame.

Whether this too much or just right I leave up to you.

Looking at the above, it strikes me you could simply grant each Dwarf character two heritage benefits and two level 1 ancestry feats. This would allow you to play a dwarf with, say, +2 vs shove or trip, poison resistance, stonecunning and +1 vs giants if you like. Meanwhile, I might play a dwarf with +1 vs magic, minor fire resistance, dwarf weapons and no speed reduction heavy armor (a world of warcraft dwarf?). You're already shifting the balance significantly away from "get more dwarfy" over to "be dwarfy to begin with".

(You would certainly not break anything. I can't image the game breaking even if you gave away all the heritage and level 1 ancestry benefits for free. All it would do is make your Pathfinder dwarf a little dwarfier than a 5E dwarf ;) And remove a choice point or two from the game)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
OK, I've put the core rulebook and bestiary in my cart. I think I am going to sleep on it, possibly check them out at the local FLGS and then decided to to buy or not to buy (that is the question right?)
If you’re going to visit your FLGS to see if it’s worth buying, you should really buy it there. Your FLGS cannot afford to be Amazon’s showroom.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Let's look at the level 1 Dwarf choices, and how "essential" I find them to the quality of "dwarfiness". Is it really true you need them all or you are an incomplete Dwarf (and must wait to get more "dwarfy" as you level up)?

First off, you gain 4 more hit points than an Elf, your slow speed, and Darkvision automatically - no feat choices necessary.

The Heritages give you a choice of:
+1 vs magic (medium dwarfiness. Though I might be mixing it up with Warhammer dwarves here...?)
better success vs Necromancy (low dwarfiness)
minor fire resistance (medium dwarfiness)
+2 vs shove or trip (high dwarfiness)
poison resistance (high dwarfiness)

The Ancestries give:
proficiency in Carving, Religion and Dwarf Lore (medium dwarfiness)
dwarf weapons (high dwarfiness)
ignore stony difficult terrain (medium dwarfiness)
stonecunning (high dwarfiness)
wear heavy armor without speed reduction (high dwarfiness)
+1 vs drow, duergar, giants or orcs (high dwarfiness)

So I'd say that yes, Paizo has taken the traditional D&D Dwarf and portioned out parts of it as the ancenstry and heritage minigame.

Whether this too much or just right I leave up to you.

Looking at the above, it strikes me you could simply grant each Dwarf character two heritage benefits and two level 1 ancestry feats. This would allow you to play a dwarf with, say, +2 vs shove or trip, poison resistance, stonecunning and +1 vs giants if you like. Meanwhile, I might play a dwarf with +1 vs magic, minor fire resistance, dwarf weapons and no speed reduction heavy armor (a world of warcraft dwarf?). You're already shifting the balance significantly away from "get more dwarfy" over to "be dwarfy to begin with".

(You would certainly not break anything. I can't image the game breaking even if you gave away all the heritage and level 1 ancestry benefits for free. All it would do is make your Pathfinder dwarf a little dwarfier than a 5E dwarf ;) And remove a choice point or two from the game)
This seems about right: I actually quite like the concept, but doesn't seem to have the right balance of initial Dwarveness. I know that the initial playtest release had even less at Level 1 than these final rules, it seems this could have been adjusted more.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I think it's fair to say this game isn't for you. It's OK -- there are other games. :)
That is a possibility, but as the SRD isn't fully functional yet (web based version at least) and the local FLGS and B&N didn't have the books, I really haven't had a chance to dive into it. There are things I don't like about every edition of D&D. So far, for me, the worst thing I have seen is the layout of the Bestiary. But that was only a few pages so it might be OK. Everything rules wise that I don't like seems like it will have an easy houserule to bring it in line with what I like.

One thing I d like that is the Fort/ Will/ Reflex save which I miss from 4e. I have thought about implementing it inn 5e, but haven't done so yet.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
If you’re going to visit your FLGS to see if it’s worth buying, you should really buy it there. Your FLGS cannot afford to be Amazon’s showroom.
I was buying directly from Pazio. Interestingly, I stopped by my FLGS today and they didn't have it, but they did have the playtest version. I asked in case I missed it and the guy said they aren't carrying 2nd edition. It was not a guy I recognized so I just assumed he was wrong. However, now that I am thinking back, the Pazio section of the store was almost completely empty - like they are clearing house. I assumed to make room for 2e, but maybe they are dropping pathfinder completely?! I will check back later and ask one of the regulars.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
I was buying directly from Pazio. Interestingly, I stopped by my FLGS today and they didn't have it, but they did have the playtest version. I asked in case I missed it and the guy said they aren't carrying 2nd edition. It was not a guy I recognized so I just assumed he was wrong. However, now that I am thinking back, the Pazio section of the store was almost completely empty - like they are clearing house. I assumed to make room for 2e, but maybe they are dropping pathfinder completely?! I will check back later and ask one of the regulars.
That's interesting...do they carry many RPGs? Maybe they got burned by Paizo and their business model.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
That's interesting...do they carry many RPGs? Maybe they got burned by Paizo and their business model.
Yes they do. It is just an RPG & Card game shop. Also, they were very bullish on PF1e vs 4e. I think it was just a fluke, but I will check back in a week or so.
 

FowlJ

Villager
Thank you for the clarification. I don't mind restricting it to certain classes. There is some sense in that. Do you have to multiclass or is there a feat that would allow you to take OA?

However, I would give most monsters OA if I ever DM'd PF2e
Barbarians and Champions have Attack of Opportunity as a 6th level feat. The Monk has the 4th level feat Stand Still, that is like AoO, but triggers only on movement and, on a critical hit, prevents the target from successfully moving away. The Ranger has the 4th level feat Disrupt Prey, which works like AoO but only against their chosen target(s), and is a free action instead of a reaction. I don't think rogues have a direct AoO equivalent, but they have an 8th level feat called Opportune Backstab that lets them attack as a reaction when an ally hits a creature with a melee attack.

Giving most monsters AoO would cancel a bunch of the increased mobility that PF2 combat has, so I would personally be hesitant to do so. A lot of 'fighter-type' creatures do already have it, as well as big scary threats like dragons.

Thanks @Puggins

At this point, I'm focusing on finding out the relevant data for the choice between your second hand holding a shield and it grasping the same weapon your first hand is already holding.

The next steps would be:

a) what kinds of Damage Reduction can you expect (at the level where you typically have a +3 weapon).

b) How reliable is that DR? Meaning b1) is the shield breakage risk significant? b2) Are there monsters that bypass the DR? b3) how often do you lose initiative and thus can't get up the shield in time? (relevant if you are not allowed to proceed with the shield already up, at least if the system assumes only ~3 combat rounds per fight)

c) are there any feats that shift the balance in favor of either weapons style? (Or is the feat subsytem neutral as regards greatweapons vs board'n'sword)

Then, and only then, can we resume the really interesting discussion - how many points of weapon damage delta is one point of Damage Resistance worth?
In terms of hardness, the strongest shield has 20 Hardness with 160 HP (Break Threshold 80, so it's highly unlikely that the shield would ever be broken beyond repair). There's also the Indestructible Shield, which has only 13 hardness but can only be damaged by effects like Disintegrate, or you could opt for the Reflecting Shield, a magic silver buckler that has only hardness 6 and 24 HP (so blocking with it is more of an emergency), but in addition to providing its bonus not just to AC but also to spell saves, it allows you to redirect a spell back at the caster once per day.

Shield style has a fair amount of feat support. Shield feats, in addition to doing things like letting you protect your allies or apply shield block to effects with reflex saves, also improve the shield user's action economy - you can get an extra reaction that is dedicated to Shield Block, or a stance you can enter where you have your shield raised constantly without needing an action.

Two handed weapons have a bit less feat support, though there's plenty of weapon type agnostic feats that they can benefit from. Like most feats in PF2, they are more about giving you more options than about just directly making your attacks more powerful. Two handed fighters can knock enemies down or push them backwards with their attacks, or spend two actions to make a single bit hit that is good at blasting through physical resistance but only situationally better otherwise.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Giving most monsters AoO would cancel a bunch of the increased mobility that PF2 combat has, so I would personally be hesitant to do so. A lot of 'fighter-type' creatures do already have it, as well as big scary threats like dragons.
Hmm. That is not a problem we have in our 5e games. I wonder why it would be different in PF. I guess I will have to look into the rules more closely.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
What is everyone's thought so far about maxing their key stat and then boosting it by 2 with an Apex item vs having a dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, or halfling with a dump stat of 8 which you boost by 10 with your single Apex item?
 

FowlJ

Villager
What is everyone's thought so far about maxing their key stat and then boosting it by 2 with an Apex item vs having a dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, or halfling with a dump stat of 8 which you boost by 10 with your single Apex item?
Maxing your primary stat isn't that essential IMO, especially since your last ability boost only comes online right at level 20, but dumping a stat with the intent to use your apex item on it seems like you run into the problem that you need to spend ~16 levels with the awful stat before you actually get it. Boosting a stat you actually care about seems like a better deal in practise.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Hmm. That is not a problem we have in our 5e games. I wonder why it would be different in PF. I guess I will have to look into the rules more closely.
Likely because 5E movement is free.

(You wouldn't want to discourage movement in PF2 by monster aoos since it already costs an action)

My personal guess.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Barbarians and Champions have Attack of Opportunity as a 6th level feat. The Monk has the 4th level feat Stand Still, that is like AoO, but triggers only on movement and, on a critical hit, prevents the target from successfully moving away. The Ranger has the 4th level feat Disrupt Prey, which works like AoO but only against their chosen target(s), and is a free action instead of a reaction. I don't think rogues have a direct AoO equivalent, but they have an 8th level feat called Opportune Backstab that lets them attack as a reaction when an ally hits a creature with a melee attack.

Giving most monsters AoO would cancel a bunch of the increased mobility that PF2 combat has, so I would personally be hesitant to do so. A lot of 'fighter-type' creatures do already have it, as well as big scary threats like dragons.



In terms of hardness, the strongest shield has 20 Hardness with 160 HP (Break Threshold 80, so it's highly unlikely that the shield would ever be broken beyond repair). There's also the Indestructible Shield, which has only 13 hardness but can only be damaged by effects like Disintegrate, or you could opt for the Reflecting Shield, a magic silver buckler that has only hardness 6 and 24 HP (so blocking with it is more of an emergency), but in addition to providing its bonus not just to AC but also to spell saves, it allows you to redirect a spell back at the caster once per day.

Shield style has a fair amount of feat support. Shield feats, in addition to doing things like letting you protect your allies or apply shield block to effects with reflex saves, also improve the shield user's action economy - you can get an extra reaction that is dedicated to Shield Block, or a stance you can enter where you have your shield raised constantly without needing an action.

Two handed weapons have a bit less feat support, though there's plenty of weapon type agnostic feats that they can benefit from. Like most feats in PF2, they are more about giving you more options than about just directly making your attacks more powerful. Two handed fighters can knock enemies down or push them backwards with their attacks, or spend two actions to make a single bit hit that is good at blasting through physical resistance but only situationally better otherwise.
Okay, so let's say the reaction cost and the breakage risk are gone, and that feats otherwise are a wash. Thanks.

Still, seems to be an awful lot of mechanics just to let you negate 13-20 damage a round. At high levels that intuitively feels like a pittance (but I really haven't checked damage output in this game). Guessing maybe 20%, which begs the question: isn't it better to focus your efforts on some other way of damage avoidance (including killing the monsters before they can damage you).

In my experience, a tanking strategy requires really impressive levels of tanking ability (avoiding damage, soaking damage and making sure even smarter monsters actually attack you).

Maybe you get to block *every* attack at high levels - getting effectively DR 13 seems much closer to what is needed in general high-level D&D play...

Again, at this point most of this is uninformed speculation. Again thanks Fowlj for your breakdown.
 
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Kaodi

Adventurer
I have run into one extreme corner case where it seems to be extremely complex to keep track of your skills and feats. I have even sort of given up halfway through, though I love the character concept.

I have been working on a build for a "legendary" character/trope I have referred to so far simply as The Everyman. A human wild druid nomad multiclassed with rogue who uses thousand faces, timeless nature, perfected form control, and basically the rest is skill mastery. Other than maxing deception and getting clever improviser, all of his other skill training and skill/general feats are dedicated to loading up on as many background skills and feats as possible. So he is effectively a nomad, animal whisperer, emissary, farm hand, herbalist, guard, hermit, hunter, labourer, merchant, sailor, scout, and so on all at once, and is able to switch to and live in basically any common role in his travels. And at the peak he would take leyline conduit, as it represents the culmination of all of his travels.

This is a really high bookkeeping concept as far as I can tell. You absolutely have to know when you are getting all of your abilities so you have everything at the right time. But on the plus side it probably represents close to the maximum complexity this game has.
 

Ed Gibson

Villager
I'll pick up the rules for my collection, but my gaming group has decided to stick to the original rules for the foreseeable future. The problems that we noted in the playtest do not appear to have been addressed in the final rules. Other than the continued simplification of the rules, there are weaknesses in the design of the action mechanism. A module has a group of four goblins. In the old rules, that's a reasonable challenge for a first level party. In the new rules, each goblin can fire three arrows for their turn. A volley of 12 arrows with average luck could easily take out a new party. We ran into that in our first playtest and nothing has changed.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I have run into one extreme corner case where it seems to be extremely complex to keep track of your skills and feats. I have even sort of given up halfway through, though I love the character concept.

I have been working on a build for a "legendary" character/trope I have referred to so far simply as The Everyman. A human wild druid nomad multiclassed with rogue who uses thousand faces, timeless nature, perfected form control, and basically the rest is skill mastery. Other than maxing deception and getting clever improviser, all of his other skill training and skill/general feats are dedicated to loading up on as many background skills and feats as possible. So he is effectively a nomad, animal whisperer, emissary, farm hand, herbalist, guard, hermit, hunter, labourer, merchant, sailor, scout, and so on all at once, and is able to switch to and live in basically any common role in his travels. And at the peak he would take leyline conduit, as it represents the culmination of all of his travels.

This is a really high bookkeeping concept as far as I can tell. You absolutely have to know when you are getting all of your abilities so you have everything at the right time. But on the plus side it probably represents close to the maximum complexity this game has.
On the other hand, maybe don't play that concept...?

I have a player with the idea to play an "ice witch". I told him, if there's not enough support for cold damage magic...

"On the other hand, maybe don't play that concept...?"

In other words, it's okay you can't do everything in PF2. Yet.

Try doing the classic stuff. The stuff supported by the CRB
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
One thing I d like that is the Fort/ Will/ Reflex save which I miss from 4e. I have thought about implementing it inn 5e, but haven't done so yet.
How difficult for 5e is that? It had a number of subtle character design benefits.

On topic I am intrigued by the extensive use of feats in pf2
 

dave2008

Adventurer
How difficult for 5e is that? It had a number of subtle character design benefits.
It really isn't difficult to implement in 5e but you have to make some choices in translating the 6 saves to three and what attributes make of up the three. I've played around with different ideas, but we haven't tried any yet.
 

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