Pathfinder 2E Encounter Design in PF2 works.

payn

Legend
It has been a while since I seriously looked at PF2 (bought the core rulebook, bestiary, and GMG when they came out), but I remember it being a very tight system. My question to those with experience in the system: can you run the game without balancing encounters? As a DM I don't want to have to worry about monster level / CR and balanced encounters. I just want to build the world and let the players run with it. Though I loved 4e, it didn't really lend itself to this style. That is my favorite part of DMing 5e. Everything I have read suggest the encounter math tends more to the 4e spectrum and that as me a little uneasy. Love to hear your thoughts.
It's tricky building a world first in PF2, as its intended to be different than 5E. PF2 has bounded accuracy, but in limited bands dependent on level. So, for sandbox style play signposting is very important.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

kenada

Legend
Supporter
It has been a while since I seriously looked at PF2 (bought the core rulebook, bestiary, and GMG when they came out), but I remember it being a very tight system. My question to those with experience in the system: can you run the game without balancing encounters? As a DM I don't want to have to worry about monster level / CR and balanced encounters. I just want to build the world and let the players run with it. Though I loved 4e, it didn't really lend itself to this style. That is my favorite part of DMing 5e. Everything I have read suggest the encounter math tends more to the 4e spectrum and that as me a little uneasy. Love to hear your thoughts.
It depends on what you mean by “without balancing encounters”. PF2 can do an OSR-style game where you don’t care about the encounter building math, and some things will kill parties that are foolish enough to pick a fight with them. If it’s something more like, “just do whatever because characters are stronger than what the math assumes, which is broken anyway, and it will work out,” then no.
 

dave2008

Legend
It depends on what you mean by “without balancing encounters”. PF2 can do an OSR-style game where you don’t care about the encounter building math, and some things will kill parties that are foolish enough to pick a fight with them. If it’s something more like, “just do whatever because characters are stronger than what the math assumes, which is broken anyway, and it will work out,” then no.
The world / setting / campaign style I use is rather organic. By that I mean, I build the world in a way the makes sense to me in relation to how things would naturally develop (could be literally natural or socio-politically "natural"). I also want the world to react naturally based on the influence of the PCs. That is what I want to do without having to worry about a TPK around every corner if they get there head a bit below water. I want the characters to be able to survive accidents, but not necessarily completely foolish mistakes / decisions.
 

dave2008

Legend
It depends on what you mean by “without balancing encounters”. PF2 can do an OSR-style game where you don’t care about the encounter building math, and some things will kill parties that are foolish enough to pick a fight with them.
My worry is what is that range of a fight that is too tough?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
If the PCs expect to fight through everything, they’re going to get into trouble if you build things out organically. You’d want to make provisions for allowing them to escape or retreat (not part of the core rules but easily added), basically applying an OSR-style approach to things.
 

My worry is what is that range of a fight that is too tough?

Again, the big thing here is to signpost and give people outs. You shold be able to tell how an encounter will go based on the actual encounter-building rules, so you'll know if it's too tough or too easy for them. The bigger thing here is to make sure that the players get an idea that it's a bad idea to do this. If they just die because they ignored your hints and decided to just attack something, then they can't really get angry at you. If they die because you ambushed them with a monster they had no chance of knowing about, then that's on you.
 

Staffan

Legend
Yeah, the encounter building rules work in both directions. You can either go "So the party is level 4 and I want them to have a Severe encounter, so that could be four ogre warriors", or you can go "Four ogre warriors makes sense here, and the party is level 4... ooh, so that's a Severe encounter, I should probably make sure there's some kind of warning about that."
 

dave2008

Legend
Again, the big thing here is to signpost and give people outs. You shold be able to tell how an encounter will go based on the actual encounter-building rules, so you'll know if it's too tough or too easy for them.
That is kinda what I am trying to avoid. I don't want to know if it is to tough or not. As the DM, I don't necessarily want that knowledge. I'm probably just being a lazy DM, but I know longer want to spend my time determining if something is to hard or easy, I just want to play.

I think I will stop here, as I can't quite get across what I am looking for and it feels like different people are giving different opinions (socking that). I'm sure if I knew the system better I could get it to work for me. Thank you for the input!
 
Last edited:

That is kinda what I am trying to avoid. I don't want to know if it is to tough or not. As the DM, I don't necessarily want that knowledge. I'm probably just being a lazy DM, but I know longer want to spend my time determining if something is to hard or easy, I just want to play.

I think I will stop here, as I can't quite get across what I am looing for and it feels like different people are giving different opinions (socking that). I'm sure if I knew the system better I could get it to work for me. Thank you for the input!

No, I get it. You want to be surprised with what you create, right? I suppose that standard PF2 is not a good choice for that because it's math is relatively tight. If you play Proficiency without Level you could probably do that in the same way as 5E, though it'd likely still be a bit more predictable than that. Hopefully that helps.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
What I hear, is folks bemoaning the fact that PF2 has fairly tight mechanics dictating what a group of adventurers can and cannot be expected to fight.

While that's true, you also have to account for the DM's instinct, his rule of thumb. You're not going to sic a family of cloud giants or an ancient red dragon on a hapless party of 1st or 2nd-level PCs. An experienced DM is going to adjust the threat to the capabilities of the PCs, on an intuitive level, even if he doesn't take the time to calculate the exact encounter balance using the Building Encounters guidelines.

Sure, you may have some situations where the PCs should objectively take flight and try to evade the overwhelming power of the beasties they have encountered. The players should know their DM well enough that they realize that they can't expect to bull through everything in their path, and sometimes escapaing with their lives is as good a result as they can hope for.

I don't think PF2 is more poorly adapted to this type of creature populating approach than any other RPG. If you want to populate a region with a variety of threats, some of which are beyond the capacity of the PCs to fight toe-to-toe, you can do that, it simply requires the DM to telegraph the severity of the threat, so that it becomes a test of their ability to escape rather than a full frontal combat that they can hope to overcome.

Regardless of the game system you choose to play under, these sorts of situations will require a different approach on the part of the players.
 

Retreater

Legend
What I can say is that PF2 has probably the most "only these few levels of enemies can work" design of any RPG I've seen. This is because of the baked-in bonus to all pertinent die rolls based off creature level. And then you have the criticals triggering on +10 or -10 over the die roll. In this case, winning big (or losing big) absolutely matters.
It's not just that the HP are higher, or the AC is harder to hit. You are even more likely to drop in a one-shot critical hit against a higher level opponent than in any edition of D&D (or adjacent game).
 

payn

Legend
What I can say is that PF2 has probably the most "only these few levels of enemies can work" design of any RPG I've seen. This is because of the baked-in bonus to all pertinent die rolls based off creature level. And then you have the criticals triggering on +10 or -10 over the die roll. In this case, winning big (or losing big) absolutely matters.
It's not just that the HP are higher, or the AC is harder to hit. You are even more likely to drop in a one-shot critical hit against a higher level opponent than in any edition of D&D (or adjacent game).
Pretty much this. It makes designing an adventure module easy work. It makes forming a world wide sandbox sort of a PITA because its hard to make sense of things living in a natural state with such disparate power levels.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
What I can say is that PF2 has probably the most "only these few levels of enemies can work" design of any RPG I've seen. This is because of the baked-in bonus to all pertinent die rolls based off creature level. And then you have the criticals triggering on +10 or -10 over the die roll. In this case, winning big (or losing big) absolutely matters.
It's not just that the HP are higher, or the AC is harder to hit. You are even more likely to drop in a one-shot critical hit against a higher level opponent than in any edition of D&D (or adjacent game).

As far as the RAW goes, this is a design choice, however, they also acknowledge that different DMs and groups might want to handle things differently. That's where the variant rules come into play. Specifically: Proficiency Without Level.

This variant presents a change to the proficiency bonus system, scaling it differently for a style of game that’s outside the norm. This is a significant change to the system.

The proficiency rank progression in the Core Rulebook is designed for heroic fantasy games where heroes rise from humble origins to world-shattering strength. For some games, this narrative arc doesn’t fit. Such games are about hedging bets in an uncertain and gritty world, in which even the world’s best fighter can’t guarantee a win against a large group of moderately skilled brigands.
Telling stories where a large group of low-level monsters can still be a significant threat to a high-level PC (and conversely, a single higher-level monster is not much of a threat to a group of PCs) requires some significant shifts in encounter building, including shifts in the PCs’ rewards.

 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Honestly, the "disparate power levels" conundrum has existed in any RPG ever invented. In OD&D, if you sic a troll or a red dragon on low-level adventurers, they are going to bite the bucket, guaranteed.
The difference with PF2 is that those differences have been codified, and you know in advance (if you care to do the calculations) what is beyond their grasp.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
Honestly, the "disparate power levels" conundrum has existed in any RPG ever invented. In OD&D, if you sic a troll or a red dragon on low-level adventurers, they are going to bite the bucket, guaranteed.
The difference with PF2 is that those differences have been codified, and you know in advance (if you care to do the calculations) what is beyond their grasp.

Not only have they been codified more thoroughly, the designers even give you a tool to change the nature of the whole progression, so you can emulate different styles of play with it. It's a fabulous toolbox honestly. The caveat is, that there is a learning curve attached to it. Since it's a codified system you gotta put the time in, to learn the basic underpinnings. Once you've done that it is actually quite amazing how modular and easily hackable PF2e becomes. It does most of the heavy lifting for you if you understand which dials to tweak.
I can see that it seems unwieldy at first and barely approachable, as any powerful tool does initially, but given some effort and time there comes mastery and with mastery the possibilities of the tool come to live.
Granted not everyone wants to put time into learning a tool, some just want something simple that does the job so they can focus their time on different aspects of the game.
Eventually, given a certain ambition, a simple tool might not suffice anymore. Then the amount of time you'd have to spend to create your desired result with an improper tool outweighs the requirements of learning to handle a more powerful tool.
That's where I am at, and that's why I endorse PF2e.
 
Last edited:

payn

Legend
Honestly, the "disparate power levels" conundrum has existed in any RPG ever invented. In OD&D, if you sic a troll or a red dragon on low-level adventurers, they are going to bite the bucket, guaranteed.
The difference with PF2 is that those differences have been codified, and you know in advance (if you care to do the calculations) what is beyond their grasp.
Sort of. Sure you can point to obvious power disparities as proof this doesn't matter, but that's disingenuous. 1E/2E/3E/5E makes it much more easy to do this because players can often punch above their weight. If the players approach things from a war style perspective, there are things they can employ to narrow the power gap. The math of PF2 makes this impossible; even with proficiency without level. The variant doesnt do much besides make the treadmill less obvious.
 

Retreater

Legend
Honestly, the "disparate power levels" conundrum has existed in any RPG ever invented. In OD&D, if you sic a troll or a red dragon on low-level adventurers, they are going to bite the bucket, guaranteed.
That's true, if you're wildly off in the power level, like throwing an adult red dragon against a 1st level party.
It's more the in-between stuff. Like having a minor challenging dragon against a low-level party. Could work in D&D, possibly, but in PF2, it's far worse - and it takes some study to find out why it's worse. Not only are you looking at you're likely to get hit, you're likely to get multiple critical hits in a round. Not only are you unlikely to save to get out of the way from the breath weapon, you're likely to take double damage.
It is a compounding danger. It is overkill for the monsters fighting you. And it almost guarantees that you're not going to be challenged by lower-level baddies for long.
It's almost like they wanted to sell more bestiaries by limiting the range of effectiveness for each creature.
 

Retreater

Legend
As far as the RAW goes, this is a design choice, however, they also acknowledge that different DMs and groups might want to handle things differently. That's where the variant rules come into play. Specifically: Proficiency Without Level.
That's too much work for me, but thanks for sharing the option.
 



Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top