Pathfinder 2E Encounter Design in PF2 works.

dave2008

Legend
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
But I'm not talking about throwing an ancient red dragon at level 1-2 PCS. I'm talking about a troll or two. My understanding is that would be unwise in PF2. But I will admit, that my understanding could be wrong. Additionally, I think with some system mastery I could overcome these issues. The big one for me is the +1/level thing. That just makes no sense to my current design sensibilities (and I know the GMG has a solution for that).
 

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payn

Legend
Old School, it has its merits. I admit, PF2e would not be my rpg of choice for offline play. It has many moving parts, that keeping track of as a DM and preparing for would be too complex for my taste, without the automation.
I think about this and im wondering how much a blessing VTT is? I got used to 3E/PF1 through decades of play. Then again, it never hurts to offload that part of the game no matter how second nature its become.
 

Retreater

Legend
I think about this and im wondering how much a blessing VTT is? I got used to 3E/PF1 through decades of play. Then again, it never hurts to offload that part of the game no matter how second nature its become.
As I've commented in other threads, I think over-dependence on online tools can be bad.
1) You can lose them if the service goes out of business, stops supporting your edition, etc.
2) From my experience, no VTT is completely stable. My Foundry crashes several times per session.
3) You have to pay monthly or annual subscription fees, hosting fees, etc.
4) If you stop paying subscription fees, you usually lose access to your content.
5) If you are at an in-person game day, you can't just casually play the game.
6) It requires a lot more prep than an in-person game - adding maps, tokens, etc.

The thing that is amazing to me is that PF2 was designed before the pandemic, before the explosion of VTTs and automated tools. Paizo actually thought this game was playable without these resources and would be a more streamlined edition of their previous game.
 

Staffan

Legend
The thing that is amazing to me is that PF2 was designed before the pandemic, before the explosion of VTTs and automated tools. Paizo actually thought this game was playable without these resources and would be a more streamlined edition of their previous game.
It is eminently playable without electronic aids. I'm playing it without any electronic assistance beyond PDFs/Archive of Nethys, and it's working just fine.

Now, I wouldn't use the "proficiency without level" variant that way, but that's just that specific variant.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
I think about this and im wondering how much a blessing VTT is? I got used to 3E/PF1 through decades of play. Then again, it never hurts to offload that part of the game no matter how second nature its become.

I am a very lazy DM. I don't prep in advance almost entirely and my players and I collaboratively build the world as we go using "Solo DM engines" such as an oracle die to make up the story as we go. I could never run PF2e this way without a VTT i'd assume (I haven't tried to be fair) but having all the resources for the system so easily available that it is merely a matter of "drag & drop" to create an encounter as we need it makes PF2 actually come alive as a system.
All the nitty gritty is hidden behind the automation and intuitive interface.

Example of play:

We just go with our gut feeling and say: "Ok this is a dungeon with undead in there, there might be a witch as well or some sort of necromancer."

We ask the oracle die: "is something bad happening?", roll a d6, the answer is a 1 (yes).

We ask: "Is it severe?" roll a d6, the answer is 6 (very).

I open the Bestiary and type in "flesh golem" because I think that's what a necromancer witch type of villain would have, I find "Zombie Flesh Golem", one is level 3 one is level 4. (I also have a tool that I can easily adjust the monsters level to what ever level i'd like it to be with one mouse click according to the stat rules)

Nice, we want an encounter that is Extreme (I like to have a challenge, btw I also have a character in the game, I DM and play at the same time), as per the encounter building rules we choose the level 4 Zombie Flesh Golem version for an Extreme+ encounter for our 3 player party.

Ok next thing I do is drag & drop the monster on my randomly generated dungeon that I imported with one mouseclick into my VTT from here: One Page Dungeon by watabou

The party (our characters that don't have the meta knowledge) gets scared hearing something big stomping towards them quickly so they try to run, back to the exit they roped into.

We ask the oracle die: "Is the escape going as planned?" roll a d6, answer is (2) No

We roll a portent (2 random words) i.e. "unexpected" "blocked", oh naughty word.

We ask: "Did somebody cut our rope?" roll a d6, (5) yes.

Ok now we have to fight, the Zombie Golem is charging towards us. We throw some marbles on the floor and hold a rope with 2 PCs behind the door so we trip whatever big thing is coming.

We roll some checks with a few mouseclicks, the Golem trips as it bursts into the room, nice! We get some free attacks in.

Add everyone to the Combat Tracker roll initiative for everyone including the golem, takes about 10 seconds to set it all up, start the combat

Now we are in what PF2e arguably does best, the combat mini-game, everything is automated, every feat and ability we use is one click away, drag and drop style for effects we might need to indicate that someone is raising a shield while we mark the Golem as being prone giving it all the negative modifiers it would get automatically.

We can fully focus on playing the combat mini game now, actually not having to worry about the nitty gritty allows us to do cool stuff and we don't get paralyzed by it. We actually trap the golem in a fire trap door (cool stuff like this doesn't exist in PF2e right, cuz everything is codified, well we do it without even sweating it) every rule we need can be referenced quickly to keep the encounter in line with the mechanics, what is not in there we find a quick ruling for.

After 30min of detailed combat we have defeated the Zombie Golem almost getting TPKed. 30min is a lot? Not if it's fun. We enjoy every second of our 6s simulated combat turns.

Combat is over, we add XP to the sheet. Healing checks for recovery no problem a few clicks. Mark a few +10 minutes steps on the World Clock to indicate that we have been taking the "treat wounds" action, roll a d6 to see if we get ambushed while doing that (cuz you know, we like to live on the edge) (3) not this time, we live to fight another day.

Get back into exploration mode, click a few buttons to drag and drop the exploration activity indicators on all our PCs so we know what each of us is doing "within the ruleset" while we roleplay our next steps.

Ok, now I forgot why I started writing all this, but I guess it was because I wanted to showcase what automation can actually do for you. Zero prep, and with a bit of time invested in learning how to set up and access these things, it will save you much time in the long run, and actually lets you run the games you always wanted to run. Combat like a detailed simulation, but without bogging you down in the nitty gritty while still allowing you to add in all your own ideas and rulings, it's flexible.

I am a lazy DM by nature, I don't prep, I was told PF2 doesn't work this way, for me it does, otherwise I wouldn't play it. I am thankful for all the guys that codify this and import all the rules and assets. Also thanks to Paizo for allowing everyone to freely use their stuff! What a time to be alive.

PS: Disclaimer: No spell checking, commas and so on, I have to go to bed and wanted to get this written down. Thanks for understanding.
 
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But I'm not talking about throwing an ancient red dragon at level 1-2 PCS. I'm talking about a troll or two. My understanding is that would be unwise in PF2. But I will admit, that my understanding could be wrong. Additionally, I think with some system mastery I could overcome these issues. The big one for me is the +1/level thing. That just makes no sense to my current design sensibilities (and I know the GMG has a solution for that).
1643074364956.png

Here's a table that has every troll from every Pathfinder 2e book, 4 levels above the party is a "wtf deadly, you better be optimized and clever solo boss" 4 levels below the party is "jobber mooks who showed up to make you feel good when you drop a fireball on them" at level means a few of them are appropriate.

I think you could do it as you say, with a little system mastery, essentially by eyeballing the level of the statblock and the level of the players, without actually calculating it so long as you internalized the 'suggested role' and 'creature level' of this table, like just the gist of how it gradiates:

1643074869863.png

I think it would work better in a group of five or six than a group of 4, because then you'd "normally" be able to throw more monsters at them, which if you're staying within a +/ of 4, should make things more tolerable if you just slap an extra troll in there. I can also vouch that being a permissive GM who facilitates running away, and players to concoct weird plans to influence or destroy encounters beyond the usual scope of their character abilities that will also give you wiggle.

Sorry if thats a bit much, I wanted to give you enough info to pull the answer you actually need out of it.
 

dave2008

Legend
View attachment 150637
Here's a table that has every troll from every Pathfinder 2e book, 4 levels above the party is a "wtf deadly, you better be optimized and clever solo boss" 4 levels below the party is "jobber mooks who showed up to make you feel good when you drop a fireball on them" at level means a few of them are appropriate.

I think you could do it as you say, with a little system mastery, essentially by eyeballing the level of the statblock and the level of the players, without actually calculating it so long as you internalized the 'suggested role' and 'creature level' of this table, like just the gist of how it gradiates:

View attachment 150638
I think it would work better in a group of five or six than a group of 4, because then you'd "normally" be able to throw more monsters at them, which if you're staying within a +/ of 4, should make things more tolerable if you just slap an extra troll in there. I can also vouch that being a permissive GM who facilitates running away, and players to concoct weird plans to influence or destroy encounters beyond the usual scope of their character abilities that will also give you wiggle.

Sorry if thats a bit much, I wanted to give you enough info to pull the answer you actually need out of it.
Thanks for the detail. Table 10-2 is what bothers me I guess and I would want to use the the +1 / level. It would extend that range.

As originally stated a troll in PF2 is a severe to extreme threat for a lvl 1-2 party of adventurers. I can't even imagine what 2 trolls would be like! That is just to far outside of my expectation as a DM - there would definitely be an adjustment period!

Though, there is something about the tight math a really like and I think the design is close to what I thought my ideal version of D&D would be. But like all versions of D&D it is just a bit off.
 

dave2008

Legend
I think you could do it as you say, with a little system mastery, essentially by eyeballing the level of the statblock and the level of the players, without actually calculating it so long as you internalized the 'suggested role' and 'creature level' of this table, like just the gist of how it gradiates:
That is a good point. Once you have internalized table 10-2 (which is pretty easy to do), is very easy to know if a monster / group of monsters will be easy, challenging, or hard for a group.

Then my only issue would be making sure to telegraph an appropriate challenge, which I don't like to / am not good at doing normally (but I could always improve). It is also hard do with random encounters which I use extensively in travel adventures and certain types of dungeons. Hard to telegraph it if I don't know what it is!
 

miggyG777

Explorer
As I've commented in other threads, I think over-dependence on online tools can be bad.
1) You can lose them if the service goes out of business, stops supporting your edition, etc.
2) From my experience, no VTT is completely stable. My Foundry crashes several times per session.
3) You have to pay monthly or annual subscription fees, hosting fees, etc.
4) If you stop paying subscription fees, you usually lose access to your content.
5) If you are at an in-person game day, you can't just casually play the game.
6) It requires a lot more prep than an in-person game - adding maps, tokens, etc.

The thing that is amazing to me is that PF2 was designed before the pandemic, before the explosion of VTTs and automated tools. Paizo actually thought this game was playable without these resources and would be a more streamlined edition of their previous game.

1) You can self host Foundry VTT on your own computer, back it up on a HDD, never lose anything (unless your house burns down).
2) Foundry VTT has never crashed once for me (self hosted) in over 500 hours of usage.
3) Not if you self host.
4) see 3)
5) Never tried it but in this day and age your players could use tablets to access their Foundry character sheet perhaps?
6) I disagree, it takes some time to get used to the system (arguably easier if you are computer savvy and like to tinker with programs) once you've done that it saves you a lot of prep time as per my experience.
 
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miggyG777

Explorer
That is a good point. Once you have internalized table 10-2 (which is pretty easy to do), is very easy to know if a monster / group of monsters will be easy, challenging, or hard for a group.

Then my only issue would be making sure to telegraph an appropriate challenge, which I don't like to / am not good at doing normally (but I could always improve). It is also hard do with random encounters which I use extensively in travel adventures and certain types of dungeons. Hard to telegraph it if I don't know what it is!
You could also just let them run into the encounter and give them the opportunity to relatively easily retreat in case it becomes necessary. But I'd assume signposting wouldn't be too hard, if you remember the 10-2 table stated earlier. All it takes is a glance for you to know that they are likely heading up to a trivial or an extreme challenge. The rest is narration i'd assume.
 
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dave2008

Legend
You could also just let them run into the encounter and give them the opportunity to relatively easily retreat in case it becomes necessary. But I'd assume signposting wouldn't be too hard, if you remember the 10-2 table stated earlier. All it takes is a glance for you to know that they are likely heading up to a trivial or an extreme challenge. The rest is narration i'd assume.
Yes, if I know what is coming. Like I mentioned, I do use a fair bit of random monsters and even I don't necessarily know what is around the corner sometimes.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
Yes, if I know what is coming. Like I mentioned, I do use a fair bit of random monsters and even I don't necessarily know what is around the corner sometimes.
If that's the mode of play, I would consider home-brewing a retreating mechanism perhaps. Make retreating part of the game loop and let your players know about the randomness of monsters they can encounter.
By signposting this way, you as a DM don't have to know what's coming, but your players are prepared to retreat if necessary and it's all tied into a cool mini-game.
 

payn

Legend
If that's the mode of play, I would consider home-brewing a retreating mechanism perhaps. Make retreating part of the game loop and let your players know about the randomness of monsters they can encounter.
By signposting this way, you as a DM don't have to know what's coming, but your players are prepared to retreat if necessary and it's all tied into a cool mini-game.
Perhaps also making random tables in advance that are within the party ability band. Adjust up as they level. More up front work but as the thread says encounter deign works (if you stick to the >4 party level).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
My experience with the guidelines for building encounters is that they worked pretty well, but you have to make adjustments based on its assumptions regarding how tactically well the PCs will fight. My players weren’t super savvy about that, so I ended up having to shift things over a step (e.g., considering a moderate-threat encounter as more like a severe threat one). After doing that, it seemed to work pretty well for us.

That's absolutely the case, but I'm not sure its possible to avoid that in any encounter building system; the only question is where the default capability level is assumed.
 

Thomas Shey

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.

The word "can" in your question is doing some heavy lifting here.

What I mean by that is you can absolutely do what you ask, but if you don't provide some useful tools for retreat, its only a matter of time before you get a TPK. I've observed before that because of how dying works, a TPK is actually more likely in its way than individual death most of the time. You can't just count on normal movement mechanics and processes doing the work of making a retreat possible, because some opponents are just going to be faster than the PCs as a whole and have motivation to pursue, and if those are the ones the PCs discover are past their abilities, without something that allows a successful retreat, just using what's there is an invitation to a TPK that the PCs might well not be able to, in practice, avoid.

There's, of course, a lot of ways to telegraph that an encounter might not be one the PCs want to get into, so the question is whether you're good about that and how certain you are your players will take the hint.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
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.

Well, to be honest, I don't think that works in any game, let alone any incarnation of D&D; if you don't have any idea whether something is too dangerous for the PCs, you can't convey that to them, and if you don't, they're always potentially walking into a deathtrap. I don't really think that's not true with 5e either; I suspect you've just got internalized when its true there rather than doing it by calculation (which is probably a good thing since I gather the 5e encounter building guidelines are kind of junk).
 

Thomas Shey

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.

Yeah, that was my view of it too. Sure, the to-hit/ac bonuses might be closer in OD&D, but there were too many things where the amount of damage delivered was too high or they had group damage or takeout abilities for it not to be trivial to walk into an encounter you weren't going to win unless the GM had a sense of such things. That's one of the reasons there were "dungeon level" encounter tables and a lot of early games were so dungeon-centric; if you walked a low level party out into parts of the wilderness you might as well have been dropping them down a garbage disposal.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Also, just as a side comment, if 5e will let a troll be a reasonable encounter for first level characters, its the first incarnation of D&D I know of where it is. I know one would absolutely go through that level group like a grinder in 3e, and I don't recall it being much better in OD&D.
 

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