Pathfinder 2E Encounter Design in PF2 works.

dave2008

Legend
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).
What I want to do works for me in 5e. Perhaps I didn't explain it clearly or well enough, but I would basically want to replicate my DM style from 5e to PF2 as much as possible. In 5e there is a large range (in CR/lvl) that the PCs can handle if not out right defeat. Enough so that I generally don't have to worry to much about telegraphing the scene other than my general description that I develop from a world building perspective. I don't have to think of extra telegraphing that it is a dangerous fight, I can just describe the effects of dragon passing through or whatever. Now that may be enough, but the range generally appears so narrow that my basic assumptions and descriptions from 5e wouldn't cut.

Then of course I have a rather heavy use of random monster tables that complicates things even more. I think I would have to completely rework my existing tables to make it work for PF2. Not the end of the world, but still a fair bit of work.
 

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dave2008

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.
I just checked the "math:"

A single troll (CR 5) in 5e would be 2x deadly encounter for 3-4 PCs. A "deadly" encounter is equivalent to at +1 or maybe a +2 encounter in PF2 I think. Looked at another way, a troll in 5e is an "epic encounter" for 3 lvl-2 PCs or 5 lvl-1 PCs. An epic encounter is equivalent to a +3 or +4 fight in PF2. So maybe they are not that as far off as I thought, at least at low level. However, by 5th level, a 5e group can handle a +10 monster, which basically gives a 20 CR range of appropriate monsters to use.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
What I want to do works for me in 5e. Perhaps I didn't explain it clearly or well enough, but I would basically want to replicate my DM style from 5e to PF2 as much as possible. In 5e there is a large range (in CR/lvl) that the PCs can handle if not out right defeat. Enough so that I generally don't have to worry to much about telegraphing the scene other than my general description that I develop from a world building perspective. I don't have to think of extra telegraphing that it is a dangerous fight, I can just describe the effects of dragon passing through or whatever. Now that may be enough, but the range generally appears so narrow that my basic assumptions and descriptions from 5e wouldn't cut.
If you want a bigger range, the Proficiency without Level variant gives you basically what you want. It takes the range of viable levels and pushes it out to party level±7 from ±4. Once the party gets around 5th level, you have access to most of the bestiary for building encounters (because there aren’t that many creatures at the top end).
 

I just checked the "math:"

A single troll (CR 5) in 5e would be 2x deadly encounter for 3-4 PCs. A "deadly" encounter is equivalent to at +1 or maybe a +2 encounter in PF2 I think. Looked at another way, a troll in 5e is an "epic encounter" for 3 lvl-2 PCs or 5 lvl-1 PCs. An epic encounter is equivalent to a +3 or +4 fight in PF2. So maybe they are not that as far off as I thought, at least at low level. However, by 5th level, a 5e group can handle a +10 monster, which basically gives a 20 CR range of appropriate monsters to use.

Well, to some extent you just need to deal with the fact that much higher level monsters in PF2e really are much more dangerous; I don't feel confident to talk about 5e ones, but they're more like PF1e/D&D3e ones in that respect, except the math is actually strong enough that you don't have the 3e era thing of two CR 10 monsters that are actually significantly different in power.
 

dave2008

Legend
If you want a bigger range, the Proficiency without Level variant gives you basically what you want. It takes the range of viable levels and pushes it out to party level±7 from ±4. Once the party gets around 5th level, you have access to most of the bestiary for building encounters (because there aren’t that many creatures at the top end).
Yes, I am aware (I have the GMG), and that just might solve the issue. I just haven't completely wrapped my head around it.
 

dave2008

Legend
I must say all of this PF2 talk is making me thing I need to take another look at trying to play / DM some PF2. I need to get into it at some point and see what I can do to make it more the game I want to play. I really like the tight math and crisp design, but there are other things I don't like. I just have to figure out out to massage it into my ideal game.

I used to think my ideal game would be a combo of 4e & 5e & some house-rules. However, I think the math in PF2E is even tighter than in 4e and it might serve as a better foundation to mix with 5e.
 
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payn

Legend
I must say all of this PF2 talk is making me thing I need to take another look at trying to play / DM some PF2. I need to get into at some point and see what I can do to make more the game I want. I really like the tight math and crisp design, but there are other things I don't like. I just have to figure out out to message it into my ideal game.

I used to think my idea game would be a combo of 4e & 5e & some house-rules. However, i think the math in PF2E is even tighter than in 4e and it might serve as a better foundation to mix with 5e.
Thats the spirit.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
I must say all of this PF2 talk is making me thing I need to take another look at trying to play / DM some PF2. I need to get into at some point and see what I can do to make more the game I want. I really like the tight math and crisp design, but there are other things I don't like. I just have to figure out out to message it into my ideal game.

I used to think my idea game would be a combo of 4e & 5e & some house-rules. However, i think the math in PF2E is even tighter than in 4e and it might serve as a better foundation to mix with 5e.
It's a similar gripe I had with the system at first glance, thinking it was too complex and delicate to efficiently add in my own ideas. But once I tried it, I understood that the system, on the contrary, is quite robust.
PF2 is more like a combination of different sub systems that are modularly designed but fit very well together as a big package, therefore making it seem as if it was one huge complex thing that you can't mod.

I.e. I removed all the deities that PF2 comes with. Instead, now I just have God and the absence of it. Usually one would think that the whole deity system is so embedded into the game that you can't just rip it out and replace it. It worked without a problem, even for classes like the Cleric or the Champion. They just have one choice now and all the other parts of the game are still doing what they are supposed to do.

In summary: PF2 is a modular package of all the tools you could possibly need to run your very own TTRPG.
 
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dave2008

Legend
It's a similar gripe I had with the system at first glance, thinking it was too complex and delicate to efficiently add in my own ideas. But once I tried it, I understood that the system, on the contrary, is quite robust.
PF2 is more like a combination of different sub systems that are modularly designed but fit very well together as a big package, therefore making it seem as if it was one huge complex thing that you can't mod.

I.e. I removed all the deities that PF2 comes with. Instead, now I just have God and the absence of it. Usually one would think that the whole deity system is so embedded into the game that you can't just rip it out and replace it. It worked without a problem, even for classes like the Cleric or the Champion. They just have one choice now and all the other parts of the game are still doing what they are supposed to do.

In summary: PF2 is a modular package of all the tools you could possibly need to run your very own TTRPG.
While I am pretty sure you are correct, this is an odd choice for an example. I would never think the deities would be a difficult system to replace in D&D. I've been playing D&D since the 1e/BECMI days in the 80's and I've never had any issue with replacing the entire cosmology of the game. As far as I can tell it has never been difficult to replace the deities in D&D.

I am more looking at things like how to add bloodied hit points and damage reduction to armor, reducing magic and healing, removing damage runes (IIRC), etc.
 

Teemu

Adventurer
Yes, I am aware (I have the GMG), and that just might solve the issue. I just haven't completely wrapped my head around it.
Both Archives of Nethys and PF2 Easy Tools have a toggle for proficiency without level when looking up creatures, so you don’t need a VTT to have the automated experience with the variant. If you want to just create groups of enemies/creatures without having to worry about encounter balance, that variant is definitely the way to go when playing PF2. Add in a simple house rule for retreats and you’re done.

That said, what I’ve read about prof without level has been a little conflicting. Some people (or GMs specifically I suppose) seem to have loved it, while others have pointed out the weaknesses: very few crits, either successes or fails, and I believe small bonuses become even more important. You no longer get to plow through weak enemies because you don’t crit so easily against their AC (or they don’t crit fail saves against damage spells). It seems to be a mixed bag, and PF2 was not ultimately designed with the variant in mind. It’s a variant.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
While I am pretty sure you are correct, this is an odd choice for an example. I would never think the deities would be a difficult system to replace in D&D. I've been playing D&D since the 1e/BECMI days in the 80's and I've never had any issue with replacing the entire cosmology of the game. As far as I can tell it has never been difficult to replace the deities in D&D.

I am more looking at things like how to add bloodied hit points and damage reduction to armor, reducing magic and healing, removing damage runes (IIRC), etc.
This is a valid criticism, I have to admit that I have not yet futzed around with features of the combat system itself, other than applying the variant rules for PWL, which I have yet to playtest.
 

dave2008

Legend
Both Archives of Nethys and PF2 Easy Tools have a toggle for proficiency without level when looking up creatures, so you don’t need a VTT to have the automated experience with the variant. If you want to just create groups of enemies/creatures without having to worry about encounter balance, that variant is definitely the way to go when playing PF2. Add in a simple house rule for retreats and you’re done.
I've had Archives of Nethys bookmarked for years. It is a very useful site. However, I have more changes I would do to monsters than just prof. w/out level, so I would be making all custom monsters anyway.
That said, what I’ve read about prof without level has been a little conflicting. Some people (or GMs specifically I suppose) seem to have loved it, while others have pointed out the weaknesses: very few crits, either successes or fails, and I believe small bonuses become even more important. You no longer get to plow through weak enemies because you don’t crit so easily against their AC (or they don’t crit fail saves against damage spells). It seems to be a mixed bag, and PF2 was not ultimately designed with the variant in mind. It’s a variant.
That is very help as I hadn't thought about those issues. Thank you for the input.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Well, last night's session was a very close call indeed, in part because the PCs' actions allowed the adversaries to prepare for their entrance into the final room by pre-casting several key spells. More importantly, it allowed two separate encounter groups to combine into one, which many folks warn against, given the tight math of challenges in the Building Encounters guidelines. This said, I prefer things to develop logically, and the arrival of reinforcements from the roof of the tower was the only logical way to have the scenario work out. I used some threat mitigation strategies to make things a little easier on the PCs, and I suspect it was the only thing standing between success and a TPK.

There were 5 12th-level PCs (fighter, rogue, druid, cleric & wizard). The initial threat was the leader of the Aspis Consortium expedition, a 14th-level assassin/cleric of Norgerber, a 12th-level Omox demon (nasty guy!), a 9th-level occult sorcerer and two 9th-level specters (dominated by the leader). That totals to 165xp, a severe to extreme threat encounter (150-200 for a party of five).

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The second wave included a 9th-level Vrock demon, a 10th-level occult sorcerer and 2 8th-level mercenaries. Only 85xp on their own, a low to moderate threat encounter, but combined with the previous one, a whopping 250xp, well over the extreme threat encounter ceiling of 200xp. So I decided that the second wave would arrive only after a couple rounds. The Vrock demon arrived at its initiative on round 2, flying in through the crumbled gap in the top right corner of the tower, and the 2 mercenaries with their sorcerer would arrive pelting down the corner staircase on round 4.

This sort of threat mitigation approach is key in evening the odds, and changing a deathtrap into something that proved to be just barely manageable. The druid was down as far as "Dying 3" (the equivalent of being deep in negative hit points), the rogue was twice down to single-digit hit points, and even the fighter with 200 hit points was down to less than a quarter of that total. The wizard was blinded around round 6, and only the cleric was really holding his own, though he was also down below half on two separate occasions.

The Omox demon and Vrock demon were destroyed, as were the two specters, the two mercenaries and one of the occult sorcers, but the leader and the other occult sorcerer dimension doored away once it was clear they no longer had the advantage. That's another threat mitigation strategy - I really dislike the notion that everybody and everything fights to the death. It doesn't make sense to me, when they could just as easily retreat, regroup with some nearby allies, and return to mop up the floor with the PCs a few minutes later. Fortunately, the players realized their time was limited, they grabbed what loot they could, managed to spot a second force of a dozen men racing towards the tower, and made good their escape before having to face those forces, using a Living Landslide (a mid-level Earth elemental) to collapse part of their escape tunnel and prevent direct pursuit.

Now, some folks would say that I broke several rules in PF2 encounter design:
1) don't go beyond an "extreme" threat encounter
2) don't combine multiple encounters into one
3) don't allow adversaries to pre-buff before the encounter begins.

I did all those things, because it was logical, to my DM way of thinking, to do so. But I also used a few threat mitigation approaches that also felt logical and warranted. That's where your DM intuition and experience comes in.

There has been a lot of talk in this thread about how the relative threat level math in PF2 is far tighter than in other games. It's true. It would be disingenuous of me to claim otherwise. But there are always ways to change or finesse the playing field, so to speak, and those ways tend to make an RPG session far more interesting than a constant kill or be killed approach.
 
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miggyG777

Explorer
But there are always ways to change or finesse the playing field, so to speak, and those ways tend to make an RPG session far more interesting than a constant kill or be killed approach.
To me, this is what a TTRPG truly is about. The rules are there to have a baseline, the players make it come to live.
 

dave2008

Legend
That said, what I’ve read about prof without level has been a little conflicting. Some people (or GMs specifically I suppose) seem to have loved it, while others have pointed out the weaknesses: very few crits, either successes or fails, and I believe small bonuses become even more important. You no longer get to plow through weak enemies because you don’t crit so easily against their AC (or they don’t crit fail saves against damage spells). It seems to be a mixed bag, and PF2 was not ultimately designed with the variant in mind. It’s a variant.
Thinking about this a little more, couldn't just change the crit math to get it back to where it was? Instead of +10/-10 use +5/-5 or whatever the correct number is? I think that would solve the problem.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Getting critical successes or failures at +10/-10 is already problematical in its frequency, shifting that to +5/-5 would exacerbate the situation.

I don't advocate using variants like ABP or PWL because the system isn't designed for that.

ABP removes the place of many magic items which both I and my players enjoy using, that have been a part of RPGs since their inception. It's also predicated on the mistaken belief that the bonuses given by magic items at various levels are essential to the game. They aren't. It's true, PCs won't have the same potential for power without the "expected" magic items, but a DM can work around that.

PWL, I'm less sure about. I simply don't see the point.
 

payn

Legend
Getting critical successes or failures at +10/-10 is already problematical in its frequency, shifting that to +5/-5 would exacerbate the situation.
Are you saying its too frequent? My concern was PF2 I had the lowest amount of critical rolls ever. Getting criticals is fun, but I do see a problem with them becoming too frequent at <5>.
PWL, I'm less sure about. I simply don't see the point.
The point is it pushes the top limit of player challenge a little higher. Instead of +4 partly level or lower, it makes it +6(8?) party level or lower in theory. I haven't tested it out but Id much prefer it if it shakes out.
 

My only real complaint with PF2e is to some extent it lives and dies by Ancestries and Archetypes, and I'm not at all confident of keeping the balance present when doing my own.
 

Retreater

Legend
Are you saying its too frequent? My concern was PF2 I had the lowest amount of critical rolls ever. Getting criticals is fun, but I do see a problem with them becoming too frequent at <5>.
I think they're too frequent for enemies, who normally outrank the levels of characters (at least in the published adventures I've run). Their attack bonuses are often so high they crit very often, and their save DCs are so high that it's easy to crit fail. And in the case of spells and monster abilities, a crit fail is often worse than just "more damage."
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
PWL, I'm less sure about. I simply don't see the point.
When I ran PF2, I used PWL. It let me design dungeons in a more naturalistic and old-school style. I could say, “this level has 1st level encounters”, and they wouldn’t be immediately trivial for a higher level party. The same goes for deeper levels in the dungeon. Well, in theory. We only made it to the second level of my megadungeon before the campaign went through a series of system shifts and a major reboot.

Also, my players were not good about keeping their sheets updated. PWL reduces the number of things you have to tick up by one every time you gain a level, reducing the places where mistakes can be made. I coupled it with Gradual Ability Boosts to provide a sense of progression.
 

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