Pathfinder 2E Encounter Design in PF2 works.


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Thomas Shey

Legend
What I'm hearing from other folks is a very valid criticism: in most published PF2 adventures and APs (from Paizo, of course) there is a marked propensity for using adversaries that are 3 or 4 levels above the PCs' level. This leads to the feeling that adversaries get very frequent critical hits, and very rarely suffer from critical hits themselves. This feeling is of course completely justified, and it's the way the system was built to work.

I still think this is caused by the propensity for people (and I've seen it in multiple games in the D&D sphere) for even people who were involved in a new edition to subconsciously design modules for a while like they were designing for the prior edition, even when that produces dumb results. Its notable that, like 3e, you not only could but probably wanted to put a lot of opposition out that was avowedly over-CR, because the CR calculation really just didn't work that well and tended to (usually) overrate opponents compared to most PC groups.

That doesn't work in PF2e.
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
I just want to say this thread has inspired me to give PF2 another go. I’ve tried running it three different times, converting volume 1 of both Legacy of Fire (the first time) and Wrath of the Righteous (the second time) and Lost Mines of Phandelver the third time.

This time my intention is to try Abomination Vaults and see if my issues are conversion related or system based.
There are aspects of the game I enjoyed but I just felt like there was little PF2 did that 4e didn’t do better.
Ill give it one more shot.

Well, depending on what about 4e it just may be a better choice for you. 4e and PF2e are similar in some ways, but PF2e is not down the same road as far (which is part of what I like about it, since I respected the 4e design but it also put me off at the same time).

Personally, I'd expect a converted scenario might well work better for getting a sense of what the game is about than some of the early APs, given my experience. I think the latter have actually given people a false sense of the game in many cases.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
You need to do a lot of encounter futzing to do without magic weapons (or ABP). I don't think the biggest issue is the attack bonus, but the extra damage magic weapons put out. Striking weapons (usually a level 4 thing) deal an extra die of damage (two dice at 12 and three at 19).
'

This is largely my feeling too, though I think its possible to understate the crit range effects of those +'s. Either way, its why I say being light on magic items (like always) impacts non-spellcasters more than spellcasters because the latter are not nearly as dependent on items for their combat output.

(Caveat: Of course if you're very light on combat, this will be less visible, but at least some of the classes are also less and less having a point when that's true--fighters and barbarians in particular, though I'm not sure there's much a champion can do in a low combat game that a bard couldn't do better).

Also, low-magic games that don't compensate in other ways are much harsher on martials than they are on casters. My level 11 sorcerer would be unhappy if he had to do without magic items, but he'd still have 14d6+6 cones of cold or dragon shape letting him fight at +22 dealing ~25 points with a primary attack or ~20 with an agile one. The 11th level champion in the same party would be devastated by losing 2 points of attack bonus, ~5 points of damage per hit, and the returning rune on his weapon which lets him use Retributive Strike at a short distance instead of just in melee. Martials need magic items not just to be competitive on numbers, but to gain useful abilities.

Yup. I'm playing a champion/bard hybrid as I've mentioned, and in a low magic game I know which part of my operating procedure would be taking a hit. Other than things like Resistance items which benefit everyone, I'm not even sure I've got any magic items that would matter overly much if the character was a pure bard. Even his armor would matter less.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I used all custom ones for my campaign. If we had continued playing, I was considering doing a revamp. I wouldn’t say any were too powerful (compared to the core ones), but some were just kind of bad. There’s definitely an art to it. However, the easiest thing to do is MacGuyver a new ancestry out of existing feats. I don’t think that would be too problematic. (It also lets you make sure no one has darkvision. Yay!)

My concern is probably another element of my general dislike of exception based design; I kind of hate doing ad-hoc design that's going to effect a character throughout their career, and Ancestry and Archetype design is mostly that.

I mean its not impossible for the designers to bork one up either, but they presumably have the system internalized when doing new ones, and from my reading have only occasionally done this (they're actually more likely to have problems with new classes based on concepts outside the normal PF2e matrix, because there's so many moving parts), where I don't have faith that I'd do a good job with this.

(That said, its probably not normally going to be a major issue as the system expands, because there's likely going to be something that's close enough without doing a new one; really exotic concepts are liable to butt up against some of PF2e's system assumptions in the first place, and if I'm going to do that with a campaign I likely just wouldn't use the system anyway).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I’m pretty sure that’s working as intended. PF2 tries (and mostly succeeds) at making the old encounter building guidelines actually work. In 3e, a monster two levels higher was supposed to be twice as dangerous. Two monsters together were supposed to be CR+2. That didn’t quite work out in 3e because that’s not how the math worked. PF2 fixed the math by using criticals to make the damage scale based on the difference in levels between the attacker and defender. It’s a clever hack, but I can see how it could feel bad when the monsters always seem way more competent than the PCs (especially with riders or extra effects that the monsters get often and the PCs get less frequently).

I have to seriously question whether, for the most part, uphill combats are usually going to feel good no matter what you do if they're genuinely uphill. I suspect at least part of the issue with PF2e is that people come to it from games (often PF1e or 3e era D&D) where that uphill property was more illusory than true.
 

dave2008

Legend
Don't take this wrong, but if you don't care about balance, why would you care about tight math in PF2e? Balance, in the end, is about the numbers and benefits not producing stupid and unfun results.
I need to clarify: I don't worry about balance in race design, but want some balance in the rest of the system. The reason I can probably say this is that my players are not the type to build characters to get the best numbers. The don't look for the best race, background, class combo to try to max. their numbers, so balance has never really been any issue for us
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I need to clarify: I don't worry about balance in race design, but want some balance in the rest of the system. The reason I can probably say this is that my players are not the type to build characters to get the best numbers. The don't look for the best race, background, class combo to try to max. their numbers, so balance has never really been any issue for us

They don't have to do it deliberately to be a problem in play, though. If some particular thing or things an ancestry gets feel too valuable (or worthless) that can cause bad feelings in a group even when no one meant anything by it.

(This is the issue with a lot of mechanical imbalance; it doesn't require deliberate abuse to be a problem).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I have a hypothesis regarding the combat focus of PF2 adventures, particularly parts 1 of adventure paths.
That’s possible. Pre-PF2 adventure almost never went to max level, so they had a bit more flexibility with how they progressed. However, I’d still describe them as being very combat-centric. That’s pretty safe to say about many adventures released in the last twenty years from WotC and Paizo. That’s not a criticism — just a contrast between what I like to do in my game.
 

dave2008

Legend
They don't have to do it deliberately to be a problem in play, though. If some particular thing or things an ancestry gets feel too valuable (or worthless) that can cause bad feelings in a group even when no one meant anything by it.

(This is the issue with a lot of mechanical imbalance; it doesn't require deliberate abuse to be a problem).
I'm sure that is possible, but we've been gaming together for 30+ we don't have any issue speaking up if something is bothering us and we make corrections as needed.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm sure that is possible, but we've been gaming together for 30+ we don't have any issue speaking up if something is bothering us and we make corrections as needed.

If you've got an easygoing group, it probably isn't a big one. I can't particularly characterize most groups I've ever played with that way; the ones willing to speak up are liable to be soggy about it, and the ones that don't get soggy are nonconfrontational enough they'll likely suffer in silence, at least for a while.
 

I believe they have taken steps to, if not fix, then at least ameliorate these problems. For example, Kindled Magic (part 1 of Strength of Thousands) is a level 1-3 adventure instead of 1-4 (giving more room to roleplaying and dealing with NPCs), and has a greater emphasis on non-violent solutions to things.

SoT is better but I think they are still a little trapped in prior addition thinking. SoT tends to have 3 types of set ups as far as I can tell:

1) non combat situations where you get some xp but often just 1 combat worth. These are fairly frequent but you could easily just up the XP and cut other combat down depending on the story. There shouldn't really be any need to "fill the XP budget" with combat encounters. Just use non combat and story awards to make up the difference.
2) set piece fights which unfortunately mostly tend to be low stakes "helping" quests or obstacles on the way to something else, for instance while traveling. These are often 1 or 2 per day situations.
3) smaller 5-6 room "dungeons" of various types -- cavern, mansion, prison, ruins, abandoned temple, etc. The dungeons still seem to contain a decent amount of Level +3/4 encounters given you are expected to go through all 5-6-7 encounters in 1 day but at least they all aren't that anymore. Almost all the "plot movement" seems associated with these small dungeons.

What they haven't done much of yet that I've seen is the very dynamic big set piece combat integral to the plot bracketed by non combat investigation / research / travel / etc. that significantly moves the plot.

As with 4e, PF2e doesn't rely as much on the resource attrition model so this should fit well with PF2e.

Great examples are some/most of the Zeitgeist modules.

I think they would also be great for PF2e and should be used alongside non combat and small Dungeon (and window dressing encounters if wanted).

Personally, I would appreciate fewer well designed set pieces with large maps, interesting terrain, custom monsters, objectives other than kill everyone, etc. rather than the many "small map with generic monster" encounters that SoT and Quest for the Frozen Flame part 1 have.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Well, there are two issues I think should be kept in mind:

1. Its probably perceived that the majority of end users kind of want a fair bit of combat encounters, which could well be more than a given person in this thread wants; and
2. Stacking up multiple encounters a day isn't as big a deal as it is in some prior editions because nonmagical healing is so strong.
 

Staffan

Legend
Well, there are two issues I think should be kept in mind:

1. Its probably perceived that the majority of end users kind of want a fair bit of combat encounters, which could well be more than a given person in this thread wants; and
2. Stacking up multiple encounters a day isn't as big a deal as it is in some prior editions because nonmagical healing is so strong.
Number 2 is still an issue at low levels before Medicine actually becomes strong (which I'd define as Expert, Continuous Recovery, and maybe Ward Medic) – A non-rogue/non-investigator focusing on that would need to be 6th level if they don't want to focus excessively on being the party medic (that's 3rd level for Expert Medicine, 4th for one of the skill feats, and 6th for the second – it can be done faster if you use your 3rd level general feat for one of the skill feats or if you take the Medic dedication, but I think either one of those is going above and beyond what's expected). And it's the early levels where party resources tend to be the most strained.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Number 2 is still an issue at low levels before Medicine actually becomes strong (which I'd define as Expert, Continuous Recovery, and maybe Ward Medic) – A non-rogue/non-investigator focusing on that would need to be 6th level if they don't want to focus excessively on being the party medic

Its not a particularly painful thing to do as a side gig for a Champion either. I've done it.

(And of course assuming there isn't a specialist to some degree is still not something I'd assume--they just don't have to tie up their magical resources in it any more).
 

Staffan

Legend
Its not a particularly painful thing to do as a side gig for a Champion either. I've done it.

(And of course assuming there isn't a specialist to some degree is still not something I'd assume--they just don't have to tie up their magical resources in it any more).
I mean, I'd expect someone in the party to grab Continuous Recovery and Ward Medic. I just wouldn't assume they'd use the level 3 General feat as a skill feat to do it. There's "I want to be the medic", and then there's "I really want to be the medic."
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Even without those feats which make treat wounds work well above the baseline, out of combat healing still works fairly well, even from 1st level. My initial group included a fighter, a rogue, a druid and a wizard, and whadayaknow, they all decided to be trained in medicine at 1st level. After a fight, if their initial attempts at Treat Wounds failed, they would simply withdraw back to their home base and wait a few hours or a day to get back into fighting shape before pursuing the adventure.

Granted, I'd set up the scenario (home brewed campaign) in such a way that it was relatively easy to go back home and heal. I also quickly set them up with a hotline to a local cleric who gave them a few healing potions as a reward for a job well done on previous missions. There are always ways to get around not having a cleric in the group.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Even without those feats which make treat wounds work well above the baseline, out of combat healing still works fairly well, even from 1st level. My initial group included a fighter, a rogue, a druid and a wizard, and whadayaknow, they all decided to be trained in medicine at 1st level. After a fight, if their initial attempts at Treat Wounds failed, they would simply withdraw back to their home base and wait a few hours or a day to get back into fighting shape before pursuing the adventure.

Generally I agree, though the issue is sometimes the latter is not practical, so failures here can be a bit of a problem.

But yes, the fact its relatively economic to have multiple people with the healing skill makes a fair bit of difference here. The only reason we didn't have the whole group with it in the current campaign is my wife looked around and decided it'd be pretty much redundant with all three other characters having it.
 


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