Pathfinder 2E Encounter Design in PF2 works.

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Funny Encounter Moments

My fearless five 12th-level adventurers (fighter, rogue, druid, cleric & wizard) had finished invading the 6-level tower, had raced across the ruins to stop another group of murderous Aspis agents, and were returning to a much-delayed meeting with one of their only remaining "allies", a crocodile-headed Raj Rakshasa (raised from 10th to 13th level) named Akarundo. The conversation didn't go well.
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They suspected this "wizard" was really a fiend and he certainly acted like a haughty noble with a superiority complex, but they had no proof - until last night's session. He kept asking them to show him the loot they'd got from the tower, and kept insisting he didn't plan to take anything away from them, but the PCs kept refusing him, and he got angry. He was especially insulting to the cleric of Sarenrae (Pathfinder Rakshasas are extremely anti-religion) and finally she'd had enough, and cast a Spirit Blast at him, just to get the ball rolling. I had planned something completely different for the evening, and here they were, picking a fight with one of my main NPCs in this ruined Azlanti city. They even got off that traitorous first shot that made it a combat encounter, Akarundo dropped the demons' disguises and initiative ensued.

So here I am, with a 13th-level fiend wizard (disguised as a human) and two 13th-level Hezrou demon bodyguards (illusioned as very, very big Mwangi warriors). According to the PF2 Building Encounters schedule, 3x +1 level adversaries are supposed to be worth 180xp, just shy of the 200xp limit for an "extreme" threat encounter (for a 5-PC party), the highest threat rank there is. I was even more worried, since Akarundo's first combat action was going to be to summon an "Irnakurse", a 9th-level fleshwarped aberration with a stupified-inducing scream. Now, summoned critters aren't supposed to count against the encounter budget, but I was still worried.

I shouldn't have. As the wizard got grappled by one of the Hezrou demons, sickened by its stench and stupified by the screaming tentacle thing, the fighter engaged Akarundo, and the druid whipped off a Banishment spell, sending the other Hezrou back to the Abyss. Between the fighter doing 50-70 damage or more per hit, and the cleric casting more good-damage spells, Akarundo dropped his own disguise and was soon down and dying, and the druid popped off another Banishment spell, sending the other Hezrou demon back to the fiery pits as well. By round three, the excitement was over.

Sure, the fight could've gone the other way. I rolled two really low saves against banishment, the demons would've saved on a 7. Also, the Rakshasa totally flubbed his special reaction against divine spells. And he had several very nasty blasting and mental spells of his own, if he'd only had time to fly out of the fighter's reach and cast them. He even tried a last-minute Dominate on the fighter, but an AoO put him down just in time.

It just goes to show, not all "extreme" threat encounters go badly.

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Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
After a delay of some 6 weeks, I was finally able to organize the golem fight.
On paper, it didn't seem like it should have been that difficult. 4 PCs, level 12, wizard, druid, cleric and rogue, entered a ruined temple and found 3 golems (2 stone, level 12 and 1 iron, level 13). According to the "Building Encounters" guidelines, that should be 140xp, just above severe and well below extreme.

But that's on paper.

In the first session, the 4 PCs got slaughtered. None of them were heavy damage dealers (to get through the damage resistance of 10 and 15), none of them made the all-important RK checks (Recall Knowledge) to identify the golems' vulnerabilities and it would've been a TPK if they hadn't managed to run like hell with their tails tucked between their legs at the opportune moment. They did manage to discover some of the golems vulnerabilities the old-fashioned way - through trial and error - but it was too little, too late.

However, in last night's session, they finally understood the importance of preparation and teamwork. The cleric player was unable to join us, but I'd recruited a new player who made an awesome champion, specialist in the shield and protecting his party members. This was just what they'd been missing, and frankly they'd been suffering for a while, since the fighter player got a new job and could no longer join our sessions.

With the protection of the champion, and no small thanks to his use of trip with assurance to steal actions from the golems, they managed to slog through the fight after scarcely two hours of slugfest. The golems got to use their special abilities (poison breath for the iron golem, slowing and paralysis for the stone golems) but the PCs managed to mitigate those powers and came out on top.
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(Special thanks to Ralph Schemmann who made the beautiful base map in 2015 that I used for this encounter)
True, they had a secret weapon, a homebrew anti-golem staff they'd acquired some 15 or so sessions earlier and promptly forgotten about, but that's a classic of fantasy literature - a nearly invulnerable monster with a hidden weakness to some item used in its construction.

It was a great session, but my big takeaway is that however useful the "Building Encounters" table is for PF2 encounter design, you always have to take it with a grain of salt since so much depends on the details, not just the composition of the group of PCs, but also such vagaries as terrain, gear and tactics.
 
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MaskedGuy

Explorer
After a delay of some 6 weeks, I was finally able to organize the golem fight.
On paper, it didn't seem like it should have been that difficult. 4 PCs, level 12, wizard, druid, cleric and rogue, entered a ruined temple and found 3 golems (2 stone, level 12 and 1 iron, level 13). According to the "Building Encounters" guidelines, that should be 140xp, just above severe and well below extreme.

But that's on paper.

In the first session, the 4 PCs got slaughtered. None of them were heavy damage dealers (to get through the damage resistance of 10 and 15), none of them made the all-important RK checks (Recall Knowledge) to identify the golems' vulnerabilities and it would've been a TPK if they hadn't managed to run like hell with their tails tucked between their legs at the opportune moment. They did manage to discover some of the golems vulnerabilities the old-fashioned way - through trial and error - but it was too little, too late.

However, in last night's session, they finally understood the importance of preparation and teamwork. The cleric player was unable to join us, but I'd recruited a new player who made an awesome champion, specialist in the shield and protecting his party members. This was just what they'd been missing, and frankly they'd been suffering for a while, since the fighter player got a new job and could no longer join our sessions.

With the protection of the champion, and no small thanks to his use of trip with assurance to steal actions from the golems, they managed to slog through the fight after scarcely two hours of slugfest. The golems got to use their special abilities (poison breath for the iron golem, slowing and paralysis for the stone golems) but the PCs managed to mitigate those powers and came out on top.
View attachment 249138
(Special thanks to Ralph Schemmann who made the beautiful base map in 2015 that I used for this encounter)
True, they had a secret weapon, a homebrew anti-golem staff they'd acquired some 15 or so sessions earlier and promptly forgotten about, but that's a classic of fantasy literature - a nearly invulnerable monster with a hidden weakness to some item used in its construction.

It was a great session, but my big takeaway is that however useful the "Building Encounters" table is for PF2 encounter design, you always have to take it with a grain of salt since so much depends on the details, not just the composition of the group of PCs, but also such vagaries as terrain, gear and tactics.
I personally prefer to avoid having xp go between encounter levels(note: severe encounter is still HARD encounter), but yeah uh. I'm not particularly surprised by your results because you had three casters and rogue versus bunch of super buff anti magic martials. Having champion switch in helps a ton just because of party composition.

Like regardless of system, if party is facing enemies that directly counter their abilities, they are going to have bad time.
 

Golems are particularly tricky until you understand that in 2e, a fighting type without the specific material needed is primarily there to keep the golems away from spellcasters while the latter drive up the golem's vulnerability with appropriate cantrips (ideally) or low level spells (if necessary). They can get some damage through, but they aren't going to be the primary hitters. If a group does not have the appropriate spells, does not identify them, and doesn't identify them by trial and error, they can, indeed, be a big, big problem.
 

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