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Pathfinder 2E Gamemastery Guide: What are your thoughts?

dave2008

Legend
I am on the fence about the Gamemastery Guide. Initially it was a must buy for me, but now, not so much. Now that it is out I was wondering what people thought. Anyone willing to share? I am personally interested in:
  1. NPC stat blocks: how many and how are they?
  2. Variant Rules: what is covered. Is there an armor as DR option?
  3. New subsystems: what is included and how does it work.
  4. Are there mass combat or mob rules.
  5. Stronghold rules?
  6. Retainer rules?
  7. How are the adventure/ campaign, encounter building rules / guidelines?
Really, anything is helpful - thank you!
 

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pcrotteau

Explorer
This is definitely better than the 1e version.
There are plenty of stat blocks for most common encountered npcs (covers lots of ground)
The adventure design was pretty on point, covering a wide variety of types. (including military, so I assume mass combat as well)
encounter, npc, hazard and monster design are quite detailed. You don't need to create a character to make an npc, but it is an option.

The other points, i'm not sure of as they aren't on my radar.
 

dave2008

Legend
This is definitely better than the 1e version.
There are plenty of stat blocks for most common encountered npcs (covers lots of ground)
The adventure design was pretty on point, covering a wide variety of types. (including military, so I assume mass combat as well)
encounter, npc, hazard and monster design are quite detailed. You don't need to create a character to make an npc, but it is an option.

The other points, i'm not sure of as they aren't on my radar.
OK, I'll take a look the next time I'm at the game store and see what's up.
 

dave2008

Legend
This is definitely better than the 1e version.
There are plenty of stat blocks for most common encountered npcs (covers lots of ground)
The adventure design was pretty on point, covering a wide variety of types. (including military, so I assume mass combat as well)
encounter, npc, hazard and monster design are quite detailed. You don't need to create a character to make an npc, but it is an option.

The other points, i'm not sure of as they aren't on my radar.
To clarify, you're not sure if mass combat is covered is that correct?

Also, you are confirming there are rules for creating fast NPC characters, or is that just the monster creation rules?

I did get that free download monster creation rules, but I wasn't overly impressed with them. One of the reasons I soured a bit on the book.
 

pcrotteau

Explorer
I don't see any mass combat rules at this time, maybe when they get to ultimate combat(?)
The NPC rules are open ended, use the monster creation, character creation, or compare to a stock npc in the back (almost 50 pages)

I will be using this to convert many of my D&D adventures (1e mostly) to run. Thinking of Tomb of Horrors. The new system of determining DCs would allow me to run it at almost any level.
 

Rhianni32

Adventurer
TLDR: This is a good $15 value as a PDF that offers rules for GMs to create their own things (monsters, magic items, NPCs, hazards etc) today that will probably have more detailed dedicated books published in the future for those with more money than time.

Section 1 Gamemastery Basics. Your standard advice for new GMs in how to run a game that comes in every games GM type book. Great for new GMs less so for most.

Section 2 Tools. All the rules for creating the things in your game. Creatures and Hazards was already released for free but still very useful. All the item rules I was particularly happy with as there isnt much in the core rule book. Intelligent items, cursed items, relics, item quirks and building your own items.

Section 3 Subsystems. Personally I liked this the best. It offers rules and ideas for creating mini games. d20 games have always had problems making skills both interesting and useful beyond a single die roll while having combat being a series of choices that you have to adapt to. Skills were always added on as an "oh yeah we need a way to climb and pick locks and I guess if people want to talk to NPCs for some reason..."
For subsystems think the chase sequence in Fall of Plaguestone.

Section 4 Variant Rules Alternate Character creation and advancement Rules. Less useful if you have played other d20 games that have point buy. Stamina rules is interesting but I fear just adds complexity for no net gain.

Section 5 NPC Gallery. i was let down with this section. The rest of the book has a lot of creation rules but here we have 43 pages of NPCs. They don't fully follow the NPC creation rules in section 2 where NPCs = toned down character classes. Here they fill jobs and have 1 applicable feat/action.
e.g. a Judge is Creature -1 for combat but Creature 6 in the court room. They arent a bard or wizard but have high society, intimidation, and sense motive skills. Their unique action is a make an impression of diplomacy vs Will DC of 4 targets... which makes free will of player actions a bit awkward.
Still, if you start with the given NPC and then tweak their levels to what you need you will have what you need.

What was missing? Rules on rarity! One of the most often asked and confusing aspects of the rules has no clarity. When is uncommon feats and spells available to the players?
Uncommon are available if the PC makes enough effort
Rare is only available if the GM allows it.
Wow thanks guys! Yeah I get its up to me as the GM. But why are some things uncommon and others are common from a rule based system? Katanas in a Western European style setting ok. But spells that dont have a cultural flavor and especially the common vs uncommon archetypes are annoyingly vague.

Overall I enjoyed the book and it slightly exceeded my expectations. Not worth $50 because I'd only be using it during some prep work vs the Core book and Beastiary I use every week extensively during game time.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
NPC stat blocks: how many and how are they?
There are 84 NPC stat blocks. They offer a similar amount of detail to a standard monster stat block. They cover a ride range of NPC roles. Each of them has a special ability unique to their role. They give some advice for customizing and tweaking them.

Variant Rules: what is covered. Is there an armor as DR option?
There is not an armor as DR option. The following variants are in the book:
  • Ability Score Variants (gradual ability boosts, point buy, alternative scores)
  • Alignment Variants (extreme good and evil, incremental alignment, no alignment, moral intentions)
  • Deep backgrounds (generate new backgrounds randomly)
  • Feats and Features (dual-class, free archtypes, extra ancestry feats, fewer ancestry feats, fewer skill feats)
  • Level 0 characters
  • Magic Item Variants (automatic bonus progress, extraordinary/non-magical item quality)
  • Proficiency Without Level
  • Skill Points
  • Stamina (gain half HP and half HP as stamina)
None of the variants seem bad, though I found a few a little underwhelming. We’re going to be trying out point buy, skill points, and proficiency without level.

New subsystems: what is included and how does it work.
Most of the subsystems are based on Victory Points, which is also a new subsystem.
  • Victory Points: VP is a way to track progress towards a goal with small things that occur at thresholds. The frequency of thresholds depends on the total amount of VP needed. Generally, the actions you take gain you VP (or sometimes lose it).
  • Influence: VP-based subsystem for gaining favor with NPCs. VP is used to track the amount of favor (“Influence”) you have with an NPC.
  • Research: VP-based subsystem for doing research as a group. VP is used to track how effective your research has been (“Research Points”).
  • Chases: VP-based subsystem for running chases. Chases involve obstacles the PCs must overcome, and VP is used to determine how long it takes (“Chase Points”) PCs to overcome an obstacle.
  • Infiltration: VP-based subsystem for infiltrating a stronghold. PCs must overcome obstacles to successfully infiltrate a location. Separate pools of VP are used to track how long it takes (“Infiltration Points”) to overcome an obstacle as well as how alert the defenders are (“Awareness”).
  • Reputation: VP-based subsystem for handling factions (“Reputation Points”). This is apparently similar to the system used for reputation in PFS.
  • Duels: Alternate initiative subsystem for running duels. Essentially, you pick a skill to use for initiative, and it gives you a special action you can use. Your special action is more effective against certain initiative skills, so it’s a bit like rock-paper-scissors. There’s a magical version that’s essentially the same but based on tradition.
  • Leadership: Some tables that show how many followers you get at a leadership level. It’s mostly based on GM fiat, so there’s no actual mechanics for doing that. This probably should have been a VP-based subsystem.
  • Hexploration: a subsystem for doing hex-based exploration in an adventure. I’ve posted my thoughts here. It’s probably not bad as part of an adventure or story-based campaign, but it doesn’t have what it needs to be the backbone of a sandbox campaign.
  • Vehicles: pretty similar to the PF1 vehicle rules published in Ultimate Combat but updated for PF2.
I’m pretty excited about VP. I plan to put together a VP-based subsystem for my campaign to handle hex clearing. I wonder if it might be possible to use it for handling getting lost. I’d liken it to an improved skill challenge system, though one of my players who’s familiar with Blades in the Dark describes it as similar to clocks.

Are there mass combat or mob rules
Unfortunately, no. Those will probably come in the Kingmaker reprint.

Stronghold rules?
No, but it should be possible to build something off of VP.

Retainer rules?
No. Leadership provides a loose framework for followers, but there’s nothing really for retainers. It should be possible to build something off of VP.

How are the adventure/ campaign, encounter building rules / guidelines?
I like the creature creation guidelines. I skipped ahead to the subsystems and variants chapters, so I’m still reading through the first few chapters with those a few pages here and there as time permits.

They provide a lot of seemingly good advice for running a game. They do have some structures you can use for campaign and adventure design, but it’s very much in the mold of their published adventures. Their conception of sandboxes feels like it misses the mark to me (“you give the players a sizable location to explore and let them decide how to go about it.”).

There are some pretty cool and fun cursed items. I like bag of weasels, but I also love the arsonous curse.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
What was missing? Rules on rarity! One of the most often asked and confusing aspects of the rules has no clarity. When is uncommon feats and spells available to the players?
Uncommon are available if the PC makes enough effort
Rare is only available if the GM allows it.
Wow thanks guys! Yeah I get its up to me as the GM. But why are some things uncommon and others are common from a rule based system? Katanas in a Western European style setting ok. But spells that dont have a cultural flavor and especially the common vs uncommon archetypes are annoyingly vague.
If there’s anything problematic about the book, it’s that some things just didn’t get the page count they needed. I’d have really rather than not waste so many pages on full stat blocks for NPCs the PCs will never fight. If the PCs do design to go hunt beggars or fight the shopkeeper, it’s easy enough to wing it using the tables from the creature building section.
 

dave2008

Legend
There are 84 NPC stat blocks. They offer a similar amount of detail to a standard monster stat block. They cover a ride range of NPC roles. Each of them has a special ability unique to their role. They give some advice for customizing and tweaking them.
That sounds good.

There is not an armor as DR option. The following variants are in the book:
  • Ability Score Variants (gradual ability boosts, point buy, alternative scores)
  • Alignment Variants (extreme good and evil, incremental alignment, no alignment, moral intentions)
  • Deep backgrounds (generate new backgrounds randomly)
  • Feats and Features (dual-class, free archtypes, extra ancestry feats, fewer ancestry feats, fewer skill feats)
  • Level 0 characters
  • Magic Item Variants (automatic bonus progress, extraordinary/non-magical item quality)
  • Proficiency Without Level
  • Skill Points
  • Stamina (gain half HP and half HP as stamina)
None of the variants seem bad, though I found a few a little underwhelming. We’re going to be trying out point buy, skill points, and proficiency without level.
Hmm, at first glance, not a lot of what i am looking for. We always play with some version of armor as DR, I can make one myself, but I was really hoping for an "official" variant. We already have a stamina variant rule we use, so I don't think I need that, but it should be worth a look.

Most of the subsystems are based on Victory Points, which is also a new subsystem.
  • Victory Points: VP is a way to track progress towards a goal with small things that occur at thresholds. The frequency of thresholds depends on the total amount of VP needed. Generally, the actions you take gain you VP (or sometimes lose it).
  • Influence: VP-based subsystem for gaining favor with NPCs. VP is used to track the amount of favor (“Influence”) you have with an NPC.
  • Research: VP-based subsystem for doing research as a group. VP is used to track how effective your research has been (“Research Points”).
  • Chases: VP-based subsystem for running chases. Chases involve obstacles the PCs must overcome, and VP is used to determine how long it takes (“Chase Points”) PCs to overcome an obstacle.
  • Infiltration: VP-based subsystem for infiltrating a stronghold. PCs must overcome obstacles to successfully infiltrate a location. Separate pools of VP are used to track how long it takes (“Infiltration Points”) to overcome an obstacle as well as how alert the defenders are (“Awareness”).
  • Reputation: VP-based subsystem for handling factions (“Reputation Points”). This is apparently similar to the system used for reputation in PFS.
  • Duels: Alternate initiative subsystem for running duels. Essentially, you pick a skill to use for initiative, and it gives you a special action you can use. Your special action is more effective against certain initiative skills, so it’s a bit like rock-paper-scissors. There’s a magical version that’s essentially the same but based on tradition.
  • Leadership: Some tables that show how many followers you get at a leadership level. It’s mostly based on GM fiat, so there’s no actual mechanics for doing that. This probably should have been a VP-based subsystem.
  • Hexploration: a subsystem for doing hex-based exploration in an adventure. I’ve posted my thoughts here. It’s probably not bad as part of an adventure or story-based campaign, but it doesn’t have what it needs to be the backbone of a sandbox campaign.
  • Vehicles: pretty similar to the PF1 vehicle rules published in Ultimate Combat but updated for PF2.
I’m pretty excited about VP. I plan to put together a VP-based subsystem for my campaign to handle hex clearing. I wonder if it might be possible to use it for handling getting lost. I’d liken it to an improved skill challenge system, though one of my players who’s familiar with Blades in the Dark describes it as similar to clocks.
That does sound interesting. That may make the book worth purchase. Maybe I will read through the general idea at the store and go from there.

Thank you for the thorough post - very helpful!
 

dave2008

Legend
TLDR: This is a good $15 value as a PDF that offers rules for GMs to create their own things (monsters, magic items, NPCs, hazards etc) today that will probably have more detailed dedicated books published in the future for those with more money than time.

Section 1 Gamemastery Basics. Your standard advice for new GMs in how to run a game that comes in every games GM type book. Great for new GMs less so for most.

Section 2 Tools. All the rules for creating the things in your game. Creatures and Hazards was already released for free but still very useful. All the item rules I was particularly happy with as there isnt much in the core rule book. Intelligent items, cursed items, relics, item quirks and building your own items.

Section 3 Subsystems. Personally I liked this the best. It offers rules and ideas for creating mini games. d20 games have always had problems making skills both interesting and useful beyond a single die roll while having combat being a series of choices that you have to adapt to. Skills were always added on as an "oh yeah we need a way to climb and pick locks and I guess if people want to talk to NPCs for some reason..."
For subsystems think the chase sequence in Fall of Plaguestone.

Section 4 Variant Rules Alternate Character creation and advancement Rules. Less useful if you have played other d20 games that have point buy. Stamina rules is interesting but I fear just adds complexity for no net gain.

Section 5 NPC Gallery. i was let down with this section. The rest of the book has a lot of creation rules but here we have 43 pages of NPCs. They don't fully follow the NPC creation rules in section 2 where NPCs = toned down character classes. Here they fill jobs and have 1 applicable feat/action.
e.g. a Judge is Creature -1 for combat but Creature 6 in the court room. They arent a bard or wizard but have high society, intimidation, and sense motive skills. Their unique action is a make an impression of diplomacy vs Will DC of 4 targets... which makes free will of player actions a bit awkward.
Still, if you start with the given NPC and then tweak their levels to what you need you will have what you need.

What was missing? Rules on rarity! One of the most often asked and confusing aspects of the rules has no clarity. When is uncommon feats and spells available to the players?
Uncommon are available if the PC makes enough effort
Rare is only available if the GM allows it.
Wow thanks guys! Yeah I get its up to me as the GM. But why are some things uncommon and others are common from a rule based system? Katanas in a Western European style setting ok. But spells that dont have a cultural flavor and especially the common vs uncommon archetypes are annoyingly vague.

Overall I enjoyed the book and it slightly exceeded my expectations. Not worth $50 because I'd only be using it during some prep work vs the Core book and Beastiary I use every week extensively during game time.
Thank you for the report, that was very helpful!
 


CapnZapp

Legend
I am on the fence about the Gamemastery Guide. Initially it was a must buy for me, but now, not so much. Now that it is out I was wondering what people thought. Anyone willing to share? I am personally interested in:
  1. NPC stat blocks: how many and how are they?
  2. Variant Rules: what is covered. Is there an armor as DR option?
  3. New subsystems: what is included and how does it work.
  4. Are there mass combat or mob rules.
  5. Stronghold rules?
  6. Retainer rules?
  7. How are the adventure/ campaign, encounter building rules / guidelines?
Really, anything is helpful - thank you!
Chapter 1. Advice on how to use the rules and be a gamesmaster. I'm guessing it never hurts to read it once even if you're a veteran GM to see if Paizo intends PF2 to run differently in some regard.

Chapter 2. Building Monsters. As we have already discussed, not terribly inspiring. Basically a load of tables telling you what you have gleaned out of the Bestiary already. No "setting bible" for how to construct Golarion monsters.

Chapter 3. Subsystems
This entire chapter is just bloat. Fiddly complicated subsystems that makes me think of the excesses of Pathfinder 1...

Chapter 4. Variants. There are no truly groundbreaking variants here, such as how to allow a character more choice in fundamental proficiencies (attack, defense, saves).

Chapter 5. NPC Gallery. Ready-made NPCs are super valuable to any DM making his own adventures (unless you never visit civilization I guess)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Here's my rant on Paizo's book organization:
a. The WotC triple book organisation is superior to the Paizo dual book organization
b. Releasing the GMG as a day one core book would have enabled moving treasure to this book.
c. A lot of GMG stuff is not terribly necessary and could have been kept for an expansion supplement
d. NPCs should have been available on day one (and in the Bestiary, not the GMG). Art objects and gem stones should have been available on day one (in the GMG).
e. Monster creation guidelines could have been kept for the expansion supplement, especially if that would have ment truly useful insight into Paizo's internal monster design
 

CapnZapp

Legend
As an additional question of my own - are there any useful guidelines for quickly creating NPCs without having to create a new character?
a) there are general advice on which numbers are appropriate for a monster of a certain level
b) you can create a NPC using the player character rules, but that's the exception not the rule. All published NPCs are just monsters that just happen to resemble humanoids sometimes with class features

If you ask me, the truly useful thing of the book is the 84 ready-made NPCs
 


CapnZapp

Legend
What was missing? Rules on rarity! One of the most often asked and confusing aspects of the rules has no clarity. When is uncommon feats and spells available to the players?
Uncommon are available if the PC makes enough effort
Rare is only available if the GM allows it.
Wow thanks guys! Yeah I get its up to me as the GM. But why are some things uncommon and others are common from a rule based system? Katanas in a Western European style setting ok. But spells that dont have a cultural flavor and especially the common vs uncommon archetypes are annoyingly vague.
The whole point is to put the decision in the hands of the individual gamesmaster.

Do not expect rules that let a player point to a book and demand access to a given feature.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Stamina rules is interesting but I fear just adds complexity for no net gain.
Agreed.

The introduction to the concept of Stamina Points was very generic and completely failed to acknowledge how Pathfinder 2 already by the default plays much like older games with Stamina Points! (Meaning that any group where even a single party member invest in Medicine and its feats will heal up incurred damage in a matter of minutes or hours, not days).

Plus the implementation came across as needlessly cluttery to me. Why not simply say
  • half your hit points are now stamina points
  • damage depletes stamina before hit points
  • healing increases hit points before stamina
  • you regain all lost stamina in 10 minutes

Do take a look at the official rules (GMG page 200). You will find the above does everything in four lines that Paizo needs two pages for, no cluttery resolve points or special actions or detailed calculations needed! :)

And yes, if you think "this basically means you can skip Medicine if you only take it to heal up between encounters" you're entirely correct - that shows you how redundant Stamina really is in Pathfinder 2!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
There is not an armor as DR option. The following variants are in the book:
  • Ability Score Variants (gradual ability boosts, point buy, alternative scores)

Behind this line hides one of the few variants that piqued my interest (as one having seen similar efforts in too many editions already)...

Basically, you can play PF2 using a different set of six ability scores:
  • Agility
  • Brawn*
  • Dexterity
  • Charisma
  • Wisdom
  • Intelligence

Apart from a small number of gameplay tweaks, the following is all there's to it:
Agility represents footwork, and applies to Armor Class, Reflex saves, Acrobatics checks, and Stealth checks
Brawn* represents Strength and Constitution and is used for everything from damage rolls to Fortitude saves
Dexterity represents manual dexterity and applies to ranged weapon and unarmed attack rolls, attack and damage rolls with finesse attacks (if better than Brawn), and Thievery checks
Charisma is used for Will saves
Wisdom is otherwise unchanged
Intelligence remains unchanged
*) The GMG fails to make up a cool new name that avoids confusion with the old names so I did it for them :cool:

The section completely fails to discuss the impact of this variant, though. It's just dropped into the reader's lap.

The text does claim that the RAW abilities are created unequal and this rearrangement makes them much more equal. And for rollplayers and murderhobos that may be. But for anyone involving NPCs and society in their campaigns Charisma is definitely not a dump stat already before this change. :)

This variant does switch up the old wisdom "let Constitution always be your third best stat". Finesse fighters and spellcasters will likely find that the cost of getting bonus hit points per level has increased now that they need to increase the former Strength stat!

I am not sure Rogues in particular were in need of a nerf, which having both Dexterity and Agility functionally amounts to. On the other hand, it makes Rogue's Thief Racket the default everybody gains, enabling the Rogue player to just gain Thievery and take a different Racket, so there's that...
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
I haven't seen any discussion on whether any of this will be implemented in the Pathbuilder 2 app.

(My players are so dependent on the app it's hard to even give them custom treasure if it can't be entered into the app... :rolleyes: )

But it does say something about how absolutely superb and vital this app is for players and gamesmasters alike!
 

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