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Staffan

Legend
It still fits your criteria, which was a single target save based damage spell. It may not be area, but honestly, didn't you want single target? It just doesn't get extra damage out of it because, well, its Force, which mean besides working on things others wouldn't, virtually nothing has resistance to it.
I want single-target save spells that do significantly more damage than same-level AOE spells, or possibly a little more damage but have some neat debuff at the same time. If I'm using my limited high-level spells, I want the monsters to feel it.
I've had great success with Flaming Sphere, Magic Missile, Sudden Bolt, Lightning Bolt, Fireball, Disintegrate (+True Strike), against single targets.
I tried using flaming sphere at the early levels, but quickly realized it was a waste of a spell. It would have been cool if the designer hadn't decided that repeatable 3d6 damage was too much, and put in the clause that it deals no damage on a successful save. If it hadn't had that bit, it would have been quite a neat little tool in the box, but as is it's useless.
Take Lightning Bolt for instance on a base level 5 Wizard that just got it, cast against a Level 8 Chimera-- the base level 5 wizard has a spell dc of 21 and the Chimera has a +16 Reflex, meaning it succeeds on a 5. But, if it rolls anything below a 15, takes half damage-- reflex is its middle save. So it actually takes damage from the lightning bolt most of the time, increasing with frightened, which is a thing parties usually want to inflict.

Lightning Bolt does 4d12 damage, which averages to 24 damage, doubles to 48 damage if it crit fails (requires a 1 here), and 12 average damage if the target succeeds its saving throw, the chimera has 135 HP. If you get your 1/4th failure chance, and my 2 am math isn't mistaken you've done 17% of its health, if you get your 2/4 succeeded save you deal about 8.5% of it's health, with nothing happening on the remaining fourth. That's without the 1/20 odds of it rolling the 1 on its save and you dealing 34% of its health with one spell, or you rolling better on damage, or any modification from the frightened conditions (or any other conditions) that the whole party loves, and you have a leftover action-- my wizard used its evocation school force bolt to add extra damage.
Your math is slightly off, but not by much. The chimera has a 30% chance of a critical success, 50% chance of a success, 15% chance of failure, and 5% chance of a critical failure. That averages out to 50% damage, or an average of 13. That's less than 10% of its hit points, and that's me throwing my biggest spell at it. A spell that has an almost one in three chance of doing nothing. And that's against a monster where Reflex is the middle save.

Given your odds of dealing something every round and the fact that this is a solo boss, that's not bad if AOE is what you have prepped. Sudden bolt does even better (being a lower level single target version of lightning bolt with 1 per level scaling), since it's actually 5d12 at this level, averaging to 30 full damage and 15 half.
Your example is a wizard, so what is the chance that they have multiple lightning bolts prepared? You have 2-3 spell slots, depending on whether you're a specialist or a universalist, plus Drain Bonded Item. I'd argue that having more than two bolts prepared, plus the Bonded Item, is very unlikely, and if this is a "boss" fight you might very well have spent some before. Paizo loves putting PCs through big 10+ encounter dungeons, wearing casters down before the end.

And again, sudden bolt is an uncommon spell that comes from a particular adventure. The chances of any PC having that spell is miniscule, particularly if you're not playing the Extinction Curse. Given that both the Advanced Player's Guide and Secrets of Magic have been released after that adventure, and without any similarly-scaling single-target spells in them, I think it's safe to say that Paizo considers the spell an accident of early development, and really a little more powerful than spells should be.

If we go the up cast Magic Missile route here (which I loved on my Wizard), your level 3 slots using all 3 actions are providing 6 darts, worth a total of 6d4+6 damage, which averages to 18 damage which is 13% of the Chimera's health every turn you do it, going up or down by chance. Considering your martial's numbers are balancing their hits and crits with complete whiffs, that's really not bad at all for a single turn for 1/4th to 1/6th of the party. If a combat lasts four rounds, and you keep it up, you'll have done 52% of the bosses HP personally.
Assuming you have three magic missiles prepared (which means you're an evoker) and unused, that you haven't used your Drain Bonded Item ability before the fight, and that you never need to move in the fight.

But magic missile is actually a fairly good anti-boss spell, because it ignores their superior defenses. Too bad my character can't have it.

Thing is, overall a level +2 (maybe not +3) fight is "balanced". Taken as a whole, putting in the numbers at one end and getting a result a few rounds later in the other, it works out. The problem is the way it is balanced, by giving the opposition a pretty big chance of ignoring your actions entirely. And that doesn't feel great.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I tried using flaming sphere at the early levels, but quickly realized it was a waste of a spell. It would have been cool if the designer hadn't decided that repeatable 3d6 damage was too much, and put in the clause that it deals no damage on a successful save. If it hadn't had that bit, it would have been quite a neat little tool in the box, but as is it's useless.
Both my druid and the wizard in my PF2 AV AP game tossed in the towel on flaming sphere. Nothing ever failed its save against it so it was a complete waste of a slot and time.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I want single-target save spells that do significantly more damage than same-level AOE spells, or possibly a little more damage but have some neat debuff at the same time. If I'm using my limited high-level spells, I want the monsters to feel it.

See, I don't think that would be at all a good idea; mages have all kinds of other options, tossing them a superior single target damage attack strikes me as moving right back to "Why do we keep non-spellcasters again?" and that's a mode that PF2e has pretty successfully moved away from.

Your example is a wizard, so what is the chance that they have multiple lightning bolts prepared? You have 2-3 spell slots, depending on whether you're a specialist or a universalist, plus Drain Bonded Item. I'd argue that having more than two bolts prepared, plus the Bonded Item, is very unlikely, and if this is a "boss" fight you might very well have spent some before. Paizo loves putting PCs through big 10+ encounter dungeons, wearing casters down before the end.

Well, there's always the question about how many you need most of the time. Its not like they're going to be the only thing you find to do in a given fight, and they aren't going to be the best choice in every fight anyway for one reason or another. It might make a difference if you're in a campaign environment where you go through a whole lot of fights in one day, but that hasn't been what I've seen very often at least.
(Caveat: I haven't seen that many prepared casters in play that didn't have other options, so I could be talking out of my butt here.)
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Both my druid and the wizard in my PF2 AV AP game tossed in the towel on flaming sphere. Nothing ever failed its save against it so it was a complete waste of a slot and time.

Fail to nothing is probably not a good design thing given other things in PF2e. One of the virtues of PF2e spell design is you usually get something out of tossing a spell, even if it isn't sexy.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
The only argument I can see for dealing no damage on a save is that flaming sphere requires only an action to Sustain it (and move it), so can you ram things with your sphere while casting spells or doing other things.

The sorcerer in my game used flaming sphere to good effect. I expect it let’s problematic for repertoire-based casters because you don’t have to dedicate the slot up front. I can see why it might feel like a poor choice for a prepared caster like a wizard.
 
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The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
Wizards get an extra spell from their school, I was indeed playing my evocation wizard (the blasting Wizard), and a universalist could do it as well by simply restoring their blasting spells via the universalist version of drain bonded item. Largely I prefer the feel of the way it's balanced because a boss (especially a +3/+4) should not be something you can easily deal a massive chunk to super conveniently, so lobbing spell slots at it for incremental damage to work down a super resistant target just feels appropriate for a boss fight. It stops you from getting those awful feeling 5e wet soggy cardboard bosses where the players getting the cheap rush of a curb stomp, comes at the expense of a less fun boss fight.

I think a skilled wizard who wants to use offensive magic fills their top two slots with damage spells, and then uses the lower ones for utility / conditions at any given time depending on what they actually want to do. So having, say, 3 Third Level Magic Missiles, and 3 4th level Lightning Bolts prepared, at the level where those are your highest slots, feels entirely appropriate to me, with my utility coming from level 1 and 2 slots at that point.

Staves and Wands are your bread and butter magic items, they help you keep up with longer adventuring days if you see yourself doing so, so right at level 7 when you get your 4th level spell slots, you actually have 7 rounds of full blasting effectiveness you can use (Evocation or Universalist) 9 if you happen to be a spell blender (I was!) and willing to lose the lower level slots.

When you account for your ability to still be useful with even a level 1 slot casting fear or something, even before magic items, feats, and etc you have enough juice in the tank to do a small handful of encounters at full tilt, which I think is the use case of most tables, not exceeding four fights. You can of course do more if you have to, and all of those things I left out can buy you rounds of effectiveness to add to that.
 



Retreater

Legend
The GM's for the interactive special. Other games were still being run too, from what I understand. That room is so huge.
I mean, the Sagamore Ballroom was divided this year (with a third of it going to 40K lasertag). So what you're seeing is a fraction of the interest from GenCons at least 5 years ago.
The lines at the Paizo booth used to stretch out of the Vendor Hall, and now the shopping line would evaporate within an hour of the floor's opening each morning. It was disheartening to see stacks of Dark Archive sitting there on Sunday after seeing Free League and Zweihander selling out of entire product ranges. [And yes, I know smaller companies bring fewer copies and might sell out quicker, but presumably they also have less promotion, less interest, fewer fans, etc - so it should be comparable.]
I'm not bringing this up to disparage Paizo, Pathfinder 2, or its many fans. As I've started numerous times, I like the system overall. But I think that when people say "it's going as strong as ever" and then I see the event space one-third the size of the last time I went - that tells me that "in practice" there are some issues.
As fans, should we promote it more? Do they need more PFS GMs at events?
 

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