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PF2E How is PF2E prep and GMing?

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I think it works fine (being that I’m running such a game), but the CRB and GMG don’t provide much guidance for doing so. The assumption is you’re playing a story-driven game, and things like sandboxes and hexcrawls are another way to experience that (or to “decide how to go about it” as the sidebar on p. 44 of the GMG suggests). However, the tools are there if you know how to use them.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
What is relevant is if the system holds up to whatever the best the players can muster without the GM figuring out how to compensate, and PF2 does because each individual encounter is a challenge without attrition-based changes wearing the party down.
Absolutely. The only lack is a small section (perhaps only in the GMG) titled "if you want to introduce attrition into your PF2"
 

Reynard

Legend
Just to be clear it sounds like hit point attrition is not a thing but does PF2 still have resource attrition such as spells per day, uses of rage or chi, etc? Or is it literally built for the party to nova every encounter?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
However, the tools are there if you know how to use them.
That depends on your definition of "tools". Let me clarify:

The game is absolutely no help. It provides no tools, and it doesn't even mention attrition as a variant way of playing.

Does that mean it's hard to accomplish? Not at all, if you know what you're doing. You just need to make sure PCs can't heal up for free: scouring the CRB for skills, feats, actions and class abilities*. I just wish I didn't get the sense nobody at Paizo had even considered the idea to use attrition...

*) and make sure you telegraph dangerous encounters ;)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Just to be clear it sounds like hit point attrition is not a thing but does PF2 still have resource attrition such as spells per day, uses of rage or chi, etc? Or is it literally built for the party to nova every encounter?
Attrition of resources matters, but the slow gradual attrition of hit points over hours is not really a feature of the game. Part of what makes combat feel so exciting is that even against low threat encounters your hit points are always under threat. Resources like spells, consumables, and focus spells (which are a combined resource). In combat healing spells like Heal and Soothe are a really big deal.

Over the short term managing recovery from combat can be crucial. Outside of combat you basically operate in 10 minute turns (like B/X or AD&D). You have to decide who gets healed, who is repairing shields, who is recovering focus spells, who is standing guard, and the like.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Just to be clear it sounds like hit point attrition is not a thing but does PF2 still have resource attrition such as spells per day, uses of rage or chi, etc? Or is it literally built for the party to nova every encounter?
You still need to rest for the night to regain spells. A common reason to stop adventuring for the day is simply because its more fun for the casters to have spells.

Magic items often have daily usages too. And poison, disease and curses can nicely stop a party in their tracks for quite a while ;)

But most everything else is governed by the 10 minute (or 1 hour) "cooldown", allowing martial heroes to keep whacking forever.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Attrition of resources matters, but the slow gradual attrition of hit points over hours is not really a feature of the game. Part of what makes combat feel so exciting is that even against low threat encounters your hit points are always under threat. Resources like spells, consumables, and focus spells (which are a combined resource). In combat healing spells like Heal and Soothe are a really big deal.
It bears repeating it's entirely possible to create four heroes with none of these resources between them. (Let's call that playing PF2 on Ironman difficulty :devilish:. But woe the group where neither players nor GM realizes this ;) because it's never discussed)

In-combat healing is important yes. And that obviously limits the adventuring day.

But you wouldn't want to spend precious combat heal resources (such as the Heal spell) outside of combat precisely because it's so easy to obtain free alternatives (such as Medicine).

Over the short term managing recovery from combat can be crucial. Outside of combat you basically operate in 10 minute turns (like B/X or AD&D). You have to decide who gets healed, who is repairing shields, who is recovering focus spells, who is standing guard, and the like.
Except I've found in practice heroes will want to heal up completely whenever possible. Once that's a given, whether it takes 20 or 40 or 80 minutes is just clutter. The decisions you make quickly become routine, then repetitive.
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I'm a bit confused by your statement so I want to ask: does it hold up if you want attrition to wear the party down? I mean some of my group's best moments come out when we are wearing thin on resources. Just want to make sure that is still an option.
Attrition still exists, and is still an important consideration - it's just not treated the way it is in other similar systems.

There are still resources on daily limits, and the things which can keep you going 'indefinitely' always cost time and often also involve chance, so every party will at some point reach the point when they'd be better off calling it a day rather than pressing on .

The difference is that an encounter being "appropriately challenging" isn't based on a particular assumed degree of attrition. By which I mean where one system might tell the GM a party should be able to handle 4 encounters of a particular difficulty before needing to rest because each of those should use up around 25% of available resources, and thus expects that you're going to have that many encounters on the days that are meant to matter so the difficulty overall "feels right" - PF2 sets up encounters so that they are challenging even if you are at full resources, yet surmountable even if you don't have limited resources left to burn.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
That depends on your definition of "tools". Let me clarify:

The game is absolutely no help. It provides no tools, and it doesn't even mention attrition as a variant way of playing.

Does that mean it's hard to accomplish? Not at all, if you know what you're doing. You just need to make sure PCs can't heal up for free: scouring the CRB for skills, feats, actions and class abilities*. I just wish I didn't get the sense nobody at Paizo had even considered the idea to use attrition...

*) and make sure you telegraph dangerous encounters ;)
By tools I mean exploration mode and encounter, creating, and hazard building guidelines that actually work. Let me amend what I said earlier to say it gives you a foundation for that kind of game. The part that’s missing are the procedures for using that framework. However, if you know how to run such a game, then that framework should give you what you need.

If you don’t know how to run such a game, then PF2 won’t help you learn how. That’s a fair criticism, though it’s not really something modern games teach in general. PF2 is a bit better in having encounter mode, though it could certainly stand to be a bit more prescriptive about how you should go about using it.
 
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dave2008

Legend
The difference is that an encounter being "appropriately challenging" isn't based on a particular assumed degree of attrition. By which I mean where one system might tell the GM a party should be able to handle 4 encounters of a particular difficulty before needing to rest because each of those should use up around 25% of available resources, and thus expects that you're going to have that many encounters on the days that are meant to matter so the difficulty overall "feels right" - PF2 sets up encounters so that they are challenging even if you are at full resources, yet surmountable even if you don't have limited resources left to burn.
OK that doesn't sound like attrition to me, but I assume I'm missing something.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
But most everything else is governed by the 10 minute (or 1 hour) "cooldown", allowing martial heroes to keep whacking forever.
I guess I'm a little confused. If you watch pretty much any movie it's completely obvious how attrition works -- you don't allow the players time to rest. This has been true in AD&D, in 3E, in 4E and it's just as true in PF2.

Healing in PF2 can be magical -- the standard across all of D&D forever. In PF2 you get healing spells back daily, so if you allow players a day between encounters, you can be pretty sure they'll use healing to fix themselves up fully (just like pretty much every edition). There is also mundane medicine, which worlds like this:
  • A healer and a target each take 10 minutes for it to work (I do not know of any way of reducing this)
  • The base DC is 15, but the GM can increase that if the circumstances are bad (e.g. in a storm)
  • The target regains 2d8 hits
  • If you are a good healer, you can try for a harder DC (or just more often get critical successes). And expert of medicine can try to hit a 20 to get 2d8+10 hits, with a critical getting 4d8+10 hits. This is probably the optimum up till maybe level 14+ as missing a DC 30 is quite likely and so not worth trying (plus you have to be a master)
  • If the character has the feat CONTINUAL RECOVERY they can do this every 10 minutes, otherwise it's only once an hour.
So, running the numbers:

At, say, level 11, each character has 3-4 expert or better skills. We'll be generous and assume we have 2 expert medicine people both of whom have taken the skill feat. We'll given them medicine skills of 18. So every 10 minutes they try for the DC 20, and pretty much always make it, half the time critically succeeding, so doing an average of about 25 hits each, for a total of 50 hits.

With our last few battles having enemies do 200-300 damage per combat (My "favorite" round was a burst doing 36 or 72 to all the party, followed by a 70 point finger of death in the same round) you can see that for mundane healing to keep up, you will have the party sitting around in the middle of a room, doing nothing but mundane healing for a good hour -- and this assumes it's a safe comfortable place to rest and the party has two characters who spent the skill and feats to get good at medicine (they can also use a nature variant I think).

So, mundane healing is really, really slow. The book doesn't give any specific advice on how to make its even harder, but honestly, just reading the rule makes it pretty obvious. To me, some clear options are:
  • Don't give the party time to rest. 10 minutes is a nice amount of time as it allows the players some value form their skills, but not enough to do more than about 20% of the damage taken. This has been the standard approach in D&D since forever, and any action film (John Wick, Bourne series ...) uses this paradigm. If you want an attritive game, don't let people rest ever!
  • Make the environment unfriendly. A +5 to the DCs for bad weather or for being in a swap will seriously affect healing
  • Restrict the "continual recovery" feat, making it generally unavailable. It will then take 6+ hours for the party to head with mundane healing, which is essentially the same as traditional "rest overnight" systems.
Honestly, this is something easily under the GM's call -- not needing anything special; mundane healing is a nice addition to PF2 because it means that you have options to run a game that does not require a magical healer, but all you have to do to make the game one of attrition is not to allow the party one+ hours of uninterrupted time in a safe, pleasant environment. I think most GMs can manage that!

----------------

Our 11th level party just finished such an attrition fight (Age of Ashes). We were in a location where there was no chance of more than a short breather, fighting enemies putting out multiple hundreds of hit of damage. After each combat our two serious healers (a cleric and druid) would get together and decide the most efficient way to do the magical healing, and then the two mundane healers would add a little to the worst hit members.

Definitely felt tense as went into the last fight with everyone down hit points, the druid having two low-level heals only, and my cleric down to zero healing. The barbarian took 140+ hits up front (stayed up), then my cleric took 132 (left him on 8) and went down in the second round. We won, but yeah, that was effectively a zero-healing combat which we went into already damaged.
 
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AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
OK that doesn't sound like attrition to me, but I assume I'm missing something.
Say you start the adventure with a stock of potions, and each day of the adventure with a stock of spell slots, and you have so many hours per day until you need to rest or face fatigue - and so many days of supplies before you'll need to abandon the adventure if you haven't completed your goal yet.

All of that is basically true in all versions of D&D/pathfinder. In other versions it's likely that the party gives in to attrition and rests based on having run out spell slots or healing items - but in PF2 a party can press on past that point, but could still give in to attrition and rest because they don't have enough time left in the day to heal-up again, or because they've run out of days they can keep at it without a resupply.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
1. Prep Time: The monsters work at nearly all levels with appropriate challenges. So you can pull something out of the bestiary or run a PF2 module as written if the PC level is right and party size about right. The only modification I've made for a 6 person party is occasionally increasing hit points for BBEGs by 25% per party member above 4. There has been no need increase the offense or defense of monsters in PF2 against appropriate level enemies.

Generally speaking enemies of about the same level of the party along with minions two or three levels lower can be a good challenge. A BBEG 2 to 3 levels above the party is an effective enemy with or without minions.

2. GMing: Monsters hit hard and can take a PC from max to zero in a round or two requiring combat healing. Hazards can be dangerous and have good explanations for how they work often including alternate methods of disarming them.

Main difficulty for you as a GM of new players is all the rules. There are a lot of little niggling rules like handedness, what actions can be used to do what, out of combat healing with medicine, dying and wounded conditions, lots of little weapon rules, magic changes like incapacitation trait and four different levels of saving throw for each spell usually, and a lot of little rules to remember.

I suggest running it the best you can to start and keep it as simple as possible for your players. Then read and work in rules as you learn them. No use trying to follow every little rule while you learn the new system or worrying about missing a few. Game still works fine if you miss or write out a few rules. Combats are still dangerous if you don't specifically get changing hands right or forget an action rule or learn you need expert perception to spot a hazard rather than just trained. Learn as you go and GM to keep the game flow feeling natural and fun. The more you play the more you'll remember the rules and can decide which ones you want to press and which ones you don't want to worry about.
 
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Celtavian

Dragon Lord
On healing in PF2. Out of combat healing is basically a rest and patch up period. In general it is assumed you will go into a series of encounters with full hit points and each encounter or series of encounters is capable of reducing you to zero with multiple levels of dying or wounded. This will often happen every encounter. Getting levels of wounded or dying is more a measure of how severely hurt you are than low hit points. Hit points above 0 generally feel like you're getting worn down or bruised/nicked up, while a knocked to dying or wounded 1 to 3 feels more like you're receiving mortal wounds that are building up to kill you.

Not sure how others think about hit points, that seems to how it works in PF2. No more negative hit points. The dying and wounded condition show how close to death you are and you will get hit real hard and can have your hit points taken down real fast in this edition. Out of combat healing to get up between encounters is very important and should not be overlooked as each group should not only have at least a little combat healing, but also a good medic meaning character highly trained in medicine with medicine skill feats. The medicine skill with skill feats has replaced the Cure Light wounds wands, scrolls, and potions. Now between combat the team medic will get everyone ready to fight in the next battle much like medics do in a military or similar type of team.
 
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dave2008

Legend
All of that is basically true in all versions of D&D/pathfinder. In other versions it's likely that the party gives in to attrition and rests based on having run out spell slots or healing items - but in PF2 a party can press on past that point, but could still give in to attrition and rest because they don't have enough time left in the day to heal-up again, or because they've run out of days they can keep at it without a resupply.
So your saying the can give into attrition if they simple run out of enough time in a day to rest? That is not really attrition IMO. From my perspective attrition is when you run out of resources so you have to rest. For me this exhaustion is best represented by HP. So it you can always rest and heal, that is not really attrition IMO. However, I think I am starting to see how I can modify PF2e more to fit our play style.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
So far my group's attrition has been limited by in-combat healing and spell resources, much like PF1. At high level in PF1 hit points were not a measure of attrition, it was always combat healing and spells, same as now. The only change is the method by which you heal. Whereas in PF1 you usually cast low level, cheap healing spells from wands or potions or even more powerful healing spells or cleric channeling to get people back up quickly, the adventuring day ended when spells run out or everything in the area was dead. So I don't see that as a change other than going from using wands, cure light wounds pots, cleric channeling, and heal spells to the medicine skill. You have far fewer spell slots than you did in PF1 and is in fact more of a problem than it was in PF1 where even seriously injuring a caster at high level was an astounding feat and stopping a well built PF1 healer like a life oracle was not a very good expenditure of enemy resources, while at the same time that healer made the group nearly unstoppable. I used to watch enemy teams try to kill the life oracle healer only to see them waste a ton of actions to kill what wasn't easily killed giving the PCs plenty of extra damaging attacks to take them out.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@dave2008

On an aesthetic level hit points are much more meat in Pathfinder Second Edition than they are in either Fourth Edition or fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Treat Wounds is not about resting. It's about being a combat medic, applying salves and bandages, and sometimes even stitching wounds shut. It's a thankless job because that damn Fighter keeps on opening up his stitches.

Fatigue is handled by the Fatigued condition which can be gained from a Barbarian's Rage, spells, pushing too hard while exploring, and general overexertion.

There is nothing like hit dice or healing surges.

Fatigued said:
You’re tired and can’t summon much energy. You take a –1 status penalty to AC and saving throws. While exploring, you can’t choose an exploration activity.

You recover from fatigue after a full night’s rest.
There is a variant that might be more up your alley in the Game Mastery Guide - Stamina Points. Basically a little over half your hit points are Stamina points. Damage goes to them first. You regain your Stamina points after a full nights rest, but healing magic and the Treat Wounds only heals hit points. Outside of a full night's rest the only way to recover Stamina points are various activities that require Resolve points (Equal to your key ability modifier).

One way to get to where you might feel comfortable might be to use Stamina points and than limit Treat Wounds to either hourly or daily.

It's not really to my tastes, but it might be an option for you.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
By tools I mean exploration mode and encounter, creating, and hazard building guidelines that actually work. Let me amend what I said earlier to say it gives you a foundation for that kind of game. The part that’s missing are the procedures for using that framework. However, if you know how to run such a game, then that framework should give you what you need.


If you don’t know how to run such a game, then PF2 won’t help you learn how. That’s a fair criticism, though it’s not really something modern games teach in general. PF2 is a bit better in having encounter mode, though it could certainly stand to be a bit more prescriptive about how you should go about using it.
Well, no, I wouldn't just brush it under the rug with "this isn't something games teach in general".

Pathfinder 2 is expressly taking the no-attrition model for granted, as if it was the only playing style its designers could even dream of. It does not discuss this with the GM, it offers no variants, and no help in rejigging the game to meet other playing styles. The GMG sidebar on sandboxes, for instance, mostly states basic facts such as "you can triple the number of encounters, since PCs likely won't find them all". Not a single word on how sandbox play is associated with attrition.

OK that doesn't sound like attrition to me, but I assume I'm missing something.
PF2 reads as if attrition-based play doesn't exist and never existed in D&D gaming.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask.

I guess I'm a little confused. If you watch pretty much any movie it's completely obvious how attrition works -- you don't allow the players time to rest. This has been true in AD&D, in 3E, in 4E and it's just as true in PF2.
You say you're confused - but then proceed to post a decidedly unconfused message.

However, you're conflating time pressure in general with the day-based recovery model inherent in all of D&D.

Yes, PF2 does "attrition" since casters run out of spells and you need to sleep at night.

But that's not what we're discussing.

And time pressure; yes, it works, but nearly everyone suggesting it conveniently forgets that it works best if used sparingly!

That is, it would be nice if a game offered OTHER ways to enforce attrition than merely time-pressure each time.

And besides, since hp is essentially NOT included in the attrition restrictions of this particular game you can still do things that might surprise a GM coming from other D&D systems.

For instance: if you say the Dragon will eat the Princess in three days' time, that immediately locks down most if not all resources in a classic game where you only heal damage overnight (plus spells and potions).

But in PF2, it's entirely concievable to have an all-martial party (Fighter, Barbarian, Rogue, Ranger). This party is ENTIRELY unconstrained by your time-pressure. They could fight A HUNDRED encounters in three days time.

Whether the Dragon eats the Princess in three days time or three years time becomes entirely irrelevant, since three days is more than ample time for such a party to "process" every intended encounter of the adventure.

THAT'S what we're discussing!

Say you start the adventure with a stock of potions, and each day of the adventure with a stock of spell slots, and you have so many hours per day until you need to rest or face fatigue - and so many days of supplies before you'll need to abandon the adventure if you haven't completed your goal yet.


All of that is basically true in all versions of D&D/pathfinder. In other versions it's likely that the party gives in to attrition and rests based on having run out spell slots or healing items - but in PF2 a party can press on past that point, but could still give in to attrition and rest because they don't have enough time left in the day to heal-up again, or because they've run out of days they can keep at it without a resupply.
Just want to point out that the notion of "give in to attrition and rest because they don't have enough time left in the day to heal-up again" is somewhat deceptive.

Once a party is out of options and out of time it is sometimes too late to decide to rest. Instead its time to fight for your lives and possibly die.

That is: the reason you don't know you don't have enough time is because you get unexpectedly ambushed. You can't take that into account.

In my experience, in PF2, after (nearly) every fight the heroes will take 20-60 minutes downtime to heal up completely. If you the GM continuously throw level-appropriate wandering monsters against them, you will not make them retreat, you will kill them.

What it all boils down to is this: PF2 is like if 5th Edition gave you back all your hit points on a short rest. Every short rest, all day long.

This is a profound difference, and it severely messes with attrition-based play.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Not sure how others think about hit points, that seems to how it works in PF2.
Absolutely. HP fluctuates wildly in this game and needs to be viewed much more as energy, morale etc than physical injury.

If you need HP to represent injury to a much larger degree I'm not sure I would recommend PF2 at all. Wild damage swings is inherent to the system, and I would not try to mess with this.

Adding attrition therefore would be challenging, since the game already can take you from full to zero hp in a fight that isn't even supposed to be very hard. And that assumes you enter nearly every fight at full hp!

Making the game run on the assumption heroes will still press on at two thirds or half hp basically requires you to throw the encounter guidelines out the window and generally forget about featuring monsters higher level than you. (Which of course is alright. Whether you face the Owlbear at level 3 or level 6 doesn't really matter after all)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
So your saying the can give into attrition if they simple run out of enough time in a day to rest? That is not really attrition IMO. From my perspective attrition is when you run out of resources so you have to rest. For me this exhaustion is best represented by HP. So it you can always rest and heal, that is not really attrition IMO. However, I think I am starting to see how I can modify PF2e more to fit our play style.
Precisely.

The question to determine attrition (in the sense discussed here) is very simple:

Does the game semi-regularly reach a point where the only way for heroes to regain hit points is to sleep for the night?

A game like 3rd edition and Pathfinder was theoretically yes but in practice no (because Wands of CLW).

Pathfinder 2, on the other hand, is even theoretically no, since those wands have been replaced by mundane and limitless healing (Medicine) as well as focus powers (Paladin's Lay on Hands).
Again a reminder that it's possible to create a party with no such access. (In the paradigm of PF2, that's a severely hobbled party. It doesn't work as a viable path to attrition since it requires you to make clearly suboptimal charbuild choices. In short: Why wouldn't a party select at least one PC with Medicine?)
 
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