Pathfinder 2E Is this a fair review of PF2?

nevin

Hero
2e brought a lot of fixes, though some may argue whether they fixed the right things, 1e definitely needs some work.. It just suffers from the same problem 1e already does. They want every single possible thing that could happen to already be adjudicated because of Pathfinder Society. I think they listened to the guys that they make more money from and have more interaction with and were surprised that the base split as bad as everyone else expected. The system is better balanced. Pathfinders fix for everything is arbitrary restrictions that everyone is supposed to be ok with. Some are some aren't. I hope thier player base grows to at least where it was before they split it, but I'll be surprised if that happens. But for the health of the industry I hope they pull it off.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
A few observations. Not 'cause I necessarily I agree with the man (or your transcript rather), but because it's otherwise too easy to write off his criticisms.

First of all, thank you for the detailed reply

At first sight (and really a review can't be expected to look deeper than that) the game comes off as incredibly thought out and tidy. Scratch the surface, and any number of question marks pop up. Kudos to him finding some of them.

I've only read playtest material and it did not do it for me. You are right that a real review takes a lot of work. From what I can see Puffin spent several months playing.

Yeah. 3.x/PF/d20 magic buying is loads of fun, and 5E deciding to drop it like a hot turd is one of the biggest flaws of that edition.

I disagree, we both know that, let's move on :)

However, he's right it isn't as fun as it could have been. Why? Because while 3e (and 5e!) get magic items right (as opposed to pricing them, in 5e's case) PF2 gets them absolutely wrong. In fact, PF2 brings magic items* back to the 4E nightmare of anemic items that do incredibly little, and often with ridiculous limits on how and when you get the little benefit there is.

Ye-ikes. Weak magical items can be fun if they are very useful or have a lot of "personality". Most of them though... ugh. Even in PF1, we would find items that gave you a +1 bonus vs sleep spell or some nonsense... sell it and move on.


Assuming he's not maths-averse, that is. Like I said, this game absolutely requires players quick at doing basic algebra in their head. If you're not comfortable calculating 33+2-1+3+1-4+1=? in your head multiple times each round*, PF2 isn't for you. There are no shortcuts or easy cheatsheets.

You simply must be math-friendly. (Don't trust anyone downplaying this!) Luckily most PF1 fans, clearly Paizo's target demographic, seem to have no problems with this. (Me and our group are all a bunch of tech-loving nerds with Int as our by far best ability so this isn't a problem for us)

I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I think this is a serious problem. Because it isn't just about you, the player, being math friendly. Everyone in the party has to. If you have one player who's bad at math - and I know a few - it slows down the system tremendously.

Let's say that the odds of being bad at math is 1/6. The odds of a group of 6 people having no one bad at math is, if I didn't get the math wrong ha, about 33%....
 


Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I think this is a serious problem. Because it isn't just about you, the player, being math friendly. Everyone in the party has to. If you have one player who's bad at math - and I know a few - it slows down the system tremendously.

Let's say that the odds of being bad at math is 1/6. The odds of a group of 6 people having no one bad at math is, if I didn't get the math wrong ha, about 33%....

I am not sure anyone says you need to be good at math at any of these games. Unless you're playing with someone who can't do multiplication-division-addition-subtraction, you'll be fine.

The game isn't algebra. It's adding and subtracting small modifiers. The game is balanced enough forgetting a modifier or bonus here and there won't change much. Happens to me all the time, game runs fine. It's not as simple as advantage/disadvantage, but it's not hard either.

Most conditions apply a status bonus or penalty which do not stack with other status bonuses or penalties. So if they have one condition, you go with the highest number.

Circumstance bonuses the same. If they're already flat-footed somehow they take a =2 circumstance penalty to their AC. If nothing else provides a circumstance penalty higher, you don't worry about it.

Then item bonuses like a +1 sword or an innate item bonus to a bomb. If the item bonus isn't higher, then you don't worry about it.

If you can find someone to play it with, give it a shot. See you like it. I read the game and didn't like it after reading it. Then I played it and am having a blast. I haven't done homebrewing in 20 plus years because most of these games make it too hard and unsatisfying to homebrew. When you spend hours working on something and the party just uses a bunch of poorly designed mechanical advantages in a game system to destroy it with fair ease, you don't much feel like spending your time homebrewing or arguing with players about over-powered options. Now I have this game that somehow made all the math work to make things challenging across levels and I feel like homebrewing is worth my time again. I can make things within the recommended math and they will provide a substantial and interesting challenge for my players without having to resort to trick environments or what not. The monsters do the job regardless of how the characters build their characters. They have to work for a win. No more gaming the system to get the win.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
What are the improvements? the 3 action economy sure, that looks great. But what was made better?
Martial/mundane characters are no longer the laughing stock of magical/spellcasting characters. While I prefer 5Es solution to the LFQW problem, at least Paizo too solves it. (I like how Paizo preserves the role of Strength and melee better than 5E, but I like 5Es restrictions on magic better than PF2s)

NPCs are no longer a nightmare to create. Just like 5E, monsters are not governed by the detailed rules that define player characters. (Here PF2 has the clear advantage over 5E)

These are the two big ones. In fact each one is super huge all by itself. Each change is all by itself worth the price of admission.

Then there's a multitude of other things, but nothing that can compare to these (and some of which you could argue isn't an improvement at all).

But fixing magic and NPCs were absolutely essential, and it is no surprise both Paizo and WotC have abandoned the old ways of 3E/d20.

---

Of course, fixing this in 2019 is not nearly as impressive as fixing them in 2015. That is, I'm only counting them as improvements over PF1, not advantages over the competition. Which is a big problem - PF2 comes across as a game created in a world where 5E simply hasn't happened.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Let's say that the odds of being bad at math is 1/6. The odds of a group of 6 people having no one bad at math is, if I didn't get the math wrong ha, about 33%....

Lol

In the general population, I think the ratio is rather reversed.

Even in the highly specific group of "crunchy-minded role-players" I think you're generous.

In the population of people liking PF2, on the other hand, I'd say the ratio is close to 0%... simply because the game would have driven you away if you didn't do math!

;)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
First of all, thank you for the detailed reply



I've only read playtest material and it did not do it for me. You are right that a real review takes a lot of work. From what I can see Puffin spent several months playing.



I disagree, we both know that, let's move on :)



Ye-ikes. Weak magical items can be fun if they are very useful or have a lot of "personality". Most of them though... ugh. Even in PF1, we would find items that gave you a +1 bonus vs sleep spell or some nonsense... sell it and move on.
Thank you. (Doing multi quotes on the app is just not feasible so you'll get this in a chunky backass order)

Ayup. Since Paizo is all about balance in PF2, you'll see no awesome magic items such as those offered by 3E or 5E. Your +1 sleep is exactly what you'll find in PF2, items that give a small boost to your existing abilities.

The closest thing to an exception regards non-numerical abilities. Flight, for instance, can still be had, even though it's an awesome game changer. But any time you can put a number on it, you get no more than +3, and that only at the highest levels.

Now you might think of striking runes and how you can get lots of extra weapon damage dice. Yes, compared to other items they come across as mind-blowingly powerful. The secret there, of course, is that they're accounted for by the game's monster math.

In fact, check out the automatic bonus progression variant of the GMG (all rules are available online for free) and you'll realize that NO magic item is meant to get you ahead of the curve; give you abilities no other character of your level can have.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
I am not sure anyone says you need to be good at math at any of these games. Unless you're playing with someone who can't do multiplication-division-addition-subtraction, you'll be fine.

The game isn't algebra. It's adding and subtracting small modifiers. The game is balanced enough forgetting a modifier or bonus here and there won't change much. Happens to me all the time, game runs fine. It's not as simple as advantage/disadvantage, but it's not hard either.

Most conditions apply a status bonus or penalty which do not stack with other status bonuses or penalties. So if they have one condition, you go with the highest number.

Circumstance bonuses the same. If they're already flat-footed somehow they take a =2 circumstance penalty to their AC. If nothing else provides a circumstance penalty higher, you don't worry about it.

Then item bonuses like a +1 sword or an innate item bonus to a bomb. If the item bonus isn't higher, then you don't worry about it.

If you can find someone to play it with, give it a shot. See you like it. I read the game and didn't like it after reading it. Then I played it and am having a blast. I haven't done homebrewing in 20 plus years because most of these games make it too hard and unsatisfying to homebrew. When you spend hours working on something and the party just uses a bunch of poorly designed mechanical advantages in a game system to destroy it with fair ease, you don't much feel like spending your time homebrewing or arguing with players about over-powered options. Now I have this game that somehow made all the math work to make things challenging across levels and I feel like homebrewing is worth my time again. I can make things within the recommended math and they will provide a substantial and interesting challenge for my players without having to resort to trick environments or what not. The monsters do the job regardless of how the characters build their characters. They have to work for a win. No more gaming the system to get the win.
The whole point of the game is that every +1 matters.

I disagree with you on every level here, Celtavian. The game is super calibrated and balanced around the fact that even +1 is a big deal, so playing it fast and loose makes no sense to me.

You are absolutely meant to treat a +1 (or -1 to the enemy) as a big deal. Entire actions, spells and builds are devoted to squeezing that extra +1 or +2 out of your combat turn. Intimidation, flanking, debugged; it's all on the scale of little +1s adding up to a decisive advantage.

Monsters are dangerous and deadly in this game. Official encounters feature brutally difficult combats. Not caring about that +1 or -1 can and will kill you.

You are right in one instance though:

I stand corrected, I meant arithmetics, not algebra.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
You clearly haven't played with people who can't do quick additions and subtractions. I know a few - I know because I've gamed with them.
This is precisely what I meant.

The difference between 5E and PF2 in how friendly its math appears to the average hobbyist is significant.

That is, unlike WotC, Paizo appears to have taken exactly zero steps to accommodate the more casual gamer.

Of course the comparison is lopsided. 5E is a more casual game, and so it can afford to not be math-y.

A more interesting comparison would be the forthcoming Level Up! project of "crunchifying" 5E. Will that result in a soup of +1s too?
 
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nevin

Hero
This is precisely what I meant.

The difference between 5E and PF2 in how friendly its math appears to the average hobbyist is significant.

That is, unlike WotC, Paizo appears to have taken exactly zero steps to accommodate the more casual gamer.

Of course the comparison is lopsided. 5E is a more casual game, and so it can afford to not be math-y.

A more interesting comparison would be the forthcoming Level Up! project of "crunchifying" 5E. Will that result in a soup of +1s too?
nah the difference is 5e is a role playing game with rules for tactical combat in it. Pathfinder is a tactical board game with roleplaying bolted on top. They made the mistake of turning building the character into part of the tactics thus all the trap feats and abilities that suck. At least half of the complexity in Pathfinder is pointless, arbitrary rules that attempt to control the effects of roleplaying in the tactical board game. For a some players the extra crunch is fun but it will never be the game for people that just want to plug in and play.
 

willrali

Explorer
nah the difference is 5e is a role playing game with rules for tactical combat in it. Pathfinder is a tactical board game with roleplaying bolted on top. They made the mistake of turning building the character into part of the tactics thus all the trap feats and abilities that suck. At least half of the complexity in Pathfinder is pointless, arbitrary rules that attempt to control the effects of roleplaying in the tactical board game. For a some players the extra crunch is fun but it will never be the game for people that just want to plug in and play.

I wouldn’t agree with this at all. They’re both very much role playing games to their cores — they’re a framework to pretend to be someone else.

One has a lot of options and buttons to push, and the complexity that comes with that. One has fewer options and the simplicity that comes with that. People, at various stages in their role playing careers, go back and forth between these styles as interest and time permit. 5e has brought a lot of people into the hobby, so presuming that some of these folks get curious about new styles, that’s a huge win for other games.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
While I still prefer Fantasy Craft for my crunchy d20 goodness, I do have to admit that Pathfinder 2 has done a fantastic job of refining their system into something unique, balanced, and complex. And given that PF2 has a much larger market share than FC, it's probably what I'll find myself playing when I finally get back to my FLGS group.

...I'll still argue that FC is better balanced with more interesting options than PF2 is though.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The whole point of the game is that every +1 matters.

And there are so many of them! (in PF1 at least).

So two follow up questions.

1: There can be a fair bit of calculations in figuring out your basic "what is my + to hit on my go-to attack, in "boring" circumstances" number. But that usually is only done once per level, so it's not too bad.

What I found... a bit much in PF1 is how many temporary bonuses/penalties apply to that attack roll on top of the baseline + to hit. So my alchemist it's "possible range penalty, possible point blank range bonus, possible cover penalty, possible firing into melee penalty, possible bonuses from 3 different spells, bonus from bard that is range dependent". So it's a lot. Does PF2 have more or less of these circumstantial bonuses that can change round to round?

2: In 5e the power differential between PCs is not that great, and that's in part because the number of decisions you make as your character advances are not that large. So say you make 4 decisions, and each "wrong" decision costs you 1 DPR (to use a metric that isn't great but hey it's a metric), and you end up at high level with a martial character that does 4 DPR less than the other martial character... that's an acceptable difference. In PF1, you can have... 20, 30 such decisions? This results in tremendeous power gaps between PCs, and these can be problematic at the table. Is this still the case in PF2?
 

Puggins

Explorer
Supporter
And there are so many of them! (in PF1 at least).

So two follow up questions.

1: There can be a fair bit of calculations in figuring out your basic "what is my + to hit on my go-to attack, in "boring" circumstances" number. But that usually is only done once per level, so it's not too bad.

What I found... a bit much in PF1 is how many temporary bonuses/penalties apply to that attack roll on top of the baseline + to hit. So my alchemist it's "possible range penalty, possible point blank range bonus, possible cover penalty, possible firing into melee penalty, possible bonuses from 3 different spells, bonus from bard that is range dependent". So it's a lot. Does PF2 have more or less of these circumstantial bonuses that can change round to round?

2: In 5e the power differential between PCs is not that great, and that's in part because the number of decisions you make as your character advances are not that large. So say you make 4 decisions, and each "wrong" decision costs you 1 DPR (to use a metric that isn't great but hey it's a metric), and you end up at high level with a martial character that does 4 DPR less than the other martial character... that's an acceptable difference. In PF1, you can have... 20, 30 such decisions? This results in tremendeous power gaps between PCs, and these can be problematic at the table. Is this still the case in PF2?

To start with, I think 5e and pf2 are both very worthy games. their relative levels of complexity mean they'll share a large swath of target audience, with differences on the edges- some 5e fans will think that pf2 is way too complex, some pf2 fans will think than 5e is way too simple (I'm leaning towards the latter, though I'm still a 5e consumer). Most fans, I think, will be comfortable with either one.

1. One of the big differences I've found with pf2, now having played it for several months, is that you don't have to do anywhere near the amount of arithmetic that PF1 forces you to do. I mean, it's night and day. If you write down your base attacks, you're practically there. We're talking:

5e--------PF2-------------------------------------------------------------------------------PF1

Very few bonuses are transitory. Here's a basic short sword attack routine:

1st attack: Strength + Proficiency Level + Level + Item Bonus -> +4 + 4 + 4 + 1 = +13
2nd attack: Strength + Proficiency Level + Level + Item Bonus - 4 -> +4 +4 +4 +1 -4 = +9
3rd attack: Strength + Proficiency Level + Level + Item Bonus - 8 -> +4 +4 +4 +1 -8 = +5

If you write that down, you've done almost all the work you need to do. When you actually attack, you have to check if the opponent is flat footed, you have to check your statuses (mostly if you're enfeebled or dazzled), or if there's a circumstance bonus (you're under bless, for example).

That;s your attack. Vastly simpler calculation than PF1, definitely more involved than 5e. Note that I don't mind doing math on the fly, so I definitely tolerate complexity a lot more than other people.

2. You have a ton of choices, but most of them give you more breadth, not more depth. In other words, making the "wrong" choice in PF2 means that you might not have a neat ability to use in certain situations. But your character core is reasonably constant- I mean, if you choose all the feats dealing with dual wielding then decide to carry around a great weapon you simply won't be as good as a guy who stays reasonably on point, but we're talking 70-80% effectiveness, not 20%, like PF1 or 3e. I think they do a pretty good job here.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
And there are so many of them! (in PF1 at least).

So two follow up questions.

1: There can be a fair bit of calculations in figuring out your basic "what is my + to hit on my go-to attack, in "boring" circumstances" number. But that usually is only done once per level, so it's not too bad.

What I found... a bit much in PF1 is how many temporary bonuses/penalties apply to that attack roll on top of the baseline + to hit. So my alchemist it's "possible range penalty, possible point blank range bonus, possible cover penalty, possible firing into melee penalty, possible bonuses from 3 different spells, bonus from bard that is range dependent". So it's a lot. Does PF2 have more or less of these circumstantial bonuses that can change round to round?

2: In 5e the power differential between PCs is not that great, and that's in part because the number of decisions you make as your character advances are not that large. So say you make 4 decisions, and each "wrong" decision costs you 1 DPR (to use a metric that isn't great but hey it's a metric), and you end up at high level with a martial character that does 4 DPR less than the other martial character... that's an acceptable difference. In PF1, you can have... 20, 30 such decisions? This results in tremendeous power gaps between PCs, and these can be problematic at the table. Is this still the case in PF2?
As for 1. I can only say PF2 has much more math than 5E.

2. Actually...

PF2 is obsessed with balance. 5E is much more relaxed in that regard.

I don't agree with your examples, since the difference between taking (and building towards) Greatweapon Fighting and Linguist (two 5E feats) is likely 20, 30 or even more DPR. (I could still agree PF1 is a magnitude worse)

PF2 in contrast is incredibly locked down. You take feats to determine how you get to spend your three actions, but all choices lead pretty much to the same place. I haven't yet played all the way up til level 20, but I could say the difference of all your feats up until level 10 or so probably only adds 20% on top of what you get with no feats at all.

I'd say if there is one single thing about PF2 that Paizo really REALLY intended to plug, it is this. They went to extreme lengths, is how I'd phrase it.

It wouldn't surprise me if the difference of one feat to the other was literally only 1 DPR, and that in a system where a high-level caster can nova a thousand damage in a round.

So no. It's night and day. Paizo got that covered.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
That information is in the 5e DMG pg 238: Difficulty Class. There is also "Social Interaction," on pg 244 that provides a framework. Though it is geared to social "skill challenges," the concept is easy to adapt to other types. There is also "Improvising Damage," and "Damage Severity by Level" on pg 249 which I find helpful for these types of things too. Finally "Chases" on pg 252 provides another framework for resolving "skill challenges."

Ha!

No one reads the DMG.

This is such a well-known fact that I regularly make up stuff, and no one calls me on it, because no one reads it.

That was already covered on p. 234 of the DMG in the section called "Improvised Snot Projectiles." The specific text refers to "the ability to hit the opponent with a gooey projectile where they are; conversely, if they aren't there, there s'not the ability to hit the opponent."

Game.
Set.
Match.

Illiteracy, as always, triumphs.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
The whole point of the game is that every +1 matters.

I disagree with you on every level here, Celtavian. The game is super calibrated and balanced around the fact that even +1 is a big deal, so playing it fast and loose makes no sense to me.

You are absolutely meant to treat a +1 (or -1 to the enemy) as a big deal. Entire actions, spells and builds are devoted to squeezing that extra +1 or +2 out of your combat turn. Intimidation, flanking, debugged; it's all on the scale of little +1s adding up to a decisive advantage.

Monsters are dangerous and deadly in this game. Official encounters feature brutally difficult combats. Not caring about that +1 or -1 can and will kill you.

You are right in one instance though:

I stand corrected, I meant arithmetics, not algebra.

I am on the 5th module of Age of Ashes and the second of Extinction Curse running as a DM and playing in a 3rd campaign. I have not noticed that the game runs poorly if you miss an occasional modifier or ability. So not sure what you mean by fast and loose, but I'm certainly not recommending ignoring modifiers. I am stating that if you forget one here or there, you won't break the game or ruin the challenge. The game does not require you remember every number every round without fail or the game runs poorly. That isn't the case at all.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
And there are so many of them! (in PF1 at least).

So two follow up questions.

1: There can be a fair bit of calculations in figuring out your basic "what is my + to hit on my go-to attack, in "boring" circumstances" number. But that usually is only done once per level, so it's not too bad.

What I found... a bit much in PF1 is how many temporary bonuses/penalties apply to that attack roll on top of the baseline + to hit. So my alchemist it's "possible range penalty, possible point blank range bonus, possible cover penalty, possible firing into melee penalty, possible bonuses from 3 different spells, bonus from bard that is range dependent". So it's a lot. Does PF2 have more or less of these circumstantial bonuses that can change round to round?

2: In 5e the power differential between PCs is not that great, and that's in part because the number of decisions you make as your character advances are not that large. So say you make 4 decisions, and each "wrong" decision costs you 1 DPR (to use a metric that isn't great but hey it's a metric), and you end up at high level with a martial character that does 4 DPR less than the other martial character... that's an acceptable difference. In PF1, you can have... 20, 30 such decisions? This results in tremendeous power gaps between PCs, and these can be problematic at the table. Is this still the case in PF2?


1. As noted in my earlier post, there are three bonus or penalty types:

Status: Usually due to magic or some other condition like frightened or sickened. They don't stack. You use the highest number bonus or penalty.

Circumstance: Cover, flanking, using a shield. Don't stack. Use the highest number or penalty.

Item bonus: +1 sword or what item bonus from item. Don't stack. Use the highest number. Usually worked into the stat block prior.

A few unnamed bonuses for something like bloodline spell damage bonus.

2. Now this rubs Capn Zapp the wrong way, but I like it.

There are a lot of customization options that are more cosmetic in nature, but the power level is roughly the same. This allows you to make a lot of different concepts, while not being more powerful than anyone else in the group. This is due to the focus on balance.

Martials are all pretty equal and fun to play. Casters seem more specialized. The caster discussion as been pretty varied. I see it as follows:

Bards: Best support class. Composition cantrips are loved by all.

Cleric: Best healer. Divine font gives them more latitude to use their spell slots and abilities in other ways.

Druid: Most versatile caster class for feat options.

Wizard and Sorcerer: They can be customized, but are really rough at low level. Their rounds usually consist of casting one spell or cantrip and erecting a shield spell or maybe using a weapon. Once they hit around 9th to 11th level, they can do some things that are impressive with spells. It takes more thought to be useful with a wizard or sorcerer at the moment.

Witch: Witch seems ok. Hex cantrips give them more 1 action abilities to use. Hex powers are decent.

Don't know about the oracle.

Power levels are very balanced. Each class has unique abilities that make them fun to play without making them a higher power level than another class.
 

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