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Pathfinder 2E Looks like I will be running a PF2e game in a few weeks...suggestions?

GreyLord

Hero
So, it looks like I will be giving PF2e a second chance. Last time there were multiple things I was not amused by (as one can find in threads that I have commented on with the BB..etc.).

This time, I'm going to be a Co-GM with the original GM who did PF2e last time. This will have the one who is more knowledgeable (original PF2e GM) about the rules with my story tellings, narrating more in a way that players may be more comfortable or familiar with.

Those who know what I didn't like last time, I would like suggestions on what I should do this time to make it more to my liking.

Any other suggestions would be good on what I should do on running it.

IT looks like I'll be running Abomination Vaults.

It's several weeks from now (we're looking at the end of June, beginning of July, maybe as late as August) when I'll be running it. We will set aside a week. It will be in person this time around (one reason it's some time in the future still...some of our guys got their first shot last week. It will be at least a month until they are fully vaccinated). No more computer screens for us this time around, we'll give it a good shot in person and see if that also makes a difference.

Open to suggestions.
 

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dave2008

Legend
So, it looks like I will be giving PF2e a second chance. Last time there were multiple things I was not amused by (as one can find in threads that I have commented on with the BB..etc.).

This time, I'm going to be a Co-GM with the original GM who did PF2e last time. This will have the one who is more knowledgeable (original PF2e GM) about the rules with my story tellings, narrating more in a way that players may be more comfortable or familiar with.

Those who know what I didn't like last time, I would like suggestions on what I should do this time to make it more to my liking.

Any other suggestions would be good on what I should do on running it.

IT looks like I'll be running Abomination Vaults.

It's several weeks from now (we're looking at the end of June, beginning of July, maybe as late as August) when I'll be running it. We will set aside a week. It will be in person this time around (one reason it's some time in the future still...some of our guys got their first shot last week. It will be at least a month until they are fully vaccinated). No more computer screens for us this time around, we'll give it a good shot in person and see if that also makes a difference.

Open to suggestions.
I am unfamiliar with what you didn't like the first time you played/ran PF2. Can you give a quick bullet-point synopsis?
 

Retreater

Legend
Hey I'm running Abomination Vaults currently after a less than stellar first campaign with PF2's Age of Ashes. Will be happy to share what I've learned from it (currently in the 3rd level of Book 1).
Before I start just writing stream of consciousness, do you have any specific topics of concerns or anything I can cover?
 

Retreater

Legend
Here are some general observations from my current game in the Abomination Vaults.
1) There is next to no story or adventure hooks in the AP proper. If you are looking for that, you really need to dig into the Player's Guide. The town of Otari is basically a MMORPG hub to retreat for a long rest and to trade treasure. If you want any detailed NPCs, factions, etc., look at the Player's Guide or other resources. (I have to admit that I'm at a disadvantage because I'm not at all familiar with the Golarian setting lore.)
2) The exploration pillar is almost non-existent with the exception of Perception checks to find secret doors, traps, and hidden treasures. If this is important to your players, you'll need to add it to the campaign. (At least as far as we are in the first book - which is the third level.)
3) The dungeon is well "Jacquayed" (in that there are numerous ways to get into each level). This makes it more difficult to prep than other mega-dungeons of a similar size. The GM will have to read well in advance because the group can get into areas you're not intending. To add to that challenge, the module doesn't do a great job of telegraphing the areas to the GM - for example, you won't know the group is getting ready to enter an area under control of a specific faction until they are already encountering opponents of that type.
4) Largely speaking, the dungeon provides only lip service to being able to side with the different power groups. For example, the group that controls the second level offer a peace treaty for groups that are willing to be captured and sacrificed to their evil god. The group that controls the third level allow the party to serve them by becoming cannibalized. Otherwise, both groups "fight to the death."
5) It is very unclear what the purpose of the adventure is, even to the GM. Clues are given to the group as they explore, but it's as much of a mystery to the GM as the players. So I guess you should read all three volumes to find out what's going on?
6) The map is incomplete (as admitted by James Jacobs on the Paizo forums). It is certainly able to be run, but the elevation of the lighthouse's island is not described. This creates some confusion as to the location of the second level, which is actually at the water level of the island whereas the surface ruins are at the top of a plateau. (I am running it like the water level is a subterranean river since nothing was clear in the adventure.)
7) Some of the rooms are too small for the combats in them. It's definitely too small for meaningful, exciting movement. Some of the rooms are too small for the monsters to actually fit in them. (There is discussion of this on the Paizo forums.)

As for what you didn't like about your previous experience, I can address those if you link the pertinent threads (or even better - summarize them in this thread for us to comment on directly).

I can say that playing online definitely hampers my roleplaying, as does running a new system that is pretty crunchy. So PF2 isn't the best game I've ever run, but I hope my players are enjoying it well enough. I know I am having a better time with Abomination Vaults than I did in Age of Ashes or the Playtest adventure.
 

GreyLord

Hero
For those asking about what difficulties we had last time with the game...

Reluctantly as I do not want a rehash of the thread. The purpose of this thread is for advice for me to run the game that's coming up, not repeating the discussion of the former thread or discussions found there...

Also...not wanting to retype everything, but I'll post a few of the posts from the older thread here so if one wants to read the last experience I had with it...they can.

first post in review thread

another link

And a very pertinent paragraph...

There are good things about the system, but there are some things that really turned me off about the system too. For example, the AC of the enemies are about 1 or 2 points too high...every time...and as you get past level 2 the HP tends to make combats a little bit longer than desired, which unfortunately is a large part of the game, or at least the games we played. The combats should be more exciting, but they seemed more of a drag as we went through the adventures. I DO like some things I listed before, such as Fighters being able to actually be fighters because they are more skilled in weapons and armor as well as some other items...but compared to what drags the system down, or did for us in the BB game...not enough to make me want to play it again.

Note, I have no desire to rehash why or why not we did or did not do things that others feel we should have in this thread.

This thread is to hopefully help this next PF2e experience go as well as it can and flow as well as possible so that we give it the best possible chance on this second try.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
@GreyLord Thanks for sharing. I remembered that discussion but not the specific points. My expectation is that while Paizo should be better at encounter design, they’ll probably still skew towards higher threats. It would be interesting hearing @Retreater’s experience on this since his group had some challenges likewise in the first AP they did, and whether Abomination Vaults is any better. There’s another thread here on Abomination Vaults, which has some good advice in it. In particular, this post has a good list of things.

From a general dungeon-crawling perspective, I’d make sure that the Chase subsystem is available to facilitate retreats from combat. If the PCs looks like they are in a really bad situation, don’t hesitate to remind them that it’s available. Retreats are an important escape valve in dungeon crawls as a way to avoid TPKs and mitigate the risk from pushing into dangerous environments. It’s also a good idea to err on the side of letting them escape even if the mechanics or situation don’t call for it, so be judicious with your use of the Chase subsystem as well.

I wish I could say I am disappointed by what @Retreater says about factions, but I’m not. I remember running Shattered Star. It’s another dungeon-focused AP. The first dungeon has a neutral faction called the Tower Girls. It even goes out of its way to give them names, but everything is set up with the expectation that the PCs will murder their way through them. I ended up running that section very differently than as it was written because just murdering people for living in the dungeon is psychotic. I don’t know how difficult it would be to change Abomination Vaults to make its factions more palatable to the PCs, but it’s something worth considering.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
The exploration pillar is almost non-existent with the exception of Perception checks to find secret doors, traps, and hidden treasures. If this is important to your players, you'll need to add it to the campaign. (At least as far as we are in the first book - which is the third level.)
Can you elaborate on this more? The way exploration mode is supposed to work is that the players describe what they are doing in the dungeon, and then you decide which exploration activities correspond to the fiction. Is there nothing to Investigate? No opportunities to Scout? It seems like a martial characters with shields ought to be able to push forward while Defending to make sure the party’s front-line is ready for an attack.
 

Retreater

Legend
@GreyLord , thanks for reminding me of your experiences. I remember reading those original threads now that you've linked to them.

So I would say a few things regarding challenge. As a GM, I don't think the combats have been "that difficult" (my players might have a different opinion). Part of the reason for this is that there is no time pressure and very little cooperation amongst the denizens of the areas. After each fight it's assumed the party "full heals." So while an individual combat may seem scary, with big damage being thrown about, within 10 minutes in the game, everyone is fine. The town is also around a mile from the dungeon, with a well-patrolled and safe road back to Otari. Once you get out of the dungeon, take all the downtime you need to heal, craft, etc. There is no time pressure whatsoever by the default storyline (in Book 1, at least - I'm not sure if that changes).

Concerning the opening battles, without too many spoilers, they are against weak, cowardly humanoids who don't even want to fight the party - just pull pranks on them. This will likely lead to more roleplaying situations than straight up combat, and it encourages the party to approach the dungeon less like murder hobos. (However, this theme quickly evaporates after the initial few rooms of the dungeons.)

If you find your group is having difficulty with the encounters and not able to hit, I'd first make sure all their character sheets' math is correct (adding the right ability score modifier, proficiency bonus, etc.) If they are still missing too frequently (keep in mind that Pathfinder 2 doesn't have the bonded accuracy of 5e, so missing is more common), go ahead and drop the ACs and other defenses by a point or two, and the HP as well if combats are going too long.

As someone who tried to run a PF2 Adventure Path as a theoretical game design playtest, I can tell you it wasn't a good experience. The fun of everyone at the table (including you) is infinitely more important than strict adherence to the rules. Personally, I haven't found the encounters dragging on too long in my current game, but all groups are different.
 

Retreater

Legend
Can you elaborate on this more? The way exploration mode is supposed to work is that the players describe what they are doing in the dungeon, and then you decide which exploration activities correspond to the fiction. Is there nothing to Investigate? No opportunities to Scout? It seems like a martial characters with shields ought to be able to push forward while Defending to make sure the party’s front-line is ready for an attack.
I mean, it works the way any dungeon in any modern D&D-adjacent system works. Roll a perception check at the door to listen for activity on the other side. Search for traps on the bookcase. Do a general search of the room for hidden treasure and secret doors.

The dungeon is too small to effectively Scout. Open the door, there's a monster - your party is 20 feet away. If you were sneaking, you can use Stealth for Initiative and perhaps get a bonus on the first round of combat.

Other than traps and hazards, investigation is limited to clues that add some flavor to the story. Like "you notice this painting that tells you what happened here 200 years ago." That's usually just presented in boxed text, so the GM just gives it to the party. Uncovering deeper meaning with Recall Knowledge is also possible (like any other post-TSR D&D game). If it's important to the story or adds to the experience, I'll give it to the players, because the story is already so light on detail that I want to share anything that can interest them.

Exploration and downtime are definitely handled in the adventure as the stuff that happens in between combat encounters. There is no information about roleplaying anything other than the occasional neutrally aligned creature that has a quirky behavior - like a brownie that wants to get the treasure in the next room, which is guarded by a monster.

To me, this is okay. It's a mega-dungeon. It does what mega-dungeons are supposed to do. It's no different than Barrowmaze (though that had a better fleshed out overworld and detailed towns), Rappan Athuk (though, also more variety in the overworld), or Dungeon of the Mad Mage (though Abomination Vaults is very small and concentrated with encounters in nearly every room).

If I'm going to be perfectly honest, it feels like the design of D&D 4e's dungeons - encounters linked by short hallways with little to tie it together.

I do say this is leagues better than Age of Ashes.
 

transmission89

Adventurer
So, it looks like I will be giving PF2e a second chance. Last time there were multiple things I was not amused by (as one can find in threads that I have commented on with the BB..etc.).

This time, I'm going to be a Co-GM with the original GM who did PF2e last time. This will have the one who is more knowledgeable (original PF2e GM) about the rules with my story tellings, narrating more in a way that players may be more comfortable or familiar with.

Those who know what I didn't like last time, I would like suggestions on what I should do this time to make it more to my liking.

Any other suggestions would be good on what I should do on running it.

IT looks like I'll be running Abomination Vaults.

It's several weeks from now (we're looking at the end of June, beginning of July, maybe as late as August) when I'll be running it. We will set aside a week. It will be in person this time around (one reason it's some time in the future still...some of our guys got their first shot last week. It will be at least a month until they are fully vaccinated). No more computer screens for us this time around, we'll give it a good shot in person and see if that also makes a difference.

Open to suggestions.

Given your experience last time, I’d suggest two things:

1) Really emphasise to your group they can do more than just move and attack, an action spent demoralising an opponent, or moving into position to give a team mate a bonus on their attack is not a wasted action.

2) Depending on your group vibe, consider applying the weak monster template to most of the encounters. This isn’t saying “you’re not good enough, get good scrub” or giving your group freebies. Think of it like a video game difficulty slider, sometimes you want every combat to be intense, on a knife edge, other times you might just want a chill sesh where you’re comfortably kicking butt but still getting thrills out of it. Besides, your players don’t have to know you’ve done that. It gives them a chance to get use to the “expectations” of the system without being punished for “mistakes”.
 

payn

Hero
Given your experience last time, I’d suggest two things:

1) Really emphasise to your group they can do more than just move and attack, an action spent demoralising an opponent, or moving into position to give a team mate a bonus on their attack is not a wasted action.

2) Depending on your group vibe, consider applying the weak monster template to most of the encounters. This isn’t saying “you’re not good enough, get good scrub” or giving your group freebies. Think of it like a video game difficulty slider, sometimes you want every combat to be intense, on a knife edge, other times you might just want a chill sesh where you’re comfortably kicking butt but still getting thrills out of it. Besides, your players don’t have to know you’ve done that. It gives them a chance to get use to the “expectations” of the system without being punished for “mistakes”.
Ill second this. I'd say the default mode for PF2 is hard, not easy. Teamwork and tactics are expected. You can temper this by paying close attention to the rating of the encounter.

In PF1 I ran many APs and often kept the party 1 level behind for most of the campaign. This was due to the system mastery my players had and their ability to play up. In PF2, I'm finding many of the dynamics have changed. The tight math makes it more difficult (particularly for those who dont work as a team). So I find moving the party 1 level ahead of the milestone marker makes the game a better experience.
 



Other than traps and hazards, investigation is limited to clues that add some flavor to the story. Like "you notice this painting that tells you what happened here 200 years ago." That's usually just presented in boxed text, so the GM just gives it to the party. Uncovering deeper meaning with Recall Knowledge is also possible (like any other post-TSR D&D game). If it's important to the story or adds to the experience, I'll give it to the players, because the story is already so light on detail that I want to share anything that can interest them.
I’m one of Retreater’s players, and I can second what he says here. In addition, because the dungeon is so story-lite, and the characters have such a nebulous reason for being there, there is very little reason to engage in greater exploration or investigation activities.

The dungeon is pretty much just presented to interact in. If you bite off more than you can chew, you can retreat 15 minutes to the mid-sized town filled with people who don’t care enough to clear out the dungeon at their doorstep. 😃

I will take umbrage to @Retreater ’s comment with respect to 4e dungeons. I have a bunch of old Dungeon magazines from that era, and overall, they do a pretty good job setting up the combats you engage in. 😃
 

Retreater

Legend
I will take umbrage to @Retreater ’s comment with respect to 4e dungeons. I have a bunch of old Dungeon magazines from that era, and overall, they do a pretty good job setting up the combats you engage in. 😃
I guess I was primarily thinking of the H1-E3 series, as I didn't run much from Dungeon in those days - and not much more than a few from the H1-E3 series and a few seasons of Adventurer's League.
 

dave2008

Legend
I guess I was primarily thinking of the H1-E3 series, as I didn't run much from Dungeon in those days - and not much more than a few from the H1-E3 series and a few seasons of Adventurer's League.
The H1-E3 series was, IIRC, the first 4e AP. It was not WotC best work for that edition.
 


kenada

Legend
Supporter
Scales of War went all the way up to 30th level. I ran it up through The Lost Mines of Karak. I thought the adventures were okay but not particularly great. They apparently needed to be usable outside of the AP, so they felt a bit disjoint. However, I thought they were better than Keep on the Shadowfell and Scepter Tower of Spellgard.

We never got any further because one player was toxic, and I hit my limit when he complained vehemently after the harpy encounter. I declared I was done GMing right there. A few of us met back up later and formed a new group that went on to become my current one.
 

dave2008

Legend
*Only AP for 4e that I recall.
Did Scales of War in Dungeon make it to 20th level? I heard that was better, but my groups were basically done with 4e by that point.
Scales of War went all the way to 30 (fighting Tiamat on her home plane even).

Those may have been the only 1-30 campaigns; however, I have heard the adventures got better as the years went on and some are highly regarded. I don't run published adventures so I can't personally comment on that though.
 

BigZebra

Explorer
RPG.net had one of these "Let's read" with Scales of War, which I read not long ago. Some of the episodes seemed quite great actually.
 

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