PF2 Low-level Wizards in PF2 - are they still underpowered?

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
So a 5e Barbarian with 18 Strength and 16 Constitution does 2d6+6 damage with a maul while raging. He also has 15 hit points, takes half damage to all physical damage, and will have a significantly higher AC than a a Wizard.

The Wizard's best cantrips do d8 damage and the only single target damage spell available until 11th level is magic missile which does 3d4+3. It scales horribly only doing 1d4+1. Cantrips do not scale until 5th level when martial all get another attack.

The disparity gets much worse as levels raise.

At 2nd level Reckless Attack comes online dramatically improving accuracy and rate of critical attacks.

At 3rd level he can Frenzy granting the ability to make an attack with a bonus action.

At 5th level he gains a second attack. With frenzy he is making 3 attacks with advantage at his full attack bonus. +8 2d6+7 3 times with advantage while a wizard's Ray of Frost does 2d8. Or the Wizard can use a 3rd level slot for Magic Missile to do 5d4+5.

The Barbarian also has a high movement speed in a game where movement has no effect on your ability to do damage. He can use Strength to hit with his thrown weapons. Rage is a bonus action so it basically costs him nothing in terms of action economy. Without rage he merely does damage like a fighter.

I'll have more analysis on first level spells later, but overall I think the PF2 Wizard is in a much better place than the 5e Wizard.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
But what you've missed is that I'm not attacking it. I am merely trying to establish that it indeed has occurred.
I'm not sure that a radical of a change has occurred though. If you were playing 3e or PF1, then your first level wizard attacks were crossbows, which would have involved a lot of attack and reloading actions. Now in PF2, they are doing magical cantrip attacks with comparable damage. The difference is that it scales with every half level, does elemental damage, uses the mages' favorable attack stat, and often provides useful secondary effects.

I fully sympathize with the desire to change the narrative away from "they ruined my game" to "okay so how do we make the best of this situation".

But I consider it a useful step to first address the OP's concerns head-on. Just skimming over the "you're not missing anything, damage from 1st level spells are relatively useless in comparison" stage of analysis doesn't do him any favors, in my opinion.
I would not say that they are useless, though their range of uses are more contextualized. Sleep, for example, is ineffectual in combat (thank goodness), which provides some sense for what sort of contexts are its ideal purposes: e.g., putting guards to sleep in exploration phase.

They're not.

About the only other edition that compares to the PF2 experience is really old D&D, where a Wizard is mostly asked to fend off the critters using a stick and 4 hit points.
Jein. The PF2 Wizard is fairly standard in many respects, though better off than other editions. The PF2 Wizard is not being asked to fend off things with a stick. They get ranged attack cantrips that allow them to stay in the backline, and they can cast them using their main stat. In that respect, that's a clear upgrade from eds. 1-3 and PF1. 5e is comparable, but the main difference is that most 5e cantrips have a higher upfront initial damage die (d6-d10) for their cantrips, but then upgrade in spikes (e.g., firebolt from 1d10 to 2d10 at level 5, from 2d10 to 3d10 at level 11, etc.). In contrast, the PF2 wizard has their cantrips start lower in damage but then upgrade more evenly at a rate of half-level.
 

pogre

Adventurer
I'll have more analysis on first level spells later, but overall I think the PF2 Wizard is in a much better place than the 5e Wizard.
I'll admit I only have a passing familiarity with the PF2e playtest rules and have not seen the official rules yet, but this last statement seems contrary to the rest of your post.
 

RSIxidor

Explorer
the only single target damage spell available until 11th level is magic missile
I'm a little confused by this statement. Scorching Ray, Melf's Acid Arrow, Ray of Sickness, Chromatic Orb, Witch Bolt (admittedly bad), Vampiric Touch, Blight. These are basically all better than Magic Missile and typically scale better if they scale. You might argue that some of them don't get taken because of superior choices (and let's be honest, Fireball works just fine as a single-target spell in a pinch) but to say it's the only single target damage spell until 11th seems strange to me.

I'm not trying to argue that 5E wizards are as capable damage dealers as 5E barbarians, because they aren't, but I do feel like you've misrepresented the gap between them here.

Sorry for the tangent, as this barely feels related to the topic of the thread.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I'm a little confused by this statement. Scorching Ray, Melf's Acid Arrow, Ray of Sickness, Chromatic Orb, Witch Bolt (admittedly bad), Vampiric Touch, Blight. These are basically all better than Magic Missile and typically scale better if they scale. You might argue that some of them don't get taken because of superior choices (and let's be honest, Fireball works just fine as a single-target spell in a pinch) but to say it's the only single target damage spell until 11th seems strange to me.

I'm not trying to argue that 5E wizards are as capable damage dealers as 5E barbarians, because they aren't, but I do feel like you've misrepresented the gap between them here.

Sorry for the tangent, as this barely feels related to the topic of the thread.
My bad. Did not mean to do that. I will revisit this when I get home from work.
 

gargoyleking

Explorer
@Campbell, Also, the Barbarian Instinct stuff is actually more complicated than that. For instance, you don't gain raging resistance until lv 9. By then, wizards are casting spells like Phantasmal Killer, which could potentially kill it's target outright.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I will return to my comparative analysis in a bit. For now I want to address the relationship between spell casters, martial classes, and skills in Pathfinder 2.

Historically in most iterations of Dungeons and Dragons casting a spell was a means to ensure something happened and was limited because the skill of play was about knowing which tactical nukes to prepare and when to unleash them. Often spells did the same thing dedicated specialists did better and the job of dedicated specialists was to fill in the gaps between moments of brilliance. Skills and battle field maneuvering were loosely defined so not incredibly reliable while spells were incredibly reliable.

The primary issue with this is it creates an environment where some players could meaningfully exercise skill at playing the game while other players could only rely on fictional positioning. Skill at playing the fiction is absolutely crucial in roleplaying games, but when you have reliable tactical nukes it is often best to rely on them. Basically you could play a spell caster well or poorly, but the same was not really fundamentally true for a fighter or rogue.

Additionally spell casters have historically been generalists with strong tools to cover every arena of play while martial classes had very specific areas where they were meant to excel. You brought a wizard because they could solve the big problems while dedicated specialists filled in the gaps between.

This is not generally how things work in Pathfinder 2. There are no generalists and spells are not tactical nukes. Everyone has defined effects with different costs and attendant risks. While spell casters mostly focus on managing spell slots and focus points, martial classes and skill users interact with the action economy and fictional positioning and time limitations in a much more detailed fashion then most spell casters.

At higher levels a fighter will often 4 or more reactions to manage with only one they can use in a given round and must carefully choose when to use that reaction. They will also have a whole host of different ways they can use their 3 actions to impact the outcome of battle often dependent on fictional positioning and enabling actions like whether they have their shield raised or have a free hand. Also many of the things they do will have a host of negative consequences for failure. While a wizard can just cast Invisibility a rogue will have to find cover so they can Hide and then Sneak to become Undetected.

Do not get me wrong. Spells are still generally have a greater impact than the individual round to round actions of a martial character, but over the course of a given encounter their impact should be similar. What spells a spell caster casts and when they cast them could turn the tide of battle. Generally they won't dictate outcomes and often should rely on the actions of dedicated specialists like the fighter, barbarian or rogue to really make them shine.

Consider Ray of Enfeeblement. On a failed save it inflicts Enfeebled 2 for one minute. This means the target will get -2 to all Strength based checks including Attacks and Athletics based combat maneuvers like Grapple for the rest of combat and also -2 to damage on all Strength based damage rolls. Against a powerful boss monster this dramatically lowers the damage martial characters will receive over the course of a fight.

Consider Sleep. The 1st level version is unlikely to last long, but Unconscious is a powerful condition. It effectively lowers the target's Reflex by 4 and Armor Class by 6. Damage will end it. Combine it with a single strong attack like the Fighter's Power Attack which now against say an Orc Warchief which now has AC 13 instead of 19 so the fighter now gets a critical success on a 13 and hit on a 4. A critical could very well end him. If also catches an Orc Warrior maybe the Rogue or Barbarian get to take advantage of it making the battle much more manageable.

So it's not about creating a balanced game in the sense of everyone getting their moment to shine or equality of outcomes. It's about creating a play environment where everyone brings a character to the table with different strengths and weaknesses where everyone gets a chance to prove their mettle and the party has to combine their efforts to succeed.

Speaking generally martial classes tend to excel in raw single target damage throughput, forced movement, personal defense, and mobility. Individual classes will excel in different areas and the build choices they make greatly impact the resources available to them in play. However it is given to them freely. They can't just do damage all day. They have to earn the right by managing their actions and reactions, positioning themselves, and dealing with things like Resistances and Conditions.

Speaking generally an arcane caster excels at area damage, applying strong personal level buffs and debuffs, overcoming resistances, powerful incapacitating spells that can remove targets from a fight and exploiting weak defenses.

The single target damage spells available to arcane casters can come close to the throughput martial characters put out in a single round distributed through multiple attacks. This is important because many monsters in this game have powerful resistances that are applied once per attack. Additionally due to the versatility of damage types available to them arcane casters can generally avoid dealing with resistances altogether. This often allows them to exploit weaknesses to do more damage.

Arcane casters have to many strong personal level buffs like Magic Weapon, Blur, Invisibility, Knock, Enlarge, and Fire Shield. Many of these are tuned to allow the Wizard to come close to the capabilities of a dedicated specialists for a short time, but are far better utilized by casting on other characters. For instance Knock allows a Wizard to use their level on a Thievery check to open a Lock and gives everyone who tries to open it a +4 bonus. So lacking a Rogue a Wizard can almost match one, but with a Rogue it becomes much better. Invisibility on a Wizard is nice. Invisibility on a Rogue is phenomenal. Casting Magic Weapon on a Fighter's Sword can turn them into an engine of absolute destruction. A Wizard makes everyone around them much better at the things they are already good at.

Additionally one area where Wizards really strong personal debuffs like Ray of Enfeeblement and Fear. This includes inflictions like Spider Sting and Goblin Pox - debuffs that get worse over the course of a fight or longer in some cases. Basically they can make powerful boss level monsters significantly less dangerous and more vulnerable. These can often be stacked on top of each other to turn a tough encounter into a moderate one.

In many ways playing an arcane caster is not about personal glory. You are at your strongest when you are quietly enabling everyone around you to be significantly more awesome. Giving Blur to a Champion holding back that Owlbear makes the Cleric's job much easier and could be the difference between life and death. That Goblin Pox that made the Owlbear sickened and made it easier to hit had a strong impact, but no one gives the wizard credit. That Slow spell that made that boss monster only have 2 actions for the entire fight. You get the point. You are the enabler of awesomeness.

Then there's the glory moments. Arcane and Primal casters are the undisputed kings of area damage in Pathfinder 2. Other classes do not even come class. The Barbarian can Cleave, but the Wizard and Sorcerer can level the battlefield. Evokers even get a focus power that lets do an extra 1d6 per spell level of the evocation they are casting around them. If a target is hit by both you get to combine the two before applying resistances.

Basically everyone is a specialist in this game and where there is conceptual overlap spell casters do things differently, but not necessarily better. A Medicine specialist can do things that Cleric cannot do and a Cleric can do things a Medicine specialist cannot do. At higher levels Charm allows a Wizard to keep someone friendly indefinitely as long as they devote the spell slot to it while Diplomacy's Make An Impression is more tenuous. However the Diplomacy specialist can Make An Impression on many people at once which magic just can't do. Only Medicine can remove the wounded condition, but only magic can remove a disease in seconds. Only a Divine caster can revive someone who just died as a reaction.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I will return to my comparative analysis in a bit. For now I want to address the relationship between spell casters, martial classes, and skills in Pathfinder 2.
I'm sorry but this is not only very long, it's also incredibly generic. It mixes costs with opportunities. At times it reads as a wishlist. At other times it pretends PF2 adds brand new ideas to the market, almost as if other D&D iterations don't exist.

I really have nothing to say to its specific points.

The question here is: is the experience of playing a low-level spellcaster (1st level Wizard) the same or different compared to other D&D games.

Very simply, a Burning Hands spell can catch three critters.

This used to mean one spell equals three rounds' worth of Fighter activity. Now the Fighter can accomplish this in a single round.

Ergo: no, the situation is not the same. It is very different.

This was what the OP was wondering about, and no amount of discussion should obscure it.
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
Do you even play 5E? Firebolt, the 5E wizard's cantrip of choice, does 1d10 damage.
And of course, 5E offers the possibility of making 1d10+5 cantrip attacks at range (that deal irresistible force damage to boot).

Sure, this doesn't help the Wizard specifically. But it does mean you have options as a low-level spellcaster that's simply unheard of in PF2.

By the way, are you satisfied with the answers to your thread title question?
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I'm not sure that a radical of a change has occurred though. If you were playing 3e or PF1, then your first level wizard attacks were crossbows, which would have involved a lot of attack and reloading actions. Now in PF2, they are doing magical cantrip attacks with comparable damage. The difference is that it scales with every half level, does elemental damage, uses the mages' favorable attack stat, and often provides useful secondary effects.
Not talking about cantrips.

I'm talking about low level damage dealing spells.

It is really really simple. Fighters have been given three attacks instead of one. Spells like Burning Hands remain much the same.

It is obvious and self-evident this represents a shift. In the greater whole, hopefully not a big one.

But to a level 1 caster it sure is huge.

All I'm saying is that the OP needs to adjust his expectations and change the way he approaches playing his level 1 Wizard. I am not saying this is necessarily bad (though I can understand if someone would think so).
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
Not talking about cantrips.

I'm talking about low level damage dealing spells.

It is really really simple. Fighters have been given three attacks instead of one. Spells like Burning Hands remain much the same.

It is obvious and self-evident this represents a shift. In the greater whole, hopefully not a big one.

But to a level 1 caster it sure is huge.

All I'm saying is that the OP needs to adjust his expectations and change the way he approaches playing his level 1 Wizard. I am not saying this is necessarily bad (though I can understand if someone would think so).
That isn't entirely accurate. You're not accounting for MAP.

A 1st level fighter probably has around a +9 bonus to hit (+4 strength, +4 expert proficiency, +1 level).

A 1st level creature appears to have around a 17 AC (admittedly, this is based on a brief perusal of the Beastiary, which I just picked up today).

As such, the fighter has a 65% chance to hit with the first attack, 40% on the second attack, and a 15% chance on the third attack. That assumes that he doesn't need to Stride or Raise Shield. Admittedly, there are other possible factors that I've left off for the sake of simplicity, such as use of an Agile weapon.

You've suggested that Burning Hands can hit 3 creatures, which is a reasonable assumption IMO. However, it's important to note that those 3 attacks do not suffer the MAP penalty. The wizard can use this 3-4 times a day. That's not bad.

I'll grant you that wizards aren't going to be dealing more damage over the course of the day than melee classes, but I don't think the difference is unreasonable, even before without considering the wizard's utility.
 

gargoyleking

Explorer
Well, Looking at the 1st level spells today I have to say that while Burning hands looks like it mught have some late-game utility as a short range nuke(max 18d6 assuming you don't get better along the way), it's utility at 1st level is rather unimpressive. Instead, I see a few effect spells which would see better use early on. Color Spray, which even on a successful save causes dazed(which means everything is concealed to it 5+ flat check to hit), is a good example of this. I'd much rather debilitate my enemies to let my allies mop them up more easily than to piss them off with a bit of damage.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
That isn't entirely accurate. You're not accounting for MAP.
shrug

In other editions, a 1st level character has exactly one (1) attack.

Here, you have up to three.

Other than that, I don't believe the -10 penalty is intended to be encountered in practical play. I simply assume you pick up a way to lessen or circumvent it soon enough.

Compare this to spells, which appears to be mostly or entirely unchanged, and the answer to the OP's concern becomes obvious.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
shrug

In other editions, a 1st level character has exactly one (1) attack.

Here, you have up to three.

Other than that, I don't believe the -10 penalty is intended to be encountered in practical play. I simply assume you pick up a way to lessen or circumvent it soon enough.

Compare this to spells, which appears to be mostly or entirely unchanged, and the answer to the OP's concern becomes obvious.
I don't see how a fighter would do so meaningfully at 1st level. I suppose you could use an Agile weapon, but that only changes the hit chance to 65%, 45%, and 25% respectively. But Agile weapons tend to do less damage.

On top of that, those numbers are for the fighter, who ruins the curve so to speak. No other class starts with Expert weapon proficiency. Non-fighters are looking at 55%, 30%, and 5% (55%, 35%, and 15% with Agile) base hit rates. Asserting that they get three attacks is somewhat misleading when the second attack has about a 1 in 3 chance of landing, and the third attack amounts to hoping for a natural 20.

I'll grant that there are a few outliers; the Flurry Ranger with an Agile weapon being the prime candidate IMO. That build will want to attack with all three actions every chance they can get. However, it is reliant on Hunt Prey (which costs an action) meaning that it's closer to two attacks. If the prey is tough enough to take 5 attacks from the ranger to kill, you're still only looking at 2.5 attacks per round even under optimal conditions (you don't need to waste an action to Stride in order to get into melee).

It looks to me like, even being generous, in most circumstances you're looking at one and a half attacks. You might roll three d20s on your turn, but the second attack is unreliable, while the third is a shot in the dark. Effectively, it's closer to one and a half. IMO, optimized play involves finding alternate uses for your third (and possibly even your second) action that don't suffer MAP. That's if you even have the actions available, as melee might need to spend a few actions to get into position. For most builds, using all three actions to attack is likely to be a sub-optimal tactic.

Spells may be largely unchanged (I haven't done a thorough read through of the spells chapter yet and couldn't say). However, the warrior classes generally were only improved from 1 attack to 1.5 from what I can see. On top of that, cantrips were greatly improved. So while the high end of warrior damage at 1st level was increased, the same can be said for the low end of caster damage. Which isn't true parity, but is a rough sort of equivalence.

I agree with you that warrior types are probably in a stronger place at 1st level compared to casters, but I just don't see the difference in power being as large as you seem to be suggesting it is.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I'm trying to answer the OP.

That answer is: low-level spellcasters are generally weak, but in this edition, actual damage spells are weaker than ever.

Change your expectations and your playing style accordingly.
 

gargoyleking

Explorer
This. Play for effect spells rather than damage, at least early on.
I'm trying to answer the OP.

That answer is: low-level spellcasters are generally weak, but in this edition, actual damage spells are weaker than ever.

Change your expectations and your playing style accordingly.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
A Wizard does not need to have the ability to eclipse a melee specialist in their specialty in order to provide as much of a contribution to the party. They just need the ability to do different valuable things.

Magic Weapon will improve most melee character's damage by around 10% and then add another d12 to every hit on top of it. Over the course of a fight if a barbarian hits 5 times that is 5d12. That is extremely powerful.

Against a higher level monster Ray of Enfeeblement will reduce the outgoing damage of the monster by 25% on a failed save. That's immensely powerful.

Against a high level monster Fear will reduce incoming damage by 25% and outgoing damage by at least 10% for one round for every other character in the party for one round. The next round you will get about half that effect. This gets better if you stack it with other conditions like Sickened from Goblin Pox.

Grease can knock several creatures prone and help melee bush whack them much more effectively.

When monsters are spread out electric arc allows a wizard to attack two monsters within 30 feet of him. On a failed save he only needs to roll a 2 to kill a goblin warrior or a 3 to kill a kobold warrior.

Against monsters with resistances against physical damage like a Spider Swarm (Creature 0) the single target damage of Shocking Grasp is pretty strong. A wizard's range of damage types also allows them to more effectively capitalize on weaknesses than martial characters can. If a wizard catches two Spider Swarms in a Burning Hands spell they will do 2d6+5 to each thanks to its weakness to area damage while a ranger with two short swords will be dealing 1d6-1 on each hit.

Many of an Arcane Caster's damage spells also have secondary effects. Hydraulic Push moves the target on a successful attack and does 3d6 damage. This can be used to allow melee to do their jobs better.

I will admit area spells are fairly lacking at lower levels. Grim Tendrils is much better than Burning Hands, but potent area effects do not come online until 3rd level spells really.

Spellcasters have plenty of ways they can be excellent and impacting members of the team. They do not need to eclipse specialists to have value. They bring unique abilities and talents that can make hard encounters much easier, can easily get around resistances and are adept at exploiting monster weaknesses.
 

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