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PF2E Low-level Wizards in PF2 - are they still underpowered?


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CapnZapp

Legend
In their niches of fighting nasty evil things and protecting and healing allies they seem quite potent. They don't seem like they will be good generalized damage dealers. I'm fine with that.
Not to mention they being good at wearing armor and shield. Having party members whose health doesn't melt away to lame attacks is definitely a plus in this edition.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So the fighter, who was previously probably going to hit and might crit... is now probably going to hit, and might crit. And the enemy might just make their saving throw, in which case the spell does nothing.

That's not useful. That's a borderline trap option.

The fighter, who previously had a 65% to hit, now has a 95% chance to hit. That's an almost 50% improvement to his hit chance.

The fighter, who previously had a 15% chance to crit, now has a 45% chance to crit. That's triple his normal crit chance.

Not only that, but we're discussing the best fighting class in PF2. If we look at a different class, the improvement will be even pronounced. For example, any other fighting class would most likely see a sevenfold improvement in crit chance at level 1.

If those numbers seem like small potatoes to you, I'd remind you that this isn't PF1. PF2 bonuses are heavily bounded. An effective +6 to hit is basically unheard of outside abilities that cause unconsciousness, of which there aren't many. Sleep is the only one of those I've found that is available at 1st level.

Additionally, Sleep in 3.x and PF1 also allowed a save to negate. Did you consider those versions to be "borderline trap options" as well?
 

RSIxidor

Adventurer
The Palad ... err ... Champion is probably the weakest class in the combined history of D&D and Pathfinder, but we're talking about the Wizard being underpowered. That's pretty hilarious.

I feel like we read two different books because the Champion seems not only good but fun as heck to play. You could argue that they don't play like Paladins in other editions and I'd agree with that to some extent- they're still about defending allies and following a cause. But saying they're the worst class in PF2, let alone in all of D&D history seems off to me.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Additionally, Sleep in 3.x and PF1 also allowed a save to negate. Did you consider those versions to be "borderline trap options" as well?
Anything that allows a save to negate is subject to extreme scrutiny, since you're spending an action and a spell slot to (quite possibly) have nothing happen. In order to balance that probability, the effect needs to be fairly overwhelming when it does hit. Getting a free coup-de-grace attempt is a reasonable payoff; it's worth the chance of wasting your action and spell slot.

Granting a temporary bonus to accuracy against the target is not a reasonable payoff.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Anything that allows a save to negate is subject to extreme scrutiny, since you're spending an action and a spell slot to (quite possibly) have nothing happen. In order to balance that probability, the effect needs to be fairly overwhelming when it does hit. Getting a free coup-de-grace attempt is a reasonable payoff; it's worth the chance of wasting your action and spell slot.

Granting a temporary bonus to accuracy against the target is not a reasonable payoff.

I'll grant you that may be true in a system where you cast one or two spells and you're effectively done for the day.

That system isn't PF2. A 1st level wizard has 3 to 4 spells slots per day, plus a focus point, plus at will cantrips that are pretty good. Given all that, I disagree with your premise that any spell that grants a save in this system must be "fairly overwhelming" to be worthwhile.
 


RSIxidor

Adventurer
Another level 1 wizard spell that feels a bit eh compared to what it was in previous editions is Ray of Enfeeblement. It now requires you to land a spell attack, and then the target still gets a chance to save out of it. Granted, in this case a success still applies the enfeebled 1 condition, so as long as you hit you do get something out of it.
 

Campbell

Legend
Anything that allows a save to negate is subject to extreme scrutiny, since you're spending an action and a spell slot to (quite possibly) have nothing happen. In order to balance that probability, the effect needs to be fairly overwhelming when it does hit. Getting a free coup-de-grace attempt is a reasonable payoff; it's worth the chance of wasting your action and spell slot.

Granting a temporary bonus to accuracy against the target is not a reasonable payoff.

This is Pathfinder 2's equivalent to a coup-de-grace. You get the same results as you would if you were attacking any other Unconscious target. This can be paired with strong multiple action attacks like a Fighter's Power Attack, a Barbarian's Furious Finish, or a Ranger's Hunter's Aim. Hunter's Aim in this circumstance would guarantee a hit.

In general there are no sure things in this game. One of the design goals was to add a sense of uncertainty and drama back into the game. Many spells that were automatic wins like Nondetection, Remove Disease, and True Seeing have been redesigned so they give you a chance to overcome hostile magic. PC side immunities are pretty much gone. The good news for casters is that save or suck spells have been broadly changed to have degrees of suck instead, often still having some effect on a successful save and dramatic effects on critical failure.

This is as true for martial classes is it is for spell casters. You generally can not stack your bonuses so high you have no chance of failing. The choices you make when building a martial character about the types of things you can do rather than how well you do it. Many abilities take time to properly setup with significant risks.

Your skill at playing the game is meant to be exercised in play, but that includes a strong impact from preparation and solid play in the exploration phase. It just won't win entirely on its own. You need to be good at all arenas of play.
 

Campbell

Legend
I know it is not a great comfort at first level, but several of the first level debuff spells look like they will never really go out of style and can still be cast from first level slots. Ray of Enfeeblement and Fear look like they will remain strong in low level slots.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Another level 1 wizard spell that feels a bit eh compared to what it was in previous editions is Ray of Enfeeblement. It now requires you to land a spell attack, and then the target still gets a chance to save out of it. Granted, in this case a success still applies the enfeebled 1 condition, so as long as you hit you do get something out of it.
I think someone claimed this spell will see use over every level.

Give it time. Nothing is impressive at 1st level.
 

Aldarc

Legend
In general there are no sure things in this game. One of the design goals was to add a sense of uncertainty and drama back into the game. Many spells that were automatic wins like Nondetection, Remove Disease, and True Seeing have been redesigned so they give you a chance to overcome hostile magic.
I was watching this in action several times during the most recent Knights of the Everflame series. Over the course of several encounters, one PC was biten by a ghast and another was injured by a werewolf. The cleric would usually perform Medicine (or Religion) to ascertain the nature of the infliction. Then she would attempt to Remove Disease or Curse, with Jason Bulmahn often keeping the results hidden.

I weirdly think that these spells will receive more use now even though they are less certain precisely because they add greater dramatic tension to the game. IME, though it may vary at other tables, there was previously often a feedback loop that discouraged both the GM from using monsters that inflicted curses/diseases and the PCs from using spells that removed them. This was because the GM knew that the PCs often had access to spells that could remove these things quickly and PCs didn't take them because the GM didn't use the monsters and they also typically had ready access to the spells with appropriate preparation.
 

mellored

Explorer
Some quick math...

Electric arc (2 actions) does 1d4+4*2 targets = 13 * 50% = 6.5. +6.5 * .5 (save for half)
=9.75
And once per 10 minute rest, evokers (since I am comparing damage) can fling a 1d4+1 force bolt for 1 action.
= 13.25

Magic missile can take 1 to 3 actions. But with 120' range, you probably won't move. So 3d4+3 = 10.5, this can be done 3 day at level 1 (2 slots and a bonus from your staff).

There is also an option that lets you swap spells, take a 10 minutes.


Barbarian first round is rages (1 action) moves (1 action) and attacks foe 1d12+8 = 14.5 * 50% = 7.25. (Assuming the dragon barb).

Now on turn 2+ (or if you can pre-rage), barb can multi-attack, but a -5.
+ 14.5 * 25% = 3.625 + 7.25
= 10.875
Third attack is at -10, rarely hits anything unless it is below your level, and you will probably need to move anyways.

If the day is not too long, and the battles start with some distance, and multiple enemies, I could see the wizard out damage the barb.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
One of the biggest problems I had with the PF2 playtest was how poor wizards were (especially at first level).

Some cantrips have been slightly improved in this version, but the 1st-level spells are mostly the same - and I think they're underwhelming. (More analysis of first-level spells).

Cantrip Comparisons:
Acid Splash: Playtest was 1d4 damage plus 1 splash. Now 1d6 damage plus 1 splash.
Chill Touch: Playtest was 1d8 damage. Now 1d4+spellcasting mod.
Electric Arc: Playtest was 1d6 to two targets. Now 1d4 to two targets.
Ray of Frost: Playtest was 1d8 damage. Now 1d4+spellcasting mod.

When you consider that the fury barbarian can basically rage whenever they like and deal 1d12+10 damage with each hit (striking 1-3 times a round, mostly)... erm, is this still underpowered? Or am I missing something?

Cheers!
No, you're not missing anything.

We're up to level 5 for the second time (our second PF2 party) and no, low level spellcasters remain just as feeble as in other pre-5E editions if we talk offensive damage.

The Cleric is awesome, but that's almost singlehandedly thanks to the +8 per spell level of the two-action Heal spell (and now at fifth level, also Remove Disease). As a combatant, the Cleric and the Wizard are clearly and decidedly left in the Fighter's, Ranger's and especially Barbarian's dust.

Yes, that includes Electric Arc and Magic Missile and Fireball.

No, I'm not talking about utility (your selection of Invisibility, Faire Fire or Fly spells are sure to justify the inclusion of a caster in the party, but we're discussing offensive damage here).

Your specific concerns:

Acid Splash earns its living almost entirely because of that 1 Splash damage. Make the damage persistent to the primary target and we might be talking.

Chill Touch is just garbage, since a caster in melee range is an unconscious dying caster. (Give it a d12 damage die just like in 5E and the Wizard would likely STILL not take it!)

Electric Arc is the one cantrip both casters took, simply because its DPR is far higher than any alternative. (It's still only maybe half the DPR of a martial, so while I like that cantrips doesn't outcompete weapon damage - especially ranged weapons - it still feels a tad low. But its the one cantrip least in need of a buff) Could probably have been made more interesting if targets needed to be no more than 10 ft apart (the range of 30 ft to the closest target could remain, but targets can't be 60 ft apart if you're standing in the middle, as we've ruled the current spell to work), but with a maximum of three targets not two. As it is, it's simply the go-to cantrip of every player with a rudimentary grasp on math, which, frankly, makes it boring.

Ray of Frost: In order to justify the low damage its utility must increase. I understand moving the Speed penalty to a regular success (like in 5E) opens up kiting too much, but the spell needs to accomplish something tangible on a regular success to be worthwhile.

I disagree with Paizo's decision to let Produce Flame be the only fire cantrip. There is definitely design space for a Fire Ray for arcane casters. I also would have liked to reserve persistent damage for acid spells.

Produce Flame is weak, but then again, for Druids that's maybe okay. I would probably still have the spell say "when used as a melee attack spell, if you roll a success, you get a critical success instead."

Fire Ray would be a cantrip with a great range and maybe a d10 damage die.

Then I would have liked to see at least two more cantrips that trigger saves as opposed to requiring spell attack rolls. Maybe one Sonic and one (more) Cold cantrip.
 

Gonna throw my hat in the ring for the "level one spells that make you want to take a caster in general, and a wizard in specific" conversation.

Magic Missile has a power beyond it's obvious damage calculation in that the most dangerous encounters at low level tend to be against higher level (2 through 4 levels higher especially) monsters that the martials we classify as the "golden children" have a lot of trouble hitting consistently.

Since Magic Missile auto hits, every 3 action Magic Missile is a reliable chunk to an encounter that could swing south very easily. As such encounters wear on, it plays a massive role in mitigating bad luck, because it reduces the number of actual high rolls your party needs to get before the monster kills you. It's an ideal candidate to prepare in a (or more than one) level 1 combat slot, and then restore using the Universalist 'school' slot benefit.

A Wand of Manifold Missiles is a powerful low level magic item for this reason as well, amplifying the effect I brought up.
 

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