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PF2E Martials > Casters

CapnZapp

Legend
I wouldn't say it's necessarily suboptimal Kaodi. A Cleric is never gonna deal significant damage. Playing a healbot is a much more effective use of the class (it's all about that +8 per spell level). And as you say, getting off an attack regardless of distance without MAP is not the worst usage of your third action.

(Our Cleric have chosen to pick up a shield, and thus spends her third action on raising the shield. Normally I'd say it's a better strategy to help soak the incoming damage - distributing it over more heroes - but with this Cleric's abysmal AC, I'm not so sure)
 

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teitan

Hero
This.

Believe me, it's the system, not the campaign. It's not something that "happens" depending on the GMs or the players actions or decisions. It just is. I'm certainly not downgrading magic, or even attempting to.

You don't get many spell (slots). They might deal more damage than a single attack, both seldom deal more damage than two successful hits (or one crit).

A big part of this is how PF2 also returns the melee/ranged balance to pre-5E levels. Melee is king; ranged is decidedly a back-up option.

Except for casters, whose cantrips are ranged. (Not that low-level casters would like to enter melee)
mid it returning it or extrapolating from 3.x? Returning implies the game shares continuity to 5e.
 


teitan

Hero
Sorry, didn't quite catch your question?
yeah sorry about that, typing on the phone produced weird languages... almost demonic. how is it returning to pre3e levels because we are talking about a different game here At this point with only where the only commonality was a DNA in 3e? Even the math philosophy is different with 5e being built on bounded accuracy and P2 being linear mathematics. genuine interest.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Ah. When I meant "pre 5e levels" i didn't literally mean a return to exactly 3e.

Just that the feeling of "weak casters, strong martials" is not exactly new to anyone who created a old school Wizard with 1d4 hit points, or a Cleric who doesn't even get spells until second level :)

More between the lines, I'm of course questioning the wisdom of Paizo ignoring 5e sensibilities even where they don't work against Paizo's goals, since that edition has been a huge success, not unlikely precisely because its great strides towards caster-martial equality at all levels (even though the effort certainly isn't perfect, balancing up spells and casters does remain - in my view - one of 5e's greatest achievements)
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I think bards and clerics are very good and useful casters easily on par with martials as far as usefulness goes. They have game changing abilities.

Now offensive focused wizards and sorcerers I'm not sure of. Then I thought about PF2 and the types of things that they design team was trying to get rid of. I was thinking that the PF2 team does not want the generalist caster good at nearly everything any more able to choose optimal spells for each level. Instead PF2 will allow you to do something if you specialize in it. And casters can specialize in more ways of doing something than martials.

So now I am seeing if I can build a caster that equal a martials damage by focusing on nothing but damage. Very few utility spells or slots used for anything but damage. You just use all your slots and cantrips and focus spells to bring the hammer. If I can do that, then I will prove what I think to be true that even casters who want to do well need to be specialized like a martial. An archer shoots a bow. A sword and board guy wields a sword and board usually having good AC. A two-hander deals damage.

And this applies to casters. If you want to be a good healer, focus on healing. You want to be a good summoner, focus heavily on summoning using your highest level spell slots to cast summons and focus on enhancing them. If you want a damage caster, focus on damaging spells. I think if you do that, you can compete with martials in damage.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
When I try to discuss this over at Paizo forums some very loud posters vehemently defend the design decisions of PF2.

But to me at least it all boils down to "so what if the Wizard can't outshine the others in the party more than during three rounds or so, you never have more than three really challenging fights in a day in any official adventure anyway".

Meaning they're okay with the notion that unless the Wizard expends his absolute biggest guns, he should feel content by the martials outperforming him - doing what they can do every round, all day long.

It certainly is a perspective.

(The cleric is fine, since in-combat healing wasn't deliberately nerfed like in 5E. That two-action Heal alone easily justifies bringing along a Cleric in the party, never mind all the other stuff a full divine caster can do)
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I think the design space in which true balance between martials and casters would exist is too narrow to land in without building both off the same building blocks (which is a thing that makes some people very grumpy the instant they see it).

Which is why PF2 has ended up with a tightly balanced game that favors martial characters in general but can lean the other way and favor casters in specific circumstances. Because of basic ideas like "options that cost resources have to be better than options that don't or it isn't worth using them" and "at-will options of classes that also get resource-based options can't be as good as other at-will options because that'd be unbalanced" and "even if it costs a resource, it can't be so much better than non-resource options from similar level of characters that people feel their character isn't contributing enough in comparison" all applying to the same design element (spells) you get the current PF2 dynamic:

At-will spells < at-will martial options < non-resource limited options (that flourish tag) < resource costing limited options used in the right circumstances.

I haven't gotten into the higher level range with the game yet either, but I do think it looks like it fits the "start out weaker, end up stronger" idea of yesteryear D&D - just not to as extreme of degree, since the baseline competency has been raised and the top end "if I cast the right spell an entire encounter is over" has been significantly trimmed down.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
When I try to discuss this over at Paizo forums some very loud posters vehemently defend the design decisions of PF2.

But to me at least it all boils down to "so what if the Wizard can't outshine the others in the party more than during three rounds or so, you never have more than three really challenging fights in a day in any official adventure anyway".

Meaning they're okay with the notion that unless the Wizard expends his absolute biggest guns, he should feel content by the martials outperforming him - doing what they can do every round, all day long.

It certainly is a perspective.

(The cleric is fine, since in-combat healing wasn't deliberately nerfed like in 5E. That two-action Heal alone easily justifies bringing along a Cleric in the party, never mind all the other stuff a full divine caster can do)
I am trying to find ways to make offensive casters interesting. I am finding it difficult. Some people are satisfied with using action reducing abilities like slow, which are effective. I don't find that fun. I quit my wizard when my rounds usually consisted of doing inferior cantrip damage with a shield spell. I started playing a bard and felt very useful again. The key seems to be having a 1 action ability that does something useful. Even a cleric can heal someone with one action and still cast an attack or buff spell. Wizards don't have a lot of cool one-action options.

Now I'm seeing if specializing in a particular type of magic will make you powerful. I know in PF1 casters were generalists who took optimal spells of varying kinds at each level. Maybe in PF2 if you want to be that guy who turns people into things and controls actions, you need to focus on those abilities by filling your highest level slots with incapacitation spells and your lower level slots with action reducing spells. Whereas if you want to be a damage dealer, you need to fill all your slots with damage spells so even a 1st lvl spell is able to do some damage and use those spells freely. We'll see if it works. You can certainly build a lot of different caster concepts in PF2. I'm getting the feeling we just haven't figured out how to make those concepts shine because some of us are still stuck in PF1 thinking that we don't have specialize. I feel if you wanted to build a polymorph specialist. Then you no longer to get memorize polymorph spells along with general direct damage or utility. You would have to focus on polymorph spells in your highest level slots and then buff spells like like haste or true strike in your lower level slots to make it easier to hit. Even as a caster you have to specialize heavily. There are not spells that win the game any more, rather you have magical traditions you have to heavily focus on enhancing.

I am also hoping that new magic books will provide options that allow for better specializations of types of magic like making a shapechange specialist. Or an enchantment specialist. If they do that, then I'd be ok with it. I don't mind being highly specialized as a caster as long as I'm effective.
 

Malkinban

The Torn
The key seems to be having a 1 action ability that does something useful. Even a cleric can heal someone with one action and still cast an attack or buff spell. Wizards don't have a lot of cool one-action options.
I think this is key. I haven't played my level 1 "master necromancer" with my group since before the pandemic, but I remember becoming acutely aware after just a few sessions how I felt like I was missing the presence of some 1-action spells. Hopefully some magic books will shed some light in this regard. I also think that your theory on specialization is probably correct.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
I am trying to find ways to make offensive casters interesting. I am finding it difficult. Maybe in PF2 if you want to be that guy who turns people into things and controls actions, you need to focus on those abilities by filling your highest level slots with incapacitation spells and your lower level slots with action reducing spells. Whereas if you want to be a damage dealer, you need to fill all your slots with damage spells so even a 1st lvl spell is able to do some damage and use those spells freely. We'll see if it works. You can certainly build a lot of different caster concepts in PF2. I'm getting the feeling we just haven't figured out how to make those concepts shine because some of us are still stuck in PF1 thinking that we don't have specialize. I feel if you wanted to build a polymorph specialist. Then you no longer to get memorize polymorph spells along with general direct damage or utility. You would have to focus on polymorph spells in your highest level slots and then buff spells like like haste or true strike in your lower level slots to make it easier to hit. Even as a caster you have to specialize heavily.
I’m skeptical. I’m playing an illusionist in a large group, so pretty much every battle ends up with enemies benefitting from the “Incap” keyword even when I prepare my highest level spells.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I’m skeptical. I’m playing an illusionist in a large group, so pretty much every battle ends up with enemies benefitting from the “Incap” keyword even when I prepare my highest level spells.
You may be right. Designers may have decided not to let the wizard or caster incapacitate BBEGs unless they get incredibly unlucky. I understand it. I've had casters in PF1 end the main BBEG encounter quite a few times, which left everyone else bored.

I'm going to try to use my incapacitate spells on lower level tough minions or to secure a lower level creature in the case of charm or dominate. See how that works.
 

This discussion revolves around low levels, maybe up to level 5-7 or so.

The message from my play experience is loud n clear: PF2 is definitely a throwback to the time before 5th Edition - martials are significantly stronger than casters at low levels.

This goes both for player characters and monsters/NPCs.

Some level 2 monsters with claws and spears and teeth and spikes are more like level 3 when it comes to their contribution to overall encounter difficulty. Some level 2 monsters with spells are more like level 1.

(Obviously a BBEG monster three levels above the heroes can do scary stuff with magic. Is that my point? No)

As the GM, casting a spell is almost always a step down compared to making a physical attack. Monsters have excellent attack bonuses and impressive damage. Their spells... are just as feeble as when cast by heroes. (I still have my spellcasting monsters cast their spells, of course. This isn't me complaining about weak monsters. PF2 is not a game where I complain about weak monsters :) )

I'm aware some people like it that way. And I'm sure you can argue the tables turn at higher level. None of that's relevant. There's no need for excuses or justifications - I'm not attacking or complaining.

At this point I just want to throw it out there. It simply is. But it's worth making known to the wider audience. So let's discuss.
I said this. People thought I was dissing the game.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Incapacitation needs a fix. Simple as that.

Being asked to focus on mooks only is simply not acceptable.

It all bopils down to what D&D needed to have done a looong time ago - detail partial results of failed saves.

Trapped in a Forcecage? As a PC or regular monster, you're out. As a BBEG, you are inconvenienced (perhaps one leg is stuck inside the cage) - you become flatfooted and immobilized.

You get the picture. If every "save or suck" spell had detailed a "half-way state" reserved for when the story demands it, you would need two failed saves against the same spell (or at least a second failed save against a spell giving the same condition).

Paizo could even make up a generic half-way state for incapacitation.

Anything's better than what we have now, since no rational player bothers with those spells at all.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I hope Paizo very soon issues official magic items with plus bonuses to spell attacks (as opposed to spells triggering saves).

Ranged attacks are weak as is, and caster attack bonuses lag those of martials.

Spells with saves often deal half damage on a successful save, as opposed to zero damage on a miss. Yet, spell attacks aren't significantly easier than getting a monster to miss a save.

The simple result is: players simply avoid spell attack spells.

A system with the equivalents of potency and striking runes for spells with attacks (so you could gain +3 to attack and three extra damage dice) would help immensely.

There's far more interesting magic items for martials than casters as it is. Every little thing a caster might want would help.
 
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Porridge

Explorer
I hope Paizo very soon issues official magic items with plus bonuses to spell attacks (as opposed to spells triggering saves).

Ranged attacks are weak as is, and caster attack bonuses lag those of martials.

Spells with saves often deal half damage on a successful save, as opposed to zero damage on a miss. Yet, spell attacks aren't significantly easier than getting a monster to miss a save.

The simple result is: players simply avoid spell attack spells.

A system with the equivalents of potency and striking runes for spells with attacks (so you could gain +3 to attack and three extra damage dice) would help immensely.

There's far more interesting magic items for martials than casters as it is. Every little thing a caster might want would help.
I think the strongest case for adding a bonus to spell attacks is the fact that the rules for constructing NPC spellcasters in the Gamemastery Guide assign them a spell attack bonus 8 lower than their spell DCs (Table 2-11), not 10 lower, as for PCs. (And these rules fit the the stats given to spellcasters in the bestiaries and published modules.)

This suggests that the balance between attack and save spells were made assuming that PC spell attack bonuses would be 2 points higher than they actually are.
 

Puggins

Explorer
Supporter
I hope Paizo very soon issues official magic items with plus bonuses to spell attacks (as opposed to spells triggering saves).

Ranged attacks are weak as is, and caster attack bonuses lag those of martials.

Spells with saves often deal half damage on a successful save, as opposed to zero damage on a miss. Yet, spell attacks aren't significantly easier than getting a monster to miss a save.

The simple result is: players simply avoid spell attack spells.
There is an exception that is more of an exploit- the mere presence of True Strike means most most high level spells are going to hit a lot more often than martial attacks for casters with True Strike in their spell list (which, given how many ways you can add 1st level spells to your spell list, is probably everybody).

Aside from that, attack spells with saves are a complete disaster in terms of design, and yeah, with maybe one or two exceptions caster magic items are so, so much less fun than martial magic items. Another fail. I do like the design of staves, but some potency runes would be awfully nice.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I hope Paizo very soon issues official magic items with plus bonuses to spell attacks (as opposed to spells triggering saves).

Ranged attacks are weak as is, and caster attack bonuses lag those of martials.

Spells with saves often deal half damage on a successful save, as opposed to zero damage on a miss. Yet, spell attacks aren't significantly easier than getting a monster to miss a save.

The simple result is: players simply avoid spell attack spells.

A system with the equivalents of potency and striking runes for spells with attacks (so you could gain +3 to attack and three extra damage dice) would help immensely.

There's far more interesting magic items for martials than casters as it is. Every little thing a caster might want would help.
This needs to happen. Spells don't have the advantage of attacking Touch AC any longer. Even with Legendary proficiency, a +3 item takes master proficiency in weapons and adds +3 to hit on top of all the other ways to reduce AC like flanking. At least a +1 item bonus to hit item would balance out for most. And even a +3 item would be ok since most spells and cantrips require 2 actions instead of 1 and do less damage.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think the strongest case for adding a bonus to spell attacks is the fact that the rules for constructing NPC spellcasters in the Gamemastery Guide assign them a spell attack bonus 8 lower than their spell DCs (Table 2-11), not 10 lower, as for PCs. (And these rules fit the the stats given to spellcasters in the bestiaries and published modules.)

This suggests that the balance between attack and save spells were made assuming that PC spell attack bonuses would be 2 points higher than they actually are.
While I agree about the low spell attacks of PCs, I would not compare it to NPCs and monsters who are governed by entirely different and incompatible rules.

Instead I would compare it to the alternative, that is casting spells that force saves. If targeting a neither-weak-nor-strong save gets you a better chance at success than making a spell attack, and even if the monster does save, nets you "half damage", that's an argument something's wonky.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
This needs to happen.
Since I'm not ready to add completely homebrewn items to my PF2 EC campaign just yet*, I would dearly like to find items such as this in an official book.

Maybe I'll be more open to doing things myself in a second campaign, but I need high-level experience before that.

*) I mean, adding a strange seldom-used story item like a more interesting Grail of Twisted Desires is one thing. Adding an item that introduces a whole new bonus category has a much larger potential impact, and I want Paizo to give the green light first.
 

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