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PF2E Martials > Casters


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CapnZapp

Legend
What is the actually set-up of the wizard in your EC group, @CapnZapp ?
If you means spells, I'd say he casts Sudden Bolt and Magic Missile, with the occasional Fireball. Most of the time, though, he coasts by on Electric Arc (as does the Cleric).

And Fireball is only really useful because I tired of never seeing any massed foes in the campaign. On three occasions so far I have replaced encounters with five or less foes with encounters featuring one or two dozen foes. (Basically replacing level 5-8 trogs with squads of the Bestiary xulgaths that are level 1-3)
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
So do you think his being a "junior member" is partly caused by his choices, or is there not much he could do to optimize?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
So do you think his being a "junior member" is partly caused by his choices, or is there not much he could do to optimize?
I don't know - you tell me :)

(He's the most experienced D&Der of us all, so it's not that I think he's making suboptimal choices. In fact, if it was anyone else I probably wouldn't have started this very thread! Still, there might be PF2-specific things we haven't discovered just yet, and as I keep saying, we hope things will improve as we're headed for double-digit levels)
 

Campbell

Legend
What follows is based on larger play groups (6-7 players). I have seen Wizards and other spell casters being pretty effective, but not really as single target damage dealers. In general even if you are a "specialist" you want to embrace your entire spell list. You want to be a wizard and not an evoker. Also evokers are area damage dealers not single targer. Hopefully down the line we will see options for a more focused magical damage dealer.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
Hmmm... maybe there is no way for that wizard (I assume he is an evoker, so has Force Bolt too) without a reload 0 ranged weapon. As for magic missiles, I have not been able to see it much is practice, but I kinda get the sense that its main use is for guaranteed damage, not good damage per se. It is irrelevant "how much" damage you do to an opponent if you can make sure he gets dead right now. Should be a good spell for removing foes with low hp from the fight, though that might just be a consequence of playing on roll20 with health bars.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
What follows is based on larger play groups (6-7 players). I have seen Wizards and other spell casters being pretty effective, but not really as single target damage dealers. In general even if you are a "specialist" you want to embrace your entire spell list. You want to be a wizard and not an evoker. Also evokers are area damage dealers not single targer. Hopefully down the line we will see options for a more focused magical damage dealer.
You do realize you need to explain what you mean by being a wizard and not an evoker, right? :) (=What specific non-Evocation spells are you recommending?)

I can easily see area spells getting better as the number of players (and therefore monsters) increase.

In fact, my group is five players. However, EC is so difficult as written I seldom follow the guidelines for boosting encounter XP budgets. Meaning, I mostly run encounters as written, meaning in turn that there has not been a single RAW instance where a Fireball has been truly worthwhile so far (in 8 levels!).

What I mean by this is: the typical encounter in EC is against three monsters. But let's take four instead. Problem is, spending your round to deal ~21 damage to each of them is decidedly unimpressive (when you can only do it a very small number of times a day, not if you could do it at-will) - that simply isn't going to bring any one of them down. (Not to mention that half of them will make their save and take only half damage).

Sure, in that particular round the Wizard is dealing 60 damage (20+20+10+10) which is more than any martial. But the damage is unfocused, and not likely to make a real difference.

Making a difference is when a monster is killed sooner than otherwise. But 60 points of damage distributed semi-randomly across the four opponents is just not impressive. It's not worth walking around frail and afraid when your big moment is "slightly better than the martial's average". The party is simply better off retiring that caster and replacing him with another martial. (In our party, a Thief racket Rogue, for example).

Not when save or dies have been incapacitated, when you seldom can bypass challenges/hazards using spells anymore, and buffs and debuffs are utilitarian at best.

As I said, what remains is working together with the very effective martials (and their sole progress meter is "damage dealt"), and what remains here is area spells.

And even that only truly impresses when the GM (me) switches out two Spinesnappers for, say, two squads of six Warriors and their Leader (replacing two level 5 trogs for 14 level 1-3 trogs). Since a fireball here wipes out the Warriors almost entirely and leaves the Leader severely burnt, the Wizard is finally doing what parties throughout the history of D&D have brought them along to do: doing something no martial can do.

PS. Our Wizard chose to be an Universalist or whatever its called. That is, he is not an Evoker.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Hmmm... maybe there is no way for that wizard (I assume he is an evoker, so has Force Bolt too) without a reload 0 ranged weapon. As for magic missiles, I have not been able to see it much is practice, but I kinda get the sense that its main use is for guaranteed damage, not good damage per se. It is irrelevant "how much" damage you do to an opponent if you can make sure he gets dead right now. Should be a good spell for removing foes with low hp from the fight, though that might just be a consequence of playing on roll20 with health bars.
Sure, if you play with the luxury of always knowing how much hp monsters have left.

But even in the general case (I assume most ttrpgers play with "hidden" monster statuses; in my group I've adopted the 4E term "bloodied" so you can always tell when a friend or foe is below or above half max hp, but not more detailed than that) my Wizard player has found that Magic Missile is competitive, simply because its damage is guaranteed.

In 5E, where you have at least 60% success rate (to hit, or for the monster to fail its save) and often 75% this isn't especially noteworthy.

But in PF2, where it seems BBEGs can easily leave you with only a 40% or even 25% success rate, the actual DPR of Magic Missile is enough for our Wizard to keep preparing it (and in high-level slots too).

Why? Because even more valuable than the DPR is that you can count on the damage being delivered. It is often very valuable to take down an enemy this round rather than the next, and against monsters higher level than you, there seldom exists an attack (magical or physical) with even 50% success rate of delivering the goods. You can easily have a dangerous monster with only a little hp left, where it is intensely frustrating to see attack after attack failing, and then having the monster do its painful attack routine when it still is alive on its turn.

Except Magic Missile, which offers not 60%, and not 75%, but 100% success rate. Again, the damage itself might not be earth-shattering, but the Wizard is doing something no martial can do: guaranteed damage.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
Yes, I certainly appreciate that. My cleric has a Ring of the Ram and even with that sometimes I find myself asking "Do I use the ring and almost certainly get at least some damage that might finish this guy off or do I shoot a bunch with my bow and hope something hits and then rolls well?" Of course we are level 9 now and the Ring damage is probably only going to work on mooks and squishy casters, especially since I just got a Frost Rune on my bow. Sadly the one time I beautifully got to punch someone off a ledge with it they managed to grab an edge and save themselves a 50' foot fall.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
It has been a while, but I don't think that is how math works. Increasing the damage of each person 10% will only increase the total damage by 10%, not 50%. Or are you suggesting it increases your damage by 50%?
CapnZapp accurately corrected my mis-statement (thanks!) -- here's a longer version

You are correct that I was unclear as to what the percentage was a base off, and the natural reading of my note make it untrue. Here's a better part of statements statement:
  • Increasing damage by 10% for each person increases total damage by 10% of the total
  • Increasing damage by 10% for each person increases total damage by 50% of the damage output by the average member
I was trying to use 100% as "the damage done by an average member", but as you note, I stated it completely worng as "total damage". Thanks for checking.

Just so I don't fail horribly again, I'll use absolute numbers for an example:

5 combatants do damage each round, averaging 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120 point for damage
Inspire competent boosts each of them by 10% to 88, 99, 110, 121, 132
So the added value of inspire competence averages is 8+9+10+11+12 = 50
This is 10% of the total damage, and 50% of the average combatant's damage.

--------

So one action by the bard does 50 points damage, whereas each action by the combatants does an average of 33 points damage.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I don't know - you tell me :)
We don't actually have an arcane caster in the group, but we do have a cleric and druid, now at level 12. So I have some experience:
  • With three actions, you can make an attack roll at full bonus and cast a non-attack spell (e.g. fireball!) at full save DC. So especially for the cleric, it's well worth while swinging an axe or firing a ranged weapon. If they're not doing that, they're leaving damage on the table
  • True strike is extremely powerful. Combine it with any attack spell for a full round action that will almost certainly hit and has a high critical chance.
  • If you have a round or two set-up time, you can combine status spells nicely. With plenty of space, I like air walk and enlarge, so I can walk 15' over the top of a non-flying enemy and have them unable to touch me as I whack em.
  • Against solos, slow is surprisingly good. Even on a success, it takes away an action from their next round. Which is nice if they planned to walk up and do a two-action blender-of-death melee attack, but even nicer when it prevents that 3 action summons going off.
  • For the cleric, searing light is an absolute must if there's any chance of fiends or undead around. At level 5 it does 10d6 damage (22d6 at level 11) and with true strike there's a pretty good chance of a critical.
  • As I mentioned previously, look at summons for creatures that do not attack, but buff the party or debuff enemies.
I used to use fireball a fair amount (fire cleric), but it started feeling underpowered compared to other options. And then my cleric converted to Desna, so I lost access to fire spells. But even so, the generic zap spells don't feel that exciting -- I'd look away from them and into other options. Plus, a lot more fun!

(EDIT)
Here's my cleric's current load out. Not claiming it's the best, but I'm definitely having fun with it! With the recent switch to Desna worship, my melee attack has tanked (only +20) until I hit next level and get expertise in my great axe (so it'll be +23, +25 with heroism for key fights) . Desna's belief that I'd like to jump into combat wielding a starknife is not actually something I embrace.

Divine Cleric Spells DC 30, attack +20;
  • 6th heroism, searing light (2)
  • 5th command, dispel magic, summon celestial
  • 4th air walk, enlarge, fireball
  • 3rd comprehend language, heroism, neutralize poison
  • 2nd restoration, see invisibility, sound burst
  • 1st true strike (3)
  • Cantrips (6th) detect magic, guidance, read aura, shield, sigil
Occult Bard Spells DC 30, attack +20
  • 4th (1 slots) dimension door
  • 3rd (1 slots) haste
  • 2nd (1 slots) illusory creature, mirror image
  • 1st (1 slots) alarm, true strike
  • Cantrips (6th) ghost sound, join pasts, telekinetic projectile
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Guess the overall advice I'm getting is: if you're a wizard, retrain as a druid ;)

Point #1 is n/a for a wizard. True strike is not bad, except it relies on spells with attacks, which are (another way to phrase it is "why throw bad money after good"). Paizo seems to have forgotten that spell attacks deal 0% on a miss, not 50% like spells with saves. Re: #3, sorry, but figuring out a way to whack without getting whacked back isn't really valuable if all you're accomplishing is forcing the enemy to focus fire. #4 Thanks! #5 I'm sure, but AC is all about humanoids and demons so far. #6 Thanks!
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Guess the overall advice I'm getting is: if you're a wizard, retrain as a druid ;)

Point #1 is n/a for a wizard. True strike is not bad, except it relies on spells with attacks, which are (another way to phrase it is "why throw bad money after good"). Paizo seems to have forgotten that spell attacks deal 0% on a miss, not 50% like spells with saves. Re: #3, sorry, but figuring out a way to whack without getting whacked back isn't really valuable if all you're accomplishing is forcing the enemy to focus fire. #4 Thanks! #5 I'm sure, but AC is all about humanoids and demons so far. #6 Thanks!
So far the druid seems much better. I have too many things to do with my actions as a druid whereas as a wizard I usually had one thing to do. As a druid I can do the following after casting a cantrip:
1. Command my animal.
2. Fire my bow.
3. Raise a shield.

Two offensive and one defensive option. The bow you can get the wizard with the right feats. I know wizard as bowman doesn't seem very wizardly., but it can be effective. Given how much damage the martials in my group do at level 12, I'm still not sure why cantrips weren't one action. They should give the wizard and sorcerer cantrip mastery or something to make cantrips work like weapons for them. The only thing I can imagine is at higher level they do have some hard hitting spells, but the big bad evil guy is likely to make his save and maybe critically make it on a good roll. Maybe they just expect casters not to be able to do much against BBEGs similar to 5E. 5E wizard is the suck for damage in 5E too.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
True strike is not bad, except it relies on spells with attacks, which are (another way to phrase it is "why throw bad money after good"). Paizo seems to have forgotten that spell attacks deal 0% on a miss, not 50% like spells with saves.
I think they have the math right. I'm +20 to attack, so +22 with either heroism or CA, which is pretty much always the case. I'll assume just one of them is active. A Lich, our most recent level 12 foe, has a 31 AC, which is pretty normal. So I miss on a 1-8, hit on 9-18, and critical on 19-20.

Doing 22d6 damage (average 77) , that averages as 53 damage without true strike. With true strike, the miss chance is (8/20) = 0.16, and critical about 1/10 of the time, so that makes an average of 92 points of damage.

True strike makes a HUGE difference. Really. Try it if you are worried about lack of damage output.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
Honestly I wish I had access to true strike. It is a lvl 1 spell that scales perfectly because you can keep using it on better and better spells without a change in cost.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Honestly I wish I had access to true strike. It is a lvl 1 spell that scales perfectly because you can keep using it on better and better spells without a change in cost.
True strike is one of the best 1st level spells if not the best.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think they have the math right. I'm +20 to attack, so +22 with either heroism or CA, which is pretty much always the case. I'll assume just one of them is active. A Lich, our most recent level 12 foe, has a 31 AC, which is pretty normal. So I miss on a 1-8, hit on 9-18, and critical on 19-20.

Doing 22d6 damage (average 77) , that averages as 53 damage without true strike. With true strike, the miss chance is (8/20) = 0.16, and critical about 1/10 of the time, so that makes an average of 92 points of damage.

True strike makes a HUGE difference. Really. Try it if you are worried about lack of damage output.
Finding a marquee case proves nothing.

As far as I can see (I'm the GM, not the Wizard player), spell attacks trails spell DCs by a couple of points, so already there you're better off casting a spell with a save.

Add to that what I was referring to, namely how spells with attacks doesn't generally do significantly more damage than spells with saves, despite dealing 50 percentage units less on a miss.

I'm sure there are individual spells that break that mold. However, the idea (discussed to death over at Paizo forums) that spells-with-attacks are deliberately underpowered in order to regain balance with True Strike doesn't fly in my book.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I know wizard as bowman doesn't seem very wizardly, but it can be effective.
I don't know about that. Very little about ranged weapons appear effective to me. (Better than nothing, yes, absolutely. Effective compared to melee weapons, not so much.)

5E wizard is the suck for damage in 5E too.
That comparison is hardly fair.

Spells in 5E feel much more satisfying, so there's nothing wrong with the 5E Wizard. Yes, Wizards can't nova like Sorcerers, and maybe pays too high of a price for its fabled "flexibility", but "not being as overpowered" is a very different criticism than "below average" as seems to be the case here.
 

Campbell

Legend
I do not know very much about Extinction Curse. Are there monsters with frontal cone AOE or nasty auras at all? There is a significant amount of that in PFS.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I don't know about that. Very little about ranged weapons appear effective to me. (Better than nothing, yes, absolutely. Effective compared to melee weapons, not so much.)


That comparison is hardly fair.

Spells in 5E feel much more satisfying, so there's nothing wrong with the 5E Wizard. Yes, Wizards can't nova like Sorcerers, and maybe pays too high of a price for its fabled "flexibility", but "not being as overpowered" is a very different criticism than "below average" as seems to be the case here.
I found the 5E wizard to be subpar with feats, magic items, and multiclassing. It was probably adequate without feats and multiclassing. Though it did have some nice utility spells. Just not much of a great damage dealer. I only played a wizard to 16th level. At least 5E had magic items to improve spell attack rolls. Pretty lame that PF2 did not include them considering they no longer allow targeting of touch of flat-footed AC absent dex.

Concentration made life pretty terrible for casters in 5E. Might not be as bad as incapacitation, but it's close.
 
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