3-action economy & the GM
My issue here is limited to encounters with mooks, meaning encounters with a large number of weak enemies. If you as the GM control 7 weak mook enemies, they all require 3 actions to resolve. Yes, often it can be a Stride and two Strikes, etc., but you will often also consider positioning and other tactical elements. Overall that's a lot for mooks compared to both 4e and 5e. In 4e for example minions in the large majority of cases only do 2 things on their turn: move and attack once. In most 5e games the same rule applies. But in PF2 even the -3 and -4 enemies get the full complement of actions, and no VTT removes the need for the GM to actually consider and execute those 3 actions. All combat encounters with a large cast of (mostly weak) enemies took so much longer to run, in real time, and it's definitely one of the system's weaknesses -- hence the introduction of troops, which have their own issues (too granular once again, their movement is a massive pain since you have to move a dozen tokens for a single creature!).
5e suffers from the same issue at high levels because the DM has to use CR 5+ creatures as mooks, and those higher CR enemies often have multiattack with 3 attacks and possibly complex auras and other traits. Only 4e with its dedicated minion rules does this rules aspect well, in my experience.
I suppose for me I've never had problems with contemplating what actions to take with dudes because I don't necessarily optimize all actions for mooks and just try to be characterful. With 5E, I was like actively adding 2-4 more actions for mooks to do to give them more flavor. Like, my Gnolls would use the bite action and had a special grapple with it to reflect their hyena nature, plus shield bashing and other stuff I added in.
What I'm getting at is that I'm a freak.
How does a VTT make the following tracking that much easier and faster and less cumbersome: 3 melee enemies have longswords, shields, and alchemical bombs. 2 ranged enemies wield crossbows and longspears. Now as the GM you're juggling 5 NPCs' handedness, crossbow load status, and shield condition. You also have to mark which of the melee enemies raised their shields. And what if 1 melee enemy sheaths their sword to toss a bomb, but maybe they don't have the actions left to throw it, just to draw it? And 1 ranged enemy engages in melee with their longspear, but they want to Trip because of flat-footed bonuses, so now you have to remember if they re-gripped the weapon after releasing it to Trip with a free hand. And so on. Very convoluted. Even on a VTT you may have to actually mark or click or whatever the gripping and releasing and the loading, which all add up for 5-9 creatures.
For me, actions aren't the problem. Conditions can
be a problem, but VTTs are better at marking that consistently compared to doing it on a tabletop grid (I could probably use the little rubber bands I see people using, but for whatever reason I just can't abide them. I don't know why, I'm a weirdo, it's-me-not-you.) or especially theatre of the mind.
The problem here was that I had to stop using the rules as written because they were too cumbersome. Imagine a party of 4 are exploring an area or a dungeon. PC 1 is Searching, PC 2 is Investigating, PC 3 is Avoiding Notice, and PC 4 is Repeating a Spell (detect magic). First off, it's unwieldy to be asking after every encounter/scene what each PC is doing as they explore. Second, it's just another mental load for the GM to remember what each PC is doing -- because you are rolling any relevant secret checks! Better not forget that PC 2 was not in fact Searching as they went into the side room, so they don't get a Perception check for the hazard... Then of course the party changes tactics maybe 20 minutes later, and once again the GM has to remember what each PC is doing.
Towards the end I just handwaved it all. And one of the main issues with PF2 I have is the sheer amount of rules I had to handwave away because they got in the way of the flow of the session.
I suppose that's one of those load-processing things that I'm alright at. Again, I can probably concede that this system was built for me like it was a hole in a Junji Ito story.
Skills & Feats
The rogue has a class feat that gives them a free Perception check even if they're not Searching as their exploration activity. Normally you cannot both sneak about and keep an eye out for danger. That doesn't feel good.
I mean, that's not exactly
true. So like, if you read Avoid Notice
, it kind of hints that you are allowed to take a second activity, you are just moving at half speed when you do it. Why else mention that you can move full speed if you have Swift Sneak,
but you don't get a second exploration activity, and that you get one if you have Legendary Sneak
while moving at full speed? It's just kind of poorly written, but I don't think that interpretation is invalid. If you wanted to do something else, you basically stack the penalties on top of one-another.
But again, this stuff comes off as being written to limit Society players. I've had characters make up exploration activities (I think one was Sentry
, which was patrolling an area looking for people as a focused version of Search
The barbarian has a class feat that lets them attempt to Force Open a closed door or window other obstacle as part of a 2-action Stride -- a class feat!
That's not really a great feat, but also I don't really see it as a dealbreaker. Like, it's an action-economy saver in combat. If you want to be a dude who is the breacher of the party, okay? Otherwise don't take the feat.
A barbarian cannot Demoralize enemies while raging unless they take Raging Intimidation -- a barbarian can't threaten enemies as they rage without spending a class a feat!
HULK DOES NOT USE WORD GAMES, HULK SMASH!
Honestly I was in the same place as you until one of my players articulated the other side of the argument: you can't intimidate because you're raging
, and thus you should always be incentivized to charging and messing dudes up because you're currently a freight train of violence coming off the tracks. Stopping to try and soften up an enemy's morale? That's too many brain cells. You know what also softens up enemies? This greataxe.
And I had never thought about it before, but the limitation made a lot more sense as enforced roleplaying, and getting Raging Intimidation
is you having the extra braincell to occasionally stop and scream to throw off your enemies... and then
destroy them with your greataxe. Yeah, I really kind of turned around on it.
You need a feat to read text upside down... A lot the worst stuff is from APG by the way.
the feat, though. You can read stuff quickly at a glance, even through a sealed envelope; the ability to do so if the text is in a mirror or upside-down feels more like preventing a GM from screwing you by using that as an excuse not to be able to use the skill. Basically if you get a glance at a document or merely handle it, no matter how, you can attempt to Decipher Writing to figure out what it is. And that's a pretty cool feat, to be honest.
I didn't slavishly abide by the skill actions. Again, it was another rules feature that I handwaved to improve the flow of the game but also to empower the players and let them feel good about their characters. No, you can't Demoralize because you're 35 feet away, the limit is 30 feet (I handwaved it and allowed it at longer ranges with a penalty). No, you can't Make an Impression on these 2 people in a single short conversation because you have to address each separately (handwaved away). You want to kick the enemy Prone? Nah, you need a free hand to Trip, duh! In the Pathfinder 2e world people can't kick their opponents prone (there could be feat for it though).
I mean, you make exceptions with edge cases present themselves. That happens in all rules. For some of those, you don't even need to really make an exception (Just take two minutes instead of one for Making an Impression ¯\(ツ)
/¯ ). I'm not saying you're slavishly abiding the rules, but maybe you're just thinking about them too rigidly. What I liked about PF2 was more that it provided structure that gave me an idea of what the system could do, even if I would bounce around within it.
Again, I allowed the players much more freedom to use their skills, but these were house rules and more handwaving of established Core Rulebook rules. About 10 months into the game I realized just how much I had to change in order to improve the experience, but also how careful I had to be with some of the changes because PF2 is a complex, rich system with cascading effects once one thing is altered.
I mean, it's not handwaving, there are always edge-cases. Sometimes the rules make sense, but there are always situations where they don't.
This was a minor gripe all things considered. It's just a boring system without any stakes. If the party takes 5 days of downtime to... do a regular job (riveting), you're supposed to roll for each day. Each. Day. 5 rolls for each character. Is that the most engaging system? A single day is a single roll, with no real stakes for failure. Where are the stakes?! Why even roll to see if you make 5 silver or whatever? Just give them the coin (again, more handwaving).
Uh, you really aren't supposed to roll each day. Under Earn Income, you only roll once and you keep that roll for however long you decide to do that task. But Earn Income is kind of something you do when you don't have anything else to do; you could be making contacts, researching spells and topics, and other things. I suppose it depends on your day job, though.
Filler Encounters in APs
These could often be things like animals, elementals, constructs, or mindless undead that the party has to fight, with no other alternatives given. And these enemies have no bearing on the overall story of the AP, no stakes, no relevance. I don't mind the occasional low-stakes combat encounter, those can be fun, but they have to be occasional, maybe once per level or once per every other level. They are a constant in the Paizo APs I've run. Like I mentioned, I began to remove them entirely or changed them into more fun dynamic encounters where the players could interact with the opposition in a variety of ways.
Yeah, that sort of stuff is why I'm against published adventures normally. At least, in d20 roleplaying. I find other systems and settings to generally be better for that stuff (Oh man
, some of the Delta Green
prewritten scenarios are amazing