Pathfinder 2E Pathfinder 2 and support for other playing styles/subgenres


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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Is this PF or PF2 thing that I am unaware of? I don't necessarily think spirits = religion and =/=occult is an RPG standard. Heck necromancy, which deals with death and spirits, is typically arcane or occultism.
I originally intended to post to contrary, but after looking it up, spirits are specifically defined as occult in PF2.

Occultism (emphasis mine) said:
Recall Knowledge about ancient mysteries; obscure philosophies; creatures of occult significance (like aberrations, spirits, and oozes); and the Positive Energy, Negative Energy, Shadow, Astral, and Ethereal Planes.

I sort of agree with both sides. I can see what Paizo is trying to do, but I never had much luck with running haunts in PF1, and they don’t seem much improved. I think the issue for me is that a haunt as a challenge to be overcome just feels really weird, and I have trouble envisioning how the players would know that it’s such a challenge without being very game-y.
 
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Is this PF or PF2 thing that I am unaware of? I don't necessarily think spirits = religion and =/=occult is an RPG standard. Heck necromancy, which deals with death and spirits, is typically arcane or occultism.

@kenada is right that Occultism does recall knowledge of spirits, though perhaps it's more correct to say that using stuff like exorcisms and prayer to get rid of spirits is Religion, which would be my first go-to. I'd say a knowledge check with either would give you some level of what's going on.

I suppose you could do some interesting delineations of what Occultism and Religion cover: Religion for exorcisms, Occultism for a séance, etc.

Don't you just use Recall Knowledge to figure out how to disable haunts or other hazards? That's how I'm running it.

Sure. It's one action, after all, which is why that Dance Haunt is so neat: it's sort of a stalling action until you can figure out how to defeat it, with multiple ways of trying to stave off the damage.

I sort of agree with both sides. I can see what Paizo is trying to do, but I never had much luck with running haunts in PF1, and they don’t seem much improved. I think the issue for me is that a haunt as a challenge to be overcome just feels really weird, and I have trouble envisioning how the players would know that it’s such a challenge without being very game-y.

I hadn't really looked at them before (probably because most of the examples of them are in the GMG), but I feel like they're interesting for two reasons, and I think both link up to how you should use them.

The first is that they are undead that you can't just defeat with a stick (or magical stick, depending on how powerful they are). Well, they're not technically undead yet, but one of the weird things about these sorts of games is that most of the stuff you think about in hauntings you can literally just attack in different ways. I mean, both PF2 and D&D 5E have statblocks for poltergeists, which just makes no sense to me as someone whose cultural experience with that word meant that it was something that couldn't just be whacked with a doodad. Haunts provide a framework for something that feels like an actual poltergeist in my mind, something that isn't substantial enough for you to use the traditional "Turn Undead" button on or smacked with a sword.

The second is that these actually provide cool usages of Religion and Occultism if you like. Like, you can have a Priest who isn't a Cleric actually be able to solve matters involving spirits because, hey, prayers work because the Gods are active and real. Father Bryan over there can't heal you, but he can exorcise a spirit or two, which is a neat thing for the community. Same thing with Occultism: ideally you could do different views on the same sort of material with Occultism versus Religion, and have different sorts of solutions: For example, maybe an Occultism check would allow one to commune with a lesser haunt (Like Bloodthirsty Thought) and give a lowered DC for a Diplomacy check because they can better commune with it (or even figure out its unfinished business). Or maybe an Occultism check allows you to draw a ward around it that will temporarily make it unable to do it's thing unless the ward is disrupted or after a certain amount of time. These are probably way more complicated than Paizo would want people to be making them, but I think it offers interesting ideas.

I think the biggest thing is that while Haunts are hazards, to me they shouldn't really be used as mere traps but as focus of a story itself: if you find book that makes people want to kill others suddenly, that's the adventure. And that's maybe part of the problem with the design of some of them: they're just spectral traps rather than something interesting on its own. Plummeting Doom is just a magic hand that pushes you off a cliff. This does nothing to inspire one to use it interestingly. But a magical orchestra that makes people dance until they die? That's a Real Ghostbusters episode in the making.

I can totally see how they could be misused. Makes me want to figure places to insert them into an adventure or sidequest, though.
 

dave2008

Legend
@kenada is right that Occultism does recall knowledge of spirits, though perhaps it's more correct to say that using stuff like exorcisms and prayer to get rid of spirits is Religion, which would be my first go-to. I'd say a knowledge check with either would give you some level of what's going on.

I suppose you could do some interesting delineations of what Occultism and Religion cover: Religion for exorcisms, Occultism for a séance, etc.
My point was I don't think it is necessarily intuitive to link spirits and religion, so I was wondering if this was a "thing" in PF. It appears it is not.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
The first is that they are undead that you can't just defeat with a stick (or magical stick, depending on how powerful they are). Well, they're not technically undead yet, but one of the weird things about these sorts of games is that most of the stuff you think about in hauntings you can literally just attack in different ways. I mean, both PF2 and D&D 5E have statblocks for poltergeists, which just makes no sense to me as someone whose cultural experience with that word meant that it was something that couldn't just be whacked with a doodad. Haunts provide a framework for something that feels like an actual poltergeist in my mind, something that isn't substantial enough for you to use the traditional "Turn Undead" button on or smacked with a sword.
This is one of the things I mean when I say I struggle with visualizing how they should be run. Pathfinder is such a prescriptive system. It has lists and lists of things you can do, and then it introduces a hazard that violates the implied “physics” of the system. If something is undead, it should be vulnerable to things that affect undead. Otherwise, it feels incoherent.

The second is that these actually provide cool usages of Religion and Occultism if you like. Like, you can have a Priest who isn't a Cleric actually be able to solve matters involving spirits because, hey, prayers work because the Gods are active and real. Father Bryan over there can't heal you, but he can exorcise a spirit or two, which is a neat thing for the community. Same thing with Occultism: ideally you could do different views on the same sort of material with Occultism versus Religion, and have different sorts of solutions: For example, maybe an Occultism check would allow one to commune with a lesser haunt (Like Bloodthirsty Thought) and give a lowered DC for a Diplomacy check because they can better commune with it (or even figure out its unfinished business). Or maybe an Occultism check allows you to draw a ward around it that will temporarily make it unable to do it's thing unless the ward is disrupted or after a certain amount of time. These are probably way more complicated than Paizo would want people to be making them, but I think it offers interesting ideas.
Continuing from above, I also struggle with how you would go about sign-posting that PCs could now do those kinds of things. You can do the knowledge check approach, but I don’t like the idea of their having to get lucky for me to tell them the mechanics that resolve the current situation.

I’d also expect that if they can e.g., improvise a ward with a skill check, PCs should want to do that in other situations. I don’t want to shift the goalposts, so maybe that’s just a further indictment of the skill system in PF2.

I think the biggest thing is that while Haunts are hazards, to me they shouldn't really be used as mere traps but as focus of a story itself: if you find book that makes people want to kill others suddenly, that's the adventure. And that's maybe part of the problem with the design of some of them: they're just spectral traps rather than something interesting on its own. Plummeting Doom is just a magic hand that pushes you off a cliff. This does nothing to inspire one to use it interestingly. But a magical orchestra that makes people dance until they die? That's a Real Ghostbusters episode in the making.

I can totally see how they could be misused. Makes me want to figure places to insert them into an adventure or sidequest, though.
This seems like an argument for taking them out of the hazard subsystem. That’s why I previously suggested the VP subsystem. It can overlay normal play, and improvised actions are normal within it. I think haunts were a case of taking disparate things from PF1 and trying to fit them into a general framework because they seemed superficially similar (they’re things you disable).
 

My point was I don't think it is necessarily intuitive to link spirits and religion, so I was wondering if this was a "thing" in PF. It appears it is not.

Actually, the Occultism entry is a little deceiving. While they include knowledge of spirits under Occultism, they have knowledge of the Undead under Religion, and spirits basically fall under the Undead umbrella. Just look at the entries under Spirits here and click one: you'll see knowledge checks for knowledge for both Occultism and Religion. And that makes sense: the areas overlap a bit, and thus both sides would have knowledge of these thing. Given the differences between the two skills, there's plenty they give separately to give them value.

So yeah, there's reason to assume that Religion would be a solution: Religion deals with the Undead, which cover spirits. Given that divine power also works on Golarion, actual prayer can expel minor spirits such as haunts as well.

This is one of the things I mean when I say I struggle with visualizing how they should be run. Pathfinder is such a prescriptive system. It has lists and lists of things you can do, and then it introduces a hazard that violates the implied “physics” of the system. If something is undead, it should be vulnerable to things that affect undead. Otherwise, it feels incoherent.

I... I get this and don't disagree with the reasoning, but at the same time I'm actually for getting away from being able to whack things with spells and swords. At a certain level I can explain it away as haunts being so much more spectral that they are less effected by what works in the physical world but are more effected by the Divine. And given that something like Turn Undead is an aspect of being damage by a Heal spell, it creates different metaphysics that were previously there.

So I can't deny that they break the classic metaphysical ideas of Undead in D&D, but that's why I think I like them.

Continuing from above, I also struggle with how you would go about sign-posting that PCs could now do those kinds of things. You can do the knowledge check approach, but I don’t like the idea of their having to get lucky for me to tell them the mechanics that resolve the current situation.

I mean, I'm the guy who explicitly wrote out what skills could do in 5E so that my players would start using them, so signposting isn't a problem for me. Are you a skills challenge guy or not? Maybe that's the thing here, because I think I'm more on the side of trying to use skills in abstract ways like skill challenges kind of want you to, even if I'm not sure that's the best way to do that sort of thing.

I’d also expect that if they can e.g., improvise a ward with a skill check, PCs should want to do that in other situations. I don’t want to shift the goalposts, so maybe that’s just a further indictment of the skill system in PF2.

I dunno, you can have wards that aren't necessarily magical that work on skill checks, but they are limited in scope.

This seems like an argument for taking them out of the hazard subsystem. That’s why I previously suggested the VP subsystem. It can overlay normal play, and improvised actions are normal within it. I think haunts were a case of taking disparate things from PF1 and trying to fit them into a general framework because they seemed superficially similar (they’re things you disable).

I disagree. Not that you couldn't do it as a VP encounter, but I don't think most VP systems deal with damage or are necessarily meant to be active in the same way. In this case, they wanted spectral stuff that caused damage, which fits with building a Hazard. I think it was @!DWolf who structured some of their infiltration stuff as Hazards, or at least one time where the guards raised the alarm and started shooting, and I see this as a similar usage.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
My personal experience is that the game is pretty adaptable. I have never ran an adventure path, module, or PFS scenario in PF2. My experiences as a GM revolved around a combination of sandbox techniques and more character focused stuff. It worked wonderfully. What it does not handle well, but 5e excels at is GM attempts to control outcomes and pacing. The game is too dynamic for that.
 

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
TBF, it isn't conventionally undead either, here's the Haunt trait:
A hazard with this trait is a spiritual echo, often of someone with a tragic death. Putting a haunt to rest often involves resolving the haunt’s unfinished business. A haunt that hasn’t been properly put to rest always returns after a time.
Which means its more like a manifestation of spiritual energy, that by means of being attached to the memory of someone (literally an echo of them), can be interacted with cognitively, e.g. you can assuage the knot of emotions the person left behind, or simply exorcise it utilizing your knowledge of religious rite.

I like them this way, because I'm not really thinking about it is an all-inclusive approach to hauntings or the undead, its a tool for framing a trap in an interesting way that enables you to use skills that you wouldn't normally. Sometimes, this is the best way to mechanically handle a haunting, other times it should be ghost monsters, other times it should be an NPC, or a puzzle or something else.

I don't see how its confusing at all, or how it would immersion breaking to run-- you would describe the effects of the Hazard when triggered, or note the the presence of something if they pass a search check. You'd describe what they can see like any other trap, for instance, if we were looking at eternal flame you would probably describe either a bad feeling about the bodies (you can feel spiritual energy roiling in that corner of the room!) or you might describe tiny motes of phantasmal fire that seem to be hanging around it, or a heat distortion. Then its on them to start asking questions, and the GM's job to call for knowledge checks based off what they ask. If they trigger the trap, they see the spectral inferno rise up.

Then they do things, if they need to know what they can do they might ask based off the ideas they have for dealing with it, and you might answer based off what they know and can see-- that they can attempt to exorcise it with a religion check, or perhaps talk down the echo of the victim that still reside there. They don't have to notice all of their options, by any means, one player might think along the lines of wanting to formally exorcise it ('how would we get rid of it?') while another might be like 'wait if its a spirit, we can talk it down right?' and go from there.

You could also let them solve it in other ways, if you like the ideas they come up with, but that's up to your GMing sense, and also applies to every other trap in any game.

I broke it down, but this all goes without saying, because its just how other traps work-- its not like you break the fiction down every time they come across a tripwire or something to tell them they're entering a challenge with a hazard!
 

My personal experience is that the game is pretty adaptable. I have never ran an adventure path, module, or PFS scenario in PF2. My experiences as a GM revolved around a combination of sandbox techniques and more character focused stuff. It worked wonderfully. What it does not handle well, but 5e excels at is GM attempts to control outcomes and pacing. The game is too dynamic for that.

5E's greatest strength is its loose tolerances: you can toss certain things in and out and (generally speaking) you have a lot of leeway as to whether the PCs can handle it as long as they are beyond 1st or 2nd level. Of course, D&D also has a CR problem when it comes to being more precise with balancing, but that's what you get.

@The-Magic-Sword : I can see how it can be confusing given how things have worked for years in D&D. I can just kind of accept it for something a little different. 🤷‍♂️
 

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