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


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kenada

Legend
Supporter
The second volume of Council of Thieves (“The Sixfold Trial”) has the PCs putting on a play as cover for infiltrating the mayor’s manor. You can hand-wave it, but they include the script if you want to RP it out.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
I haven't played PF2, but, sadly, Starfinder is very hardwired into a specific play style especially with the item levels. The setting also does not support styles other than "small group crawling through dungeons" very well. Its in my eyes not robust enough for the PCs to interact with it apart from typical adventuring services.

As for PF, I do not know what the system allows, but I noticed that there recent APs often advertised a unusual hook, like being in a circus or play as town watch, but the adventures quickly devolve into the generic dungeon gameplay and the hook doesn't really matter. Not sure if thats because of the system or because of the AP writers (and/or customers).
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
As for PF, I do not know what the system allows, but I noticed that there recent APs often advertised a unusual hook, like being in a circus or play as town watch, but the adventures quickly devolve into the generic dungeon gameplay and the hook doesn't really matter. Not sure if thats because of the system or because of the AP writers (and/or customers).
Encounter-based, story-driven adventures is what Paizo does. Even something like Kingmaker, which appears superficially like a hexcrawl, is really just a dungeon with a wilderness setting. It’s a core assumption in PF2 that you are running a story-driven game. It’s probably even a reasonable, though it doesn’t mean you have to run that kind of game.

What I found running a hexcrawl sandbox is that I ended up drawing on techniques from outside PF2. There are a handful of gaps (discussed previously in this thread), but the system otherwise works fine. You just need to know how to make use of the tools it gives you. The same goes with the VP subsystem.

If you are familiar with progress clocks in other games, it becomes obvious how you can use VP to run all sorts of contested situations. The GMG doesn’t really try to teach you that though. It just uses it as a framework to describe a handful of subsystems. However (to borrow an example from reddit), if you wanted to run a scene where the PCs are trying to escape from a t-rex, clocks are perfect.

The reddit example used a skill challenge, but the problem with skill challenges is the “successes before failure” construct. What is the failure state? The PCs get eaten by the T-rex? No, you’re recommended to fail forward, so nothing is at stake.

The way you do this with progress clocks is with a clock to track progress. How would decide how many segments (i.e., the total VP). PCs would then take actions to get away from the t-rex. This structure acknowledges the PCs will succeed, but you are figuring out the cost. You can them create a secondary clock to track problems. For example, a clock to track getting lost. You can even let PCs advance the clock to escape without rolling, but it also advances the clock to get lost.

What this gives you is a structure that focuses on the dramatic needs of the PCs instead of on what the GM decides. How lost you get or what steps you take to escape are all a product of the PCs’ actions. There is no need to launder failure into success. Actions are meaningful because the outcome is a product entirely of the PCs’ choices and results.

That example is funny because I had been thinking about it for a few days (after seeing that post), and that is exactly what happened in our Scum & Villainy game today. We were infiltrating a space station. There was a clock to track when someone would become aware of our presence and respond, and at one point there was a clock to track our progress as we made our way into a research area to get an item we had been hired to retrieve. At one point, I even intentionally advanced the awareness clock (called taking a devil’s bargain) as the cost of succeeding at one of my rolls.

Anyway, PF2 is full of stuff that just isn’t tied together well, but it’s super useful if you know how to use it. It’s a shame that Paizo is stuck in a rut with how they design adventures.
 
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nevin

Hero
Encounter-based, story-driven adventures is what Paizo does. Even something like Kingmaker, which appears superficially like a hexcrawlx, is really just a dungeon with a wilderness setting. It’s a core assumption in PF2 that you are running a story-driven game. It’s probably even a reasonable, though it doesn’t mean you have to run that kind of game.

What I found running a hexcrawl sandbox is that I ended up drawing on techniques from outside PF2. There are a handful of gaps (discussed previously in this thread), but the system otherwise works fine. You just need to know how to make use of the tools it gives you. The same goes with the VP subsystem.

If you are familiar with progress clocks in other games, it becomes obvious how you can use VP to run all sorts of contested situations. The GMG doesn’t really try to teach you that though. It just uses it as a framework to describe a handful of subsystems. However (to borrow an example from reddit), if you wanted to run a scene where the PCs are trying to escape from a t-rex, clocks are perfect.

The reddit example used a skill challenge, but the problem with skill challenges is the “successes before failure” construct. What is the failure state? The PCs get eaten by the T-rex? No, you’re recommended to fail forward, so nothing is at stake.

The way you do this with progress clocks is with a clock to track progress. How would decide how many segments (i.e., the total VP). PCs would then take actions to get away from the t-rex. This structure acknowledges the PCs will succeed, but you are figuring out the cost. You can them create a secondary clock to track problems. For example, a clock to track getting lost. You can even let PCs advance the clock to escape without rolling, but it also advances the clock to get lost.

What this gives you is a structure that focuses on the dramatic needs of the PCs instead of on what the GM decides. How lost you get or what steps you take to escape are all a product of the PCs’ actions. There is no need to launder failure into success. Actions are meaningful because the outcome is a product entirely of the PCs’ choices and results.

That example is funny because I had been thinking about it for a few days (after seeing that post), and that is exactly what happened in our Scum & Villainy game today. We were infiltrating a space station. There was a clock to track when someone would become aware of our presence and respond, and at one point there was a clock to track our progress as we made our way into a research area to get an item we had been hired to retrieve. At one point, I even intentionally advanced the awareness clock (called taking a devil’s bargain) as the cost of succeeding at one of my rolls.

Anyway, PF2 is full of stuff that just isn’t tied together well, but it’s super useful if you know how to use it. It’s a shame that Paizo is stuck in a rut with how they design adventures.
I think you just defined the thing I hate the most about PF2 that I couldn't put my finger on. I really had the fact that out of dungeon or combat everything is handled exactly as if you were still dungeon crawling. It's just another thing they completely defined and took away all the unknown for. Probably great for a society style game not so good for story, player driven campaigns.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
I think you just defined the thing I hate the most about PF2 that I couldn't put my finger on. I really had the fact that out of dungeon or combat everything is handled exactly as if you were still dungeon crawling. It's just another thing they completely defined and took away all the unknown for. Probably great for a society style game not so good for story, player driven campaigns.
I’m not sure I follow what you mean about taking away the unknown regarding (presumably) exploration and downtime modes. I don’t think their implementations are particularly great in PF2, but they don’t seem designed with PFS in mind e.g., like crafting was.
 
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nevin

Hero
I’m not sure I follow what you mean about taking away the unknown regarding (presumably) exploration and downtime modes. I don’t think their implementations are particularly great in PF2, but they don’t seem designed with PFS in mind e.g., like crafting was.
I don't really like the modern game design of a rule for everything. The idea of exploration mode just feels like one more step towards a console game. To me exploration mode is like a third leg. I think pathfinder devs spend too much time trying to fix problems and not enough time focusing on how to have fun. But a lot of people seem to like it that way.
 

I don't really like the modern game design of a rule for everything. The idea of exploration mode just feels like one more step towards a console game. To me exploration mode is like a third leg. I think pathfinder devs spend too much time trying to fix problems and not enough time focusing on how to have fun. But a lot of people seem to like it that way.
Ironically exploration rules were in the earliest editions of the game and only disappeared fully with 3.x...
 



kenada

Legend
Supporter
I don't really like the modern game design of a rule for everything. The idea of exploration mode just feels like one more step towards a console game. To me exploration mode is like a third leg. I think pathfinder devs spend too much time trying to fix problems and not enough time focusing on how to have fun. But a lot of people seem to like it that way.
Exploration mode isn’t really modern though. Classic D&D had a well-defined exploration procedure. What Paizo did is more of a throwback. The only thing modern about it is in recognizing that system matters, and that procedures and structure can be used to create and inform experiences at the table.

There’s a big thread ongoing about running dungeon crawls. I’m not going to rehash the arguments here, but the core conflict seems to be over how they play out. Are dungeons just about fights and story, or is there more to it than that? One of the key points from the OSR perspective is the use of procedures and principles to create an engaging dungeon crawl.

Of course, Paizo has yet to release a site-based adventure, but I don’t think that is any more a flaw in exploration mode than there was in the original exploration procedures when TSR released Dragonlance. Well, except that they’re sometimes a poor fit for story-driven games. I think Paizo is aware of that, which is why it lacks some if the elements I consider important (like reactions, morale, and retreats).
 


Luceilia

Explorer
I'm talking about the fact that many Pathfinder 2 traps do not in any way shape or form explain how heroes find out about them, let alone how they realize what to do to disable them.

For a simple trapdoor, we obviously can see the picture play out. But many PF2 traps are what I'd call abstract game constructs, literally the result of the designer going "what if we require different skills than Perception and Thievery?"

At least, I have not found a better way of telling the player he must roll Religion, say, than... "you must use Religion here", which I find deeply meta (the GM telling the player rather than the GM describing the world so the character understands what must be done) and thus unsatisfying.

Here's my current list of things wrong with PF2. Unfortunately, it never seems to stop growing...


To this we now add:
  • Next to zero customizability
  • Magical heroes vs Martial monsters
  • Abstract traps
I know I'm about a year and a half late, but I really want to thank you for this analysis.

Everything I've heard about PF2 up to this point was either fans singing its praises or 5E/OSR diehards with generic and not useful offhand criticism.

As a former 3.P GM who spent over a decade in the combined system, I had been gearing up to dive headlong into PF2 but thanks to your wonderfully thorough critique I'm going to put that on hold until a later date (possibly never lol, only time will tell.)
 
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grankless

Explorer
I would definitely read through the many rebuttals in this thread prior to taking the words of a guy who has made a veritable posting career out of arguing that Paizo is an incompetent company. Zapp over here is a very biased source.
 

Luceilia

Explorer
I would definitely read through the many rebuttals in this thread prior to taking the words of a guy who has made a veritable posting career out of arguing that Paizo is an incompetent company. Zapp over here is a very biased source.
It wasn't his assessment that I was expressing gratitude over. It was his point by point analysis.

Fwiw, I really really like Paizo's ideals as a company. Publishing their rules for free online is amazing, and they were a driving force keeping 'My D&D' (3.X) alive when the parent company abandoned it.

That didn't stop me from criticizing a lot of Paizo's design decisions on the Paizo forums back in the day lol.

But yeah, at this point I'm a lot more interested in mining things to steal from Pf2 for 3.P1 campaigns rather than learning a new system whole cloth when some of my complaints about PF1 seem to have gotten worse.

Tiny Situational Bonuses suck so hard.

Also the +10 Crit system just... Rubs me the wrong way. Yes level Superiority is a big advantage but I want that baked into the system in a more tangible way rather than 'more crits/less crits'
 
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payn

Legend
Also the +10 Crit system just... Rubs me the wrong way. Yes level Superiority is a big advantage but I want that baked into the system in a more tangible way rather than 'more crits/less crits'
Yeap, this is one thing I'm not sold on at all from PF2.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
I know I'm about a year and a half late, but I really want to thank you for this analysis.
Thank you. I put a lot of play testing and analysis into it.

Contrary to what some posters try to tell you, I spent a lot of time and effort trying out possible fixes for nearly every bullet point on my list, since I sincerely wanted PF2 to work. Alas, it was all for naught, and I have concluded PF2 is simply not worth your time and attention - there's simply too many decisions taken working actively against you; "just use another system" ended up being the rational fix to subsystem after subsystem.

I should say, however, that the criticals system is not on my list. I do understand it comes across as strange and unfamiliar at first, but the math and gameplay is sound, and I think it works well enough. The basic martial combat engine overall is, as I've stated before, one of PF2s main strengths, and this wouldn't have worked so well without the way PF2 criticals are both relatively common and relatively strong.

Zapp
 

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