Pathfinder 2 and the game Paizo should have made

BryonD

Adventurer
There is a reason most class feats are actions or activities. You are building a toolbox to prove your worth. Player says I'm a master swordsman. Game says prove it. You do not just get to be a master swordsman just like you have never just gotten to be an arch mage. You have to earn it.
I think this is a pretty rose colored glasses interpretation. I respect that you love the game. I respect that you feel that this is what you experience. But I truly think that subjectivity and bias over overwhelming you if you really think this.

If anything, I see the opposite as true. And, yes, you could simply call that MY bias. I have no doubt I have bias I can't escape. But there is an objective reality underlying the math of 2E that imposes "correct" level of aptitude on all characters with an iron fist. (maybe the "iron fist" part isn't really objective)

Seriously, you may paint a different narrative on the swordsman than you do the archmage. But I don't know of another D20 game with a tighter bell curve on the pre-ordained outcomes.

This is a fatal flaw in the game's ability to service my "be the character", "triumph or fail; live or die; everything comes from how you go about solving problems" style of playing.
 

BryonD

Adventurer
On the whole comparing post 3E games, I see more differences between 2E against either 4E or 5E than I do commonality. (setting aside the whole D20 core mechanic, which clearly is deeply "common").

I do think that the points of similarity in 2E and 4E are striking to me in that they reflect designers coming off years of 3X and hearing the complaints of the detractors over and over. In both cases the numbers of people who were happy but, as is typical, not going on about it, where dreadfully underrepresented against those who complained loudly and often.

I do consider myself on the other end. I'm one of those people who really don't have troubles with the "issues" of 3E/PF. This is not remotely to say "I'd don't see them therefore the complaints are just wrong". Clearly people had issues. But, I know for a fact that with the right amount of skill and experience, most of those issues could be readily managed. And, IMO, efforts to mechanically prop up lack of experience and skill result in games that restrain just how high the game can ultimately reach. Obviously for a beginner, this is a perfectly great trade off. And for super casual gamers, probably also true. And, as 5E proves, my personal ideal is way out of line with the optimal service to the fanbase as a whole. But 4E demonstrated (and I suspect PF2E will as well in time) that overreaction is very possible. Whereas both 3E and PF1E are "the book is closed" hits. Nothing matches the current gold standard of 5E, but hits no the less. (And FWIW, both 3E and PF1E needed to go when they did. Hit or not, there were reasons for the owners to move on. )
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@BryonD

The tight math and range of success rules are what enables this sort of play I am talking about. Your character build does not change the core character math, but the tools you acquire from it allow you to express that math in fundamentally different ways during the course of play. Having the right tools for the right job really matters, particularly when monsters use a puzzle box design. Tactical and strategic decisions matter a good deal. Flanking alone provides a huge boost to expected damage. A well timed Demoralize can be the difference between winning and losing. The math makes everything you do in play matter more - not less.

I get that coming from Pathfinder First Edition a swing of +4 or +6 seems relatively small, but the range of success rules often mean that every bonus counts double.

I think you are too fixated on the math. There is a wide range of character abilities that utilize the math in very different ways and must be used skillfully at the table. Monster designs are very different from one another and learning how to fight each monster is a key determinant of success. I have seen large differences in how successfully people play their characters and what tools they have available.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
In terms of the tightness of the math I think Pathfinder 2 is pretty similar to Fifth Edition. In some areas it is more varied (weapon proficiency, skills, saves, spell DCs). In some areas less varied (Hit Points, Ability Scores). In some they are pretty close (Armor Class). I think Pathfinder 2 has substantially more variation in how the numbers are expressed at the table. That's not a negative by the way. They are different games. Things like MAP, spell bonuses, conditions and the like would not serve Fifth Edition well.
 

BryonD

Adventurer
@BryonDThe tight math and range of success rules are what enables this sort of play I am talking about. Your character build does not change the core character math, but the tools you acquire from it allow you to express that math in fundamentally different ways during the course of play. Having the right tools for the right job really matters, particularly when monsters use a puzzle box design. Tactical and strategic decisions matter a good deal. Flanking alone provides a huge boost to expected damage. A well timed Demoralize can be the difference between winning and losing. The math makes everything you do in play matter more - not less.
This is a non sequitur.
The abstract statements you make praising the 2E mechanics could be offered in the same vague way for any RPG out there. And there are other games with much more open math, so leaping from a generic praise of questionable foundation to an unrelated conclusion doesn't really say anything.

I get that coming from Pathfinder First Edition a swing of +4 or +6 seems relatively small, but the range of success rules often mean that every bonus counts double.
I DO like the 4 degrees rule. And I see how the fixed math makes that easier to implement. So I appreciate it there. But, unfortunately, the juice isn't nearly worth the squeeze here.
I do reject that "relatively small" has anything to do with my disatisfaction. The math informs the mechanics more than the narrative informs the mechanics. (Again, in multiple posts you have demonstrated this fact)

I think you are too fixated on the math. There is a wide range of character abilities that utilize the math in very different ways and must be used skillfully at the table. Monster designs are very different from one another and learning how to fight each monster is a key determinant of success. I have seen large differences in how successfully people play their characters and what tools they have available.
Again, this is just a hand wave. If we compare PF2E to chess, then PF2E is the world's greatest RPG by several orders of magnitude. As I said before, the concepts of fighters and wizards, etc etc etc are there.
But if you compare it to OTHER high standard RPGs the depth of distinction is lacking.

Telling me "it exists" does nothing to take away from the complaint that it doesn't feel right at the table. It doesn't live up to the standard that other games have established.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
@BryonD

At the end of the day we are all sharing our subjective aesthetic judgments. I consider games works of art meant for popular consumption. Like any other art form there is no objective measure of what a role playing game is or should be. The diversity of play that exists from Pathfinder First Edition to Monsterhearts back to Fifth Edition suggests to me there are many functional ways to make a role playing game.

My personal aesthetic judgement based on playing game and reading through the material is that Pathfinder Second Edition is very concerned with helping its players build a narrative through play. I have never felt more like my character in an iteration of Dungeons and Dragons. I rank it up there with Masks, Monsterhearts, and Exalted Third Edition when it comes to correspondence between narrative and game play. When I play my Barbarian I feel impulsive, arrogant, and angry. The mechanics of the game help me feel what my character is feeling. That includes the level based scaling.

It absolutely helps the players build a narrative, although probably not of the type you personally value. That's fine. Different game provide different sorts of narrative experiences.

I suspect the disconnect here is that you do not consider character class and character level to be things that have narrative significance. My personal aesthetic judgement is that for a game to feel like part of the Dungeons and Dragons tradition there needs to be thematic significance to character level, class, and race or ancestry. Each should tell us something meaningful about who the character is. When I say I am playing 5th level Dwarven Fighter there should be a cultural resonance to that. That's not all of who he is, but those choices should tell us something.

For me there has always been something ancient and primal about character level since I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. The clarion call of name level has always been a large part of the appeal to me. Level in Dungeons and Dragons has always been about more than an abstract measure of power. It has also always been an indicator of narrative significance. Over the course of your adventures you do not just become more skilled. Your narrative importance increases as well. Even though there are not mechanics for it yet Pathfinder Second Edition explicitly calls out fighters establishing keeps, rogues starting a thieve's guild, wizards starting a school, and clerics building a temple in the roleplaying advice on the first page of each class.

This is what I was trying to get at in the other thread. The mechanics make level important because it is intended to have narrative significance. It does not just help determine combat stats and skills. It also affects things like Recall Knowledge checks to know things about the person, place, or thing. It affects how difficult it is to craft an item. It's harder to make an impression on a higher level creature because they have more narrative significance. The game views the entire world through the prism of level. A religious text might have a level that portrays its narrative significance and will determine how hard it is to translate or know about with obvious adjustments for fictional positioning. A task might have level which determines how hard it is to convince someone to do.

When something designed for the game and they assign it a level they are making a narrative choice as well as a mechanical choice. Goblin Warriors are level -1 not because they decided there was a need for a level -1 creature, but because he is less significant and powerful than a starting player character. Within the scope of the story he has less significance. This is not a game with a set adventuring day or expectation of encounter difficulty. They provide tools so the GM will know how difficult an encounter may be, but no guidance on what adventures should look like. The examples in the book include tasks well above the characters' level.

The mechanics you bemoan are intended to bring this level as a measure of narrative significance to life in the minds of players. They want you to feel the significance that comes with being higher level. They want you to feel what it's like to face the same adversaries you faced a couple levels ago in whatever context and see that you have gained power and significance. They want it to be easier to know things about them, easier to do things to them, and have it be harder for them to do things to you. They want that religious text you could not decipher to be easier to decipher. They want you to feel more important.
 

3catcircus

Explorer
@BryonD

At the end of the day we are all sharing our subjective aesthetic judgments. I consider games works of art meant for popular consumption. Like any other art form there is no objective measure of what a role playing game is or should be. The diversity of play that exists from Pathfinder First Edition to Monsterhearts back to Fifth Edition suggests to me there are many functional ways to make a role playing game.

My personal aesthetic judgement based on playing game and reading through the material is that Pathfinder Second Edition is very concerned with helping its players build a narrative through play. I have never felt more like my character in an iteration of Dungeons and Dragons. I rank it up there with Masks, Monsterhearts, and Exalted Third Edition when it comes to correspondence between narrative and game play. When I play my Barbarian I feel impulsive, arrogant, and angry. The mechanics of the game help me feel what my character is feeling. That includes the level based scaling.

It absolutely helps the players build a narrative, although probably not of the type you personally value. That's fine. Different game provide different sorts of narrative experiences.

I suspect the disconnect here is that you do not consider character class and character level to be things that have narrative significance. My personal aesthetic judgement is that for a game to feel like part of the Dungeons and Dragons tradition there needs to be thematic significance to character level, class, and race or ancestry. Each should tell us something meaningful about who the character is. When I say I am playing 5th level Dwarven Fighter there should be a cultural resonance to that. That's not all of who he is, but those choices should tell us something.

For me there has always been something ancient and primal about character level since I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. The clarion call of name level has always been a large part of the appeal to me. Level in Dungeons and Dragons has always been about more than an abstract measure of power. It has also always been an indicator of narrative significance. Over the course of your adventures you do not just become more skilled. Your narrative importance increases as well. Even though there are not mechanics for it yet Pathfinder Second Edition explicitly calls out fighters establishing keeps, rogues starting a thieve's guild, wizards starting a school, and clerics building a temple in the roleplaying advice on the first page of each class.

This is what I was trying to get at in the other thread. The mechanics make level important because it is intended to have narrative significance. It does not just help determine combat stats and skills. It also affects things like Recall Knowledge checks to know things about the person, place, or thing. It affects how difficult it is to craft an item. It's harder to make an impression on a higher level creature because they have more narrative significance. The game views the entire world through the prism of level. A religious text might have a level that portrays its narrative significance and will determine how hard it is to translate or know about with obvious adjustments for fictional positioning. A task might have level which determines how hard it is to convince someone to do.

When something designed for the game and they assign it a level they are making a narrative choice as well as a mechanical choice. Goblin Warriors are level -1 not because they decided there was a need for a level -1 creature, but because he is less significant and powerful than a starting player character. Within the scope of the story he has less significance. This is not a game with a set adventuring day or expectation of encounter difficulty. They provide tools so the GM will know how difficult an encounter may be, but no guidance on what adventures should look like. The examples in the book include tasks well above the characters' level.

The mechanics you bemoan are intended to bring this level as a measure of narrative significance to life in the minds of players. They want you to feel the significance that comes with being higher level. They want you to feel what it's like to face the same adversaries you faced a couple levels ago in whatever context and see that you have gained power and significance. They want it to be easier to know things about them, easier to do things to them, and have it be harder for them to do things to you. They want that religious text you could not decipher to be easier to decipher. They want you to feel more important.
That may be so, but at the end of the day, PF2e is still based upon a specific implementation of the d20 mechanic. I don't interpret how I play my PC based upon the mechanics. The mechanics may help immersion if they are a solid attempt to emulate how we think actions or feelings would actually happen, but they don't prevent you in how you represent your PC. By, for example, listing feats at particular levels, all they've done is explicitly quantify the prerequisites. Unconsciously, you would have generally needed to have reached a certain level to qualify for a feat in PF1 or D&D 3+ anyway. That isn't revolutionary. It's no different than the "sign reversal and move the variable to the other side of the equation" that got us from THAC0 to 3e.

Fundamentally, the game is still the same. Unless you can break apart skills and abilities and make the game class-less and level-less, you will inherently have the same problems that previous editions had when it comes to any fundamental flaws. One of the things I found to be great about Spycraft 1e was how they implemented psionics - the idea of requiring a feat to open access to a psionics skill, but then the skill level determines psionic abilities and effects played completely different than the 3e implementation which treated psionics like magic. I think any implementation of the d20 rules that would be able to use creative interpretations of an existing mechanic to obtain a new idea and apply it to what are now class abilities, combat progression, skills, etc. that allows you be open-ended rather than tie it to specific classes would allow greater flexibility while also limiting the damage caused by mix-n-match of "pinch of ability from that class, dash of ability from taking this feat, smidge of ability from layering on this spell" resulting in the frankensteinian things that happened in previous editions.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
To me, this seems to be the game Buhlman always wanted to make from day one.
I hate this sentiment. That's not meant to be a slam against you, JeffB, but the idea of "this is what the designers really wanted to do all along...and now, they finally can," always makes me roll my eyes, because it's such transparent marketing-speak that's rarely, if ever, true.

I remember how Monte Cook, something like twelve to fifteen years ago, seemed to be on the verge of exiting the game industry multiple times. And each time was punctuated by a release that was always accompanied by some variation of "this is the book I always dreamed of writing." First it was Ptolus. Then Monte Cook's World of Darkness. Then the Book of Experimental Might. Then the Book of Experimental Might II. And that was far from the end of his game-writing career.

I'm not trying to pick on Monte, of course. And I'm probably misremembering the specifics of the chatter that accompanied the releases of those books. But the larger point still stands: in ten years or so, when Pathfinder 3 comes out, we'll be hearing about how this was the game Jason Bulmahn wanted to design all along, that this is Pathfinder as it was originally intended to be, etc...and then there'll be a Pathfinder 4 ten years after that.

Maybe I'm wrong, and this really is the last Pathfinder, but I honestly don't think so. I think that at this point Paizo is simply on a ten-year plan of putting out editions so that they can reset the supplement treadmill, and the idea of "this is true Pathfinder" is just empty marketing that goes along with that.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
I hate this sentiment. That's not meant to be a slam against you, JeffB, but the idea of "this is what the designers really wanted to do all along...and now, they finally can," always makes me roll my eyes, because it's such transparent marketing-speak that's rarely, if ever, true.

I remember how Monte Cook, something like twelve to fifteen years ago, seemed to be on the verge of exiting the game industry multiple times. And each time was punctuated by a release that was always accompanied by some variation of "this is the book I always dreamed of writing." First it was Ptolus. Then Monte Cook's World of Darkness. Then the Book of Experimental Might. Then the Book of Experimental Might II. And that was far from the end of his game-writing career.

I'm not trying to pick on Monte, of course. And I'm probably misremembering the specifics of the chatter that accompanied the releases of those books. But the larger point still stands: in ten years or so, when Pathfinder 3 comes out, we'll be hearing about how this was the game Jason Bulmahn wanted to design all along, that this is Pathfinder as it was originally intended to be, etc...and then there'll be a Pathfinder 4 ten years after that.

Maybe I'm wrong, and this really is the last Pathfinder, but I honestly don't think so. I think that at this point Paizo is simply on a ten-year plan of putting out editions so that they can reset the supplement treadmill, and the idea of "this is true Pathfinder" is just empty marketing that goes along with that.
FWIW- That's just my opinion. I don't recall any verbiage like that from Jason or Paizo, other than the generalities of needing to stay pretty close to 3.5 for PF1. I do believe that PF1 would have been much different if Jason had free reign.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
If a character is "breaking the game," I feel it's something that can be dealt with at the table. Have a power gamer abusing the system, throw extra hard enemies at him. Someone accidentally built a too weak character, it can be changed, if the player is feeling unhappy with his choices.
Sadly this behavior just reinforces the idea that he needs to powergame. It also has the rather detrimental side effect of making him believe the other players need to optimize to the same degree lest they die, which either pushes them to do the same or pushes him into frustration when he dies and can lay the blame at the other players feet.

It's soo close to being the 5 minute workday problem. Well I'll ramp up encounter difficulty to challenge my players. Okay they used a lot of resources and now they rest. Which essentially makes the game into rocket tag.
 

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
If a character is "breaking the game," I feel it's something that can be dealt with at the table. Have a power gamer abusing the system, throw extra hard enemies at him. Someone accidentally built a too weak character, it can be changed, if the player is feeling unhappy with his choices.

Personally, I'd rather have a game with lots of choice, than reduce the options because of fears that some combinations will break the system. I have made a ton of 3e and PF characters, because I'm one of those geeky people that have fun just making characters. I never accidentally broke one. As for power gamers, we'll, there's no way to rein them in. 😅
But at the same time your also throwing extra hard enemies at the rest of the party. Those who are not optimized would die quickly in this case.

Also getting someone to change their character is going to be really difficult. Especially for those who do not care about their optimization.

Better to talk about expectations from the off.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I am someone who really cares about skilled play being a thing that games reward. However, I do not think that place should be in character build. I prefer for it be mostly expressed in active play with a focus being as much on the fiction as the rules. That way you can seek to get better over time and it kind of happens naturally. You do not need to rebuild your character from square one. There's a smoother curve as well.

One of the things that I really appreciate about Pathfinder Second Edition is that retraining is a downtime activity and that for smaller things like feats or spells for spontaneous casters you only need a week to change them out. That way players are less stuck with a decision that is not working out for them.
 

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