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Pathfinder 2E Pathfinder 2 and the two dichotomies

willrali

Explorer
You will NEVER be able to feel proud of your newly increased stats - leveling up ALWAYS means facing new monsters that outstrip your values

I don't understand this. My group's player characters feel powerful all the time, because I don't just throw foes of their level at them.

Actually, the beauty of PF2 is that if you've ground through a dungeon, then you can come out a badass and smash your way through the thieves guild or whatever. One of the things I detest the most about 5e is that a group of 10th level characters can be challenged by a mob of third level characters. It's completely un-fun. What's the point in playing if you're little better than a mook?
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
I don’t think it follows that just because PF2 came out differently that Paizo failed to learn from their peers. Nothing says doing so means you have to come to the same conclusion. Look at the OSR. Are they wrong for eschewing certain design truisms? No, and not having those things is often the point. I’d say the same goes for PF2. Paizo had certain things they wanted to do (tell super-heroic stories, and provide character customization that can’t “win” the game), and they did it. Balance is a means to that end, and not having “bounded accuracy” like 5e does the point.
Well, this is a response to the argument "Paizo should have introduced bounded accuracy (or at least 5E-style BA) to their game".

But I don't think anyone has made that argument.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I don't understand this. My group's player characters feel powerful all the time, because I don't just throw foes of their level at them.
Try playing an official AP and get back to us afterwards.

I'm not trying to be snarky - I'm trying to say that maybe one reason why you claim to not understand the sentiment might be because by writing your own adventures you are bypassing how the official adventures expose the relentless churn of leveling (where you always* face foes with much better numerical stats than yourself).

*) sure maybe one in ten fights feature a truly trivial opposition, but then that comes across not as a baseline against which your heroes feel awesome, but an exception, a bone thrown to you.
 
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transmission89

Adventurer
Try playing an official AP and get back to us afterwards.

I'm not trying to be snarky - I'm trying to say that maybe one reason why you claim to not understand the sentiment might be because by writing your own adventures you are bypassing how the official adventures expose the relentless churn of leveling (where you always* face foes with much better numerical stats than yourself).

*) sure maybe one in ten fights feature a truly trivial opposition, but then that comes across not as a baseline to which your heroes feel awesome, but an exception, a bone thrown to you.
But (and again without snark from my part) is that a bad thing necessarily? Isn’t that part of the power fantasy they are aiming for where you are moving onto bigger, more bad ass things to take down? Could this critique not be applied to pf1?

I know for example, in some PF1 APs, they had a good mix of on level, harder and easier encounters to challenge you and let you blow off steam by allowing you to throw easier monsters around the room.

I’ve not got all the PF2 APs, do they not include some easier encounters like that? And if they didn’t, wouldn’t that be more a criticism of the AP rather than the system?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
TBF, I had this article in my head when I was using the term, whether or not that thing is properly called 'bounded accuracy' by it's creators prescriptive definition (and descriptively, it is often used to refer to the way 5e contains mathematical variation) is immaterial to my point that both Pathfinder 2e and Dungeons and Dragons 5e 'contain' their bonuses in a way that some Pathfinder 1e players find deal breakingly similar, we can use a different term for that if necessary to facilitate the discussion?
If you're trying to explain the to us mindboggling notion "I'm not playing PF2 because it feels too much like 5E" then fair enough.

After sleeping on it I think you came across as you yourself claiming the games were similar (in this respect), which explains the protests against your post. But in fairness you probably didn't. You were merely trying to explain the unexplainable... :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
But (and again without snark from my part) is that a bad thing necessarily? Isn’t that part of the power fantasy they are aiming for where you are moving onto bigger, more bad ass things to take down? Could this critique not be applied to pf1?

I know for example, in some PF1 APs, they had a good mix of on level, harder and easier encounters to challenge you and let you blow off steam by allowing you to throw easier monsters around the room.

I’ve not got all the PF2 APs, do they not include some easier encounters like that? And if they didn’t, wouldn’t that be more a criticism of the AP rather than the system?
It is definitely a criticism of the AP, and not inherent to the system.

To some extent, at least. There are still elements that makes PF2 feel much more restricted and un-generous than 5E in my opinion that come from the system and not just some writers guidelines.

That is, on one hand, yes encounter balance (and varying it) is an art, a delicate thing.

But on the other, PF2 and 5E still approaches this fundamentally differently. 5E is easy (maybe too easy), while PF2 is hard (maybe too hard). In 5E, bonuses like magic items and spell buffs feel generous; they are powerful and fun rewards (just not so over the top as 3E/PF1 effects were). PF2 in comparison comes across as only very reluctantly handing things out, always trying to claim you got a reward but not really giving anything substantial to you, if you see what I mean. Magic items are obligations, not rewards, in PF2. You need them, you are expected to have them. There is little joy in them, since every monster is balanced against you having them, so the main impact is when you don't have them - then you feel punished.

These things are on the system as opposed to just decisions made by individual scenario writers.

PS. I should add that over the course of twently levels the tables slowly turn in PF2. (At least I think this is because systemic design decisions and not just scenario writer decisions) At low level you are outclassed by a monster of your own level. At high level you outclass a monster of your own level. At the very top levels (at least 15) the game does start to feel a little bit more like "proper D&D", in that you no longer so very desperately need every magic item and buff, and that the adventure needs to go above and beyond the baseline to challenge you.
 
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transmission89

Adventurer
It is definitely a criticism of the AP, and not inherent to the system.

To some extent, at least. There are still elements that makes PF2 feel much more restricted and un-generous than 5E in my opinion that come from the system and not just some writers guidelines.

That is, on one hand, yes encounter balance (and varying it) is an art, a delicate thing.

But on the other, PF2 and 5E still approaches this fundamentally differently. 5E is easy (maybe too easy), while PF2 is hard (maybe too hard). In 5E, bonuses like magic items and spell buffs feel generous; they are powerful and fun rewards (just not so over the top as 3E/PF1 effects were). PF2 in comparison comes across as only very reluctantly handing things out, always trying to claim you got a reward but not really giving anything substantial to you, if you see what I mean. Magic items are obligations, not rewards, in PF2. You need them, you are expected to have them. There is little joy in them, since every monster is balanced against you having them, so the main impact is when you don't have them - then you feel punished.

These things are on the system as opposed to just decisions made by individual scenario writers.
Yeah I get what you’re saying here. I remember that sort of discussion taking place during the play test.

Does using the non bonus variant in the GMG do enough to alleviate your concerns around that (if you play or were to play)? As to my mind, that seems Paizo is wanting to have their cake and eat it there, giving players the option if they don’t want that required Magic Item treadmill.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
but wanted to cut back on d20+40 being rolled
This is the thing Magic is talking about.

Yes, both games aim for (and succeed in) avoiding rolls where the die no longer matters*.

*) For intended challenges. A PF2 level 20 Barbarian attempting a Religion check will likely still fail when rolling a 20 (since a result of perhaps 30 is still a critical failure when the DC is 45), but in that game characters are not expected to even try checks based on skills they are not proficient in.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
My two cents: don’t do this. I feel that part of my bad experience with PF2 was that we were running it with 6 players over VTT.

This was our experience:
  • 3 action turn with 6 players meant that there were often 3 x 10 actions between each player’s turn (5 other players and 5 monsters). This slowed combat to a crawl for us and was particularly an issue when my turn (wizard) took 30 s (one spell + either move or Shield), while other characters’ turns took much longer;
  • The GM tried to compensate by putting fewer stronger monsters. Suddenly, the threat level of fights is going up and it is taking longer to recover between each fight because monsters do more damage;
  • Our fight days tended to move at the speed of the character with the fewest spell slots. All it takes is one character to blow all their spells in one combat and the whole group has to rest, further slowing progress down.

As a counterpoint to this, the group I dm over foundry has expanded from four to six and although combats are slower I've not noticed a massive difference, i think the three actions help in this regard as a lot less confusion over what type of action is used and less ummm'ing and arrr'ing trying to plan a move, standard and bonus.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I don't view it as a bad thing, when I discuss their intertextuality I mean that they're approaching the same problems and solving them with solutions that are related. I prefer Pathfinder 2e's solution, in fact, and what you describe in terms of 5es problems are what eventually drove us into the arms of 2e.

My group pushed 5e way past its breaking point. Items as a bonus is all well and good, until you actually want to give them out without 'voiding the warranty' as it were and the system shattered.

Honestly, I'm pretty sure how hard my group pushed the system is the reason my perspective on 5e is so alien to Dave and Zapp. We tested that system's limits, the limits of its 'balance' the actual effects of BA, Magic Items, Feats, Multiclassing and etc.
We too shattered 5E, and we too moved over to PF2.

The difference is that I don't let PF2 get away with its flaws.

I only criticize games I care for and invest in. If PF2 didn't have a core of really good gameplay, I would hardly have bothered.

It is against the backdrop of really cool and exciting combat the flaws of PF2 become so very irritating. The game could have been soo much better, and the sad thing is that for the most part it's relatively trivial things that bog down the game. That is, for the most part it is easy to see a much improved CRB.

Just to take two quick examples: first, the fatal decision to suck all the fun out of magic items 4E-style. Second, there is no reason for the paranoiacally* restrictive earn income/crafting rules. (I say "trivial" because in the greater context coming up with a reasonable set of such rules actually is relatively easy.)
*) Yes I had to look that up
 

CapnZapp

Legend
We can give it a different name, but PF2 and 5e are still doing different things. PF2 still has the progression treadmill (including a table of level-based DCs). 5e dispensed with that, but PF2 did not. People will say you’re not supposed to set the DC based on the PCs, but what how does that get handled in practice? Just like DM David says: by describing obstacles of legendary proportions.
I kind of understand why PF2 focused on level-appropriate challenges, but Paizo entirely forgot why and how players get the warm fuzzy feeling that their characters are awesome: because they become awesome at doing stuff.

It would have been very interesting to see an alternate universe where Pathfinder 2 didn't go the treadmill route - where, say, a wall remained DC 15 to climb no matter the level of the heroes.

Your Athletics bonus of +36 feels much less awesome if every wall you encounter in practical play is DC 45 or whatever. In fact, the awesomeness is dispelled entirely when you realize you are no better against your current challenges than you were at level 1 (with your Athletics of +6) at your then-current challenges. And I think Paizo underestimated that.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Yeah I get what you’re saying here. I remember that sort of discussion taking place during the play test.

Does using the non bonus variant in the GMG do enough to alleviate your concerns around that (if you play or were to play)? As to my mind, that seems Paizo is wanting to have their cake and eat it there, giving players the option if they don’t want that required Magic Item treadmill.
Well the simple answer is that Paizo doesn't get off the hook by just throwing in a variant which they then promptly ignore in all their official material.

(We have played the game. We have played an entire AP. But only one, and as it was our first we wanted to play it RAW*)
*) or at least as close to RAW as we could muster

I guess the point is that if Paizo didn't listen to playtesters (or more likely, listened to other more vocal playtesters, or simply ran out of time before they could consolidate) that's on Paizo.

The more involved answer is that, sure the automatic bonus progression variant (at least that's what I think it's called) solves the issue. But it only does so by nullifying a big part of the game that's supposed to be fun: loot. In other words, it's kind of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And the bigger issue remains: that magic items for the most part are weirdly restricted and just not fun enough (perhaps the strongest and most unfortunate call-back to my 4E experiences).

So, no, I find that variant essentially uninteresting. Yes, it removes the need for ever-better weapons. But it does so by removing the bulk of why magic weapons are fun and powerful! (All you're left with is things like fire runes whose +1d6 fire pales in comparison to the 3d12 of striking runes)

I guess what you could do is both use the variant AND keep magic items as-is*. Except I want Paizo to think of this**!
*) In other words, first you get your basic needs filled automatically. Then you can find magic weaponry on top of that, to get the truly magical sense of getting something awesome.
**) what I mean by this is that you're basically getting an ugly kludge here. It would have been far superior if Paizo thought of this and integrated the rules accordingly in the first place. By this I mean that instead of deferring basic needs to not-items this should have been included from the start.
 
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transmission89

Adventurer
Well the simple answer is that Paizo doesn't get off the hook by just throwing in a variant which they then promptly ignore in all their official material.

(We have played the game. We have played an entire AP. But only one, and as it was our first we wanted to play it RAW*)
*) or at least as close to RAW as we could muster

I guess the point is that if Paizo didn't listen to playtesters (or more likely, listened to other more vocal playtesters, or simply ran out of time before they could consolidate) that's on Paizo.
We were doing so well :(.

There’s no hook here. They offer a variant that seems to address your concerns (it might not, you might still have further issues with it but you’ve not explained that).

Why would they support a variant that’s not part of the default assumption when they’ve given you the formula to make those changes at your table? That’s akin to dinging 5e for not going into more detail about how their “gritty rules” impact the adventure. The critique seems to present as “I’m not happy with having this option in a system built on options”.

With regard to the level DCs, my understanding is that it’s still environmentally based. So that wall that was a DC 15 to climb, will always be DC 15 to climb. Another wall ( an abyssal wall of spikes, flames and grease) would have a higher DC because you need to be higher level to even survive that environment and it would be a lot harder.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
**) what I mean by this is that you're basically getting an ugly kludge here. It would have been far superior if Paizo thought of this and integrated the rules accordingly in the first place. By this I mean that instead of deferring basic needs to not-items this should have been included from the start.
I'm starting a new post since this deserves a thorough explanation.

What I mean is:

The suggestion is that pointing to the ABP variant solves the issue and lets Paizo off the hook. The counter-argument is that the game would have been far superior if this "automatic bonus progression" truly was automatic!

By this I mean that if a fighter (and yes I had to look this up) currently gets +8 damage for legendary proficiency, it would have been far more natural and elegant to incorporate the expected three extra weapon dice from the runes into this. Let's assume a d10 as the average between a d8 longsword and a 12 greatsword, so 5.5x3=16.

If the fighter thus got +24 damage instead of +8 striking runes would have gone from an obligatory requirement to a truly awesome reward, which IMHO is what magic items should be.

(In reality the bonus should probably be somewhere in-between. I mean, I've just done off-the-cuff calculations here. Let's skip the arguments and move straight to the point where I acknowledge +16 very likely is too much :)! Just making the point that ABP not only needlessly exposes you to manually calculating the bonus by still rolling the dice, and also that ABP negates most of the fun bonuses magic items currently provide, only leaving the cleaned-out carcass of the Treasure chapter behind. That's not a great solution however you want to slice it...)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Why would they support a variant that’s not part of the default assumption when they’ve given you the formula to make those changes at your table? That’s akin to dinging 5e for not going into more detail about how their “gritty rules” impact the adventure. The critique seems to present as “I’m not happy with having this option in a system built on options”.
I explained, but I just wasn't fast enough. I think I'll await your updated response after you have had time to read my recent posts.

With regard to the level DCs, my understanding is that it’s still environmentally based.
Then I need to say to you what I just told another poster: go play an AP and get back to me afterwards... ;)
 

transmission89

Adventurer
I explained, but I just wasn't fast enough. I think I'll await your updated response after you have had time to read my recent posts.


Then I need to say to you what I just told another poster: go play an AP and get back to me afterwards... ;)
I’ve read your updated response. Yeah, absolutely I can see your point with your problems with ABP.

So I’d ask (for the benefit of others who might feel the same way?) could you think of a simple hack to make either option (official or variant ) work for your group or would that involve too much?

And my response to the AP thing would be the same as previously, it’s moving you forwards to “harder environments “. I would hope it would be better demonstrated in an AP within a singular environment. For example, were I to convert Curse of the Crimson Throne, where you are in the city of Korvosa for most of it, I’d expect climbing onto the Roofs of houses to remain the same level of difficulty regardless of my level (minus environmental factors like it raining or some such).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I’ve read your updated response. Yeah, absolutely I can see your point with your problems with ABP.

So I’d ask (for the benefit of others who might feel the same way?) could you think of a simple hack to make either option (official or variant ) work for your group
The short and direct answer: yes, I probably could.

But in the context of the parallel thread "Pathfinder 2 and support for other playing styles/subgenres" (since this doesn't really have anything to do with the topic of this thread) the point is that it feels like the main purpose of the official variant is merely to shut up critics, rather than genuinely providing a working variant. That feeling permeates the entire GMG and is what led me to add "extremely inflexible" and "poor modding support" to the list of things Pathfinder 2 does badly. Too many variants feel like they're there because somebody decided the game should offer such variants; not because anyone at Paizo actually intends for them to be true alternatives.

As for specific houserules, that's a topic for... well, houserules. Either here or at Paizo: paizo.com - Forums: Homebrew and House Rules

And my response to the AP thing would be the same as previously, it’s moving you forwards to “harder environments “. I would hope it would be better demonstrated in an AP within a singular environment. For example, were I to convert Curse of the Crimson Throne, where you are in the city of Korvosa for most of it, I’d expect climbing onto the Roofs of houses to remain the same level of difficulty regardless of my level (minus environmental factors like it raining or some such).
For me it definitely is a problem that (the PF2 APs) completely ignore nearly everything that isn't level appropriate.

Yes, you might find it easy to climb that roof at level 12 or 18, but you would never know because the level 12 or level 18 adventure never has you climbing such roofs. Instead you are - again nearly without exception - climbing "magically protected" walls that somehow is exactly as hard for you as that roof climb was back at level 2 (or whatever).

The end result is that you don't feel rewarded for being an athletic fighter. (All that training and you might still face a 50% failure rate!) Instead, you feel punished for being a clumsy wizard. (You might not succeed even if you roll a 20!) I would much rather have a system where the wizard finds the task very difficult but still not impossible, while the fighter finds the task easy but again not automatic. (And yes, for those keeping track at home, I just described the goal of 5E bounded accuracy)
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Well, this is a response to the argument "Paizo should have introduced bounded accuracy (or at least 5E-style BA) to their game".

But I don't think anyone has made that argument.
I was responding to a claim that PF2 does something that 5e does (“bounded accuracy”) when the two systems are clearly different in execution. I then decided to use that as an example of how one could learn from 5e but come to a different conclusion.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Second, there is no reason for the paranoiacally* restrictive earn income/crafting rules. (I say "trivial" because in the greater context coming up with a reasonable set of such rules actually is relatively easy.)
PFS. In PF1, PFS had its own system for earning income, and crafting was categorically disallowed. If your class gave you crafting (e.g., Scribe Scroll for wizards), you were required to swap it out. Crafting in PF2 is allowed. Paizo designed something PFS friendly into the core game. It may suck outside of PFS, but I wouldn’t say it was done without reason.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
PFS. In PF1, PFS had its own system for earning income, and crafting was categorically disallowed. If your class gave you crafting (e.g., Scribe Scroll for wizards), you were required to swap it out. Crafting in PF2 is allowed. Paizo designed something PFS friendly into the core game. It may suck outside of PFS, but I wouldn’t say it was done without reason.
Okay.

I still reserve the right to review a game from a home game usage, unless the game is clearly billed as a tournament game first and foremost.
 

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