Pathfinder 2 GM Experience

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
The PF2 play experience can be great. The character creation in PF2 can be fun.
But what about the PF2 GM experience?


One thing that struck me as odd was on page 487 of the Gamemastering section of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook -> "Building your own adventure is much more challenging than using a published one"
It seems to be saying "buy our APs"
 

Eric V

Adventurer
The PF2 play experience can be great. The character creation in PF2 can be fun.
But what about the PF2 GM experience?


One thing that struck me as odd was on page 487 of the Gamemastering section of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook -> "Building your own adventure is much more challenging than using a published one"
It seems to be saying "buy our APs"
Maybe. It's true though, it's a lot easier. Why did you find it odd that they include that?
 

Jimmy Dick

Explorer
It definitely is more difficult to build your own adventures. Balancing content over time can be a difficult endeavor. The more experience one has with doing so counteracts that, but as always, acquiring experience can be painful for the players.

Don't forget, one can always purchase content and use it in any way they want in building their own campaigns. Whether it be inspiration, pulling pieces to use in adventures, or flat out using the content 100%, GMs have the luxury of being able to purchase content and using it.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
One thing that struck me as odd was on page 487 of the Gamemastering section of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook -> "Building your own adventure is much more challenging than using a published one"
It seems to be saying "buy our APs"
Could it be you're really asking "is making your own adventures harder in PF2 than in other Dndish games?"

If so, my answer would be "not really".

If, however, you ARE asking "is it really true making your own adventures is harder than using published ones?" then I would say "yes of course, at least at first when you start out as a new games master".

(As you become more experienced, you learn to ignore the guidelines on experience and encounter balancing, because you realize it's all a sham, an illusion, anyway...!)
 

kenada

Explorer
The PF2 play experience can be great. The character creation in PF2 can be fun.
But what about the PF2 GM experience?

One thing that struck me as odd was on page 487 of the Gamemastering section of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook -> "Building your own adventure is much more challenging than using a published one"
It seems to be saying "buy our APs"
I’d give them it seems more challenging, but I’m not sure it actually is. I agree with Morrus, it almost always requires more work to run a published adventure than to put together my own. It seems more challenging than it is because systems don’t really teach GMs how to put together an effective adventure. If all you’ve run or played are published adventures, then that’s how you think an adventure needs to be written, but modules (modern ones in particular) usually aren’t exemplars of adventure design.

The issue with Paizo’s adventures in particular is they’re usually designed to be read rather than be run, so their keys are generally not good. A moment that drove this home for me was when I was playing through Thornkeep at Origins, and the GM tried to run it out of the book. There were a handful of times when the game ground to a halt while he had to page around and look things up.

We’ll see what the GMG has to say on adventure design. I assume they’ll have at least some advice. If you have a good structure, running your own stuff requires very little actual work once things get going.
 

Kel Ardan

Explorer
My two biggest issues after running a couple sessions so far:

1. I keep forgetting to roll secret rolls (too used to open table rolls).
2. Hellknight Hill is written just like Kenada said, like a reading source instead of a module to run.
(You keep having to find things all over the book to go through scenes instead of having boxes telling the players what they see and having people and creature stats in same area). This really can grind a game to
a stand still when looking for things especially when the newer system of the actual game runs smoothly.

Other than that I'm loving the system and the players are really enjoying the 3 action economy.
 

TreChriron

Explorer
Wow. The title of this post is somewhat misleading, no?

Probably should have been "Paizo shills own AP in GM Section and I don't like it". I give extra kudos to @Kel Ardan for including the content I was expecting in the thread... 💖

So, anyone else have actual GM experiences with the game? Thoughts so far?
 

kenada

Explorer
Wow. The title of this post is somewhat misleading, no?

Probably should have been "Paizo shills own AP in GM Section and I don't like it". I give extra kudos to @Kel Ardan for including the content I was expecting in the thread... 💖

So, anyone else have actual GM experiences with the game? Thoughts so far?
I’m running a sandbox hexcrawl in PF2. I posted about it over in the actual play thread. The gist of it is:
  • PF2 is pretty amenable to homebrew. The way customization works makes it easy to repurpose, tweak, and reflavor things.
  • Exploration mode works really well. I was able to integrate it with the hexcrawl procedure I use very easily. Transitioning between scales also works smoothly.
We haven’t run combat yet, though I did run a one-shot for the group before we switched. I also posted about it in the actual play thread.

I like the way the new action economy works, and the system is in general more consistent and easier to run. There are very few exceptions to the way things work, though the trade-off is there are complex interactions that arise between traits. For example, Quick Draw has you Interact to draw a weapon and then make a Strike. Interact has the manipulate trait, so anything that triggers off manipulate actions (like Attack of Opportunity) will trigger. I prefer this because it’s still easier to adjudicate than a list of exceptions.
 

Rhianni32

Explorer
Heavy Fall of Plaguestone spoilers below

Ran Fall of Plaguestone last Friday for my regular TTRPG group and this was our first time playing PF2. Here are my thoughts as a GM...

1: Crits are deadly. We had a TPK in the first fight. The 2nd level wolf that attacks Bort's merchant caravan got two crits. each one dropped a fully healthy character. With its +11 to attack against 1st level characters it crits on a 17-20 as most of the PCs had an 18 AC. On average its crit damage will be 19 damage.
I fear what the 3rd bear they will encounter in part 1 when they are still 1st level will do to them. Looking at higher level monsters vs estimate of bonuses that PCs will have, I don't see this problem going away.
Solution: There were some bad player tactics due to not knowing the rules and I had Bort and his crew save the party by finishing off the wolf but players can't counteract lucky dice rolls.
I'm going to ignore the errata with Hero Points and let the players use it while dying to bring them to 1 HP so they can move around and act. We had it where it stabilized them at 0 but for all intents and purposes they were still out of the fight and not very heroic.

2: Crafting is too expensive. Its already apparent that apart from allowing the party to have access to things they cannot buy, crafting sucks because its too expensive. The formula cost is rough especially if you just want to craft a single item. One of my players running a Rogue wanted to make their own poisons and it seemed too cost prohibitive.
Solutions: I have several plans

Any player that wants to be a crafter and gets a crafting feat, can get their monetary treasure in crafting part with a 50% bonus. e.g. party of 4, 3 PCs get 100 gold, 1 Rogue with alchemy to make poisons will get 150 gold worth of non descript "ingredients" that cannot be sold for money but can go towards any crafting. 50% seems like it will help but not make is so the rogue is using a poison every battle, every attack and causing balance issues.

Formulas will be given out as quest rewards and social interaction skill challenge type mini games.

Factions will offer free formulas. I haven't delved into factions in PF2 but presuming they are like factions in 5ed, PCs can join a faction and spend time earning favor and ranks for rewards. This seems like a good format for a crafting guild that will give free formulas to its members in good standing.

3: I love the detailed mechanics. 5ed DMing for me was a chore. Players would say they want to try something. Then I had to do all the figuring out of the mechanics. what skill is most applicable. what is the DC for this, how successful are they, and what kind of precedence is being set for all future uses of this action a player is wanting to try. Since there was little meat behind the 5ed rules its on the DM and if they don't allow the player to do it they are being a mean jerk.
In PF2 though there is usually an action that is close to what the players are wanting to do enough so that there is a basis to form rule decisions off of.

4: PF2 has a lot more decisions in the game. e.g. get something now or get more available options to future decisions. I'm seeing a common reoccurring pattern in the rules. Shield usage is a common example. spend 1 action to defend yourself. You may or may not be attacked so potentially your 1 action is wasted. But it gives AC bonus and the option to block some damage.
Magic Staves are similar. you can spend a spell slot during your daily preparation to gain spontaneous casting of the staff's spell list vs locking in your spell slot if you are a wizard. But you may not need that staff of divination or staff of fire during that day you spend your spell slot on.
My players had a few complaints about some of the changes (primarily about shield AC not always being on) but after explaining the above on opportunity cost it went over better.

5: PF2 combat seems to work better as a tactical miniature battle simulator than a theatre of the mind. With its level of mechanics (especially traits) and the 3 action economy, combat felt more like a video game than regular TTRPG combat. For better or for worse is a matter of what you want in your game.

6: PF2 also feels like a collectible card game with the trait system, so I embraced it and created cards for my players. I used magic set editor and loaded up Tintagel's 5ed card template. I edited the text file format to load up the various action point icons of PF2.
Green Border = at will type actions, spells, and affects that have unlimited use.
Orange Border = focus abilities or other things that recharge during the day.
Red Border = abilities recharge only during daily preparations like spells.
Purple Border = consumable magic items.
Blue Border = permanent magic items.

My players loved this and it was a big hit. It allows me to pass out magic items for them to hold, use, and trade also. It also solved a problem I knew we were going to have. Between normal actions, skill actions, class unlocked actions, spells, feats, ancestories…. we were going to be overwhelmed with what the PCs could do, and where to find it. in the core rulebook and heaven forbid when other books are published. The character sheets have these all over the place on different pages we were going to want 1 place to quickly look and pick what the PCs were doing.
Now the players can have their character deck. Far easier to change a load out if you retrain a feat, or buy and sell magic items then to be erasing and rewriting on your character sheet.

7: Secret rolls are awesome. Players no longer have to pretend to play with in character knowledge separate from their player knowledge of how to act. This will help with immersion. They failed a nature check while checking the caustic wolf but didn't know they failed. We forgot for me to roll a Medicine check on Bort when he was eating his turnip porridge and they rolled a "1" so automatically knew what I told them as " you think its an allergic reaction" was a lie. Missed a great RP opportunity with this one as I should have rolled it but we are all learning this system. As a GM I like it because since its secret, it will support the story I am trying to tell vs having the players fight against it with player vs character knowledge.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Heavy Fall of Plaguestone spoilers below

Ran Fall of Plaguestone last Friday for my regular TTRPG group and this was our first time playing PF2. Here are my thoughts as a GM...

1: Crits are deadly. We had a TPK in the first fight. The 2nd level wolf that attacks Bort's merchant caravan got two crits. each one dropped a fully healthy character. With its +11 to attack against 1st level characters it crits on a 17-20 as most of the PCs had an 18 AC. On average its crit damage will be 19 damage.
I fear what the 3rd bear they will encounter in part 1 when they are still 1st level will do to them. Looking at higher level monsters vs estimate of bonuses that PCs will have, I don't see this problem going away.
Solution: There were some bad player tactics due to not knowing the rules and I had Bort and his crew save the party by finishing off the wolf but players can't counteract lucky dice rolls.
I'm going to ignore the errata with Hero Points and let the players use it while dying to bring them to 1 HP so they can move around and act. We had it where it stabilized them at 0 but for all intents and purposes they were still out of the fight and not very heroic.

2: Crafting is too expensive. Its already apparent that apart from allowing the party to have access to things they cannot buy, crafting sucks because its too expensive. The formula cost is rough especially if you just want to craft a single item. One of my players running a Rogue wanted to make their own poisons and it seemed too cost prohibitive.
Solutions: I have several plans

Any player that wants to be a crafter and gets a crafting feat, can get their monetary treasure in crafting part with a 50% bonus. e.g. party of 4, 3 PCs get 100 gold, 1 Rogue with alchemy to make poisons will get 150 gold worth of non descript "ingredients" that cannot be sold for money but can go towards any crafting. 50% seems like it will help but not make is so the rogue is using a poison every battle, every attack and causing balance issues.

Formulas will be given out as quest rewards and social interaction skill challenge type mini games.

Factions will offer free formulas. I haven't delved into factions in PF2 but presuming they are like factions in 5ed, PCs can join a faction and spend time earning favor and ranks for rewards. This seems like a good format for a crafting guild that will give free formulas to its members in good standing.

3: I love the detailed mechanics. 5ed DMing for me was a chore. Players would say they want to try something. Then I had to do all the figuring out of the mechanics. what skill is most applicable. what is the DC for this, how successful are they, and what kind of precedence is being set for all future uses of this action a player is wanting to try. Since there was little meat behind the 5ed rules its on the DM and if they don't allow the player to do it they are being a mean jerk.
In PF2 though there is usually an action that is close to what the players are wanting to do enough so that there is a basis to form rule decisions off of.

4: PF2 has a lot more decisions in the game. e.g. get something now or get more available options to future decisions. I'm seeing a common reoccurring pattern in the rules. Shield usage is a common example. spend 1 action to defend yourself. You may or may not be attacked so potentially your 1 action is wasted. But it gives AC bonus and the option to block some damage.
Magic Staves are similar. you can spend a spell slot during your daily preparation to gain spontaneous casting of the staff's spell list vs locking in your spell slot if you are a wizard. But you may not need that staff of divination or staff of fire during that day you spend your spell slot on.
My players had a few complaints about some of the changes (primarily about shield AC not always being on) but after explaining the above on opportunity cost it went over better.

5: PF2 combat seems to work better as a tactical miniature battle simulator than a theatre of the mind. With its level of mechanics (especially traits) and the 3 action economy, combat felt more like a video game than regular TTRPG combat. For better or for worse is a matter of what you want in your game.

6: PF2 also feels like a collectible card game with the trait system, so I embraced it and created cards for my players. I used magic set editor and loaded up Tintagel's 5ed card template. I edited the text file format to load up the various action point icons of PF2.
Green Border = at will type actions, spells, and affects that have unlimited use.
Orange Border = focus abilities or other things that recharge during the day.
Red Border = abilities recharge only during daily preparations like spells.
Purple Border = consumable magic items.
Blue Border = permanent magic items.

My players loved this and it was a big hit. It allows me to pass out magic items for them to hold, use, and trade also. It also solved a problem I knew we were going to have. Between normal actions, skill actions, class unlocked actions, spells, feats, ancestories…. we were going to be overwhelmed with what the PCs could do, and where to find it. in the core rulebook and heaven forbid when other books are published. The character sheets have these all over the place on different pages we were going to want 1 place to quickly look and pick what the PCs were doing.
Now the players can have their character deck. Far easier to change a load out if you retrain a feat, or buy and sell magic items then to be erasing and rewriting on your character sheet.

7: Secret rolls are awesome. Players no longer have to pretend to play with in character knowledge separate from their player knowledge of how to act. This will help with immersion. They failed a nature check while checking the caustic wolf but didn't know they failed. We forgot for me to roll a Medicine check on Bort when he was eating his turnip porridge and they rolled a "1" so automatically knew what I told them as " you think its an allergic reaction" was a lie. Missed a great RP opportunity with this one as I should have rolled it but we are all learning this system. As a GM I like it because since its secret, it will support the story I am trying to tell vs having the players fight against it with player vs character knowledge.
This is very useful info, thanks.
 

TreChriron

Explorer
Yeah, Thanks for the posts people! I sincerely appreciate your thoughts.

As an aside, like to point out that "secret rolls" are not new. GURPS has had them for decades. Many other games too. I noticed that Paizo pulled in some cool tricks from other games and it's super cool of them. They also call out some works in the books - also super cool. One of the few industries you can reach out and get enthusiast permission from "competitors" to use your cool tricks.
 

S'mon

Legend
I actually find running published adventures more work than my own. Less exam revision required!

It's actually easier for me to create my own adventure.
Yeah, I definitely find running someone else's material is almost always more work. Not so much when it's bare bones (eg Stonehell Dungeon), but running Paizo APs takes an enormous amount of work even when I'm not engaging with those crazy 3e/PF NPC stat blocks. There are advantages to using published material; I think riffing off others' work does tend to give a better play experience in some ways than stuff I made myself. And it's good not having to feel inspired before each session. But that's very different from 'less work'.

One issue I find is that publisher-designers often seem to think that GMs in home games are or should be creating material that looks similar to published material. That would of course be very arduous. But that's just completely unnecessary.
 

S'mon

Legend
Heavy Fall of Plaguestone spoilers below

Ran Fall of Plaguestone last Friday for my regular TTRPG group and this was our first time playing PF2. Here are my thoughts as a GM...

1: Crits are deadly. We had a TPK in the first fight. The 2nd level wolf that attacks Bort's merchant caravan got two crits. each one dropped a fully healthy character. With its +11 to attack against 1st level characters it crits on a 17-20 as most of the PCs had an 18 AC. On average its crit damage will be 19 damage.
We played our first session of Plaguestone last week, 2nd tonight*! We were told an ogre had kidnapped a local sage/academic, so my Lastwall Survivor Fighter PC insisted on rounding up a bunch of peasants with torches and pitchforks to poke at it before we'd take it on. It critted another PC and KO'd him in one hit, but my heroic peasants managed to take it down. :)
Then we had the scabby wolves and their acid-spitting leader; we were pretty lucky on the rolls and I dropped three of them while the others took down the leader & a couple more. Bort and co annoyingly did nothing even after one of the drovers had been melted by the acid breath.

Overall I found the system swingy and exciting, the combat was definitely tense and fun. The 3-action economy worked well vs the target ACs, I could generally hit on 1st attack, & on 2nd if I got lucky. My 20' move rate/action in heavy armour felt annoyingly slow, but did give time for tactical positioning as I led my peasant horde vs the ogre. Really no worse than 5e's move 30'+dash 30', but it felt like the 3-action economy promised a more heroic feel than it delivered. Still I think the 3-action system is definitely superior to 5e's split-move, move is not an action approach.

*GM cancelled just after I posted. :(
 
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Kel Ardan

Explorer
Ran my 2nd game of Hellknight Hill last night and it went a lot smoother than the first session and we are getting used to secret rolls. Everyone got into the exploring rules more and followed the story much better, and decided to skip the front door of the keep and try to find another way in. The 2 major encounters they faced really had them thinking about different ways to use the 3 actions and the reaction and it was fun to watch. They also found that level 2 creatures when your level 1 can be terrifying and you better plan tactics or you will go down when two of the four were down to 2 and 3 hit points and the cleric was dropped (thank god they all decided to be trained in medicine which is pretty great especially when you heal so little with over night sleep). At this point they had to retreat to their campground away from the keep to try to get rest (we will see what happens ;)

Overall a fun session (only had about 2.5 hours to play and they did a lot of investigation in the town before heading to the main adventure) but my players are definitely having a lot of fun.
 

kenada

Explorer
Our next session is Saturday. I’ll post an update after it, but I expect to really get into the swing of exploration.

As an aside, like to point out that "secret rolls" are not new. GURPS has had them for decades. Many other games too. I noticed that Paizo pulled in some cool tricks from other games and it's super cool of them. They also call out some works in the books - also super cool. One of the few industries you can reach out and get enthusiast permission from "competitors" to use your cool tricks.
Pathfinder 1e had them too, but they weren’t systematized like they are in PF2. I have had players (in PF1) be very surprised when I used them as written, because they expected always to roll their checks. It’s like what Paizo did with rarity. Almost every GM tweaks things a bit, but having rarity like it is in PF2 gives GMs a structure to communicate that to players and helps set expectations (e.g., some things are special, only acquired by adventuring, etc).
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Featuring humanoid NPCs with class levels is definitely extremely work-intense and prep-heavy in PF2.

Not only is building the NPC time-consuming, you need to give it combat tactics too.

That is, any character with class feats must be given at least one, preferably two or three*, "attack routines" where you have to ensure you follow all rules for sequencing attacks - only one flourish, a press attack can't be the first in the round (since it requires a MAP), and so on...

Basically, you need to master that class as if you were playing it yourself...

Getting a comprehensive selection of NPCs-as-monsters will be a godsend, and I'm despairing those weren't included in the base Bestiary.

*) Presumably you selected a class because you want that to be apparent through the NPCs actions/abilities. There's very little design space for a "base" character that merely strikes three times on its turn. In PF2 that doesn't come across as simple; it comes across as... bad (uninspired, lazy)
 

dave2008

Legend
7: Secret rolls are awesome. Players no longer have to pretend to play with in character knowledge separate from their player knowledge of how to act. This will help with immersion. They failed a nature check while checking the caustic wolf but didn't know they failed. We forgot for me to roll a Medicine check on Bort when he was eating his turnip porridge and they rolled a "1" so automatically knew what I told them as " you think its an allergic reaction" was a lie. Missed a great RP opportunity with this one as I should have rolled it but we are all learning this system. As a GM I like it because since its secret, it will support the story I am trying to tell vs having the players fight against it with player vs character knowledge.
I didn't play PF1 (or 3e), but I have used secret roles since D&D/AD&D. Where they not a think in PF1? I feel like this is how I've always played the game.
 

zztong

Explorer
I didn't play PF1 (or 3e), but I have used secret roles since D&D/AD&D. Where they not a think in PF1? I feel like this is how I've always played the game.
I don't recall guidance about them in PF1, but I wouldn't have looked for it. As you say, the technique has been around forever. A new DM would likely appreciate secret roles being included in the rules, but veteran DMs already knew the option was there for them.

There are other similar and more extensive approaches at providing an immersive experience, like the DM being the only one to see the player's character sheets. Most groups prefer faster play than what those afford and many players like to see the underlying system.
 

Rhianni32

Explorer
I didn't play PF1 (or 3e), but I have used secret roles since D&D/AD&D. Where they not a think in PF1? I feel like this is how I've always played the game.
I only played PF1 when it first launched but went back to 3.5.
I'm sure Paizo wasn't the first to invent the idea of a secret roll. I'm also sure I encountered them at some point but for whatever reason they didn't resonate with me as they do now.
 

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