Pathfinder 2 GM Experience

5ekyu

Adventurer
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.
I remember secret rolls as far back as... 80s. Tagging domecdkills as secret by default but also saying others can be if GM chooses seems like a half-measure.

I myself am not a fan of rolling anything as GM, do I dont need to do secret rolls and would myself ditch that in PF2 if somehow GMing it. But, that's neither here nor there.

I mean, even thec5e DMG presents discussions about secret rolls, hoes over plusses, minuses, why it might be good or bad, etc and leave it to the FM to choose case-by-case.

Is having a few skills labelled as "secret" somehow a major improvement? Perhaps to some,
 

Rhianni32

Explorer
I remember secret rolls as far back as... 80s. Tagging domecdkills as secret by default but also saying others can be if GM chooses seems like a half-measure.

I myself am not a fan of rolling anything as GM, do I dont need to do secret rolls and would myself ditch that in PF2 if somehow GMing it. But, that's neither here nor there.

I mean, even thec5e DMG presents discussions about secret rolls, hoes over plusses, minuses, why it might be good or bad, etc and leave it to the FM to choose case-by-case.

Is having a few skills labelled as "secret" somehow a major improvement? Perhaps to some,
Yes there is a difference to some of us between the every edition's DMG fluff section of "This is a roleplaying game and as the DM you can make up your own rules! Here are some possible ideas that you might or might not want to consider at some point if they feel like it"
vs
"this is the PF2 rules on how recall knowledge is used...".
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
Yes there is a difference to some of us between the every edition's DMG fluff section of "This is a roleplaying game and as the DM you can make up your own rules! Here are some possible ideas that you might or might not want to consider at some point if they feel like it"
vs
"this is the PF2 rules on how recall knowledge is used...".
I find it awesome that that is how you see it. It shows there are definitely room fircfifferdnt views and percrptiond.

Thanks.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
There are a lot of incredibly "small" rules in PF2; that is rules regulating every little part of an action or sequence you might otherwise just use GM Fiat to resolve.

For example, the rules include a Point Out action. You need to track the "visibility status" of each ambush foe relative to each PC, in stages such as "unobserved", "hidden" etc. Then you can "upgrade" that status for your friends by spending this action. But does this simply mean the target becomes freely targetable by everyone? No siree. It still remains hidden, but is no longer unobserved!

Another example would be Recall Knowledge. On one hand you have detailed (finicky) regulation, requiring a roll to get hold of each snippet of knowledge regarding a foe's strength and weaknesses. At the same time, there's next to no guidance on what exactly a successful Recall Knowledge should provide!

Furthermore: on one hand I get the impression you're supposed to pay the (heavy) cost of setting aside an action in combat to glean this information. On the other, there are plenty of feats that talk about doing Recall Knowledge at various times. There's even abilities that lets Bards and Wizards get the results from five or six (!) Recalls when they cast a spell.

The overall impression? You're supposed to have this list of useful and not so useful factoids prepared for every monster (resistant to cold, bad reflex saves, lots of hit points, weakness to cold iron, etc etc)...

...and have the players keep track of which such factoids have been "acquired" for each monster.

All this incredible rules detail... for what? The actual "factoids" are still completely undefined and up to the GM to select and list, with zero help from the rules or the monster stat blocks themselves.

Not to mention the horrific expense of it all. Spending an action with a 50% success rate might be something a player would contemplate... if that told him and the entire party everything (or at least much) of what they need to do ("use fire against trolls")... But the Recall Knowledge action specifically calls for a single info snippet!

I have games mastered D&D and other games for thirty years and I can't see - at all - how to run this "subsystem" as written. Instead of spending an awful lot of combat actions on trying to suss out weaknesses, the players simply whale on the monster brute force. They conclude Recall actions are a complete waste of time inside an encounter, and I can't say they're wrong.

And if you can attempt Recalls outside of combat... well, then it would be much simpler to just spill the beans and tell them what they want to know, wouldn't it...? I can't figure it out.

Zapp

Ps. I realize you're now itching to explain to me how Recall Knowledge works, and what the RAW and RAI is.

Please understand, in the context of this thread, I didn't merely want to say "PF2 is DEFINITELY not for the weak of mind" - I wanted to provide actual specific examples of the INCREDIBLE rules density, especially compared to 5th edition.

Plus, if you know me, I have kinda sorted it anyway - I'm giving out "much" info on a successful roll, not just a single tidbit. And I've flagged to my players that for the moment they should focus on those feats that provide info inside combat, not outside of it (since I don't know how to run them). Prime example the "gain 6 Recall Knowledge" feats that basically make no sense whatsoever.

So please tell me everything about Recall Knowledge, but maybe it's best to start a designated thread for that, and have this one still be about GM experience with PF2. Thx

Edit: formatting (what looks good in the app, doesn't on desktop)
 
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Rhianni32

Explorer
Ps. I realize you're now itching to explain to me how Recall Knowledge works, and what the RAW and RAI is.
Actually I am itching to ask you why you play PF2. Each post from you seems to be how some rule is the worst possible iteration you have seen in a ruleset or that Paizo should be ashamed to have made PF2 at all.
e.g. recall knowledge has a horrific expense and is a complete waste of time.

So please tell me everything about Recall Knowledge, but maybe it's best to start a designated thread for that, and have this one still be about GM experience with PF2. Thx
Sounds like that is best. I am (honestly no sarcasm) interested in your ideas. Recall knowledge is a good bases but it does need some refinement.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
At least at low levels, combat is fairly swingy because crits are more common than in the previous edition. Even a basic goblin warrior has +8 to hit (against a typical AC of 17), and if there are many of them they can get +2 for flanking.

And if you're fighting something tougher, like a bugbear thug (level 2), that's an attack bonus of +10 which means they crit on 17-20.

On the other hand, you have more hitpoints (both because of the kicker from your ancestry, and because you get more from your class), and healing is more available (heal cast at 1st level with 2 actions heals 1d8+8 which is huge, and you also have Treat Wounds for 2d8 every hour). But it feels more dangerous.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
At least at low levels, combat is fairly swingy because crits are more common than in the previous edition. Even a basic goblin warrior has +8 to hit (against a typical AC of 17), and if there are many of them they can get +2 for flanking.

And if you're fighting something tougher, like a bugbear thug (level 2), that's an attack bonus of +10 which means they crit on 17-20.

On the other hand, you have more hitpoints (both because of the kicker from your ancestry, and because you get more from your class), and healing is more available (heal cast at 1st level with 2 actions heals 1d8+8 which is huge, and you also have Treat Wounds for 2d8 every hour). But it feels more dangerous.
Every monster crits on rolling a 20 (except in fringe cases).

Monsters your level, however, likely crits on rolling 19 and 18 as well. This crit risk range only widens as monsters gain levels relative to you, which gets compounded by the greater base damage of high level foes.

That said, the most important factor is the same as in every edition: the fact the extra hit points from leveling to 2 or 3 is a huge increase in staying power. Levelling up to 2nd level can easily give you more than 50% extra HP (and in certain editions up to 100%).

In contrast, getting the same hp increase at level 10 or 20 is not nearly such a big deal. (You gain maybe +5% which no longer represents a good monster swing, but maybe less than a third of one.

So the "crit math" change as you level.

But especially at 1st level a crit will be devastating, and thus, make the game feel swingy.

This gets less swingy already as you level up, not because the math changes (you still risk getting critted) but simply because once you're off the lowest levels, a single crit is no longer such an overwhelming deal.
 

kenada

Explorer
We had our second session today of my hexcrawl campaign. This time, we had a full group. I started off helping the player who couldn’t make the first session create a new character. In spite of his newness, walking him through character creation went comparatively quickly to the rest of the group for the first session. I think it really pays when you don’t know the system well to follow your ABCs and build towards a concept rather than trying to look at mechanics first then decide what you want to be.

This was my third session running the game. I’m getting more comfortable with running the skill actions. What I particularly like is the way adjudicating any situation often comes down to narrating what you want in terms of skill actions.

There was a situation when the alchemist noted he could make booze, so if the party could get some bananas, he could make booze out of them. Monkeys had bananas, so the rogue went over to try to convince the monkeys to give him some bananas by offering them some of the squirrels he acquired while Subsisting. That is, he wanted to Make an Impression than Request some bananas. I made the DC for making the impression hard, but he rolled really well. He then rolled just so-so for the Request, so he ended up having to give the monkeys more squirrels than he initially offered. While we were doing this, the player was describing how he was scratching himself and making monkey noises, so I thought it would be totally awesome to just roll with it. Now they have monkey friends. :ROFLMAO:

I made a few tweaks to how I ran my hexcrawl procedure, which seemed to work well. That doesn’t really have much to do with PF2 per se, though exploration activities are still very helpful for clarifying the intentions of the players. Taking something like “I want to keep a look out for danger” and turning that into the Scout activity is very helpful, since it helps quantify the benefits of what they are doing.

Combat-wise, we got into a lot of fights with gray oozes. I need to use the monster creation rules to build them out properly, so I was winging it based on a mix of features from gelatinous cubes and ochre jellies. The only actually fought one, but it was a +2 encounter. That should have been dangerous, but they took advantage of their mobility (and my bad dice luck) to keep it from getting a good shot at them.

Recall Knowledge came up a few times. I made sure to ask my PCs for a topic, and then I determined the results. Mostly, they failed. I handled critical failures by giving them incorrect information. In spite of the fact all oozes they encountered were the same kind (gray ooze), they thought they had encountered a bunch of different kinds, which they called swampsters. During the fight, one wanted to roll medicine to gauge how their attacks was affecting the ooze. It was a stretch (though fitting for his ancestry), but I gave it to him. It should have been a hard or harder DC, but I rolled great for the secret, so he got a good but basic still idea of how well their attacks were working (mostly confirming what they were seeing).

Overall, I’m happy with how PF2 runs at the table. The more I run it, the better it flows. There is a bit of an initial learning curve, and making a character is not as fast as other systems, but it goes smoothly at the table. I really like the way the action economy simplifies decision-making. If you have an action, you can do something with it. There just aren’t many exceptions or special cases.

Next session, it sounds like the players want to go into the dragon shrine, even though it has been taken over by gray oozes and giant geckos. That should let us do some dungeon crawling, and it should challenge me with making an interesting dungeon out of a frankly strange pairing of creatures (in spite of gray oozes having a 6% chance of coming up on my random encounter table, I rolled them something like five times today).
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
Up to maybe twelve sessions, and the characters are level four (the sorcerer is level five). Combat speed remains slow - my players refuse for me to "wing it", they want to play "by the rules", and we're still finding/learning individual small rules at least in one combat each session. This mostly concerns rulings at the periphery of what the rules concern themselves with; the exceptional cases. Time scouring the rules is mostly spent to find out if there IS a rule for something, or if the GM is free to make an off-the-cuff ruling. After all, the hardest rule to find is the one not there at all.

PF2 sure is complex, but crucially also a very decentralized ruleset. Before you can "just say yes" you ideally need to learn by heart every single one of the thousand feats, since if let's say you call for an Acrobatics check like you might in 5E, you might later find out that there's a level 7 or 17 feat that let's you do it with... an Acrobatics check. Thus you have inadvertently shortchanged a feat you did not know existed.

PF2 would have played much quicker with a group that were able to be... less anal?.. about details; a group that accepted that just because Xena the Barbarian was allowed to do this thing once using a simple save or check, doesn't mean she is allowed to do it ten sessions and levels later, when Gabrielle the Bard has picked up That Feat that specifically lets her do it in a certain way.

Thankfully we're playing on Sundays. Spending half an hour, forty-five minutes resolving a situation feels less bad with eight-hour play sessions.

PS. Examples:
  • How much movement is spent by moving through an ally's space diagonally after already moving two squares diagonally?
  • If a foe downs you, I assume he can step into your space? What are your options when you're healed back up to consciousness - I'm assuming you can't stand up from underneath a foe?
  • When, exactly, can you make a Recall Knowledge check on a monster you have not met? Is it enough to know of its existence? Find its trail?
  • How do you move a fallen ally out of harm's way if he weighs more than your max Bulk (Strength + 10)?
  • What happens if you attempt to tumble through the squares of two enemies standing next to each other, and fail the second attempt?

The point of these examples are to ask you - are you absolutely sure you're supposed to allow the character to resolve the situation a certain way even without "that feat"? (=That you are wrong to allow it without that feat)

In all these examples, the only way to make sure it's appropriate to make a GM call is to first ensure the rules remain silent on the issue, and the only way to ensure this is to make a text search on the term or terms involved. For example, to find each and every mention of "recall knowledge", including feats. Only then can you summarize the "body of rules" to decide whether they have a say on your specific situation: is there a RAW answer or a RAI answer (where you judge one rule can be used in a different context) or if a houserule is warranted, or if a GM call (that might later be forgotten and/or changed) is best.
 

Jimmy Dick

Explorer
I'm up to 32 PFS2 sessions ran (I'm losing track of them actually) and my experience GMing the sessions is a blast as I've gained more experience with the rules. Combat is intense, but the players and I really enjoy it. Right now the main issue I'm experiencing is remembering to do all the little things that I as the GM am supposed to do. Moving initiatives of dying players behind the monster that downed them, what it takes for them to regain consciousness (Master that!), doing the persistent damage and the flat checks every time, stuff like that.

I use the Condition Cards and my old Combat Pad from PF1, but I may be picking up the new PF2 Combat Pad to help me out some. It's really just a matter of mastering the little parts, but they are so important in the overall combat. A monster with a weakness like Fire 5 takes that when the persistent damage is taken, so that could be a major difference in a bigger battle. In fact, the last scenario I ran had that very detail play a significant role in the party winning the final fight. Had I not remembered the persistent damage each time along with the weakness, the party might have failed to win the battle.

Don't take this as a complaint. I've loving the system. The combats are just so much fun. You just don't really know if you're going to win or not although the players almost always do. It's just so much more engaging. As a GM, I really enjoy the scenarios because everyone is into the game far more than most players were in PF1. It doesn't matter if I am running online on Roll20 or live, the game just plays in a way that I find entertaining.
 

kenada

Explorer
Before you can "just say yes" you ideally need to learn by heart every single one of the thousand feats, since if let's say you call for an Acrobatics check like you might in 5E, you might later find out that there's a level 7 or 17 feat that let's you do it with... an Acrobatics check. Thus you have inadvertently shortchanged a feat you did not know existed.
Instead of calling for a check, determine the action/activity first. That informs what you can do. If the action/activity doesn’t say you can do it, then you can’t do it. I find that approach much easier than calling for a roll and improvising the result.

For example, don’t call for an Acrobatics check. Determine that they are engaging in e.g., the Balance activity and use that to adjudicate the result.

It’s a lot like adjudicating moves in a PbtA game in that the rules for adjudicating moves are triggered by the fiction, and that determines what you roll and how to interpret the result.
 
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kenada

Explorer
How much movement is spent by moving through an ally's space diagonally after already moving two squares diagonally?
Same as normal. The ally just needs to be willing.

If a foe downs you, I assume he can step into your space?
You can share a prone creature’s space if it is willing, unconscious, or dead.

What are your options when you're healed back up to consciousness - I'm assuming you can't stand up from underneath a foe?
A prone creature can’t stand up if another creature occupies its space, though it can Crawl away.

When, exactly, can you make a Recall Knowledge check on a monster you have not met? Is it enough to know of its existence? Find its trail?
You can Recall Knowledge on a topic at any time since there is no requirement restricting when.

That’s not to say Recall Knowledge is particularly well-written. It doesn’t handle families of monsters very well. RAW, the DC is based on the monster’s level, but it doesn’t make sense that one would suddenly stop knowing that a red dragon breathes fire simply because it grew up from a young red dragon to an adult red dragon, and your skill was no longer enough to make the DC.

How do you move a fallen ally out of harm's way if he weighs more than your max Bulk (Strength + 10)?
Treat its bulk as half when you drag it. If that’s still too much, you can’t drag the ally unless you Interact with it to remove gear that’s weighing him down, which is probably going to require many Interact actions.

What happens if you attempt to tumble through the squares of two enemies standing next to each other, and fail the second attempt?
You can’t move through the enemy’s space and trigger reactions as though you left your current space. Since you can’t end your turn in a creature’s space, you would need to move to an empty space instead. If you triggered a reaction as you moved to an empty space, you would presumably have Lesser Cover, since the reaction triggered while you were in the other creature’s space.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Same as normal. The ally just needs to be willing.


You can share a prone creature’s space if it is willing, unconscious, or dead.


A prone creature can’t stand up if another creature occupies its space, though it can Crawl away.

...
Let me stop you right there. I thank you for your willingness to help out, but please remember that this isn't a rules thread. That is, I wasn't asking for help (all of these examples we eventually figured out). I stopped you before your replies went into implied or house rule territory; partly because we should discuss that elsewhere.

Instead I'm asking: are you certain a feat doesn't impact the ability to do or not do something? That is, you "can't" just rule a character can push away a fallen ally, if it later turns out there's a feat for that. Sure you might say there isn't - but how do I know that without searching the entire rulebook?

Same with crawling. I can't think, for instance, that spending one action to crawl out of the occupied square, then one action to stand up from prone is awfully expensive and just rule that "with a DC NN Acrobatics check you roll away and end standing up" because there might be a feat that does this (or similar).

My point is: Pathfinder 2 lends itself very poorly to the easygoing fast GM style where you "wing" it. Almost everything you'd "wing" in another, less specified, edition of D&D, the designers have turned into a feat in PF2. Meaning they send a clear message "you're not supposed to be able to do ANYTHING not explicitly allowed, since we reserve the right to create a feat for that down the road".
 

CapnZapp

Hero
You can’t move through the enemy’s space and trigger reactions as though you left your current space. Since you can’t end your turn in a creature’s space, you would need to move to an empty space instead. If you triggered a reaction as you moved to an empty space, you would presumably have Lesser Cover, since the reaction triggered while you were in the other creature’s space.
Not that this is a rules thread, but I realized I need to be more specific for this example to make sense.

Imagine a narrow corridor a single square wide (yet with a ceiling high enough to allow tumbling past foes). Ahead of you are two enemy creatures, one right behind the other.

So I move up to the first monster, and I make my first Tumble Through check. So far so good. Then I fail the second. At this point I must by definition be in the first monster's square, or I couldn't trigger my Acrobatics check (to Tumble Through, you must try to enter a monster's space). Per the rules of failure, my movement ends. In the square of the first enemy. Do I drop prone? Do I bounce back to before the first enemy? Or what?

I mean, you could argue the rules never allow a hero to move past two adjacent enemies, but that feels needlessly restrictive (not to mention untenable once you're outlevelling the monsters). I want to be able to wing it, but feel I can't unless I know a thousand feats by heart.
 

kenada

Explorer
Let me stop you right there. I thank you for your willingness to help out, but please remember that this isn't a rules thread. That is, I wasn't asking for help (all of these examples we eventually figured out). I stopped you before your replies went into implied or house rule territory; partly because we should discuss that elsewhere.
There is value in having the rules cited and linked when the discussion pertains to the nature of the rules. It allows other participants to read and decide for themselves whether the representation is in good faith or construed for rhetorical effect.

Instead I'm asking: are you certain a feat doesn't impact the ability to do or not do something? That is, you "can't" just rule a character can push away a fallen ally, if it later turns out there's a feat for that. Sure you might say there isn't - but how do I know that without searching the entire rulebook?

Same with crawling. I can't think, for instance, that spending one action to crawl out of the occupied square, then one action to stand up from prone is awfully expensive and just rule that "with a DC NN Acrobatics check you roll away and end standing up" because there might be a feat that does this (or similar).
It doesn’t matter. You determine the action and resolve it as written. A feat may change that, but that only matters if the character has the feat. If you decide to improvise something else, then it’s true you run the risk of trivializing a feat or some other choice another player has made or may make.

My point is: Pathfinder 2 lends itself very poorly to the easygoing fast GM style where you "wing" it. Almost everything you'd "wing" in another, less specified, edition of D&D, the designers have turned into a feat in PF2. Meaning they send a clear message "you're not supposed to be able to do ANYTHING not explicitly allowed, since we reserve the right to create a feat for that down the road".
You’re right, and I agree. Pathfinder 2e is not a game of rulings. If a GM expects to wing it, that’s not going to work very well. Whether that is liberating or constraining depends on what one prefers as a GM.
 

kenada

Explorer
Not that this is a rules thread, but I realized I need to be more specific for this example to make sense.

Imagine a narrow corridor a single square wide (yet with a ceiling high enough to allow tumbling past foes). Ahead of you are two enemy creatures, one right behind the other.

So I move up to the first monster, and I make my first Tumble Through check. So far so good. Then I fail the second. At this point I must by definition be in the first monster's square, or I couldn't trigger my Acrobatics check (to Tumble Through, you must try to enter a monster's space). Per the rules of failure, my movement ends. In the square of the first enemy. Do I drop prone? Do I bounce back to before the first enemy? Or what?

I mean, you could argue the rules never allow a hero to move past two adjacent enemies, but that feels needlessly restrictive (not to mention untenable once you're outlevelling the monsters). I want to be able to wing it, but feel I can't unless I know a thousand feats by heart.
Regarding this example, Tumble Through is clear how it works and what its limitations are. If you want to improvise something, allowing more than what it says, you have to decide whether you are comfortable possibly trivializing some feat or other capability. Like you intimated in your other post, Pathfinder 2e is not a game amenable to rulings.
 

kenada

Explorer
This is a separate post, so I can walk through adjudicating this situation because understanding the back and forth between the player and the GM and flow of play goes to the GM experience.

When the player narrates what they are doing, you have to decide what action they are attempting if they have not called it out. Even if they do, you still need to decide whether it’s an appropriate one for this situation. Some actions may actually require other ones to set things up, such as having to Make an Impression to an indifferent creature before making a Request.

By default, Tumble Through allows you to Stride up to your speed and move through the space of one enemy. The GM informs the player of this, and they make an Acrobatics check against the enemy’s Athletics DC. On success, they treat the enemy’s space as difficult terrain. Unfortunately, there is another enemy in the way, and nothing allows them to move through another enemy’s space.

At this point, the PC has expended one action and has two actions left. The rules for movement preclude them from ending their turn in an occupied space, so they must decide whether to Tumble Through the next enemy or Stride back whence they came.

The PC decides to Tumble Through again, but they fail. They could opt to Stride back (since Tumble Through allows you to Stride up to your speed), or they can try again with their last action. The only thing that matters regarding the first enemy is that the PC cannot be in its space when their turn ends.

Let’s say they fail again, then they must Stride away, vacating that space. This satisfies the condition that they cannot be in an occupied soace at the end of their turn (assuming the creature is not two size categories larger, etc).

That’s the adjudication experience in a nutshell. It’s why I say PF2 is actually a fairly simple system. A complex situation can be adjudicated by determining the actions or activities that apply and then resolving them. If someone needs to make a check, that is indicated by the action or activity.

As an aside, I also like this approach because it lets me build content on top of the action system. I can create a feat that expands or alters Tumble Through, and I don’t have to worry about situations that work similarly but aren’t resolved with Tumble Through for some reason.
 
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