Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

Last night I ran the initial session for Hellknight Hill and it had a few bumpy moments but it went pretty well.
I've been a big fan of the Adventure paths since they started coming out for PF and so I figured I'd go with this
book to start my group on Pathfinder 2nd Ed to see the balance of their encounters and the difficulties the writers think work well.

The book isn't written all that well and you can kind of tell the rules were still be decided while it was being
written and it feels rushed (ie. just like Horde of the Dragon Queen for D&D 5th Ed). Hopefully the path gets better as the you get deeper into the book series. My 3 players are all long term players of RPG's (all in their 40's) and they all really liked character creation and found it was fun. The 3 action economy definitely runs smoothly and they enjoyed it but you can tell it makes them think about their choices wisely. They used some social skills in the Tavern and were able to gather info well during that scene. The initiative runs pretty much like any initiative but the change to perception went ok and the rogue using stealth instead didn't really cause much confusion (basically he was in stealth mode and when an encounter started he stayed in stealth mode when everyone rolled perception and his stealth number is compared to the others perception number).

We have a wizard and cleric and both players enjoyed their spell selections and cantrips really have enhanced how good a caster can be (just like it did in D&D 5th Ed). The fighter had a run of bad luck and really had a hard time hitting his targets but he understands that sometimes it is just luck or bad luck. I'm thinking conditions are going to take a minute to get used to the new rules but I think after a couple more sessions it will all become second nature.

I'll keep you all updated as the game goes on.
Ah, someone who understands the intent behind this thread. Thank you for actually providing some actual real play experience. Muchly appreciated.

Very interested in how the wizard player feels as the game progresses.
 

Kel Ardan

Explorer
So I ran our third game of Hellknight Hill and my players are really getting into how to use their three actions in different ways and are also planning strategies on how to use them together for when encounters occur (in character). To answer the question above, the wizard is really enjoying the system so far and realized he had to plan his spells out a little better, he also has used his social skill to help the party out. The Wizard and Cleric also realized that the spells they are used to using in other editions are not the same and had to go back to the drawing books per say to readjust what spells they can use and when.

Exploring mode is different but they fell in line dictating who is doing what pretty easily and the rules are easy to play but just takes a bit to know them all. They just got to level at the end of this session and I'll keep you in the loop on how they feel leveling is going and if they think that it advances them enough. Overall great third session in the books however I do have a rule I'd like to ask about that I want to know if we are interpreting it correctly.

If you role a natural 20 on a skill/ attack it automatically bumps the condition of said roll to the next stage (ie. a critical failure becomes a failure, a failure becomes a success, and a success becomes a critical success). Please let me know what your opinion on this is to make sure we are reading this correctly.

Thank you
 

kenada

Explorer
If you role a natural 20 on a skill/ attack it automatically bumps the condition of said roll to the next stage (ie. a critical failure becomes a failure, a failure becomes a success, and a success becomes a critical success). Please let me know what your opinion on this is to make sure we are reading this correctly.
That’s a correct understanding. I think there is a place where it suggests otherwise for attacks, but that’s a mistake. Errata is due on the 30th, which should help clarify things (though AFAIK they won’t yet be updating the PDF with the changes).
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
So I ran our third game of Hellknight Hill and my players are really getting into how to use their three actions in different ways and are also planning strategies on how to use them together for when encounters occur (in character). To answer the question above, the wizard is really enjoying the system so far ...
I have a half-orc sorcerer/cleric and one thing I have fun with in the three action economy is when I use two actions to cast a spell (most spells) I have a spare action to have fun with. I'll often try an intimidation check to frighten the opposition. I'm not sure why I enjoy it so much, but hitting some enemy with a ray of enfeeblement and then yelling at him to surrender or die with a pretty good chance of a mechanical effect is just ... fun.
 

5atbu

Explorer
I have a player like that. I actually find it annoying, he can't seem to remember where on his sheet to look for the sword's attack bonus, although it is always in the same place. He knows this, but someone has to point it out to him.
They are players too
 

kenada

Explorer
The CRB isn’t lying when it says severe encounters can go badly for the PCs if they don’t use good tactics.

Today’s session ended in a TPK. Reflecting on it, it was unnecessary but also the consequences of some bad decisions (and some bad luck). At the same time, it didn’t feel unfair that it happened. The one that ended my 5e campaign felt a lot worse for everyone.

I’m running a sandbox game, so I use wandering monster tables in my dungeons. The PCs were exploring a Dragon Shrine they’d found (I was using this map, just to convey a sense of scale). The first encounter my tables generated was a giant gecko. The monk decided to wrestle it, but it eventually got free and ran away. That’s not the TPK part, though it sets the stage.

Later, they find that gecko and another one near the entrance to the Shrine. They scare the geckos off, and then continue exploring. A short time later, they find the first gecko melting while the other stands back and hisses at the gray ooze that’s killing the other gecko.

The gray ooze is level 3 creature I converted using a mix of mechanics from the oozes in the Bestiary to make something that felt like the one in PF1 (and checked against the monster creation guidelines Paizo released recently). The PCs have dealt with them before effectively using hit and run tactics. Today, they decided it was time to slug it out with a creature that destroys your equipment and can grab and melt you to death (as they saw happening to the gecko).

Getting back to my opening statement, according to the CRB, a severe-threat encounter is one where bad luck or poor tactics can turn the encounter against hte PCs. Yes. We only had three PCs today, so a single level 3 creatures should be a moderate- to severe-threat encounter for them. The fight started out okay, but it went completely out of control when one of the PCs split the ooze and then got one-shotted with a max damage crit by the second ooze. Crits are brutal.

If anything, that’s the only thing that drew any consternation. I think everyone’s used to PF1 or 5e where crits are much more rare. The ooze could crit the alchemist on a 12 because the alchemist’s AC was terrible (only 13). Having a low AC is extra bad because you not only get hit more often, but you get crit more often (and crits hurt).

Since the campaign is designed around a rotating cast of characters, we rolled up new ones at the end. We’ll figure out next time whether they’re going to go find out what happened to the first group or just strike out exploring in a different direction.
 

dave2008

Legend
Reading these play report has made me think I really like the PF2e crit rules from a design perspective (I can see a ton of ways to use the concept), but not nearly as much from a play perspective (except that is for the terribly lethal DM that hides inside me). They just seem to brutal for what my players want, but I do really love the design space they provide.

Hmm, now that I think of it, the solution might be to use traditional crits in general, and the +10 version for special features and/or monsters.
 

kenada

Explorer
I like the changes PF2 made to crits. They make it worthwhile to continue improving your attack bonus, and they make higher level enemies feel dangerous. Having regularly spiky damage (along with the wounded condition) also helps discourage PCs from trying to ride lower HP instead of healing in battle.

Reflecting back, I think the real problem is death from massive damage. Specifically, only lower level characters are vulnerable to it. Unless you’ve got terrible Con and never improve it, by 3rd level, you should have enough HP that even a level+4 creature can’t do enough damage in a single hit to kill you (and that’s assuming a creature doing extreme damage per the benchmarks in the creature building rules).

I’m thinking of dropping the massive damage rule. I don’t like that it becomes obsolete nor that it seems to disproportionately affect lower level characters.
 
I have three games going, one with 14 sessions in (hitting level 6 now), one with about 8 sessions in (hitting level 4 in that group) and a third group playing starting at level 12 and about 3 sessions in (no advancement yet). My top five takes so far as the GM:

1. CR -4/+4 to party level is significant. A Level 3 party against a CR 8 foe is a TPK waiting to happen. In the levl 12 case, opponents of CR 7 or less are probably best resolved as an out-of-encounter event or just describe it as "And then you kicked their asses." For opponents of too high a level, best to give them fair warning through some lore checks that they may be over their heads in deep trouble.

2. The fumble/crit range of 10 higher or lower is an amazing mechanic but can be brutal on the PCs. If you use the crit and fumble decks, agree on the way you apply them, and consider the consequences of the more lethal applications when designing encounters.

3. The game favors downtime when possible. Players may not catch on, or may not realize they need to seek downtime occasionally. Bake options for downtime into your scenario/plot so they can recover and craft and stuff.

4. I have been following the cash/gear reward rules as rigorously as possible. It works well but seems to distribute less loot than they are used to from other experiences. I am fine with this, but just be aware it may be a thing. Be a tiny bit more liberal in handing out the consumable items at low levels, it will offset the sting a bit.

5. As GM, pay close attention to the skill feats so you don't get tripped up on who can do what in play. Read the skill rules; they are precise in how they apply, and some function in ways that they didn't used to having absorbed certain skills (for example, linguistics is folded in to society). Don't be afraid to let PCs use skill checks in odd ways....just be aware when they ask for an effect that is "good enough" to qualify for a skill feat instead. A basic example that will trip you up: searching for tracks is a skill check; identifying the types and natures of the animals that made the tracks requires a skill feat, however.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
The swinginess of combat makes me wonder how dependable characters that are min-maxed to not die actually are. Like I made a concept for a ancient-blooded dwarf fighter that starts with str 12 dex 18 con 16 int 10 wis 14 cha 8 and focuses on shield feats (but with power attack at level 1). If you do not worry about having odd ability scores too much that can get you str 18 dex 22 con 20 int 12 wis 20 cha 8 at 20, or if you prefer to get the most out of your ability boosts over the whole campaign, end at str 18 dex 20 con 20 int 18 wis 18 cha 12. Will will probably still be a weakish save for most of the game, but your AC, Fort, Ref, Block, and HP (with toughness and mountain's stoutness) should make you hard to crit and kill, right?
 

Philip Benz

Explorer
Bonjour, y'all.
I've run 3 PF2 sessions since its release, and wrote up the first one on my blog, Dragontooth Grognard.

Now that we have three sessions under our belts, I have to say we're all thrilled to have made the switch from PF1 to PF2. The three-action system is far simpler to the old mess of action types, and the way the game handles things like stealth, perception and diplomacy is far more streamlined (and less susceptible to broken exploits) than in the past.

My players have just gone from 1st to 2nd level, and they're thrilled with their new feats. One of them chose a multiclass wizard dedication (bolted on to an alchemist character) and he was getting great mileage out of unlimited cantrips to supplement his alchemist bombs and potions. Another character, and Elf druid, was getting great use of his panther familiar, and peppering enemies with bowfire at the same time. A third character is a rogue, and he's playing like a daring Erol Flynn knockoff, running up mooring lines to attack enemy pirates on a ship and similar swashbuckling antics.

Frankly, their characters feel more like 5th-level than 2nd-level with all they seem able to accomplish.

So far it's been mostly a city adventure (using Green Ronin's great Freeport setting) but our next game should see them on a tropical island searching for burried treasure. Good times!
 

Philip Benz

Explorer
I just wanted to say as someone who was turned off PF1, all the experiences in this thread are making me really want to play PF2!
In our group in central France, we continued playing DD3.5 for some 4-5 years after Pathfinder came out. We just didn't see any major reason to change. So I totally get those people unwilling to jump into PF2, for whatever reason, even if it's just out of inertia.

But I have to say that our experience playing PF2 these last couple months, with 1st and then 2nd-level characters, has been eye-opening. Maneuvering figures around the terrain and engaging in combat has been so much more intuitive, quick and fun. The rules for non-magical healing work very well, and brought two characters back from the brink of death.

But don't let someone like me convince you one way or the other. Get settled around a gaming table for a few evenings before you make up your mind.

Auberge-LaMainCrochue02.jpg
 
My players have finally hit level 9 so I thought I'd come back and answer some questions that was brought up about how mid level play was going. Just to recap what I said earlier in the thread, our group has been playing D&D 5e for about a year and a half so we're not "new," per say. We made the transition to pathfinder 2e back in August because my players heard (apparently correctly) that there was more character options at higher levels and wanted to try it out. We meet three nights a week now (it started at one in August).

For our campaign, we transitioned to Rise of the Runelords converted for pathfinder 2e. My players are currently at the end of Hook Mountain Massacre (3rd part of the AP). This is my first Paizo AP since previously all I've ever done is homebrew and 5e campaign books (which I have found to be near universally excellent for both players and DM).

Re-focusing on actual play experience.

With regard to arcane spellcaster balance, has anyone tried playing/running PF2E at, say, level 9+. This is the level range where problems usually start to manifest especially with regard to Quadratic Wizards Vs linear martials.

Do spellcasters at this higher level range still feel undercooked or are they O.K./overpowered compared to martials?
So I have three casters and three martials. Four are level 10 with one level 9 and a level 8 (You only get xp if you're there). At first, I was worried that cantrips would outclass martials given how heightening works combined with class attack modifiers stacking onto damage rolls (that's a +19 to damage in one instance).

What I didn't account for is how much treasure Pathfinder tells the DM to divy out. Since I had to convert from Rise of the Runelords, that means I was using the tables in the Game Mastering section to hand out level appropriate loot.

Martials do incredible amounts of damage, especially if they have a weapon (like a Glaive) which grants bonus damage effects. As a caveat to this, that means runes of striking/potency are necessary for them to do this damage, but given how generous Pathfinder 2e is with handing these out, I think it's safe to say most parties will have access to these for their martials.

My casters do significant damage as well, but they are often only doing one or two attacks a turn depending on their build. What I find really nice is that they pick their cantrips based on what they think they're fighting.

Example: "This ogre looks really slow. Electric arc is the best shot here." <-- gained from noticing my descriptions of how they slowly trudged or "barely" dodged an attack on account of being too lumbering.
Example: "Ah ha! Zombies eh? Slashing damage will do the trick! Telekenetic projectile on some bits of wood for slashing damage!" <--- Knowing that slashing did extra damage was gained from recall knowledge about about that type of zombie which was very cool.

What I really like is that the decision to use a spell slot is agonizing for these casters.
Example:"Area effect? Do I save it for a possible horde fight later or do I blow it now on these three?"

What makes this more interesting is that cantrips do so much damage. They are still outperformed by rune-bearing martials, but it's more consistent and less spikey because they add their class proficiency to the damage.

This means that my casters are always preparing utility spells and are expending their slots on social encounters, which makes them heroes to the party in and out of combat.

I don't get the feeling that they feel they don't do enough damage, but in my estimation they definitely aren't hitting as hard as the martials.

Nothing prevents from you as GM, say having a dragon or a lich casts spells on its lair before hand or build traps. There's examples in the 3E Draconomicon and Libris Mortis, I think.



Kingmaker is being officially converted to 2E and has a lot of great reviews. You might take a look at that. I'd love to see an official conversion of Rise of the Runelords.
That's true, but I liked it codified in the monster manual entry and I miss that. Beholders, for example, would make everyone in a three(?) mile radius feel like they were being watched. I loved little things like that.

Regarding Kingmaker, I absolutely late pledged that once I got a taste for Pathfinder APs. Rise of the Runelords has been downright creepy and the players feel like incredible heroes for doing what they've accomplished thus far. The amount of prep it forces on a DM is insane though; you can't wing it for these APs: you absolutely have to read through everything and then write notes. My critique that Pathfinder is DM-involvement heavy isn't mitigated by AP's making things easier (then again, I'm running a conversion from a 1e AP to 2e rules).

I actually just picked up Age of Ashes (the new AP that starts with Hellknight Hill) and I'm excited to see howan adventure that was made specifically for Pathfinder 2E performs against my shoddy conversion of Rise of the Runelords.

The swinginess of combat makes me wonder how dependable characters that are min-maxed to not die actually are. Like I made a concept for a ancient-blooded dwarf fighter that starts with str 12 dex 18 con 16 int 10 wis 14 cha 8 and focuses on shield feats (but with power attack at level 1). If you do not worry about having odd ability scores too much that can get you str 18 dex 22 con 20 int 12 wis 20 cha 8 at 20, or if you prefer to get the most out of your ability boosts over the whole campaign, end at str 18 dex 20 con 20 int 18 wis 18 cha 12. Will will probably still be a weakish save for most of the game, but your AC, Fort, Ref, Block, and HP (with toughness and mountain's stoutness) should make you hard to crit and kill, right?
This is the critique of the system that I simply don't get. My experience has been that it's much harder for players to die in pathfinder. Maybe we didn't play 5e right? Maybe homebrew 5e is a lot easier than campaign book 5e. Comparing, say, Lost Mines in D&D to Burnt Offerings in Pathfinder 2e, I feel like my players risk TPK far less.

That said, they absolutely take advantage of every modifier they can get. Casters focus on spells that give out buffs to allies and minus penalties to creatures and everyone never fails to flank. Maybe that helps? Then again, I'm also running a conversion of Rise of the Runelords to 2e, but I've used the encounter building rules to use level appropriate monsters... I'll have to make sure I'm building encounters correctly. "Deadly" encounters do last far longer than in D&D 5e for sure though. If I run "smart" monsters ("target the guy healing everyone boys!") then the deadliness skyrockets, but my players are still smart about positioning to ward those situations off. In fact, using the healers as bait was a pretty good tactic.

One last thing on feats:
I printed them out on small cardstock cards and that makes life a lot easier. I'm a believer now and I look forward to the day 5e has a similar system. Watching a guy titan wrestle a giant and pin him to the ground so that everyone else can finish the job was a scene I'll never forget. The fact that players get tons of those feats makes the variety of actions players take in practice truly fun for a DM to witness.
 
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Philip Benz

Explorer
DH, thanks for the mid-level feedback. My players are still 2nd level, but then again we're lucky if we get one game in per month. You're descriptions are spot on for what I've been feeling about the advancement of PF2.

One of the problems I had with PF1 was that once players get past, say, 10th or 12th level, the slightest combat takes all night to resolve. I'm looking forward to the 3-action system radically speeding things up, especially once higher levels are reached.

I really enjoyed RotRL. If you'd like some DM suggestions for what happens once you get past the Storval Steps, just ask. One question: how did you depict Black Magga on the tabletop? Here's my Black Magga. Only one octopus and one plesiosaur (from Schleicht) had to die to make it:
 
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kenada

Explorer
The amount of prep it forces on a DM is insane though; you can't wing it for these APs: you absolutely have to read through everything and then write notes. My critique that Pathfinder is DM-involvement heavy isn't mitigated by AP's making things easier (then again, I'm running a conversion from a 1e AP to 2e rules).
That’s just it. APs don’t make things easier. It’s the opposite. They’re often badly keyed and poorly organized. The priority is on the reading experience instead of making them easy to use at the table. I ran APs for years (including a complete Kingmaker campaign), and I now run my own material, which I find much easier and less time-consuming than when I ran APs.

I actually just picked up Age of Ashes (the new AP that starts with Hellknight Hill) and I'm excited to see howan adventure that was made specifically for Pathfinder 2E performs against my shoddy conversion of Rise of the Runelords.

This is the critique of the system that I simply don't get. My experience has been that it's much harder for players to die in pathfinder. Maybe we didn't play 5e right? Maybe homebrew 5e is a lot easier than campaign book 5e. Comparing, say, Lost Mines in D&D to Burnt Offerings in Pathfinder 2e, I feel like my players risk TPK far less.

That said, they absolutely take advantage of every modifier they can get. Casters focus on spells that give out buffs to allies and minus penalties to creatures and everyone never fails to flank. Maybe that helps? Then again, I'm also running a conversion of Rise of the Runelords to 2e, but I've used the encounter building rules to use level appropriate monsters... I'll have to make sure I'm building encounters correctly. "Deadly" encounters do last far longer than in D&D 5e for sure though. If I run "smart" monsters ("target the guy healing everyone boys!") then the deadliness skyrockets, but my players are still smart about positioning to ward those situations off. In fact, using the healers as bait was a pretty good tactic.
Your players sound pretty tactically savvy. If they weren’t, they’d be getting destroyed by harder encounters. PF2 is very unforgiving of bad tactics against moderate or worse threats.

I printed them out on small cardstock cards and that makes life a lot easier. I'm a believer now and I look forward to the day 5e has a similar system. Watching a guy titan wrestle a giant and pin him to the ground so that everyone else can finish the job was a scene I'll never forget. The fact that players get tons of those feats makes the variety of actions players take in practice truly fun for a DM to witness.
I have thought about doing something like this, but I am wary of giving my players flashbacks to 4e. :(
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
In our group in central France, we continued playing DD3.5 for some 4-5 years after Pathfinder came out. We just didn't see any major reason to change. So I totally get those people unwilling to jump into PF2, for whatever reason, even if it's just out of inertia.

But I have to say that our experience playing PF2 these last couple months, with 1st and then 2nd-level characters, has been eye-opening. Maneuvering figures around the terrain and engaging in combat has been so much more intuitive, quick and fun. The rules for non-magical healing work very well, and brought two characters back from the brink of death.

But don't let someone like me convince you one way or the other. Get settled around a gaming table for a few evenings before you make up your mind.

View attachment 115735
Where in central france do you play? I used to live in Lyon.

I love the terrain! Is it all dwarven forge? The furniture?
 

Philip Benz

Explorer
Where in central france do you play? I used to live in Lyon. I love the terrain! Is it all dwarven forge? The furniture?
No, we're further west, between Châteauroux and Tours. And lately, we've had trouble getting together enough guys for a game. Real life, families and jobs and such pesky annoyances to the true gamer. <g>

Much of my terrain is Dwarven Forge, but a lot is scratchbuilt or kitbashed as well. I've been using it as art for my first two published PF2 scenarios. For example, in the pic here, the house is from Tabletop Basement, but all thye interior details were scratchbuilt.

house02.jpg
But we were talking about PF2.
I really like the way skills work now, with four degrees of success. It makes things like stealth and diplomacy more nuanced in play.
 

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