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PF2E Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

5ekyu

Adventurer
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).



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." Example: "Ah ha! Zombies eh? Slashing damage will do the trick! Telekenetic projectile on some bits of wood for slashing damage!"
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.



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.



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.
"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."

This is I think a key point.

First, I find the reliance on targeted cantrips for caster offense and help in social has a vaguely 5e warlock ring to it.

That aside, in a high threat environment where the outcome is in doubt, a practice of outlast and outwit is usually the smarter strategy. Don't lose is goal number one.

I think in 5e, as contrast, so many encounters are chosen by GMs as "win not in doubt but how much spent" and that tends to favor more reckless quick kills than it does slow, cautious, support and sustain play.

So, I like how that example your group's play shows.
 

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Haffrung

Explorer
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.
Agreed. Because they serve two masters - play at the table and reading material for people who aren't running a game - APs are written in a format that requires extensive re-working before you can think about using them in a live session. That's why I only buy APs in PDF format now - so I can use Acrobat to cut, paste, make notes, and delete - basically re-format the entire adventure for use at the table.

There are good reasons to use an AP. Saving time is not one of them.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Agreed. Because they serve two masters - play at the table and reading material for people who aren't running a game - APs are written in a format that requires extensive re-working before you can think about using them in a live session.
I have not needed to perform extensive re-working before using them in a live session. I'll agree that the format isn't optimized for live session use, but it works well enough. I find it works more for the longer term prep work of understanding the underlying narrative structure and how elements fit together - something I generally find important if running an AP.
I do copy out the stat blocks into a Word document (particularly useful when APs refer to stats in other sources rather than include them) and otherwise run the game directly out of the AP document.

I too prefer to use PDFs now, but that's more to avoid wear and tear on the physical copies since we'll generally be living out of a typical AP chapter for over a month of Sunday night sessions.
 

Sorry about the thread resurrection, but it's taken some time for me to get in a few sessions of actual play so I can comment on PF2.

Part 1: Party Composition
First, let me shine some light on my group so you know what we're bringing to the table.
GM (me): Have been running games since 1989 (AD&D 2e), really cut my teeth in 3.x, but have run every edition of D&D since 2e. Have experience in non-d20 systems (Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy, Shadowrun, Savage Worlds, GURPS, Dungeon World, and more).
Player 1: Likes to flop from system-to-system. Something of a gaming hipster. HATED PF1, bored with 5e, liked 4e from a contrarian position. [Alchemist]
Player 2: Prefers rules lite, indie RPGs. Likes to change systems often to "see what's out there." Dislikes d20 system games because of rules density and resource management. [Barbarian]
Player 3: Has "come of age" in 5e, but doesn't like the lack of tactical depth. Liked the experience of 4e when we tried a retro campaign and enjoys thrilling combats and "feeling badass." [Sorcerer]
Player 4: My oldest friend. Doesn't like trying new things. Quite happy with PF1 despite the flaws he's aware of. Along for the ride to see if it's as bad as he's expecting. [Champion]
Player 5: Mostly new to RPGs. Has played one 5e campaign to the end. [Rogue]
Player 6: Even newer to RPGs. Has played a few one-shot games but ready for a campaign. [Cleric]

Part 2: Trial Run
Players 2 and 3 met and attempted a Pathfinder Society Quest (1 hour session) as a trial. Each took 2 pre-generated characters. We did this to see if I could get a little experience under my belt with the system and see if they wanted to buy-in for the system. The combat was deadly, but managed to be fast-paced and exciting. We reset and tried it again (this time using a different option of encounter and traps). They had a good enough time to try it for a longer period of time. Player 2 was happy with nonmagical healing, which helped with the resource management concerns.

Part 3: Character Creation, Session 0
It took about 2 hours to make characters on our first meeting, even though Players 1 and 2 had already worked on their character design beforehand. We had only 2 core rulebooks, and even though players had access to a free app on their phones, they had many questions about character design. Players 5 and 6 were pretty overwhelmed with options, while Player 4 had a hard time dislodging his knowledge of PF1.
I had decided to run the Age of Ashes Adventure Path (and I will try to avoid spoilers in this post). We were able to start with the adventure setup, introductions, and run two combats, before ending the session.

Part 4: Session 1
Player 4 (Champion) was unable to come, and without a front line fighter, Player 2's Barbarian took a lot of damage and was reduced to dying in 2 out of 3 combats. Player 1's Alchemist had few good targets in the combats, and he decided the playstyle didn't work for him (so he created a fighter for next session). Having the Condition Cards was a godsend, as they were used multiple times in every combat. The fights were challenging but quick, with lots of tactical play. During a solo baddy that would've had 90+ HP in 4e or 5e D&D and felt like a slog, this monster had less than half the hp, but was threatening and got to use its signature moves several times.

Changes I've Made to the System
I am fast and lose about changing weapons. I think RAW, it takes an action to draw a weapon and can provoke an opportunity attack. Nothing is worse than having to sit out a turn to be able to "do something cool" next turn. I just handwave it. Also, I don't use diagonal movement. A square is a square. The time it takes to count movement isn't worth it to me. We're using milestone XP to follow the chapters of the Adventure Path, and they have already levelled up (after the equivalent of one full length session).

Overall Impressions
Faster and more threatening combats than 4e or 5e D&D, more options for character design, monsters that are "good out of the book," I'm pretty pleased with it. I don't know how it will go with higher level characters or if the players are buying in for the long haul, but so far so good.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Sorry about the thread resurrection, but it's taken some time for me to get in a few sessions of actual play so I can comment on PF2.
Thanks for this recap. And appreciate the conclusion you came to.
I don't have any players who are dying to play this; and all seem quite satisfied with 5e.
Any comments on how you got everyone to shift? What were you playing before for example.
 

JeffB

Legend
Retreater said:
I don't know how it will go with higher level characters or if the players are buying in for the long haul, but so far so good.
Thats where I see the issue for me. Level 5 characters have a ridiculous amount of stuff going on the character sheets. I see that killing any hopes for anything but a diversion

Thanks for the excellent and thorough update.
 

Thanks for this recap. And appreciate the conclusion you came to.
I don't have any players who are dying to play this; and all seem quite satisfied with 5e.
Any comments on how you got everyone to shift? What were you playing before for example.
The group was sort of hobbled together from other groups for the purposes of this campaign. I'll try to put together a pedigree of recent games I've done with each player below.
Player 1: WHFRPG 4e, Call of Cthulhu, Savage Rifts, D&D 4e
Player 2: City of Mist, WHFRPG 4e, Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds (generic fantasy), D&D 4e
Player 3: City of Mist, D&D 5e, WHFRPG 4e, Savage Rifts, Savage Worlds (generic fantasy), Call of Cthulhu, D&D 4e
Player 4: Dungeon World, D&D 5e, PF1
Player 5: D&D 5e
Player 6: City of Mist, Savage Worlds (generic fantasy)
So we didn't have a steady, ongoing 5e (or any other system). The big thing that brought in Players 1-3 was tactical combat, more diverse character options, and a general willingness to experiment with new systems.
 

dave2008

Legend
First, thank you for the post. Very informative.
The fights were challenging but quick, with lots of tactical play. During a solo baddy that would've had 90+ HP in 4e or 5e D&D and felt like a slog, this monster had less than half the hp, but was threatening and got to use its signature moves several times.
Based on this description is this primarily because the big bad had a sufficiently high AC that the players missed it enough to keep it around, or do they do so little damage that it stayed around.

I am fast and lose about changing weapons. I think RAW, it takes an action to draw a weapon and can provoke an opportunity attack. Nothing is worse than having to sit out a turn to be able to "do something cool" next turn. I just handwave it.
I don't see anything in the section of drawing weapons about it providing OA, but more importantly, with the 3-action economy can't you spend a move action to draw the weapon/wand and then attack with your 2nd & 3rd action (1st and 2nd attack for determining attack penalties)? You don't loose anything really do you?
 

Based on this description is this primarily because the big bad had a sufficiently high AC that the players missed it enough to keep it around, or do they do so little damage that it stayed around.

I don't see anything in the section of drawing weapons about it providing OA, but more importantly, with the 3-action economy can't you spend a move action to draw the weapon/wand and then attack with your 2nd & 3rd action (1st and 2nd attack for determining attack penalties)? You don't loose anything really do you?
I think it was a combination of factors that kept big bad around. First, the AC was at the high end (though not impossible to hit). I think it was a little less than a 50% hit rate. Second, the enemy had the ability to put negative status effects on the characters. Third, there was an attack that targeted multiple adjacent characters - allowing them to be tripped and unable to flank. This made it difficult for the rogue to reliable get sneak attack.

Perhaps I misread the OA for drawing weapons. My understanding is that it takes an interaction action to pull a weapon. Interact actions provoke OA.

Considering the 3-Action economy and an action to pull a weapon - yes, they can still do stuff with their remaining actions, but consider the common plight of ranged attack characters: 1 action to stow a weapon, 1 action to pull a weapon, and 1 action to move into position. That's a whole wasted turn. By the next turn, the enemy could be out of position again, then it's: 1 action to stow melee weapon, 1 action to draw ranged weapon, 1 action to attack.

Couple this with my group's player dynamic that the rogue is a new player, and I don't like her being overshadowed by characters who get to do exciting things on most of their turns.
 

dave2008

Legend
I think it was a combination of factors that kept big bad around. First, the AC was at the high end (though not impossible to hit). I think it was a little less than a 50% hit rate. Second, the enemy had the ability to put negative status effects on the characters. Third, there was an attack that targeted multiple adjacent characters - allowing them to be tripped and unable to flank. This made it difficult for the rogue to reliable get sneak attack.
Interesting. I thought PF2e was based on a higher miss rate (closer to 75% for "boss" encounters). Regardless sounds interesting. Was this a monster from the bestiary (if so I would love to know what it was), or something custom for the adventure?
Perhaps I misread the OA for drawing weapons. My understanding is that it takes an interaction action to pull a weapon. Interact actions provoke OA.

Considering the 3-Action economy and an action to pull a weapon - yes, they can still do stuff with their remaining actions, but consider the common plight of ranged attack characters: 1 action to stow a weapon, 1 action to pull a weapon, and 1 action to move into position. That's a whole wasted turn. By the next turn, the enemy could be out of position again, then it's: 1 action to stow melee weapon, 1 action to draw ranged weapon, 1 action to attack.
FYI, it is a move action. Here are the rules I was referring too (there may be others and am only about 50% familiar with PF2e rules at this point):

Draw or Sheathe a Weapon
Source PRPG Core Rulebook pg. 186
Drawing a weapon so that you can use it in combat, or putting it away so that you have a free hand, requires a move action. This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands. If your weapon or weapon-like object is stored in a pack or otherwise out of easy reach, treat this action as retrieving a stored item.

If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move. If you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, you can draw two light or one-handed weapons in the time it would normally take you to draw one.

Drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon (such as arrows, bolts, sling bullets, or shuriken) is a free action.

EDIT: After reading table 7-2 I'm completely confused as I thought PF2e removed most OAs, but there is a ton of them in that table. And it does state drawing doesn't provoke, but sheathing does
 
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Interesting. I thought PF2e was based on a higher miss rate (closer to 75% for "boss" encounters). Regardless sounds interesting. Was this a monster from the bestiary (if so I would love to know what it was), or something custom for the adventure?

FYI, it is a move action. Here are the rules I was referring too (there may be others and am only about 50% familiar with PF2e rules at this point):

Draw or Sheathe a Weapon
Source PRPG Core Rulebook pg. 186
Drawing a weapon so that you can use it in combat, or putting it away so that you have a free hand, requires a move action. This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands. If your weapon or weapon-like object is stored in a pack or otherwise out of easy reach, treat this action as retrieving a stored item.

If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move. If you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat, you can draw two light or one-handed weapons in the time it would normally take you to draw one.

Drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon (such as arrows, bolts, sling bullets, or shuriken) is a free action.

EDIT: After reading table 7-2 I'm completely confused as I thought PF2e removed most OAs, but there is a ton of them in that table. And it does state drawing doesn't provoke, but sheathing does
You must be referring to a 1st edition rule. There are no "move" actions - only actions, reactions, free actions.
 


dave2008

Legend
You must be referring to a 1st edition rule. There are no "move" actions - only actions, reactions, free actions.
I think you are right, I was using the online rules and it easy to click on the wrong tab! However, move is a type of action, it is tagged all over the rule book. But perhaps I am using the wrong terminology. For example: stride, step, stand, mount, & leap are all move actions.

That being said, I am on the right tab now and it states:
"Some reactions are specifically meant to be used in combat and can change how the battle plays out drastically. One example of such a reaction is Attack of Opportunity, which fighters gain at 1st level. "

Since it specifically mentions fighters get them at lvl 1, it is my understanding is that other classes don't get AOs, but I am having a hard time proving that.

This is what I was really getting at, you don't get AO unless for have a feat that says you do. Most monsters don't get them either.
 


@dave2008 that's true about OA, they are far less common than in PF1 (or even 5e). Nearly all my players come from games with more frequent OAs, so they try to avoid actions that would trigger them. I can't recall a single enemy I've controlled thus far using the ability. It makes combats more dynamic and movement more fluid.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Overall Impressions
Faster and more threatening combats than 4e or 5e D&D, more options for character design, monsters that are "good out of the book," I'm pretty pleased with it. I don't know how it will go with higher level characters or if the players are buying in for the long haul, but so far so good.
Thanks for the report. My experience with players has been very similar - even players who are initially skeptical about PF2 have come around and are now enthusiastic.

Let me confirm that Dave was quoting from the PF1 rules, where drawing a weapon was a move action. This said, he's still right, in most cases drawing a weapon requires an action (the table 6-2 on page 273 lists "draw stow or pick up an item" as requiring an interact action, which has the "manipulate" trait, meaning it can draw AoOs, if adversaries possess them. Note that rogues and rangers can select the "quick draw" feat and forget about paying this action cost for weapons.

And actually, few monsters have the AoO reaction available. There are many varied and interesting (and sometimes dangerous) reactions listed in monster stats, but the venerable AoO seems to be reserved for fighter-type races like orcs, or fighter-types from a given race like lizardfolk defenders, but not lizardfolk scouts. And there are many monsters with no reaction listed at all.

We played a game last Friday and 2 2nd-level PCs accompanied by 2 1st-lvl NPCs had to fight a sort of giant sand worm (using the stats for an Ankhrav), a level 3 monster. It was a very close thing, with 2 combattants reaching the dying condition during combat. The thing that saved them was mobility, archery and magic. The tanglefoot cantrip worked often enough to slow the creature and let the others gain some range and finish the creature off with archery and attack spells (magic missile and produce flame). However, had the combat taken place in tighter quarters it could easily have been a TPK because standing toe-to-toe with a creature one level higher is very dangerous indeed.

Tactics are paramount in PF2. That was arguably true already in PF1, but many people insisted that because of the nature of full attacks (not to mention ubiquitous AoOs), any PC of 6th level or more was condemned to immobility.
 

dave2008

Legend
@dave2008 that's true about OA, they are far less common than in PF1 (or even 5e). Nearly all my players come from games with more frequent OAs, so they try to avoid actions that would trigger them. I can't recall a single enemy I've controlled thus far using the ability. It makes combats more dynamic and movement more fluid.
I agree, I am planning on removing them from my 5e games and making it a fighter feature or part of a feat like PF2e
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
I agree, I am planning on removing them from my 5e games and making it a fighter feature or part of a feat like PF2e
Note that in PF2, it is a "fighter feat" so only characters whose class is fighter or who multiclass into fighter can select this feat.

I recall that before PF2's release, there was talk about any class being able to select cross-class feats, albeit at a higher level, but it appears that now this is only possible if you take a multiclass archetype.

Also note that some classes have interesting combat-related reactions, like the champion class, but that their effects are unique enough to make the fighter's AoO something special.
 


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