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.
 

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.
 

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