log in or register to remove this ad

 

PF2E Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

Retreater

Legend
With the PF2 sales speculation thread getting a lot of attention these days, I thought I'd resurrect this one with the actual play testimonials. I think the real test of a game is how it handles the table (in person or virtually).
We had a rough session this weekend on in my Roll20 Age of Ashes game. It was so bad that we had to assess whether to continue with the game or abandon the campaign. One of the players asked if the combat was an attempt of me (the GM) purposefully trying to punish the party. I assured him that I am trying my best to run the module as close to actually "by the book" as possible so the system can get a fair test by the group.
Without getting into too many spoilers, there is a towards the end of the first adventure with a monster that is completely beyond the party's capabilities. The DCs to get out of fighting the monster are so high that most parties are not only likely to fail the check to avoid combat, they will probably critically fail the check. The opponent specifically wants to fight and will only back down after he's 80% dead (by comparison, my group managed to get him about 15% down before killing off the barbarian and fighter in a couple rounds). So we had a half-TPK. If the rest of the group didn't run away (or if I had the enemy choose to pursue them), it would've been complete annihilation of the party.
This is more of an issue of adventure design than the system itself, though I think the action economy is part of the problem. Three attacks per round by a vastly superior foe is going to quickly drop a party. Nearly every attack from him hit. The characters can only probably hit on their first (non-penalized) attack.
So we're going to try again. This time I'm attempting to build a few encounters on my own to give the party some training with their 50% new character party.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

CapnZapp

Legend
With the PF2 sales speculation thread getting a lot of attention these days, I thought I'd resurrect this one with the actual play testimonials.
Thank you! Discussing a rpg as if sales equal quality boggles my mind. Plus, the economic side of it doesn't interest me in the slightest (ttrpgs are best written by people fully cognizant there is no money in it whatsoever in my opinion)

---

On your topic I don't know what monster you're talking about, but I can say that my experience with Extinction Curse is similar. The math of PF2 simply means that level 1 is a crapshoot - things that "work" at maybe level 4 simply open up a hero to death at level 1.

So without knowing what stat block you're thinking of I'd say this is how the game works. On the flip side, if you actually like the old school notion that heroes need to deserve leveling out of mediocrity, PF2 delivers! :)
 

Retreater

Legend
Thank you! Discussing a rpg as if sales equal quality boggles my mind. Plus, the economic side of it doesn't interest me in the slightest (ttrpgs are best written by people fully cognizant there is no money in it whatsoever in my opinion)

---

On your topic I don't know what monster you're talking about, but I can say that my experience with Extinction Curse is similar. The math of PF2 simply means that level 1 is a crapshoot - things that "work" at maybe level 4 simply open up a hero to death at level 1.

So without knowing what stat block you're thinking of I'd say this is how the game works. On the flip side, if you actually like the old school notion that heroes need to deserve leveling out of mediocrity, PF2 delivers! :)
I like a good challenge and threatening encounter, but like Han Solo says "marching into the detention center isn't what I had in mind."
5e is too easy for my liking. PF2 often hits the right balance. But in this case, what were they thinking putting this against a 4th level group?
 

Porridge

Explorer
I like a good challenge and threatening encounter, but like Han Solo says "marching into the detention center isn't what I had in mind."
5e is too easy for my liking. PF2 often hits the right balance. But in this case, what were they thinking putting this against a 4th level group?
Yeah, this seems to be a consequence of Paizo having to write the adventure before the rules were finished, and before they had a good feel for the difficulty of the game. (The Plaguestone module suffers from a similar problem, and is brutal.)

In any case, you’re definitely not alone in your reaction to that particular encounter. Indeed, there’s an entire thread of anecdotes about it:


I’ve found the Age of Extinction AP to be much better balanced, difficulty-wise.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I'm enjoying PF2. The 3 action system makes for interesting and fluid play with a lot more room for interesting action choices outside of move and attack. Caster power is vastly reduced, but this is probably a good thing. I'm still trying to build an effective damage caster to see if I can do. Character building is far more interesting with far greater depth than 5E. I was so happy to have a character creation system that was both simple and interesting at the same time. They really did some interesting things with with the sorcerer being able to draw upon different types of magical energy as part of their bloodline. I like the little bonuses with weapons that make them stand out a bit. I think I prefer the simplicity of 5Es spell slot system, but it is very similar to 5E. But 5E's system is a little more fluid for spellcasters, though not as deep and interesting.

My group seems happy with PF2E. The most amazing thing about PF2 is no matter how well my players optimize, I've been able to run the enemies as they are right out of the box and challenge the party. I have not had to write any house rules. I have not had to modify any monsters to make them challenging. I'm not sure how they managed the math, but monsters are very challenging now. When you fight a monster+2 or +3 level, you really feel like you're in a knockdown, drag out fight where a single monster might can challenge the entire party. I have not seen this in D&D in any addition including 5E.

My lvl 10 party took on a Gelugon. I was thinking my six person party is probably going to wipe the floor with this Gelugon. In PF and any edition of D&D I've ever played, six lvl 10 optimized characters played well by the players would wipe the floor with a gelugon. Not the case in PF2E. A Gelugon of +3 levels was a real dangerous challenge for the PCs. It knocked one PC down with a crit and regular hit and it almost knocked out two more party members and basically challenged the resource of a 6 character lvl 10 party all by itself. I was quite impressed. It made for a fearsome single monster that really let the players know powerful fiends were not to be treated lightly.
 

Retreater

Legend
I'm enjoying PF2. The 3 action system makes for interesting and fluid play with a lot more room for interesting action choices outside of move and attack. Caster power is vastly reduced, but this is probably a good thing. I'm still trying to build an effective damage caster to see if I can do. Character building is far more interesting with far greater depth than 5E. I was so happy to have a character creation system that was both simple and interesting at the same time. They really did some interesting things with with the sorcerer being able to draw upon different types of magical energy as part of their bloodline. I like the little bonuses with weapons that make them stand out a bit. I think I prefer the simplicity of 5Es spell slot system, but it is very similar to 5E. But 5E's system is a little more fluid for spellcasters, though not as deep and interesting.

My group seems happy with PF2E. The most amazing thing about PF2 is no matter how well my players optimize, I've been able to run the enemies as they are right out of the box and challenge the party. I have not had to write any house rules. I have not had to modify any monsters to make them challenging. I'm not sure how they managed the math, but monsters are very challenging now. When you fight a monster+2 or +3 level, you really feel like you're in a knockdown, drag out fight where a single monster might can challenge the entire party. I have not seen this in D&D in any addition including 5E.

My lvl 10 party took on a Gelugon. I was thinking my six person party is probably going to wipe the floor with this Gelugon. In PF and any edition of D&D I've ever played, six lvl 10 optimized characters played well by the players would wipe the floor with a gelugon. Not the case in PF2E. A Gelugon of +3 levels was a real dangerous challenge for the PCs. It knocked one PC down with a crit and regular hit and it almost knocked out two more party members and basically challenged the resource of a 6 character lvl 10 party all by itself. I was quite impressed. It made for a fearsome single monster that really let the players know powerful fiends were not to be treated lightly.
Are you finding that +3 level monsters are regularly a solo challenge for your large party? My 4th level party (of 4 players) nearly dropped to a 7th level creature and had to run away.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Are you finding that +3 level monsters are regularly a solo challenge for your large party? My 4th level party (of 4 players) nearly dropped to a 7th level creature and had to run away.
Yes, I have to say I am. A barghast at lower level was a challenge. Holy crap a clay golem pretty much put the party out of action for a short time. And the Gelugon proved to be quite a challenge. The one class that short circuits some fights now and then is the Champion. Smite Evil on paper appeared as this huge downgrade for Champions/Paladins. Then you see they made smite evil equally powerful as the old paladin, but in a different way. Most fiends have a weakness to good. So a smiting paladin does 4 or 5 points a hit plus 10 for weakness to good. They can land some real hard hits on fiends. Even so, a fiend can land some real hard hits back.

The only creatures that seem somewhat weak are caster NPCs that rely on spells. Given how much weaker spells are including summons, an enemy caster casting summon spells it not a real good threat. I have to say +3 enemy casters are weaker than a +3 martial. Any time a creature uses a spell versus a powerful melee attack, you generally have a weaker outcome.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
I am very much the same as @Celtavian I run encounters out of the book as what little prep time I have is dedicated to the story, and my play experience is very similar, a tough encounter really is a tough encounter, and I love this, over the years my players had become a bit blase about monsters, so it's good to bring back the fear, I can safely say this is the first game since AD&D where my players have often found disgresion the better part of valour
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I believe it's simple really:

  • PF2 is a game of very tight math.
  • Not all level N creatures are equal.
  • Not all level M parties are equal.

This means that one L+3 fight can be hard, but ultimately no problem, while another can be shockingly lethal.

Not commenting on that Barghest specifically. Sometimes it's simply a mistake, where a monster breaks or bends Paizo's own creation guidelines. shrug

Easiest solution? If you know your party isn't very strong, or the players aren't focusing on tactical cooperation, you don't have to change any monster stats. You just have to make them act non-optimally too. Even one monster wasting a single turn is often enough to drop the difficulty level of the entire encounter one step. So I would definitely start there before I would even think of massaging the numbers.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
With all due respect to that Barghest though, my point is that even when all the math "looks right", it can still create really really difficult encounters at the extremes. If you pitch a level M party that isn't acting very optimal with a weakness against X, versus a level N monster with a strength in X and maybe a terrain advantage (say), that can mean that a L+3 fight can feel almost like a L+5 fight, where at least one hero isn't just downed, but killed, and the rest might just wipe too.

At no point is this more apparent than at level 1. I've yet seen combat so tense and close as when a level 1 party fights what Paizo's math says is "reasonable", such as a level 3 monster - but what in practice becomes a harrowing fantasy fracking Vietnam style experience.

At level 3, say, it's just not the same (fighting a strong level 5 critter).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
a tough encounter really is a tough encounter, and I love this, over the years my players had become a bit blase about monsters, so it's good to bring back the fear
Yes this.

Let's never forget that fearsome monsters should be a feature, not a bug :)

That said, if you feel a published scenario (such as the AP's) turns into a slog since there's just an endless stream of challenging encounters, switch it up for a while. Choose an encounter and... just make it way easier somehow - maybe the monsters are drunk and uncoordinated! Or add an encounter that violates the guidelines just because!

I added an encounter where seventeen level 1 to 3 critters of the main antagonist race ancestry rushed the heroes at the start of the level 6 dungeon of Extinction Curse, precisely because of this. Made my players feel properly awesome for a change!
 
Last edited:

dave2008

Legend
With the PF2 sales speculation thread getting a lot of attention these days, I thought I'd resurrect this one with the actual play testimonials. I think the real test of a game is how it handles the table (in person or virtually).
We had a rough session this weekend on in my Roll20 Age of Ashes game. It was so bad that we had to assess whether to continue with the game or abandon the campaign. One of the players asked if the combat was an attempt of me (the GM) purposefully trying to punish the party. I assured him that I am trying my best to run the module as close to actually "by the book" as possible so the system can get a fair test by the group.
Without getting into too many spoilers, there is a towards the end of the first adventure with a monster that is completely beyond the party's capabilities. The DCs to get out of fighting the monster are so high that most parties are not only likely to fail the check to avoid combat, they will probably critically fail the check. The opponent specifically wants to fight and will only back down after he's 80% dead (by comparison, my group managed to get him about 15% down before killing off the barbarian and fighter in a couple rounds). So we had a half-TPK. If the rest of the group didn't run away (or if I had the enemy choose to pursue them), it would've been complete annihilation of the party.
This is more of an issue of adventure design than the system itself, though I think the action economy is part of the problem. Three attacks per round by a vastly superior foe is going to quickly drop a party. Nearly every attack from him hit. The characters can only probably hit on their first (non-penalized) attack.
So we're going to try again. This time I'm attempting to build a few encounters on my own to give the party some training with their 50% new character party.
Thanks for bringing back actual game discussion.
 

dave2008

Legend
When you fight a monster+2 or +3 level, you really feel like you're in a knockdown, drag out fight where a single monster might can challenge the entire party. I have not seen this in D&D in any addition including 5E.
Just wanted to point out this was the case for 4e as well. A solo monster of +3 levels could be quite deadly.

Regardless, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Tough monsters is one of the interesting aspect of PF2 to me.
 
Last edited:

CapnZapp

Legend
The only creatures that seem somewhat weak are caster NPCs that rely on spells. Given how much weaker spells are including summons, an enemy caster casting summon spells it not a real good threat. I have to say +3 enemy casters are weaker than a +3 martial. Any time a creature uses a spell versus a powerful melee attack, you generally have a weaker outcome.
Yes - and that's not only limited to NPCs:
(Edit: I see you found your way there already)

(Do remember: all my experience with PF2 is low level so I make no statements re: double-digit level play)
 
Last edited:

CapnZapp

Legend
Are you finding that +3 level monsters are regularly a solo challenge for your large party? My 4th level party (of 4 players) nearly dropped to a 7th level creature and had to run away.
Not Celtavian, but official adventures certainly doesn't make it "regular".

Most encounters, by far, feature L-1 to L+1 monsters. But since you have at least a dozen encounters each level, you will encounter L+3 bosses on every one of them. (So, it depends on your definition of "regular" - each level does feature at least one such encounter, but seldom more than one or two. Semi-regular?)

And while one L+2 encounter can be really really hard, another L+3 encounter can go down easy. Again, while the math is tight, it does allow for some variance. (In particular player tactics - and therefore also monster tactics - since the game is built to make your decisions in the fight more prominent at the expense of your decisions before the fight aka your build choices)
 

Retreater

Legend
The player of our Champion is certainly not playing optimally. He has used his reaction once in 4 levels and has the ability to bestow effects on his weapon. He could have turned the tide of the battle against the barghest, but instead climbed up a cliff and threw down a rope for others to run away while the barbarian and fighter perished in bloody heaps.
That particular player seems to have a desire to play the least effective type of character imaginable (regardless of the campaign or system) and then complain that he isn't effective like it's a dig at the system that they even gave him the option.
I feel like I might have to give him some tactical coaching for the future, but I'm still learning all the characters and their abilities.
 


kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
It’s been a while, so I figured I’d post an update. We’re having our 11th session this Saturday. I think we’ve been using the Proficiency without Level for over half the campaign at this point. We’ve also settled on the Gradual Boosts and Skill Points variants from the GMG.

Overall, I’m happy with the way Proficiency without Level variant has worked for my group. It’s given me much greater flexibility in picking monsters that I think would be appropriate for the environment versus fitting into the narrower curve in the CRB. The toughest thing they’ve fought so far was a +3, but that encounter almost immediately rolled into a +0 that left the party nearly exhausted of resources and almost out of hit points.

The revised encounter-building math in the GMG seems to work pretty well. I’ll second the opinions on this system’s math. Paizo seems to have done a really good job tuning the general framework, and the fact that it can accommodate fairly big changes like removing level from proficiency is a credit to the work they did on it.

After that encounter with the +3 followed by the +0 (a deadly encounter under the old system but just a severe one here), the party returned to town for a few days and then came back. Since this is a sandbox game, I rolled to restock, and a necromancer and his zombies had moved into the first floor. When they got back, they fought waves of zombies without rest. The zombies were a mix of −3s and −2s, but they were still a threat to the party. Rotting Aura is pretty nasty (maybe too nasty without a save), so they ended up with a few of them below half hit points.

I’m also reasonably happy with the creature creation rules in the GMG. I’ve used a fair number of homebrew monsters. My PCs ran across a kruthik adult (−2) and young (−4) I converted from 4e, and in spite of the level difference, the kruthik adult still dropped the ranger (who admittedly only had half hit points because the party didn’t want to spend more time recovering).

After that fight, the party encountered the necromancer, so I used the VP system from the GMG to handle the parlay. It seemed to work out well. It let the PC who had invested in Diplomacy get a chance to show off, which the player enjoyed. Sadly, the party missed the Grimtooth’s inspired trap I set up for them, so I didn’t get to see how the hazard creation stuff from the GMG worked in practice, but I’m going to guess it’s fine.

This weekend, we’ll have a smaller group, so we’ll be switching back to one of the other (smaller) parties that were also out exploring. This should give me a chance to try some of the changes I made to my exploration procedure. I’m not using hexploration for the most part, but I am going to be trying out some of the DCs it has for random encounters.

I’m really looking forward to the Bestiary 2. It’s hard to have too many monster books, especially when the monsters in them are generally interesting. The APG will be a nice source of more options, but I’m not sure how into it my player will be. They like customization, but the amount PF2 has so far seems to be a relatively sweet spot for us.
 

With the PF2 sales speculation thread getting a lot of attention these days, I thought I'd resurrect this one with the actual play testimonials. I think the real test of a game is how it handles the table (in person or virtually).
We had a rough session this weekend on in my Roll20 Age of Ashes game. It was so bad that we had to assess whether to continue with the game or abandon the campaign. One of the players asked if the combat was an attempt of me (the GM) purposefully trying to punish the party. I assured him that I am trying my best to run the module as close to actually "by the book" as possible so the system can get a fair test by the group.
Without getting into too many spoilers, there is a towards the end of the first adventure with a monster that is completely beyond the party's capabilities. The DCs to get out of fighting the monster are so high that most parties are not only likely to fail the check to avoid combat, they will probably critically fail the check. The opponent specifically wants to fight and will only back down after he's 80% dead (by comparison, my group managed to get him about 15% down before killing off the barbarian and fighter in a couple rounds). So we had a half-TPK. If the rest of the group didn't run away (or if I had the enemy choose to pursue them), it would've been complete annihilation of the party.
This is more of an issue of adventure design than the system itself, though I think the action economy is part of the problem. Three attacks per round by a vastly superior foe is going to quickly drop a party. Nearly every attack from him hit. The characters can only probably hit on their first (non-penalized) attack.
So we're going to try again. This time I'm attempting to build a few encounters on my own to give the party some training with their 50% new character party.
This is very likely the result of a designer writing an adventure for a system that wasn't finished and they hadn't played, and likely had a loose idea of the balance and encounter design rules for. And the ruleset was likely changing as the adventure was written. While Paizo encourages its AP writers to playtest, this isn't a requirement and many are not run.
Doubly so as the monster design rules were likely still in flux and so a few monster numbers might be off.

Also... Paizo likes hard encounters. It's player base tend to be good at optimization and the adventure writers often turn things up beyond the baseline. Especially boss fights.
 

Retreater

Legend
This is very likely the result of a designer writing an adventure for a system that wasn't finished and they hadn't played, and likely had a loose idea of the balance and encounter design rules for. And the ruleset was likely changing as the adventure was written. While Paizo encourages its AP writers to playtest, this isn't a requirement and many are not run.
Doubly so as the monster design rules were likely still in flux and so a few monster numbers might be off.

Also... Paizo likes hard encounters. It's player base tend to be good at optimization and the adventure writers often turn things up beyond the baseline. Especially boss fights.
True. We remember what happened with Hoard of the Dragon Queen. :)
I don't have the system knowledge of PF2 yet to be able to effectively tweak encounters, and it certainly doesn't help that we lost 2 of our players (now down to 4) when we transitioned to VTT from in-person gaming.
As an exercise, I'm going to design a few of my own encounters for this weekend's game. Hopefully they will be more in-line with the challenge I want to present. I don't have a problem with tough encounters, but I feel like that one just came out of nowhere. It wasn't a particularly "important" fight - it wasn't a boss fight or anything. All the others up to that point have been pretty easy ("mulching" I think one of the players described them).
 

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top