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PF2E Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

JmanTheDM

Explorer
How do you feel PF2 compares\contrasts to 4e as far as feel? 4e has had a lot of influence on PF2 and I was curious how much you could tell.
so, you might not get a good reply here.

4e was a LONG time ago. I was a player vs a GM, I didn't really read the rules, and i was kind of being a bit of a S@%t Disturber in game because "bah, 4e, get off of my lawn, this ain't D&D".

with that said, I personally don't find a lot of similarities, likely due to time, age, and system familiarity.
  • I found 4e to be even easier mode D&D than 5e currently is. PF2 bring back the fear of combats - I like this. so having as a viable option "run like hell", appeals to my sense of play.
  • 4e had daily, encounter and at-will powers and really felt to me like "ok, everyone is magical now". PF2 still feels like swinging a sword, rather than "activating" a power.
  • I think that 4e had short rests between encounters? (think this is where 5e got it from). I don't really like the rest and heal in 1 hour. PF has the medicine skill that can also heal you but natural healing is much slower. my game right now, party members ARE walking around with lower than max HP due to time constraints.
  • it feels to me like tactical options are similar between games.
  • it also feels to be that the default is to have level appropriate encounters (which I'm not a fan of, and would modify in a home brew game, to introduce some varity including cake-walk encounters).

so, TL;DR - and only 1 man's opinion.
  • combats feel deadlier than 4e
  • out of combat options, including formalized "exploration" activities feel deeper
  • the 3-action vs. daily/encounter/at-wills I like more. I like the difference between prepared spell casters who need to choose spell slots and spells to memorize - again, this directly stimulates the "old-school" parts of my brain that other editions moved away from.

I'm sure there is a TON more that I'm missing. comparing it to 4e is really hard for me due to how long ago. its easy to compare it to 5e, but that's not what you asked :)

Cheers,

J.
 

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I wanted to update this based on creating my own encounters for PF2. Using the system in the Core Rules, I created a small dungeon with 4 combat encounters to test the new party configuration. Three of them were fun skirmishes, the fourth one was a "severe" challenge the party could have avoided. That fourth fight was a knock-down, drag-out battle with undead that was very scary at points. But it played great. I definitely have the confidence to create my own encounters in the future. Much better balanced (from those 4 encounters) than PF1 or D&D5 (trying to use the Encounter guidelines in the DMG).
 

How do you feel PF2 compares\contrasts to 4e as far as feel? 4e has had a lot of influence on PF2 and I was curious how much you could tell.
I might be in a good position to answer that, since I'm currently GMing PF2 as well as DMed two short 4E campaigns in the past year.
I'll make a (noncomprehensive) list here, and if you need further explanation of any point, let me know.

Compare
  • AEDU Design: With the exception of a few daily resources (spell slots), many powers can be regained after a 10 minute break: focus spells, focus points, using nonmagical healing checks, etc. So this allows parties to conserve resources and spread them out but otherwise take each encounter as a fresh experience.
  • Skill Feats: These work like utility powers. You need to expend a feat selection to attempt certain skill uses.
  • Reaction powers: The reaction resource (normally attacks of opportunity in PF1, 3.x, and 5e) now have many more uses. The Champion's reactions set him up like a 4E-style defender, for example.
  • You Don't Have to Have a Cleric: Healing is really spread out, especially with the Medicine skill. In Exploration mode (outside of combat), you can basically heal up to max HP between fights without expending spells, Hit Dice, etc.
  • Critical Hits: Deadly weapons (which deal extra bonus damage on a crit), magic weapons that deal fire damage on crits, and other features make criticals mean more than just "I roll extra damage"
  • Positioning: Combat maneuvers (which can also be put onto spells with a feat) let characters control the battlefield, shoving, tripping, sliding, etc.
  • More Front-Loaded Power: Characters at lower levels have more HP and access to more abilities than their 5e counterparts, seemingly closer to the power level of low-level 4e characters.
  • Ancestry/Race Powers: Your ancestry feats seem closer to how 4e handled race.

Contrast
  • Encounter Design: Doesn't have the same "encounter budget" formula
  • Minions: There are no minions in PF2
  • Monster Spells: Enemies use spells and feats much like PCs. They don't have simple "powers" and you have to look up everything in the Core Rulebook.
  • Conditions: PF2 has many, many, many conditions, and they are handed out like Halloween candy. I feel like 4E gave out a lot of conditions, but they had similar effects.
  • PC Options: The PF2 Core Rulebook player options are vastly more than the 4E Player's Handbook 1.
  • No bloodied condition
  • Monsters aren't easily modified up or down in power, still require templates, etc.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I might be in a good position to answer that, since I'm currently GMing PF2 as well as DMed two short 4E campaigns in the past year.
I'll make a (noncomprehensive) list here, and if you need further explanation of any point, let me know.
Thanks for the comparison, Retreater. I'm trying to try it out some more via virtual PaizoCon. I really like the 3 action economy, but the rest of your post has me squirming, and not in a good way.
 

Thanks for the comparison, Retreater. I'm trying to try it out some more via virtual PaizoCon. I really like the 3 action economy, but the rest of your post has me squirming, and not in a good way.
If you can't get into a game at PaizoCon, write me a post on here and I can do a sample Roll20 session for anyone who's interested. Just need a little time to prep it.
 

Porridge

Explorer
I might be in a good position to answer that, since I'm currently GMing PF2 as well as DMed two short 4E campaigns in the past year.
I'll make a (noncomprehensive) list here, and if you need further explanation of any point, let me know.

Compare
  • AEDU Design: With the exception of a few daily resources (spell slots), many powers can be regained after a 10 minute break: focus spells, focus points, using nonmagical healing checks, etc. So this allows parties to conserve resources and spread them out but otherwise take each encounter as a fresh experience.
  • Skill Feats: These work like utility powers. You need to expend a feat selection to attempt certain skill uses.
  • Reaction powers: The reaction resource (normally attacks of opportunity in PF1, 3.x, and 5e) now have many more uses. The Champion's reactions set him up like a 4E-style defender, for example.
  • You Don't Have to Have a Cleric: Healing is really spread out, especially with the Medicine skill. In Exploration mode (outside of combat), you can basically heal up to max HP between fights without expending spells, Hit Dice, etc.
  • Critical Hits: Deadly weapons (which deal extra bonus damage on a crit), magic weapons that deal fire damage on crits, and other features make criticals mean more than just "I roll extra damage"
  • Positioning: Combat maneuvers (which can also be put onto spells with a feat) let characters control the battlefield, shoving, tripping, sliding, etc.
  • More Front-Loaded Power: Characters at lower levels have more HP and access to more abilities than their 5e counterparts, seemingly closer to the power level of low-level 4e characters.
  • Ancestry/Race Powers: Your ancestry feats seem closer to how 4e handled race.

Contrast
  • Encounter Design: Doesn't have the same "encounter budget" formula
  • Minions: There are no minions in PF2
  • Monster Spells: Enemies use spells and feats much like PCs. They don't have simple "powers" and you have to look up everything in the Core Rulebook.
  • Conditions: PF2 has many, many, many conditions, and they are handed out like Halloween candy. I feel like 4E gave out a lot of conditions, but they had similar effects.
  • PC Options: The PF2 Core Rulebook player options are vastly more than the 4E Player's Handbook 1.
  • No bloodied condition
  • Monsters aren't easily modified up or down in power, still require templates, etc.
Thanks for this comparison -- I've never played D&D 4e myself, but I've heard people talk about it, so I found this compare and contrasting very interesting.

  • Conditions: PF2 has many, many, many conditions, and they are handed out like Halloween candy. I feel like 4E gave out a lot of conditions, but they had similar effects.
Aside: While it's true that PF2 has a lot of conditions, I think a lot of this is just a consequence of the designers getting "key word happy", not an indication of the complexity of the game.

For example, several of PF2's "conditions" are just descriptions for varying degrees of being hidden -- "undetected", "observed", etc -- which could have just been kept in the stealth and perception sections. Several more of PF2's "conditions" are just descriptions of a creature's attitude with respect to diplomacy -- "friendly", "unfriendly", "indifferent", etc -- which could just have been kept in the description of the diplomacy skill. But putting them under the list of "conditions" for reference doesn't actually may the game any more complex (though it does make the game look more intimidating).

To put it another way, I think everyone will agree that D&D 5e does a great job of streamlining conditions. But most of conditions PF2's conditions also exist in 5e, it's just that many of them aren't given a specific name or listed in the "conditions" section.

For example, 5e has an analog of PF2's "dying" condition -- in 5e it's the number of death saves failed -- it's just 5e (reasonably) didn't bother giving this a special name. In 5e the conditions "lightly obscured", "heavily obscured", "unseen", "lightly encumbered", and "heavily encumbered" all exist, but 5e (reasonably) doesn't bother listing them in its list of conditions.

And most of the other PF2 conditions that don't appear in 5e's list of conditions still exist in 5e, but are just described under the relevant spells that bring these conditions about instead of being given a special name. E.g., the spells Confusion, Fear, Ray of Enfeeblement, Enthrall, Slow, Haste, etc. describe the analogs of the PF2 conditions Confused, Panicked, Enfeebled, Fascinated, Slowed, Quickened, etc., but just don't give them special names.

I think overall 5e's approach is better -- it makes a game that's more accessible to new players. But PF2's decision to "code" everything doesn't actually make PF2 any harder to play. It just makes it more intimidating to new players.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
For us 4E encouraged difficult combats (since trivial ones were uninteresting). But difficult combats took very long - 4E encourages you to really take time to think about your "move"; like a really engaging and interesting tactical board game. We found we didn't want to play 4E like 3E/PF/5E, where you might just coast through a fight.

You really want to minmax your turn, somewhat like in chess. But this left too little time for adventure progress. It started feeling like we were role-playing for the half hour before and after the session's big fight, but ultimately that we were playing a board game with roleplay trappings. The story became a wrapper for great combats.

This was ultimately the reason we stopped playing 4E.

In contrast 3E, 5E and Pathfinder all feature combat encounters that, while different in many aspects, have one thing in common: they set up quicker and you aren't tempted into too-slow resolution.

While 4E combats are tactically very fun and interesting, with lots of moves and bonuses and conditions, I far prefer 3E/PF/5E style combat. Just engaging enough to be interesting, but not so engaging and interesting that combat eats into roleplay and story time.

tl;dr: the biggest difference is that difficult combats take longer in 4E (when played "right"). The reason this difference is the biggest is that it is our reason to play one game and not the other
 

dave2008

Legend
For us 4E encouraged difficult combats (since trivial ones were uninteresting). But difficult combats took very long - 4E encourages you to really take time to think about your "move"; like a really engaging and interesting tactical board game. We found we didn't want to play 4E like 3E/PF/5E, where you might just coast through a fight.

You really want to minmax your turn, somewhat like in chess. But this left too little time for adventure progress. It started feeling like we were role-playing for the half hour before and after the session's big fight, but ultimately that we were playing a board game with roleplay trappings. The story became a wrapper for great combats.

This was ultimately the reason we stopped playing 4E.

In contrast 3E, 5E and Pathfinder all feature combat encounters that, while different in many aspects, have one thing in common: they set up quicker and you aren't tempted into too-slow resolution.

While 4E combats are tactically very fun and interesting, with lots of moves and bonuses and conditions, I far prefer 3E/PF/5E style combat. Just engaging enough to be interesting, but not so engaging and interesting that combat eats into roleplay and story time.

tl;dr: the biggest difference is that difficult combats take longer in 4E (when played "right"). The reason this difference is the biggest is that it is our reason to play one game and not the other
How would you compare 4e to PF2e?
 

Lackofname

Explorer
For us 4E encouraged difficult combats (since trivial ones were uninteresting). But difficult combats took very long - 4E encourages you to really take time to think about your "move"; like a really engaging and interesting tactical board game. We found we didn't want to play 4E like 3E/PF/5E, where you might just coast through a fight.

<snip>
From my experience, 4e and 3.5 fights took the same amount of time, it was just the amount of time per-round was different. In 3.5, the fighter's round was just him rolling multiple attacks, resolving it, then that moved on. Then the wizard and cleric spent time shuffling their spells, reading their spells off, resolving that. The DM would only get 2-3 actions because there was usually only 1 NPC monster, but he had to flip between statblocks and spells, etc, and 4-5 Pcs vs 1 monster meant the monster getting hosed. A fight would take an hour or two but only span maybe 3 rounds.

The same fight in 4e, the fighter had a few more options, but the wizard had less. The mechanics for any sort of choice was generally right there on the card, rather than needing to dive into books. There were more targets to take damage, so enemies lasted longer overall (however the fewer enemies, the more they got hosed by conditions). An hour fight could go into 8-9 rounds.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Never really played 4e so I suppose I shouldn't comment, but in my experience lot of comments about 2e seeming similar to D&D 4e or 5e is confusing streamlining in general being similar to those games.

Like all three of those are streamlined compared to D&D 3.5, but they do it in very different ways.

Anyhoo, regarding terms, 2e uses more programming language style terminology. This is because Pathfinder 1e had lot of rule arguments caused by stuff like "Okay, does this 'attack' counts as 'attack' because the rule didn't say it is 'attack'?". I can't really pull full list of examples similar to that, but 2e tries to make it clear what the ability is rule wise so there is no confusion of what the ability actually does.

How that compares to 5e's approach? Well I at least hate 5e's approach since lot of it is just gm being like "Umm, I guess that sounds about right" :p Especially when it comes to skill results...

I really look forward to seeing how 2e plays at high level, in playtest at least I noticed the interesting with with it taking about same amount of rounds and irl time as low level encounters did, so that is very promising from point of view of avoiding the 1e "Okay, single round at high levels takes much longer than same round in low levels" thing
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I haven't found combats to be quick in any edition of D&D/PF including 5E or PF2. Fast combats really depend on the players. My players tend to overthink everything. Sometimes I sit as the DM as they overthink the combat thinking "Why didn't you have your action planned before it reached your turn?" Slow player information processing slows the game down more than the rules. As a DM I will gloss over a rule or forget a round or two and not worry about it to keep the game flowing. Oh well, combat is combat, sometimes people forget things even in real life. So it fits it would happen in game. Just keep going and get the combat done.

PF2 combats take a while like past editions. And players are still often the slowest part. And the fact I tend to run combats in a coordinated fashion once the players set off a series of events in a given area that brings everyone running. I don't like to run encounters as single encounters unless it fits like a party taking on a dragon alone in a cave or wandering one encounter a day exploration encounters. My combats are usually big multi-room encounters with 10 to 15 varied challenge monsters taking individual actions on different initiatives closing in on the PCs from multiple areas in an encounter area. That is never going to run fast no matter the edition. It didn't run fast in 5E or 3E or PF1 or PF 2.

The main difference for me is on the back end, not in the game play. I knew the Pf1 rules very well. I could run combats very quickly. But on the back end it took me far more time to set up encounters in PF1 than it does in PF2 and 5E. Which lowers the overall time I spend on encounters as a DM. The actual in game combats run about the same amount of time and hopefully will improve as I commit more of the PF2 rules to memory. But the back end of PF2 has been substantially lower because I've been able to run monsters and NPCs as written in the Bestiary and monster books without modification. And buffing and spell strategy does not require as intense preparation as it did in PF1/3E. It's about as complex to build and run encounters as 5E from a DM perspective with better balanced monsters out of the book for players using feats, multiclassing, and magic items.
 

dave2008

Legend
I haven't found combats to be quick in any edition of D&D/PF including 5E or PF2. Fast combats really depend on the players. My players tend to overthink everything. Sometimes I sit as the DM as they overthink the combat thinking "Why didn't you have your action planned before it reached your turn?"
Have you ever tried a time limit? I give players 30 sec max to figure out what they are doing, and make all to hit and damage rolls for their turn. I found this keeps things moving and people engaged more. IMP, it also helps mimic the frenzy battle more at the table. Players may be resistant at first, but really come to enjoy it in the end (at least that was the case for my group).

EDIT: We finish a typical combat in less than 10 minutes real time.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Have you ever tried a time limit? I give players 30 sec max to figure out what they are doing, and make all to hit and damage rolls for their turn. I found this keeps things moving and people engaged more. IMP, it also helps mimic the frenzy battle more at the table. Players may be resistant at first, but really come to enjoy it in the end (at least that was the case for my group).

EDIT: We finish a typical combat in less than 10 minutes real time.
10 minutes? Wow. Only single encounters against something fairly easy finish in 10 minutes. It took about 4 or 5 hours for the encounter last night. My players would never allow me to put a time limit on them. I play pretty ruthlessly and I play fast as a DM unless a rule is new and not committed to memory as I have everything planned out before they play. If I killed them forcing them to play fast, they'd likely quit playing and be mad. If I didn't let the players think for a while how to defeat the encounter puzzle I have created against them, they would likely die more often than not. My encounters are often like some puzzle trap you walk into and it sets off a series of events with casters that are going to leverage and support the enemies. It can be quite nasty. I have to let them think about how to counter it. I just wish it would go faster and they would realize everything is not going to be optimal on their part. They don't have to think until they make the perfectly optimal decision every time and I'm not always going to tell them who has the best AC or who is resistant to what until they test their abilities against them.
 
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dave2008

Legend
10 minutes? Wow. Only single encounters against something fairly easy finish in 10 minutes. It took about 4 or 5 hours for the encounter last night. My players would never allow me to put a time limit on them. I play pretty ruthlessly and I play fast as a DM unless a rule is new and not committed to memory as I have everything planned out before they play. If I killed them forcing them to play fast, they'd likely quit playing and be mad. If I didn't let the players think for a while how to defeat the encounter puzzle I have created against them, they would likely die more often than not. My encounters are often like some puzzle trap you walk into and it sets off a series of events with casters that are going to leverage and support the enemies. It can be quite nasty. I have to let them think about how to counter it. I just wish it would go faster and they would realize everything is not going to be optimal on their part. They don't have to think until they make the perfectly optimal decision every time and I'm not always going to tell them who has the best AC or who is resistant to what until they test their abilities against them.
We used to play like that way when we started 4e, but just felt like it was breaking the immersion of a 6 second round for the players to perseverate on their options, tactics, and actions. We tried a few options and settled on 30 seconds per turn and it works great for us. It has been a game changer for us in that it has made combat encounters feel much more real and tense (to us). I mean, when a combat was taking 2 hours in real time and only 30 sec. in game time it just felt wrong. There was only so much we could stretch our dissociation, but everyone/group has different issues and tolerances to be addressed.

Now, to clarify, I should state the typical combat encounter might be 10 minutes, but the average is higher as we have some that push 30 minutes or even an hour. Social encounters are typically loner too. Finally, I should also note that I've been playing with this group for 30 yrs so we make game decisions (house rules, time management, etc.) as a group, therefore there is no issue of buy-in. We all agree before we do something and we are happy to change if it isn't working.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I haven't found combats to be quick in any edition of D&D/PF including 5E or PF2.
My experience is the same, with the notable exception of 4E (for the reasons I've detailed upthread. Or was it a different thread? Lots of threads.)

Fast combats really depend on the players. My players tend to overthink everything.
Are you me? :)

But on the back end it took me far more time to set up encounters in PF1 than it does in PF2 and 5E.
I didn't DM PF1 because I had already given up on 3.5 - precisely for this exact reason.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
I remember when my bi weekly Reign of Winter game's GM managed to have entire campaign(without shortening it) last under a year :p They didn't take time to think what they did on their turns and they kinda forced every player to plan ahead for their own turns.

Sooo yeah, how long encounters last is definitely table thing :'D That is fastest I've seen entire AP been completed ever and it was in bi weekly campaign of all things
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Have you ever tried a time limit?
I've thought about it, but it would probably kill off the enjoyment my players are deriving from playing - trying to minmax DPR every round.

At least two players have a tendency to rather pass up an offer of an afternoon's worth of playing boardgames, depending on who's playing and what the game is. I suspect this is because they rather not play than be reminded of how slow they are (some of my friends are more assertive than others, not shying away from putting time pressure on others), and how prone to AP (analysis paralysis) they are. They basically play only co-op games. (Of course, ttrpgs is the ideal co-op game). In short, I have players that hate being asked to make a move without full information and time for a full analysis. Even being told "it's been fifteen minutes, you need to make a move now" can ruin their day. Of course, having to wait that long ruin everybody else's day.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
EDIT: We finish a typical combat in less than 10 minutes real time.
When we play 3E, 5E or PF2, we typically finish a combat in 30-60 minutes.

When we played 4E, we typically finished a combat in 3-6 hours. (Often a session turned out to be a small bit of roleplaying followed by a single combat and then everybody had to leave for the night. It was unsustainable)
 



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