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PF2E Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

dave2008

Legend
  • Encounters are hard. part of this is my fault, as in a typical D&D game, I add substantially more difficulty in any encounter (Eg. more monsters, higher HP, environmental challenges). with 5 players in my group, the module designed for 4, and the very first encounter in this module being a pretty easy romp, I started ramping up other encounters. This has made for extremely challenging encounters that I'm now regretting. nobody has died, but boy, have the PC's been dropping a LOT. there have been 2 times now that a PC or animal companion has reached death 3 and it was only a miracle that they didn't die. Great drama - but I don't think it's good for EVERY. SINGLE. FIGHT.
Have you been using hero points? It seems like one of the major reasons for including them is to prevent people from dying.
 

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dave2008

Legend
Haven't yet. still slowly making my way through the GMG - so can't comment yet. maybe before the next session in 2 weeks.

Cheers,

J.
Hero Points are in the Core Rule Book:

HERO POINTS
Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character usually begins each game session with 1 Hero Point, and you can gain additional Hero Points during sessions by performing heroic deeds or devising clever strategies. Your character can use Hero Points to gain certain benefits, such as staving off death or rerolling a d20. See page 467 for more about Hero Points.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
Encounters are hard. part of this is my fault, as in a typical D&D game, I add substantially more difficulty in any encounter (Eg. more monsters, higher HP, environmental challenges). with 5 players in my group, the module designed for 4, and the very first encounter in this module being a pretty easy romp, I started ramping up other encounters. This has made for extremely challenging encounters that I'm now regretting. nobody has died, but boy, have the PC's been dropping a LOT. there have been 2 times now that a PC or animal companion has reached death 3 and it was only a miracle that they didn't die. Great drama - but I don't think it's good for EVERY. SINGLE. FIGHT.
The encounter-building guidelines are pretty solid in PF2, which is a difference from PF1 and D&D where they inevitably stop working or only work in narrow cases. Unless you’re intending to push an encounter up to a higher threat, you should be fine running them as-is (just tweaking them just for party size). That should help with your issue of having every fight be too hard/dramatic.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
Hero Points are in the Core Rule Book:

HERO POINTS
Source Core Rulebook pg. 29
Your character usually begins each game session with 1 Hero Point, and you can gain additional Hero Points during sessions by performing heroic deeds or devising clever strategies. Your character can use Hero Points to gain certain benefits, such as staving off death or rerolling a d20. See page 467 for more about Hero Points.
duh! of course. yes, we use Hero points quite a bit - however, as I was typing this summary I realized we didn't use them for staving off death. it was something I was intending to remind the group over our Discord. we continue to learn.

Cheers,

J.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
The encounter-building guidelines are pretty solid in PF2, which is a difference from PF1 and D&D where they inevitably stop working or only work in narrow cases. Unless you’re intending to push an encounter up to a higher threat, you should be fine running them as-is (just tweaking them just for party size). That should help with your issue of having every fight be too hard/dramatic.
yeah. they sure are. IME, D&D CR is a bit of a joke and the encounter building rules are simply not good. I build every encounter in D&D at beyond the toughest level, for even throw-away fights. the math is much better in PF2e, which is GREAT!. but it is taking some time to re-calibrate my default assumptions.

Cheers,
J.
 

ronaldsf

Explorer
duh! of course. yes, we use Hero points quite a bit - however, as I was typing this summary I realized we didn't use them for staving off death. it was something I was intending to remind the group over our Discord. we continue to learn.

Cheers,

J.
Yes, awarding Hero Points 1/hour and reminding my players to use them for rerolls and to stabilize, moved the game from Dark-Souls-punishing bordering on feeling unfair, to tough and exciting. They are a default rule so definitely use them.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I got that advice too when I first found PF2 to be unrelentingly hard (in official modules).

It's not wrong, but I can't say the default hero points are essential in any way to making the game work. Far more impactful is your encounter design; whether you create your own (and can go as soft on your heroes as you like), via whether you allow yourself permission to modify published encounters (nearly always making them less, not more, difficult) to running official scenarios exactly as published.

Guess I'm just saying using or not using hero points isn't the central focus here.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
Yes, awarding Hero Points 1/hour and reminding my players to use them for rerolls and to stabilize, moved the game from Dark-Souls-punishing bordering on feeling unfair, to tough and exciting. They are a default rule so definitely use them.

yeah. I've been historically bad at awarding hero points. I keep forgetting :). I remind my players to advocate the awarding of hero points anytime they witness something they deem "cool" or "heroic". they also forget. most of the hero point struggle, I think, is that I've historically awarded (in my D&D games) inspiration outside of combat. I've been treating Hero points the same - but there are few (IME) non-combat heroic moments compared to "inspired" moments - yeah, semantics, but I think its true. One change I'm considering based on the last session is to actively award heroic points in combat. like any critical hit should award one, a cool/innovative use of a skill or action in combat, things like that. I recognize this will likely significantly ramp up the awarding of Hero points - but with a threshold of max 3, I'm personally OK with cycling through these points very fast.

Cheers,

J.
 

dave2008

Legend
Haven't played yet, but Reactions sound more "realistic" to me as separate from the main action turns. Instead a complete compartmentalization of PC/monsters turns, kind of breaks immersion for me.
That is a misunderstand of what I suggested. Reactions would still be off-turn and thus not compartmentalized on the PCs turn. However, you have to actions (time) to pull them off. Now that I think about it, it might make sense to allow you take the reaction, but with the cost coming from your next turn (if you don't have any actions left on this round).
 

Anand

2nd Level DM
I use three tricks to make sure Hero Points are flowing at my tables:
  1. Keep Hero Points visible. For in-person games (good times!), use physical tokens. For online games, keep a "Hero Point" token of image visible if you can (I use a post-it in my monitor!)
  2. Put up a timer. Every top of the hour, it is hero-point time and everybody gets one. It is kinda bland, but gets the job done. Or...
  3. I let people get a Hero Point every time they draw from the Critical Fumble deck. Some people love it, and will get themselves bruised and broken to get those hero points, while some other players avoid it, but it is their choice.
 

Retreater

Legend
Had a few rules questions come up during the heat of combat that apparently needed forum discussion to sort out. I erred on the wrong side and nearly had a TPK (fortunately there was no lasting harm done). The system is pretty labyrinthine.
We have not used Hero Points since our first or second session. There's way too much other stuff to keep up with that they are completely forgotten - like Inspiration in 5e.
 


JmanTheDM

Explorer
I use three tricks to make sure Hero Points are flowing at my tables:
  1. Keep Hero Points visible. For in-person games (good times!), use physical tokens. For online games, keep a "Hero Point" token of image visible if you can (I use a post-it in my monitor!)
  2. Put up a timer. Every top of the hour, it is hero-point time and everybody gets one. It is kinda bland, but gets the job done. Or...
  3. I let people get a Hero Point every time they draw from the Critical Fumble deck. Some people love it, and will get themselves bruised and broken to get those hero points, while some other players avoid it, but it is their choice.

so, my last session I, err, houseruled? that any crit scored by a PC, automatically earned a hero point (in addition to the normal means of awarding them). Unlike Inspiration in D&D, I found the language of "hero" points to be a bit more restrictive and was finding that I was dishing out only about 1-3/4 hours session. after adding Crit awards, this jumped to around 6. made them flow quite a bit more and it also felt quite a bit easier to administer.

not sure if this is overpowering things for PC's, but I'm actually OK with that -as they are hero's.

Cheers,

J.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I use three tricks to make sure Hero Points are flowing at my tables:
  1. Keep Hero Points visible. For in-person games (good times!), use physical tokens. For online games, keep a "Hero Point" token of image visible if you can (I use a post-it in my monitor!)
  2. Put up a timer. Every top of the hour, it is hero-point time and everybody gets one. It is kinda bland, but gets the job done. Or...
  3. I let people get a Hero Point every time they draw from the Critical Fumble deck. Some people love it, and will get themselves bruised and broken to get those hero points, while some other players avoid it, but it is their choice.
The timer idea is a good one. I try to give out hero points for cool stuff or to MVPs, but that’s a good idea to make sure I’m giving them out regularly.

My players have a habit of sitting on their hero points, so I house-ruled that they can spend them to increase the degree of success of another player’s roll (for off-turn engagement). For the most part, this has gotten the hero points flowing quite nicely, though we did have a situation last session that I blame somewhat on our not having played for six weeks.

The party had found a treasure vault, and the PC who searched the room did not find any traps, but he also disclaimed even touching the treasure chests. I’m not sure why exactly, but that meant the party didn’t find out the chests were mimics until the sorcereress tried to pick up one. The fight ended up going badly, and the sorceress would have died had I not reminded her that someone could spend a hero point to make her attempt to Escape succeed.

Still, it was a good fight. The party hadn’t gone into it at full hit points due to resting only a little bit. I make regular wandering monster checks, so there’s an opportunity cost to resting in the dungeon. Prior to that, they had fought a verdurous ooze, which is a fun monster. It’s like a normal ooze, but it can suck the air out of the room to knock out PCs.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
We've had a longish break, but are set to play this Sunday. Here's an observation regarding a fairly uncommon occurrence (AFAIK) in the official adventure paths:

This discusses the final encounter of level 8, the confrontation with Mistress Dusklight. Specifically, the following two topics:

a) the pacing of encounters
b) fighting a low-offense high-defense boss without bogging down the action

At least to my (limited) knowledge, Paizo isn't experimenting much with forcing the players to face several encounters in a row, as a single block. But unless the GM is both observant (or reads this) and lenient, the ending of the Celestial Menagerie map can easily cram three encounters into one.

I'm not talking about facing all three encounters' worth of enemies at the same time (since the design of PF2 basically disallows that) - I'm talking about not getting the customary rest period in-between each one. That is, what I'm talking about is the potential for starting a new encounter at less than full health unless you have a Cleric et al in your party that is ready to use up valuable combat healing (even though the party is technically between combats). I'm talking about how this change of pace might surprise a party accustomed to being allowed rest between encounters, how this might catch players that have been weaned off their usual caution through seven levels where combat healing is never needed after a fight. Maybe your players won't have a problem with this - this discussion is for the GMs who think theirs might.

The adventure is written with the same assumption as always: that it is the party that sets the pace by opening the door to Dusklight's Quarters. However, I find it entirely unrealistic that the PCs should be allowed to face Deputy Stallit, and then take the customary 20-80 minutes of heal-up time before Mistress Dusklight intervenes. Therefore I will likely replace the completely closed wall between D12 Foyer and D13 Dusklight's Quarters with one with "holes" or small windows in it. Big enough for spellcasting (and arrows, I guess) to pass through, but not big enough for characters to just run through. This wall is hidden behind the curtains or drapery of the foyer, but Mistress Dusklight can tug on a rope to have them fall to the ground. This should force the party to either open the door or flee back into the maze. They can't just blithely sit down to Treat Wounds, since they're assaulted by Mistress Dusklight's ranged spells. I plan to have this happen if and when the players take more than two minutes to open her door after killing/defeating Deputy Stallit. Two minutes are more than enough time to discuss strategy, reposition, cast spells and such, but not enough time to replenish hit points using resource-free means, making Mistress Dusklight look like a fool for not taking advantage while the heroes are still affected by whatever damage Stallit managed to inflict.

Which brings me to the adventure description. Unless the GM reads it very carefully (the part where Deputy Stallit deactivates the maze for them) there is nowhere to retreat, except back into the ghost minotaur maze. And it's not the spectral gore attacks I'm worried about. It's the "being taken out of the fight" aspect - unless everyone retreats, the fight will effectively be over before any retreating characters can find their way back into the fight. And if everybody retreats, many GMs will be like me and have Mistress Dusklight heal up and possibly call upon reinforcements, since I find the strategy of "wearing down" bosses to be cheesy - if you can take away 1/3rd of a boss' HP in one go, then break off combat and heal up fully, you have effectively removed risk from the equation - and since XP is clearly meant as the reward for risks taken, winning fights with little risk should yield little XP.

---

Also, a throw-away comment in another thread made me look at Mistress Dusklight's stat block. She is indeed a formidable opponent. Her base abilities plus her spells make for great defenses. But she's not the usual BBEG with a grotesque offense to match. This raises the concern of a drawn-out fight that overstays its welcome.

If you have any tips on how to make this encounter run great, feel free.

I'll report back next week (or, more likely, the week after that) with the actual play experience, and whether my preparations were warranted.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
We got a chance to use the influence rules in today’s session. The gist of it is I thought they worked pretty well.

The party is part of an expedition sent to explore the area. They had found a settlement and after spending some time there decided to move their camp from its old location to a place outside of town where people could work. The expedition was running low on food, and the leadership was completely ineffective.

The way I ran it was by breaking the evening down i to three segments: before, during, and after the expedition meeting where they were supposed to update everyone on what they’d been doing for the last few weeks. I also decided that there would be three thresholds tied to how much of the expedition would follow them back to the new location.

One of the things I wanted to avoid was just having everyone toll Diplomacy, so I had people describe what they were doing, and we figured out an appropriate skill. I also gave some suggestions since this was our first time using the rules (the players were aware of the Influence and Discover activities).

Most of the PCs spent their time interacting with people, but the fighter tried to show off the better gear they got at the new place, so I suggested he demo it (which let him make an attack roll for his Influence activity). Another PC wrote a speech for the party’s face, which worked out well. Another tried to bribe people with food, which got him a bonus to his roll, but then he crit-failed his roll. 😂

In the end, they were successful. We talked about it a bit after the session. Everyone agreed it went pretty smoothly. They liked that they weren’t all just making Diplomacy checks over and over.

Since the VP mechanic is similar to progress clocks in Blades in the Dark, I asked one of my players who has run Scum & Villainy (which uses the BitD engine) what he thought. He noted that one difference was that I kept the party’s progress hidden (it’s public in BitD). I’m not actually sure what Paizo’s intent is here, but I did try to indicate how they were doing by the reaction they got.

Overall, I’d say it is a pretty solid mechanic. I liked it when I read it, and I’m glad it actually worked well in practice.
 

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