Pathfinder 2e: Actual Play Experience

Re-focusing on actual play experience.

With regard to arcane spellcaster balance, has anyone tried playing/running PF2E at, say, level 9+. This is the level range where problems usually start to manifest especially with regard to Quadratic Wizards Vs linear martials.

Do spellcasters at this higher level range still feel undercooked or are they O.K./overpowered compared to martials?
 
Good and detailed playtest report. Cheers bruv.
Your players seem really deadset on moving to PF2 but you do not seem as keen. Why might that be?
It's the feats. Running monsters is easy, but the npc's need feats to be properly scaled to the party. This means that I have to give the npc's flavorful abilities that players also have access to. I'll admit, when the players collectively nodded their heads and exclaimed "Oh... this mercenary has sudden charge that's why he moved and attacked three times!" in excitement, it was pretty cool. Players appreciating your npc's for being a challenge for "fair" reasons is awesome to see, but it takes a lot more effort to bring that about. If you rely on monster manual suggestions for statting npc's with templates, you just don't get that.

Additionally, it's really rough for me to try and make sure my players are interpreting the feats correctly. It often requires pulling out the rulebook every time a new feat makes its appearance and this actually cuts both ways in terms of players and npcs: did I properly understand what that feat I gave to an npc does? The worst crime a DM can make in our games is "cheating" so I have to be far more careful than a player when I give an npc some flavorful feat and then use it in a disallowed manner.

So far this is my personal favorite part of Pathfinder Second Edition. It is a seriously good dungeon crawler. The amount of focus and attention paid to noncombat activities is huge in this game. This is one of the many areas where it takes a feature of classic Dungeons and Dragons and makes it more accessible to the modern audience.
I would agree with this. Exploration activities provide a lot of flavor in addition to the mechanical help. I could swear that actual combat goes more quickly even though its averaging 9 rounds for us.

Tangential, but speaking of encounters, the revelation of social encounters also blew me away. Definitely stealing that for 5e.

So I've been tending to use it only instead of a third action. But I rarely have that third action! I'm often moving in the round, or casting a heal spell. Even if I start face to face with an enemy, with three full actions, it's tempting to cast True Strike to get two rolls for my second attack.

My gut feeling says that because I'm playing a cleric / sorcerer who likes to self-buff in melee, I'm not exactly the poster child for a shield user. As a straight up fighter, maybe it would be more likely -- which makes sense. Or maybe if I was a zap-cleric I'd spend two actions on a ranged attack and then raise my shield. At this point, I just am not sure.
I think it's as you surmise: my table's martials are constantly shuffling between two-handers & sword and board and all three of them use raise shield consistently, especially as enemy ac has gone up.

We have a cleric and he just started using a shield. I'm going to be curious as to how he uses it going forward.

This is why I started this whole thread. Actual play experience will trump spurious hypotheses and heated, non-constructive debate.

At the risk of adding fuel to the fire, having DMed AD&D2E, 3.0, 3.5 and 5e, I can say my experience is that 5e has done the best job of reigning in full spellcasters so as to not overshadow martial characters but still keeping them fun to play. Can't speak to AD&D1e. PF1E was so close to 3.5 in full caster power that I lump those two together.

More actual play experience please!
I don't actually know anything about pre5e RPG's. I get the impression that wizards leaving warriors in the dust is actually a big problem for my players in 5e.

In Pathfinder, so far, I think the martial types are enjoying themselves more and the wizarding types are too busy eyeing the higher level spell lists to complain. While it definitely feels like the martials are doing more damage, I think the real reason my warriors are so happy is the wealth of actions they can do; I guess it's kinda like a non-magical taste of the choice wizards enjoy, albeit with feats instead of spells.

That being said, my gut feeling is that the wizarding types are doing less concentrated damage than the warrior types, especially when compared to situations where weapons like the glaive manage to get three consecutive hits. Our guys just hit level 5 with our first batch of spell casters having survived to level 4 finally so I guess we'll see if this starts to change.

Re-focusing on actual play experience.

With regard to arcane spellcaster balance, has anyone tried playing/running PF2E at, say, level 9+. This is the level range where problems usually start to manifest especially with regard to Quadratic Wizards Vs linear martials.

Do spellcasters at this higher level range still feel undercooked or are they O.K./overpowered compared to martials?
I'd say we have a few months before my guys get there, but I'll report back when I see what happens.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Getting back to actual play experience.

Right behind exploration mode and other features like Bulk and Secret Rolls that represent sleek and modern ways to bring back features of Classic Dungeons and Dragons my second favorite thing about Pathfinder Second Edition is the way skills were implemented. Skills are potent, have a defined niche, are incredibly accessible, extensible, and allow players of any class to define how they will interact with the game world.

As someone who plays and runs a lot of games that are not Dungeons and Dragons one of my biggest pet peeves with the versions of the game that have implemented skill systems in the narrow band of competency most Dungeons and Dragons characters have outside of combat.

In terms of fiction I have a tendency to prefer characters who can hold their own in multiple arenas. When I play other games I get to play warriors who are knights in every sense of the word with the social skills to back it up or sorcerers who can sneak about effectively or bounty hunters who have the skills to pursue their quarry, ferret out rumors, and arrange pickups and drop offs.

Often in other versions of modern Dungeons and Dragons I had to resort to kludges like multi-classing into Rogue for skills in order to execute on a given concept. So far I am finding that Pathfinder Second edition allows me to realize the sort of broadly competent pulp heroes that modern iterations of the game do a fairly poor job of executing. Usually I can even do it from first level. Pathfinder Second Edition characters feel more like something you would find in games like Legend of the Five Rings. They have their core class competency, but bridge out into other areas as well.

There are a couple reasons for this.

  1. In Pathfinder Second Edition in character class can be just as good at any skill in the game as any other class. The difference between skill focused classes like the Rogue or upcoming Investigator and other classes is one of breadth rather than depth. They get to be good at more skills by having more skill increases and skill feats, but a Fighter or Barbarian who focuses on social skills will be just as competent at those skills. My Barbarian has acted as the party face so far.
  2. Every class starts the game trained in a good number of skills. Even a Fighter or Barbarian who does not invest in additional skills will start the game trained in 5 normal skills and 1 Lore skill in a game that only has 16 normal skills. Classes will give you the skills necessary to realize the fantasy of the class, but your other skills choices have no restrictions.
  3. Becoming trained in other skills is fairly easy. You can use any skill increase to pickup an additional skill rather than improve an existing one. Skill feats, general feats, and several archetype dedications also allow you to invest in skills. If you are a human you can start the game with up to 3 additional skills. Other ancestries have more thematically targeted options to pick up skills.
  4. One of the best things Pathfinder Second Edition did in my opinion was making Perception a separate proficiency that every class was at least trained in. They also rolled in Insight/Sense Motive into Perception. It just makes sense to me that situational awareness is something all adventurers should have and that some classes would be better at than others. These skills were also so much better than other skills that they felt like a tax especially on classes like fighters.
  5. The ability scores have been re-balanced so investing in Charisma or Intelligence over Constitution and Dexterity is a fairly viable life choice for a Barbarian or Fighter. They will suffer a bit, but have more opportunities in other areas including combat for Charisma. So far my Barbarian often gets incredible mileage out of Feint to inflicted Flatfooted on his enemies and Demoralize to Frighten them which is a potent debuff that everyone can take advantage of. A critical success on Feint sometimes means I have been inflict both conditions on the same enemy. Holy critmas!
  6. Also the way ability boosts works means you get more well rounded characters in general. Rather than raising a single ability score by 2 points or two by 1 point you get to raise 4 ability scores by 2 points. Raising them above 18 only increases it by 1 point which means you do not end up too far behind if you opt to have a more well rounded rather than focused character.
  7. Both skills and spells have been curated so they generally do different things rather than magic doing the same thing better.
    1. Spells like Charm or Invisibility have different trade offs associated with them than skills like Diplomacy or Stealth. Using those spells also generally still benefits from having the appropriate skills.
    2. Outside of combat spell casters will lean on their skills and spells because they have different strengths and weaknesses. A typical healing focused Cleric will save Heal for combat because of its amazing spike healing and ability to give Undead or Fiends a very bad day while healing everyone else. They will tend towards leaning on Medicine in between fights to patch everyone up. I really like that they both have their uses and spell casters still do normal human things. This feels pulpy to me.


For reference here are the two characters I intend to use in Pathfinder Society to get a feel for the game. The first is the Barbarian who is a displaced noble I have played in 3 scenarios so far. Next is the illusionist charlatan and thief that I intend to try to get a feel for what playing a spell caster is like in this edition. I have focused on skills here. The class specific parts of the builds have been omitted.

Vertigan is a scion and rightful heir of a Chellaxian Noble House who lost his position due to the schemes of his half brother. When he was a baby Vertigan was baptised in the blood of a Red Dragon. Now fueled by the arrogance and wrath of a Red Dragon he adventures to gather the resources to take back his house by force.

As befits someone of his station Vertigan excels in nearly any social situation. He is incredibly comfortable in noble society and quickly learns the major players when he arrives somewhere new. He has become a student of the mystical in pursuit of gaining a better understanding of his nature.

Within combat he uses his athletic prowess and instinctual understanding of human nature to outmaneuver and cow down those of a lower station than he as his connection to the dragon gives him strength.

Build


Ancestry : Skilled Human
Background : Noble
Class : Barbarian
Instinct : Red Dragon
Alignment: Lawful Neutral

Ability Scores


Strength 18
Dexterity 12
Constitution 12
Wisdom 10
Intelligence 10
Charisma 16


Skills


Perception (Includes Insight) +5
Arcana +3
Athletics +7
Deception +6
Diplomacy +6
Intimidation +6
Lore (Heraldry) +3
Society +3

Varis grew up in the upper reaches of Absolam society. His mother, who attempted to raise him, was an elven court mage who was highly regarded. Varis had been the result of a tryst she had with one of her companions back when she was an adventurer. Varis' father had also settled in Absolam, operating a small theives guild. As a child Varis' mother tutored him in the ways of magic and noble society. He would sneak out and spend time with his father cutting purses and running cons.

Over time Varis developed a unique mix of magical acumen and skills that allowed him to take advantage of the same nobles that he grew up with. He become disenchanted with the world of his mother, seeing the upper crust of Absolam as corrupt and capricious. After his father was captured Varis decided to adventure to gain the resources he needs to spring his dad.

Varis has yet to see play, but the idea is that he can scout ahead, pick locks, and disable traps while dungeoneering. As a fledgling master of illusions he uses his skill with Deception and illusion magic to blend in and go where ever he needs to go. He is also well versed in noble society, the arcane arts, and esoteric knowledge that he has picked up going from here to there and everywhere in between.

Build


Ancestry : Half Elf
Background : Noble
Class : Wizard
School : Illusion
Alignment: Chaotic Good

Ancestry Feat : General Training
General Feat : Uncanny Acumen (Perception)

Ability Scores


Strength 10
Dexterity 16
Constitution 10
Wisdom 12
Intelligence 18
Charisma 12


Skills


Perception (Includes Insight) +6
Acrobatics +6
Arcana +7
Deception +4
Lore (Underworld) +7
Occultism +7
Performance +4
Society +7
Stealth +6
Thievery +6
 
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kenada

Explorer
So, if you are either a player or DM of PF2E, what are your actual experiences of playing in and/or running the game?
Previously, I ran a one-shot. This time, we started the soft-reboot of my sandbox hexcrawl campaign. I was the GM in both games. I haven’t had a chance to play, though I expect I won’t get that chance until Origins rolls around, and I can do some PFS.

What works for you in practice and why?
We ran for about an hour and a half. Character creation took a little longer than expected at a couple of hours. We don’t normally get to play for long, and one of the players was unexpectedly missing. That’s fine, because I’m running a sandbox, but it would have been cooler (re)starting with everyone.

Doing homebrew in PF2 is incredibly easy. I thought that worked went very well. I’m running in a homebrew setting that doesn’t use any of the core races. I’ve done them as homebrew races in 5e, and I think it was actually easier to do them as homebrew ancestries in PF2. There’s just so many other ancestry feats to use as benchmarks (or to reflavor/steal). The biggest challenge was the volume of material (6 ancestries with 4–5 heritages plus ~8 ancestry feats per ancestry plus six feats per homeland plus another seven ‘floating’ feats that were available to certain heritages or anyone). Admittedly, I didn’t need that much material, but I wanted parity with the CRB. My players like building characters even if they aren’t Builders.

@Campbell has mentioned a few times the way PF2 incorporates old school exploration mechanics. I thought I would have to do a lot of work adapting the hexcrawl procedure I’m using, but I actually ended up dropping most of it. The default exploration activities handled most of what I needed with less complexity (but similar effects) than what I had been using. That is very cool.

The only changes I had to make was to tweak Search and Avoid Notice to modify my random encounter check, which I make daily. I roll 1d12 versus a DC based on the region’s random encounter table (along with 1d6 to determine the watch when the encounter happens). Search adds a bonus to the check, and Avoid Notice increases the DC for an encounter. This is something I devised just for PF2, and it works more smoothly than rolling every watch, but the result has a similar probability distribution to rolling 6d8 every day (encounters occurring on a 1). I also leaned on the default rules to Subsist instead of needing additional modes for foraging. The exploration engine in PF2 is surprisingly robust, and it’s probably my favorite feature. The various fiddly modifiers are easy to handle with simple DCs (e.g., navigating in a trackless environment is a hard DC, which may be trained or expert or etc depending on the hex type).

The actual session itself did not involve any combat. As part of the background for this campaign, the Sageocracy sends expeditions once a generation to explore the Shattered Remains, a continent to its west that was involved in the War of the Giants over a thousand years ago. For the soft-reboot, we jumped forward to the next generation. What happened to the previous party is one of the hooks (though a minor one). We started out introducing everyone (a yuma alchemist, a vuple monk, and an og ri sorcerer), and they we landed at the beach in the opening hex. Their only directive was word they needed to find a suitable place for camp.

From here, I talked to the group about what they wanted to do, and we discussed how that related to exploration activities. I think having a robust list of exploration activities was helpful for my players. They mapped pretty well into the fiction of what they were doing, and they suggested things the PCs could be doing while they explored. They decided to head up to the edge of the beach and climb the cliffs. That’s when they had their Jurassic Park moment: this region is full of dinosaurs. The monk asked if he knew anything about them, so I rolled the first secret check of the night and told him something totally different since the result was awful.

Historically, I’ve never used secret checks. In PF1, I tended not to reveal DCs (using the time while rolling to figure it out). In 5e, I usually always revealed DCs. I tried the latter in our one-shot, but I didn’t think it went very well. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was smooth enough asking for their modifier and then rolling. The way it kept the fiction flowing at the table, I’m happy with the way secret checks work. My players seem to be okay with them too; one mentioned liking them though wish he also got to roll. Unfortunately, I’m not sure of a way to give the latter while still keeping the result unreliable in a system like PF2.

After scouting a bit, they returned to camp for the night and then headed out in the morning. When they turned around, I rolled a secret Sense Direction to see if they managed not to get lost when they doubled back. The area is mostly savannah with the occasional copse of trees (and dinosaurs), so there’s a dearth of nearby landmarks. Their navigator (the one who does Sense Direction when they change direction or pass through a hex boundary) made the roll, and we carried on without interrupting the action.

One of the interesting differences in PF2 is that the only restriction on rest is you can’t (normally) go more than sixteen hours without doing it lest you get fatigued. This creates an interesting dynamic where you could push on another watch to explore more, but then you can’t Subsist because that only works when you’ve explored eight hours or less. Other than two watches for rest, I also set aside one watch for Daily Preparations and other morning activities to get ready for the day. This usually sends the party out adventuring late in the morning.

After that, they headed south following the coastline. Since the previous party’s camp was designated as “on coast”, that meant they automatically found it while exploring. Normally, you have to pass an encounter check and then also roll to confirm a location encounter (usually a 50% chance). The procedure tries to balance being abstract while also still running from the PCs’ perspectives, so sometimes you have to tweak things a bit. (Technically, the location is also biased, which means you need to travel the length of the hex to leave, but that won’t come into play until later.)

From here, we shifted down to 10-minute turns from watch-length turns (a watch being 4 hours). They had found the partially complete palisade the previous party had constructed. The way I ran this exploration activity was to go around the table asking each character what they were doing for this turn. The activities here were again informative, as one of them decided to Scout for trouble while another continued to Avoid Notice and the third decided to continue Searching. They made their way around the northern side of the settlement, and then the third decided to Investigate instead. They had noticed a building inside the unfinished palisade, and he wondered if it was structurally sound.

At this point, I decided they needed some potential conflict. My random encounter table has giant geckos, so while he was checking out the building, a giant gecko popped its head up. I rolled indifferent for its reaction check (a rule I borrowed from old school D&D), so it was mostly interested but keepings its distance. I made another secret Recall Knowledge, and described how the building appear to be in good shape and not damaged beyond natural wear from the elements (as far as he could tell). He noticed the gecko and found it interesting, so he went to look for more. Just in case a fight broke out, I made this one a weak giant gecko, but I rolled positive on the reaction check, so it took a liking to him.

While this was happening, I continued to go around the table and find out what everyone was doing. They started Searching the camp to see if they could find anything interesting. I rolled a pretty hot Perception check for one, so I described how he found the remains of an old tent, battered by the weather and looking kind of gross. (Out of game, this was the command tent of their previous party, though I don’t think they’ve realized it.) He found an unlocked chest containing some papers, which included one of the hooks from last campaign (something about an undead menace to the east) as well as the previous party’s notes on the Dragon Shrine to the east as well.

With that, we wrapped for the session. I have a technique I use for XP that takes from the end of session questions from Dungeon World. We pick goals at the start of the session and then see how many were completed at the end, using group consensus to decide whether they were. For PF2, I used our group goal cards as prompts and solicited accomplishments from the players. They offered up seven. We then went down the list and discussed how big they were. One accomplishment was too much like the others, so they decided on one moderate and five minor accomplishments. 80 XP for about an hour and a half of play is not too bad.

If something isn't working for you in practice why is that?
My notes. 😂 I’m transitioning to running with a computer to running only on hard copy. That went well, but my notes are a mess. I still find running all the different actions and activities a little challenging, but that’s because I haven’t internalized them yet. I also wish the official GM screen indicated which ones were secret checks.

Also, are you coming to PF2E from PF1E or 5e?
Yes. This group was a PF1 group for a long time. We’ve probably played about seven or so years, starting in 2010 with Kingmaker. I ran various APs for them, and then we started exploring other systems (D&D 5e, Fate Core, Open Legend). Prior to switching, I was running this campaign in 5e. I think it flows, especially the exploration, much better in PF2. When I ran PF1, I used the Unchained action economy, so the new action economy is familiar to us.

If so, what have you noticed are the major differences in actual play between the games?
D&D 5e lists exploration as one of the three pillars, but the exploration mechanics are really weak. There are also too many ways to completely trivialize them. I think the intent was to support travel montages rather than actual, exploration-based gameplay. That’s why I used Justin Alexander’s hexcrawl procedure, though I think the way PF2 handles exploration works even better.

We haven’t had a combat yet in this campaign, though we did have some in the one-shot. I think combat works better for my group in PF2 than it did in 5e. I think my group will like the tactical aspect more. Interestingly, they did not like 4e much at all. I think PF2 strikes a better balance with how it portrays its mechanics in the fiction, and the three-action economy works better than the standard/move/minor economy in 4e. I expect losing AoOs to really help open up fights, which were already pretty mobile in the Unchained action economy (which still had them).

How easy is PF2E to run compared to those other games?
There’s a learning curve, but I find it easy to run overall. PF2 and 5e feel pretty similar to me, since their action mechanical complexity is similar. There are fewer exceptions in PF2 compared to PF1 and maybe even to 5e. There’s a lot that builds on the core, and that’s where the learning curve is, but actually running things at the table goes very smoothly given how robust the basic actions and exploration activities are.

This is an important question: are you completely new to D&D style games?
Nope. I’ve played D&D since 2001. We have one new guy who has only played 5e. He’ll be joining us next session (in two weeks), so it will be interesting to see how he takes to it. He seemed to like the playtest. Admittedly, and in his words, the way I run is very different than the way his other DM runs. That game is more of the ‘standard’ story-driven game, but mine tend to put a much stronger emphasis on exploration and playing to find out what happens (because none of my recent campaigns have started with a specific goal or objective in mind beyond the initial hook).

That turned into quite the wall of text, but hopefully that helps convey our experience with PF2. Everyone seems to be really excited to play. One of my players showed up with a bit of a backstory, which I can’t remember the last time someone bothered to do that.
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
Related to play experience: We finally grokked the rules for initiative and starting Encounters! (We're only six players with easily 120 years of experience between us, and it didn't take more than ten sessions for the penny to drop... ;)

Let's assume The Lurker is lying in ambush as the heroes move in single line through the forest (plenty of cover means Move Silently activity is available). McSneak and McBrawl is basing their Initiative on Stealth, McPray is just traipsing along (and also carrying the torch).

McSneak rolls (Stealth) Initiative 24 - he's the fastest!
The Lurker rolls (Stealth) Initiative 17
McPray rolls (Perception) Initiative 16
McBrawl rolls (Stealth) Initiative 16

Now then, PF2 brings several completely new and unfamiliar things (for us):

1) McSneak does not discover The Lurker: The Lurker's Stealth (17) beats McSneak's Perception DC (16) - McSneak's initiative has nothing to do with detecting stealthy foes.

2a) The Lurker doesn't discover McSneak: McSneak's Stealth (24) beats The Lurker's Perception DC (20)
2b) The Lurker discovers McPray (automatically)
2c) The Lurker does not spot McBrawl - it becomes aware of McBrawl's position, but McBrawl remains hidden from The Lurker! You need a stealthy foe to critfail to be fully revealed!

3) McPray becomes aware of The Lurker! Yes, he rolled only a 16 on initiative, but his Perception DC is 18, which The Lurker did not beat. McPray hears a twig snap or maybe the drooling of The Lurker or whatever.

4) McBrawl sees nothing, hears nothing

Now then, the first round of the encounter!

5) McSneak acts first, but has no reason to suspect danger. Having him spend three actions as if in combat feels totally off! (We admit we don't fully understand the RAI here, but we're running it as "he keeps exploring just as usual" for now. He moves forward at a cautious pace)

6) Then it is The Lurker. But from its POV the first party member is McPray/McBrawl, so it delays until there's food on the table. It's initiative is now, what?, 15 1/2?

7) The players agree McPray should act before McBrawl. McPray knows there's danger in them bushes, but can't target it!

7b) He Seeks and makes an "active" Perception Roll! He rolls a 8 and gets 16, worse than his "passive" score, and worse than The Lurker's Stealth check, but none of that matters! The Lurker's Stealth DC is only 16, and it goes from hidden to observed. But only by McPray!

7c) Should McPray now spend his second action to Point Out the enemy? No! That action can only ever make the enemy go from undetected -> hidden, never from hidden -> observed! He instead casts a spell or something.

7d) Now it's McBrawl! Not so fast! The Lurker knows the game is up, and jumps out to attack McPray!

Finally it becomes fully spotted/targetable by everyone!

And now (but not before) the combat resolves in pretty much the same fashion as you'd expect... :ROFLMAO:
 

CapnZapp

Hero
(cont'd)

I'd say this is a veritable minefield of making the mistake PF2 functions anywhere close to what we're used to (including pretty much every other D&D game :))

And you can't do anything in this game without cross-referencing rules from almost every chapter at the same time. (For instance, Sneak is not listed among basic actions, since it's listed as a skill actions - in a different chapter!) The best way to play this game fast is to learn every rule by heart! :)

Rolling great on your Perception-based Initiative does not make you spot things any better! You still use your Perception DC to determine if lurkers gonna lurk.

The Scout exploration activity does not make you better at spotting hidden lurkers! It gives +1 bonus to Initiative. It does not improve your Perception DC!

And rolling great on Stealth does not help you against foes actively Seeking your area! Their active Perception checks is against your Stealth DC. There are almost zero active vs active die roll contests in PF2!


Just because you've rolled initiative does not mean it's time for the arrows to fly - just because somebody failed their Stealth doesn't mean they're revealed to you (so you can target them). If you're used to simpler games where you can go ahead and whack something right after Initiative you now need to actually spend time making the foe revealed to you.

(One great way of doing this is carpet-bombing the area (aka Fireball :) ) or simply by running to the spot where you heard something, but you still need to do that.)

And there will be instances where the foe isn't revealed to you, but is revealed to your friends. This game requires you to administrate the flow of information!

(If The Lurker acted directly after McSneak, it could sneak off to a new location, potentially making so the combat doesn't start right away, instead leading the heroes on a cat and mouse game that might take half an hour's worth of play time to resolve before the first sword ever meets flesh!)
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
One thing I am deeply interested in is experience with less group oriented play. Does anyone have experience with playing through scenes that involve single PCs or groups of two? Was it more focused on exploration or combat? Does the combat system still feel satisfying?

In theory I think it should work better than other modern versions of the game for this stuff, but so far most of my experience has been with Pathfinder Society which is usually played in groups of 6 or 7 so even when we have split off there has usually been at least 3 PCs. 3 did still feel very satisfying for exploration. No experience with small group combat though.
 

Eric V

Adventurer
(cont'd)

I'd say this is a veritable minefield of making the mistake PF2 functions anywhere close to what we're used to (including pretty much every other D&D game :))

And you can't do anything in this game without cross-referencing rules from almost every chapter at the same time. (For instance, Sneak is not listed among basic actions, since it's listed as a skill actions - in a different chapter!) The best way to play this game fast is to learn every rule by heart! :)

Rolling great on your Perception-based Initiative does not make you spot things any better! You still use your Perception DC to determine if lurkers gonna lurk.

The Scout exploration activity does not make you better at spotting hidden lurkers! It gives +1 bonus to Initiative. It does not improve your Perception DC!

And rolling great on Stealth does not help you against foes actively Seeking your area! Their active Perception checks is against your Stealth DC. There are almost zero active vs active die roll contests in PF2!


Just because you've rolled initiative does not mean it's time for the arrows to fly - just because somebody failed their Stealth doesn't mean they're revealed to you (so you can target them). If you're used to simpler games where you can go ahead and whack something right after Initiative you now need to actually spend time making the foe revealed to you.

(One great way of doing this is carpet-bombing the area (aka Fireball :) ) or simply by running to the spot where you heard something, but you still need to do that.)

And there will be instances where the foe isn't revealed to you, but is revealed to your friends. This game requires you to administrate the flow of information!

(If The Lurker acted directly after McSneak, it could sneak off to a new location, potentially making so the combat doesn't start right away, instead leading the heroes on a cat and mouse game that might take half an hour's worth of play time to resolve before the first sword ever meets flesh!)
I am wondering how different this really is from other RPGs I've played...I've never had a toon spot things better/hide better based on initiative rolls. I know in PF2 skills are associated with initiative, but for the purpose of initiative, right? Not a standard skill check, is what I'm understanding.

Other games also have the situation where initiative =/= time for arrows to fly. There's a thread around here somewhere about assassins not being able to use their ability because of how initiative works. Seems to me it's always been the case that just because you roll initiative, you don't necessarily get to go right away.

I thought it was standard in RPGs that sometimes a member of the party notices something the others don't...GMs have always had to control the flow of information, no?

Overall, what I'm getting from this is that initiative isn't tied solely to DEX, and that's a good thing.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
And you can't do anything in this game without cross-referencing rules from almost every chapter at the same time. (For instance, Sneak is not listed among basic actions, since it's listed as a skill actions - in a different chapter!) The best way to play this game fast is to learn every rule by heart! :)
Cap’s enthusiasm for disliking PF2 is getting the better of him here; adding smileys to statements is always a good hint the writer doesn’t actually believe it, but is just exaggerating for effect.

Since this is a thread about actual play, i’ll put my experience here rather than theorycrafting. I played the play tests with one group; multiple scenarios designed to stress the system. High level characters, a different class each day, a different set of skills, levels and feats. If anything was designed to push you to look up rules, that was it. And we did, quite a bit!

But we never did for skills. As far as I recall, ever. Probably because we have enough experience with previous versions that any modifiers were obvious, or the GM chose them and they seemed right. Not saying we didn’t mistake a +1 bonus for +2 or forget something, but we had fun and didn’t have issue. And in the starting-from-zero campaign we are playing, no-one has checked skill rules either. In fact we have several players both in the play test and now who have never even glanced at the rules. So this statement is demonstrably false.

To be clear, building characters takes a lot of reading and referencing. But in actual play PF2, like every F20 system, is immediately playable once you have a character — you want to try something? The GM tells you which skills are appropriate and the difficulty, you roll d20, add modifiers and off you go. Occasionally you might say “hey, it’s dark, does that help” and then either the GM lets you know the bonus or you look up a rule, so if you have a new GM or you like looking stuff up, you can read rules a lot.

But stating that PF2 is different from 5E, 4E, 3E, PF1 in this respect is straight up wrong. At least from the POV of a player, rather than a theorycrafter.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Since this is a thread about actual play, i’ll put my experience here rather than theorycrafting.
We have played ten sessions as stated in my post, and finally we got it right (we believe). That's why I put my actual play experience in this thread.

My experience with PF2 is that there are a lot of rules. You can get them right, but are (exceedingly) unlikely to do so if you don't actually read the rules but instead just assume things work like before. (I myself highlight maybe seven different instances where things doesn't quite work like we first assumed)

In fact, since you repeatedly boast of not actually reading the rules I specifically call out as non-intuitive, you will have to forgive me for not seeing a point discussing the issue further with you.
 
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Mistwell

Legend
Cap’s enthusiasm for disliking PF2 is getting the better of him here; adding smileys to statements is always a good hint the writer doesn’t actually believe it, but is just exaggerating for effect.
To me, who has no axe to grind in this, it looks like you're the one being rude. His review looked pretty fair and genuine to me, and based on actual play experience, which is the purpose of this thread.
 
Other games also have the situation where initiative =/= time for arrows to fly.
Its an issue I've noticed with d20 cyclical initiative since 3.0 - the solution, I've found, is not to roll initiative until something actually happens.
If you end up calling for a turn from a character who has no idea anything is happening, you've invoked the wrong-sub-system.

There's a thread around here somewhere about assassins not being able to use their ability because of how initiative works.
Sounds like a "Murphy's Rule." Obviously, an ability that could never work wouldn't be included, so interpretations that result in such can be discarded. No?

I thought it was standard in RPGs that sometimes a member of the party notices something the others don't...
Sure. Surprise.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Its an issue I've noticed with d20 cyclical initiative since 3.0 - the solution, I've found, is not to roll initiative until something actually happens.
If you end up calling for a turn from a character who has no idea anything is happening, you've invoked the wrong-sub-system.
This thread isn't about some abstract ideal of a ruleset, though. It's about Pathfinder 2.

The idea "not to roll" for initiative until something happens is kind of hard to put in practice if the way you find out when something is happening, is... by rolling initiative!

So generic advice from armchair theorists is... well, let's just say should you have identified a specific spot where I am using the rules wrong, pointing that out would be helpful and welcomed! :)
 
This thread isn't about
Threads drift. This one was about actual play experience, but you segued from that to a long, contrived hypothetical illustrating what might be an issue with PF2 initiative.
Eric commented that it was a common problem in many systems - an oblique 'defense' to your 'attack' perhaps - to which I replied that the issue was evident, but easily soluble, IMX, with d20 games as far back as 3.0.

So, I made no claim about PF2. At most, implied that "lotsa games have that problem" isn't a defense, if indeed, any attacks or defenses, real or imagined were involved.
 

Eric V

Adventurer
Threads drift. This one was about actual play experience, but you segued from that to a long, contrived hypothetical illustrating what might be an issue with PF2 initiative.
Eric commented that it was a common problem in many systems - an oblique 'defense' to your 'attack' perhaps - to which I replied that the issue was evident, but easily soluble, IMX, with d20 games as far back as 3.0.

So, I made no claim about PF2. At most, implied that "lotsa games have that problem" isn't a defense, if indeed, any attacks or defenses, real or imagined were involved.
I just meant that if it isn't a problem in other systems, I'm not sure how it could be a problem in PF2. PF2 still has a GM, after all...
 
I just meant that if it isn't a problem in other systems, I'm not sure how it could be a problem in PF2. PF2 still has a GM, after all...
I'm not sure. The Capn's hypothetical was long on unintuitive results, short on the actual mechanics implied to have caused them.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Threads drift. This one was about actual play experience, but you segued from that to a long, contrived hypothetical illustrating what might be an issue with PF2 initiative.
No, this was a direct example highlighting actual in-game issues we found out just recently by playing the game (and discussing/explaining things between sessions, and finally by me asking over at Paizo forums, but I didn't want to bore you with those details).

What's with you people, repeatedly accusing me of not doing what I'm saying I'm doing?

The thread-starter (and a mod!) specifically called out for discussions from actually playing the game, so now I'm doing that, and you're still not happy....? :D:unsure::rolleyes:
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I'm not sure. The Capn's hypothetical was long on unintuitive results, short on the actual mechanics implied to have caused them.
Feel free to then actually engage with the Capn, and ask him directly about passages you want to know more about, before dismissing his findings out of hand, eh?

And what's with the "hypotheticals"? It was an example. Yes, I distilled it down, stripping out irrelevant cruft (and also: can't remember the real numbers and sequences. But I can tell you this: the real heroes were walking down the stairs into Madame Mvashti's cellar).

But it was born out of our actual experience playing the game (and trying to grok the rules).

Did we follow the rules 100%? Maybe, maybe not. Hard to tell when nobody actually discusses the example and the rules that lie behind it, instead preferring to waste time and effort on refusing to believe the example is real... o_O

On the other hand, maybe that's how the game gets recommendations for being easy... That nobody actually believes it might not be (even though we're talking about 600+ pages written with a programmatic exactness, which I imagine will come as a brutal shock to someone accustomed to 5E's natural language)!
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
I am wondering how different this really is from other RPGs I've played...I've never had a toon spot things better/hide better based on initiative rolls. I know in PF2 skills are associated with initiative, but for the purpose of initiative, right? Not a standard skill check, is what I'm understanding.

Other games also have the situation where initiative =/= time for arrows to fly. There's a thread around here somewhere about assassins not being able to use their ability because of how initiative works. Seems to me it's always been the case that just because you roll initiative, you don't necessarily get to go right away.

I thought it was standard in RPGs that sometimes a member of the party notices something the others don't...GMs have always had to control the flow of information, no?

Overall, what I'm getting from this is that initiative isn't tied solely to DEX, and that's a good thing.
Well, to me it seems a bigger disconnect to say "in this scene you go first because of your high perception score/result" but then also say "but you havent seen a thing that gives you reason to go do anything".

I like having initiative be perception based but it would seem to me that that should be a perception check in full - used for spotting too, not just a half-check. That would resolve the conflict and help the sequence in the scene make sense organically.

This has the feel of a "look down the alley for ogre I was chasing" where you see the ogre but miss the dragon cuz you were looking for ogres.

Let percrption checks be perception checks and let the GM use those for initiative order - fine. But making initiative checks be percrption checks that dont determine perception is... conflicted.

In 5e play, a GM can let initiative be percrption based, because its an ability check by using the variant scores ruke, but it's not required to be separate. When visibility was compromised, I have done it more than a few times.
 

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