Pathfinder 2E Pathfinder 2E - does it play better than it looks at first glance + guides/resources for new DMs

JThursby

Adventurer
Thanks for the great replies from Retreater, payn, and JThursby! I didn't grasp that tokens represent a key to a lot of the functionality. I will strongly consider using the full VTT functionality.
Something you should be aware of is the Link Actor Data setting on tokens. From the Actor's character sheet you can access their prototype token and change whether or not the actor data is linked. If that box is not checked then each token will be it's own separate instance of that creature; this is good for minions, generic monsters, anything that would show up more than once. If that box is checked then whatever happens to that token will be reflected on the actor's character sheet and will be persistent across all instances of that token across all maps; this is good for PCs, named NPCs, bosses, etc.
 

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Yeah. Its a striking difference from D&D3e or PF1e. Weirdly, as best I can say, some people don't like it.

I think it's weird as well. I understand how it could be a little frustrating at first since you come into it with one expectation and it ends up playing badly under those expectations, but once you know, just adjust your frame of reference?

That said, I would have been fine if they labeled "moderate" encounters "hard" instead and it was the standard and people could feel good about beating "hard" encounters on a regular basis. I still don't get it but wouldn't bother me and would seem to fit the psychological need for some.
 

To elaborate on this: one of the uses of the Medicine skill is to Treat Wounds. At the basic level this is a DC 15 check that takes 10 minutes, heals 2d8 hp and removes the Wounded condition, and can't be repeated on the same character for 60 minutes. If your Medicine proficiency is higher than Trained, you can make progressively harder checks that heal a lot more. There are also some skill feats that improve this, notably Continual Recovery which removes the 60 minute cooldown, and Ward Medic which lets you Treat the Wounds of two or more characters simultaneously. Both these skill feats require you to be an Expert in the skill, which you normally can't be until 3rd level, so unless you push really hard you won't get both until 6th level (Expert at 3rd, one feat at 4th, the other at 6th). There are ways to get them faster, but that requires being a skill monkey class (Rogue or Investigator) or sinking serious resources into it.

Treat Wounds is really nice, and makes it so you can expect to start every encounter at or near max hp, assuming there's no time strong time pressure. But it does require someone in the party to be a medic, and likely max out Medicine and getting at least one skill feat. But once you get there, you don't have to worry about hp attrition at all anymore. It's sort of like 4e short rest healing, except with infinite healing surges. In this model, healing spells (heal and the occult version soothe) are more for emergency healing – and given the amount they heal, they're pretty good at that. A top-level heal will likely heal a front-liner for about 50% of their max hp.

Yeah, this was a little bit of a miss for me. Since it really does seem like PF2e expects you at full health with fairly easy inbetween encounter healing can be obtained, the chosen method just seems way too convoluted for what it's worth. Would have rathered a riff on 4e healing surges. Unless they thought there was this 1-5th level game they wanted to preserve that was different then switch to basically full heals inbetween at 6th level +
 

payn

Legend
I think it's weird as well. I understand how it could be a little frustrating at first since you come into it with one expectation and it ends up playing badly under those expectations, but once you know, just adjust your frame of reference?

That said, I would have been fine if they labeled "moderate" encounters "hard" instead and it was the standard and people could feel good about beating "hard" encounters on a regular basis. I still don't get it but wouldn't bother me and would seem to fit the psychological need for some.
As somebody "weird" who doesnt like it (but doesnt hate it either) perhaps I can explain. It is not a simple phrasing of the experience. It's not that people expect moderate to actually be easy, or severe to be moderate. It's the predictability of the fights and your inability to strategize for them.

Assuming a troll, ogre, or hobgoblin solider all have the same CR in PF2, you know exactly how those fights are going to go. It's predictable because the math is dialed in precisely. You know that abilities X, Y, and Z are likely to be successful. Step that encounter up to a dragon, giant, or froghemoth, and suddenly X/Y are off the table and you have to do with Z. The fight is also entirely predictable. This makes playing and gamemastering easier than in the past.

Folks like myself see the unpredictable CR of the past as a feature. You dont know how the fight is going to go. It might be in that CR moderate place, but abilities of the enemy can vary giving it unpredictability. The math wasnt so tight that it limits abilities. More options are on the table so that PCs can punch above their weight. This is offloaded to combat tactics in PF2 instead of strategy.

Basically, it comes down to a combat as war vs combat as sport. For many the smooth running balanced game is highly desirable and seen as "fixed" but others see it as an unwelcome obstacle to out of the box thinking. Its not as simple as it runs good so you must be blind to not like it as folks often assume. Lot of these disagreements happened back in the 3E/4E transition as well.
 

JThursby

Adventurer
It's the predictability of the fights and your inability to strategize for them.

Assuming a troll, ogre, or hobgoblin solider all have the same CR in PF2, you know exactly how those fights are going to go.
This is a train of thought I see crop up a lot in PF2e discussion: player and monster math never goes bonkers, so the fights can never go crazy and they'll all be the same. In practice I don't find this to be the case at all.

First is the dramatic effects of crit successes and fails, especially on saving throw effects. Crits happen pretty often in this game and regularly change the strategic objectives of a fight. While they can be anticipated as being more or less frequent, they can't be predicted.

Second is the vast amount of monsters with disruptive abilities, ailments, Strike riders like Grab and Shove, or even more dramatic things like Swallow Whole. Few monsters allow the PCs the privilege of taking their ideal turns unopposed.

Third is how many fights it takes to level up and thus be eligible to fight newer, tougher monsters with nastier abilities. At 1000xp that's about 12.5 Moderate fights to level up. The amount of fights is going to be 10-14 per level, depending on quest XP and exact encounter difficulty. That isn't a lot of time for a pool of level appropriate enemies to get truly stale and predictable.
 

The fight is also entirely predictable. This makes playing and gamemastering easier than in the past.

Folks like myself see the unpredictable CR of the past as a feature. You dont know how the fight is going to go. It might be in that CR moderate place, but abilities of the enemy can vary giving it unpredictability. The math wasnt so tight that it limits abilities. More options are on the table so that PCs can punch above their weight. This is offloaded to combat tactics in PF2 instead of strategy.

Basically, it comes down to a combat as war vs combat as sport. For many the smooth running balanced game is highly desirable and seen as "fixed" but others see it as an unwelcome obstacle to out of the box thinking. Its not as simple as it runs good so you must be blind to not like it as folks often assume. Lot of these disagreements happened back in the 3E/4E transition as well.

This is a different POV than the comment was directed to. There are people that seem ok with combat as sport but want to feel like heros and didn't like the way PF2e felt due to the overtuned initial adventure paths and their over use of high difficulty encounters.

On the combat as sport/unpredictable CR point, what do you consider strategy?
 

payn

Legend
This is a train of thought I see crop up a lot in PF2e discussion: player and monster math never goes bonkers, so the fights can never go crazy and they'll all be the same. In practice I don't find this to be the case at all.

First is the dramatic effects of crit successes and fails, especially on saving throw effects. Crits happen pretty often in this game and regularly change the strategic objectives of a fight. While they can be anticipated as being more or less frequent, they can't be predicted.
Its quite reliable depending where you fall on the +/- scale of level. It's quite a decisive advantage for one side of the encounter if they have the higher level. It's less a matter to worry about in more even level encounters.
Second is the vast amount of monsters with disruptive abilities, ailments, Strike riders like Grab and Shove, or even more dramatic things like Swallow Whole. Few monsters allow the PCs the privilege of taking their ideal turns unopposed.
Its true, there are some interesting encounter abilities monsters have. The effectiveness and danger is entirely predictable based on +/- level of one side or the other.
Third is how many fights it takes to level up and thus be eligible to fight newer, tougher monsters with nastier abilities. At 1000xp that's about 12.5 Moderate fights to level up. The amount of fights is going to be 10-14 per level, depending on quest XP and exact encounter difficulty. That isn't a lot of time for a pool of level appropriate enemies to get truly stale and predictable.
Being able to level quickly doesn't really change the fact there is a stern "you must be this tall to encounter" limit to PCs in PF2. If you are ok with a strict goblin to hobgoblin to ogre to giant dynamic than its fine I guess. I prefer a more bounded setting where the bands are not so prescriptive.

This is a different POV than the comment was directed to. There are people that seem ok with combat as sport but want to feel like heros and didn't like the way PF2e felt due to the overtuned initial adventure paths and their over use of high difficulty encounters.
Yes, my bad. The APs do seem over-tuned and folks dont enjoy the ass pummeling you get from challenging foes, while having to go back to unchallenging foes to experience it yourself.
On the combat as sport/unpredictable CR point, what do you consider strategy?
Using terrain, magic weapons, spells, items, etc... to get a field advantage. In PF2 the math is so important you cant possibly effect something higher level than the party, which is possible in a game like 3E/PF1 and 5E. Also, packs of lower level enemies cant threaten PCs at a certain point in PF2 because of the math. Eventually, options fall by the wayside because they just become impossible instead of difficult.
 

Retreater

Legend
I dunno. I've had some test encounters that go kind of "bonkers" like "this Challenge 7 monster gets steamrolled" and "this Challenge 7 monster TPKs the group." Just like any other edition, you can have monsters that the party is ill-equipped to deal with...
We don't have AoE attacks to deal with swarms.
These undead are easier to deal with because of our Healing-font-oriented Cleric.
Our wizard didn't prepare fire-based spells today, and we are having trouble damaging the Wood Golem.
We didn't get a chance to spread out, so we all got hit by the Green Dragon's Poison Breath.
Party composition, preparedness, tactics, etc., all have a bearing on how the Challenge Level hits.
 

I think it's weird as well. I understand how it could be a little frustrating at first since you come into it with one expectation and it ends up playing badly under those expectations, but once you know, just adjust your frame of reference?

The issue is you're dealing with a lot of people who got set in their ways with D&D3e or PF1e, where the CR calcs were, honestly, kind of a joke if people were making an effort to optimize their characters at all. Like you say, you'd think people could adjust their expectations, but part of it is monsters that were avowedly hard encounters in 1e, actually are in 2e in some cases, so apparently some people simply read this as their characters being substandard (which, if your criteria is book-cooked 1e characters, they actually probably are).

While I'd be surprised if some people won't get over it once they get adjusted to realities, I think some people are so used to that phantasmal difficulty they're never going to, and, effectively, don't want to.
 

payn

Legend
The issue is you're dealing with a lot of people who got set in their ways with D&D3e or PF1e, where the CR calcs were, honestly, kind of a joke if people were making an effort to optimize their characters at all. Like you say, you'd think people could adjust their expectations, but part of it is monsters that were avowedly hard encounters in 1e, actually are in 2e in some cases, so apparently some people simply read this as their characters being substandard (which, if your criteria is book-cooked 1e characters, they actually probably are).

While I'd be surprised if some people won't get over it once they get adjusted to realities, I think some people are so used to that phantasmal difficulty they're never going to, and, effectively, don't want to.
I think where the pitfall of these discussions is the idea folks have to "get over it". I mean, its both ok that PF2 works a certain way, and that people prefer it didnt. They are not always ignorant or stubborn people. Which is why I can say that PF2 works really well objectively, but I dont like the experience. The game isnt bad because I dont like the feel, nor am I stupid for not accepting it as "fixed".
 

I think where the pitfall of these discussions is the idea folks have to "get over it". I mean, its both ok that PF2 works a certain way, and that people prefer it didnt. They are not always ignorant or stubborn people. Which is why I can say that PF2 works really well objectively, but I dont like the experience. The game isnt bad because I dont like the feel, nor am I stupid for not accepting it as "fixed".

Edit: Rethinking this post, let's just let it that that statement was not directed at people who simply don't find it an enjoyable experience and then let it go.
 
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I think where the pitfall of these discussions is the idea folks have to "get over it". I mean, its both ok that PF2 works a certain way, and that people prefer it didnt. They are not always ignorant or stubborn people. Which is why I can say that PF2 works really well objectively, but I dont like the experience. The game isnt bad because I dont like the feel, nor am I stupid for not accepting it as "fixed".

Sure, but this rarely seems to be the articulation on message boards and I appreciate you voicing it. If more people took this stance during the 4e discussions, the world would be a better place. " I don't like the feel" or "it's just not enjoyable for me" is perfectly legitimate but also not really much of a conversation either.

But a lot of people refuse to adopt the paradigm that a game like PF2e or 4e operates under and then try to argue it's incoherent or doesn't work well. Of course it doesn't work well for that person when they try to apply a mindset / paradigmn / framework that wasn't meant to be applied. So, just say you don't like that paradigmn for a game and move on, which is I think what you are doing.
 

JThursby

Adventurer
There’s always the Proficiency Without Level alternate rule that greatly expands the range of creatures you can face. It makes level+4 enemies not a death sentence, and level-4 enemies not a complete joke. It’s trivial to apply it in Foundry, you just check a box in the settings and it’s applied instantly. @Ruin Explorer was also saying this was something that they were iffy about in another thread, so I’m tagging ‘em here too.
 

Sure, but this rarely seems to be the articulation on message boards and I appreciate you voicing it. If more people took this stance during the 4e discussions, the world would be a better place. " I don't like the feel" or "it's just not enjoyable for me" is perfectly legitimate but also not really much of a conversation either.

But a lot of people refuse to adopt the paradigm that a game like PF2e or 4e operates under and then try to argue it's incoherent or doesn't work well. Of course it doesn't work well for that person when they try to apply a mindset / paradigmn / framework that wasn't meant to be applied. So, just say you don't like that paradigmn for a game and move on, which is I think what you are doing.

Yeah. Payn has demonstrated to me he's a reasonable person since I've been on this board. But a lot of objections to PF2e I've seen have either not been, or have been expressed in hyperbolic or excessive ways that disguise any validity to them.

To give a couple examples of the distinctions:

1. Payn has expressed discomfort with how tight the math is in PF2e. I think, (in my experience), he's presenting it as more deterministic than it is (you don't build a system around a D20 if you want real consistency, especially in a system where one round's lucky rolls can have a strong dramatic effect given how relatively short PF2e in round-cycles PF2e is. But that's an argument of degree; there's no question the math is tighter in PF2e than most D&D variants, and if he doesn't like that, he doesn't.

2. Others have, in essence, objected that the encounter builder, unlike D&D3e/PF1e CR, doesn't lie to you. I have trouble having sympathy with this position; it seems to be demanding a sort of systemic illusionism baked into the game that I don't find a reasonable expectation.
 

There’s always the Proficiency Without Level alternate rule that greatly expands the range of creatures you can face. It makes level+4 enemies not a death sentence, and level-4 enemies not a complete joke. It’s trivial to apply it in Foundry, you just check a box in the settings and it’s applied instantly. @Ruin Explorer was also saying this was something that they were iffy about in another thread, so I’m tagging ‘em here too.

Though I'm not sure that doesn't work by, effectively, breaking the assumptions the enemy levelling system is based on.
 

Retreater

Legend
A GM could just design encounters that match the style of play the group prefers. If most fall under "trivial" or "low" challenges, so be it. The encounter building rules are a GM tool, and players don't need to "look behind the screen."
All systems have assumptions of challenge. Some games like WFRP 4e, Cthulhu, or OSE lean towards deadly combats while 5e leans a bit towards easy combat (IMO). How you feel about the assumptions is your preference. I think PF2e is more modifiable in challenge than WFRP or Cthulhu, for example.
I think it's a fine system, playable, and logical. I don't find any problems with it that can't be fixed by a GM so long as the foundation of the game appeals to your players.
Other systems are more difficult to change from the core assumptions. (For example, you're never going to be a butt kicker in WFRP - the system won't allow it without massive overhaul.)
 

A GM could just design encounters that match the style of play the group prefers. If most fall under "trivial" or "low" challenges, so be it. The encounter building rules are a GM tool, and players don't need to "look behind the screen."

The problem is, I suspect, at least at low-to-mid levels, whether they know that the challenges are low or trivial by the numbers--they'll look low to trivial. I know you struggled with this at one time; what kind of opponents are level 0 or -1 encounters? Pretty obviously just as underwhelming conceptually as they are by the numbers, right?

That's the problem with at least some people used to PF1e; they were used to fighting things that at least seemed like they would be dangerous and threatening--but by a combination of character builds and baking a cake in preparation, they were able to defeat them handily or outright roflstomp them. You're just not going to get that experience out of 2e; to even try you'd have to reskin creatures extensively and play some, honestly, pretty hard core slight of hand about what's going on.


All systems have assumptions of challenge. Some games like WFRP 4e, Cthulhu, or OSE lean towards deadly combats while 5e leans a bit towards easy combat (IMO). How you feel about the assumptions is your preference. I think PF2e is more modifiable in challenge than WFRP or Cthulhu, for example.

Well, compared to BRP its going to be simply because PCs range far, far more in power than most incarnations of BRP will ever permit. I agree its entirely possible to tune difficulty--but I think as I say above, its going to be pretty hard to hide that's what you're doing.
 

kenada

Legend
Though I'm not sure that doesn't work by, effectively, breaking the assumptions the enemy levelling system is based on.
Proficiency Without Level has a few issues, but the encounter math isn’t really one of them. It works by providing a replacement XP table to use for building encounters.
 

payn

Legend
Sure, but this rarely seems to be the articulation on message boards and I appreciate you voicing it. If more people took this stance during the 4e discussions, the world would be a better place. " I don't like the feel" or "it's just not enjoyable for me" is perfectly legitimate but also not really much of a conversation either

But a lot of people refuse to adopt the paradigm that a game like PF2e or 4e operates under and then try to argue it's incoherent or doesn't work well. Of course it doesn't work well for that person when they try to apply a mindset / paradigmn / framework that wasn't meant to be applied. So, just say you don't like that paradigmn for a game and move on, which is I think what you are doing.
I do think there is good conversation to be had though. While I may not like the tight math, I do like the system and enjoy talking about it. When I think back to the E-War the best conversations were the ones where the folks that did not like 4E could actually articulate why. It's true, that often meant a subjective perspective, but it leads to diving into discussions on how games should be experienced which is also important. Though, folks get stuck on objective mechanics because its the one thing you can be right about. Also, I totally get folks tired of the game they like being bombed by offensive one-liners. I do my best not to be one of those folks though sometimes get lumped in with them.
 


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