Pathfinder 2's Proficiency System Explored

Proficiencies are the big news for Pathfinder 2nd Edition today! We take a look at Paizo's new blog on proficiencies, and I break down Mark Seifter's daily novel (I have no idea how that guy has time to work on the game!); some of the quotes below get a little opaque, so free to skim past them unless your Pathfinder system mastery skills are strong. We also very briefly look at magic items and Resonance again.



20180316-DwarfFighter_360.jpeg

Paizo also showed off this Dwarf illustration by Wayne Reynolds



  • The Pathfinder 2nd Edition Compiled Info Page was getting very long, so I've added anchor links and a little menu to it so that you can jump to the part you want easily.
  • The new Paizo blog (by Mark Seifter) takes a dive into the proficiency rules found in Pathfinder 2nd Edition! You start with a number of proficiencies decided by your class, and increase them based on class and feat choices. Your proficiency modifier to a weapon, skill, or save, is your level plus a bonus based on your proficiency rank. Proficiency comes in five ranks, with a 5-point difference between the top and bottom:
    • Untrained (-2)
    • Trained (+0)
    • Expert (+1)
    • Master (+2)
    • Legendary (+3)
  • Mark Seifter on proficiencies --
    • Other modifiers to your check -- "...proficiency modifier is only one modifier you apply to your check. Ability modifier, anything you get from your item, bonuses from your spells, circumstance bonuses, etc are still going to add on."
    • On the difference between being trained and having a high level-based modifier -- "Your tomb raider actually wouldn't be able to practically sail at all, though you might know basic facts like the names of different ships that you read about somewhere. An actual sailor trained in the skill would be able to practice sailing. Now if your tomb raider became trained in it, that's a different story."
      • Again on that difference -- "Disabling traps, performing the profession of a lawyer, and constructing and building a complex building would all be trained uses of the skill, so the untrained barbarian can't do any of those. The level 15 barbarian who actually trained at being a lawyer throughout those 15 levels (reminds me of the monk/rogue lawyer PC in one of my 3.5 games) would have a higher bonus than a 5th-level NPC expert lawyer would have (probably 4 or 5 higher assuming the lawyer had better Intelligence), though the expert lawyer might have some skill feats (to make some up off the top of my head, perhaps a skill feat to help read potential jurors and select a more sympathetic jury, to coax extra info out of a witness, etc). Then again, at that point the barbarian decided that being a lawyer is a significant enough part of her superhuman 15th level character that she spent resources to make it so." .... "The untrained barbarian is more likely to know that Justice Ironbriar is the harshest judge in Magnimar than the law school student, but she still can't actually practice law effectively at all, let alone superhumanly well." ... "This is really hard overall because there is a separate skills blog, so I'm trying to keep this as tied to proficiency as possible. However, essentially, the skill you'd use to be a lawyer, working like Profession did in PF1, has a list of uses, and practicing law (Practice a Trade) would be listed in the trained only uses."
      • And again on that difference -- "As I've said in another thread, not counting any sort of temporary buff effects or circumstance bonuses or penalties, it is possible to build two level 20 characters in PF2 with an all-day gap between their bonuses in the same skill of around 17-18. Proficiency is one piece of that split, with a potential gap up to 5 (and 5 is a really big advantage; all other modifiers being equal, which is almost certainly an overestimate of the untrained character, and rolling the same number on a d20, half of the untrained character's successes are critical successes for the legendary character, and half of the untrained character's failures are successes for the legendary character)."
      • And yet again on that difference -- "I have no doubt that Cosmo's goblin bard in one of our 17th-level playtest games had almost as high of an Acrobatics bonus as my Strength-based monk in the 12th-level playtest did; maybe even equal or a point higher. But the bard was not able to use Acrobatics to balance in mid-air in order to navigate reverse gravity and deal with flying enemies with ease."
      • And again! -- "The level 20 near-demigod character who is trained in baking can make all the kinds of baked goods you'd expect in a basic cookbook, with what is probably a higher bonus than the level 10 master after spending 100 years baking cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and more in her timeless demiplane. But the level 10 master might be able to invent a brand new food that nobody else has ever heard of before, something the level 20 character just doesn't have enough of a frame of reference to do, even if she's exceptional at following the basic recipes she knows."
      • And... again ... "This is another good example. The 8th level swim-focused master in Athletics might just flat-out have a swim Speed, for instance, and not even be rolling while moving let's say 30 feet per action, while the 20th level untrained Athletics character does have a really high bonus to Athletics, so will usually critically succeed at the DC to Swim in running water and move, say, 15 feet (using the PF1 success by 5 or more on Swim checks to go half speed here as an example for a critical success)."
      • Same difference for a level 7 character -- "I happen to have some numbers handy for level 7, so let's see: It's looking like a skill gap up to about 11 at that point."
      • Comparing that to D&D 5E -- "I've heard the 5e gap is smaller from other forum posters and took their word for it, but my knowledge of 5e isn't very thorough, so I'll take your word for it as well. It's certainly been a better feel for me so far to be able to have a wide spread like that but only between a character who's exceptionally bad at the skill and one who is amazing than it is to have a situation where two people sit down at the table and both think they are playing a specialist in a given skill, but one of the two of them is +20 or more better than the other is so the other one is actually vestigial, which can happen easily in PF1 (it's happened to me a lot; I'm usually the one with the PC who is better, and it's very awkward as a player and I'm sure frustrating to the other player)."
      • On how the system opens up more options for players -- "Broad competence is also a hallmark of many fantasy stories (and actually many stories in a lot of genres). At some point, all the PCs are going to want to try to do something together involving untrained skill uses, like disguising as actors to infiltrate the Lord Mayor's mansion and its sharp-eyed guards who are certain to be on the lookout for charlatans. In PF1, you had a few choices: you could just never try to do that, you could try it straight out and pretty much fail automatically because Amiri has no ranks in Disguise, you could maybe find some spellcaster-only option that granted an enormous bonus that essentially erased the other characters' investments anyway so it's fine that Amiri didn't invest, or you could have the GM decide not to use the skill system because the idea was so cool and to handwave that Amiri doesn't have to make a Disguise check. In PF2, it's still going to be dicey and the group might want to come up with some ways to help Amiri (like thflame's idea of shifting the best gear onto her to help out) because she's still the most likely to land them all in hot water from a critical failure, but the plan also might succeed."
    • Skill degrees of success -- Seifter was asked if there was more than just pass/fail. He replied "My crystal ball says you are going to be very happy!"
    • Auto-success at mundane tasks -- "There is a skill feat that, depending on your current rank, lets you just succeed at tasks with your skill when they are below a certain threshold without even rolling. This is particularly useful if you are under stress, debuffed, or in bad circumstances, as you can just succeed at those tasks despite your penalties. It's not an especially giant threshold; it's mainly to help you auto-succeed at tasks that have become mundane for you by now, like you said."
    • You don't have to max any skill you want to be useful -- "This is one of several nice benefits. You can put in as much as you want and get something useful if what you want to put in is "not much" or something awesome if what you want is "all in." For instance, in one of our 14th level playtest games, my alchemist was trained in Thievery because it was really easy for him to do with all that Intelligence, and that let me pick locks and disable some types of traps if necessary. The rogue was still way better than I was, but I was a competent if not stellar replacement when we were forced to split up our efforts in different areas and wasn't just useless like someone with 1 rank would be at 14th level in PF1."
    • Evasion, a class feature -- "Evasion is actually the name of the locked-in class feature that makes you a master at Reflex saves, and what I describe in the blog is the ability to treat all your successes on Reflex save as critical successes!"
    • Could there be ranks above Legendary? -- "This is similar to one of the "where would mythic go" (and also "what about reskinning for superpowered stuff at low levels like in mythic") conversations we had a while back. In theory, mythic could be a new rank above legendary that gives +4 and unlocks better benefits for all the rank-based abilities, plus even more ridiculously awesome new mythic-only abilities, and then if you wanted low level mythic (or legendary) play, you just do as you say and give some mythic (or legendary) ranks way earlier than normal. It's much easier to make this change than it would be in PF1. So many exciting possibilities for tweaks and modifications and further customization for players and GMs with some of the new rules; I'm pretty excited about how cool of a book we can make with those kinds of topics!"
    • On skill stagnation -- "If you want to mimic the idea that your skill you raised at 2nd level and never used again stagnates with disuse, we have the tools for that too! Using the retraining rules, you can not only return yourself to untrained to represent that stagnation, you'll even get to pick a new skill that you actually want to keep up to date too!"
  • Vic Wertz on why things are named the way they are:
    • On feats and proficiencies: "They have the same name because they work the same way. Once you understand how proficiency works with weapons, you understand how it works with armor, and with skills, and with saves. And once you understand how ancestry feats work, you understand how skill feats work, and how class feats work."
    • On skill ranks: "There were skill points in 3.5: each level, you received skill points that you then invested into skill ranks on a 1:1 basis. When we were working on Pathfinder First Edition, I pointed out to Jason that was a completely extraneous layer of abstraction, so we just skipped that whole pointless transaction and gave you ranks to invest directly into a skill. (I think very few people actually noticed.)"
  • On power level -- the above blog addresses Pathfinder's "power level" directly: "The best part about proficiencies is the way they push the boundaries for nonmagical characters, particularly those with a legendary rank. If you're legendary in something, you're like a character out of real-world myth and legend, swimming across an entire sea while beating up sea monsters like Beowulf, performing unbelievable tasks like Heracles, or hunting and racing at astounding speeds like Atalanta. While we did perform a bit of research on things like real world Olympic records and average expectations when it came to the lower ranks, masters and especially legends break all those rules. Want your fighter to leap 20 feet straight up and smash a chimera down to the ground? You can do that (eventually)!"
    • Seifter clarifies -- "I think that one comes early in the master levels, actually. Don't expect trained or expert (and all characters start with at least something at expert at 1st level, even if certain categories are much harder to reach expert) to be drastically breaking real world records; these are characters at their earliest levels in the game. The world record for even a running high jump is about 8 feet up."
  • How does the Pathfinder Playtest affect Pathfinder Organised Play? A new Pathfinder Society campaign will be launched in August using the new rules, and adventures thereafter will use the new edition. Unfortunately, I understand very little of that blog entry (it's rather jargon-heavy) but if you are involved in the Pathfinder Society, check it out.
  • Logan Bonner speaks on resonance and magic items --
    • Item slots (which are going away) -- "Worn items that would conflict with others have a listing and you can't wear two of the same type. So if you had two worn footwear items, they'd list that, but rings wouldn't list ring because you have plenty of places to wear those."
    • Whose resonance is used when a potion is used on an unconscious character? "The drinker. For items you drink, the person drinking it has to activate, and there's a special rule for this happening while you're unconscious."
    • But it's the user when it's a wand -- "The person who activates the item spends the resonance. So if you're using the wand on someone (by being able to cast heal or by having a UMD equivalent), you're spending it."
  • Seifter on fumbles and monster reactions -- "There is no monster with a "fumble" reaction. There are a few PC (and thus NPC) abilities that trigger on an attack roll critical failure, but those aren't reactions to make the NPC who rolled the critical failure act like a goof; they are reactions where the PC with the reaction does something awesome like make a riposte."
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


snickersnax

Explorer
I was worried about the small bonuses between proficiency levels, but it feels like different levels of proficiency may actually mean something.
I'll be really excited if armor and weapon proficiency follows the same rules as skills.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
There's a lot of words here, but of the bit I read before I tuned out, was that they keep mentioning high-level playtests. Level 12, level 15, level 17, etc....and some theorycrafting on what you can do at 20.

This is a HUGE hole I complain about to this day in 5E (and many editions of D&D). Nobody tests the high levels! It's so nice to hear that they're really putting some energy into seeing if or how badly the high levels get zany. I don't really care if that part of the game sees little play at real tables, but it's really nice to hear they're testing it out.
 

Erdric Dragin

Adventurer
From what sense I can make of that, it seems overly complicated.

Yup. It's what happens when a brand new system rolls out and they use the word "streamline." They end up making just new rules that are as complicated, or even more, than things were before.

You would think it'd be easier to just use the original system but modify a few of the major things wrong with it and move on. But, for some reason, Edition changes MUST mean complete overhauls. :hmm:

WotC, meet your new sibling. Paizo.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I’m actually really happy that level gets added to proficiency bonus at all levels of proficiency (including untrained). That’ll make it much easier to rip level out of the equation and adjust check DCs and monster ACs accordingly to hack bounded accuracy into the game.
 

Kobold Boots

Banned
Banned
Yup. It's what happens when a brand new system rolls out and they use the word "streamline." They end up making just new rules that are as complicated, or even more, than things were before.

You would think it'd be easier to just use the original system but modify a few of the major things wrong with it and move on. But, for some reason, Edition changes MUST mean complete overhauls. :hmm:

WotC, meet your new sibling. Paizo.

The first step of creating a new edition is fixing the major problems with the previous.

If it's determined that the problems are fundamental to the system, then it forces a rewrite as everything builds off the fundamentals.

If you're going to do a complete rewrite from the ground up then of course you're going to look at every system in the game to make it streamlined against the new core.

If the game at the end isn't for you, then continue to play PF1. If you can't find players then you'll end up playing 5E or PF2. If you can find players then your point is moot as it doesn't have to affect you at all.

Be well
KB
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Seems simple enough to me.

-You add level to skill checks.
-Proficiency ranks add a small bonus, and each opens up a menu of standard options and feats (which grant specialized options).

Normalizing the system to include saves (for things like Evasion and Mettle) and weapons (for weapon maneuvers) makes a lot of sense.

And as mentioned above, if level is added to everything, you could also rip out all level adjustments to add in some bounded accuracy if you felt inclined.
 

Arilyn

Hero
I think it reads more complicated than it actually is. I like the fact that different levels of skill have tangible differences and every level is at least a little useful.
 

Aldarc

Legend
And as mentioned above, if level is added to everything, you could also rip out all level adjustments to add in some bounded accuracy if you felt inclined.
Yeah, I can already see a lot of "low magic" or "gritty" variants of this system that adjusts proficiency to half character level for bounded accuracy.
 

Staffan

Legend
Another interesting little bit that got mentioned in passing: saves are also using this system. That's going to mean some serious re-tooling of save DCs, I reckon.
 

Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
Seems simple enough to me.

-You add level to skill checks.
-Proficiency ranks add a small bonus, and each opens up a menu of standard options and feats (which grant specialized options).

Normalizing the system to include saves (for things like Evasion and Mettle) and weapons (for weapon maneuvers) makes a lot of sense.

And as mentioned above, if level is added to everything, you could also rip out all level adjustments to add in some bounded accuracy if you felt inclined.

Agreed.

Splitting it so that your roll gives you degree of success, but profienciency gives you what you can attempt really opens up a lot of design space to do some really cool things. They fact it seems to be for just about anything you roll a d20 for is cool.

I really like what I am seeing overall. It seems all about the options - Leveling gives you class feat (amonth others) not a list of specific class abilities, atunement gits rid of body slots for items, and now this with profiency and skill. All of which are sort of generic/open in pieces but when you look at what it may do when put together - the freedom to create the character you want looks amazing.
 

Thanks for this Morrus!

Looks like recap missed one of the key tidbits/explanations (I don't have time to re-find it right now).

One of the Paizo guys said that the reason that there's such a small spread (5) from untrained to legendary, is because Proficiency is equivalent to the BAB spread and Saving Throw spread of PF1, both of which only vary, like, 5 or 6 points (I forget) between level 1 and level 20.
 
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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Looks like Morrus missed one of the key message board tidbits/explanations (I don't have time to re-find it right now).

One of the Paizo guys said that the reason that there's such a small spread (5) from untrained to legendary, is because Proficiency is equivalent to the BAB spread and Saving Throw spread of PF1, both of which only vary, like, 5 or 6 points (I forget) between level 1 and level 20.
Yea, +6 between good and bad saves, +5 between good BAB and average BAB. (Technically +10 between good BAB and BAB, but hardly any classes used the bad BAB in extended Pathfinder.)
 


The Human Target

Adventurer
Yup. It's what happens when a brand new system rolls out and they use the word "streamline." They end up making just new rules that are as complicated, or even more, than things were before.

You would think it'd be easier to just use the original system but modify a few of the major things wrong with it and move on. But, for some reason, Edition changes MUST mean complete overhauls. :hmm:

WotC, meet your new sibling. Paizo.

I disagree.

If anything, they're sticking too close to a 3e design philosophy in terms of wordy complexity.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I really don’t get what people think is so complex about this. There are five different levels of proficiency you can have. Each level applies a small modifier to rolls the proficiency applies to. Some tasks can’t be attempted by characters with the lowest level of proficiency. Every other level you can increase some of your proficiencies. Skill feats have proficiency level prerequisites.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
I really don’t get what people think is so complex about this. There are five different levels of proficiency you can have. Each level applies a small modifier to rolls the proficiency applies to. Some tasks can’t be attempted by characters with the lowest level of proficiency. Every other level you can increase some of your proficiencies. Skill feats have proficiency level prerequisites.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Pretty much. I also like the idea that some things just can't be done by people who are Untrained. One of my biggest loves of 4E was the choice of word use "Training" implying the idea that you're not simply good at something due to quick hands or worldly experience, but because you have put specific time and investment into learning how to do a certain task.
 


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