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Pathfinder 2E PF2: Second Attempt Post Mortem

They did a decent job keeping up with PF1. They apparently got screwed with HLO when the dev who first worked on it put in a bad architecture, and the they had to replace that dev and spend quite a bit of time rewriting it. However, the biggest shame is the terrible support for homebrew. It’s a shell of what it once was.

Yeah, I was a big proponent of offline HL--did some a full .user file for a Savage Worlds setting and everything. But I'm not a fan of HLO, even if I understand the problem it was addressing for them. Probably obvious from my use of Maptool rather than one of the remote managed VTTs, I'm just not a fan of being dependent on anyone but my ISP for the ability to run a remote game.

We did use the campaign theater thing for a bit before we switched to Foundry. It took too many clicks to do things, but it worked really well. I actually liked it more than the PF2 experience in Foundry, but I didn’t want to have to maintain a HLO sub and ask my players to do likewise (to share materials).

Though the way they did that is fairly painless; even I can't bitch about $5 every four months.
 

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Maybe Abomination Vaults and Age of Ashes are just exceptionally brutal, but when you're expected to make DCs against a 7th level challenge at 4th level, that's pretty tough. Even a simple task like high jumping onto a table during a combat is impossibly difficult using the DCs from the CRB.

That's more an artifact of the High Jump DC being kind of stupid-hard for what it is (contrast it with the Long Jump difficulty). Though I will note a 4 or 5' table is pretty high; is that actually how they defined it? Because if its 3' or less no roll is required.

My experience is that it's far more common to be making checks against higher DCs than lower or at-level DCs. Like 50% are higher, 25% are lower, 25% are at-level.

Like I said, not my experience and I'm playing in AoA.

But the thing is that it should be the exception. Even if 25% of checks were 3+levels over your level, it would be too much. The cost of failing (or especially crit failing) a higher level check is so much worse than what you gain by passing (or crit succeeding) an at-level or lower level check. If you crit fail a higher level DC against a big level fireball, you're taking double damage from an already more powerful spell than you should be facing at your level. The crit fail condition exacerbates that. So you have 90-point damage fireballs. You have 14 points of persistent piercing damage (which happened to my player in Abomination Vaults).

Well, honestly if you're dealing with a +3 level spellcaster, there's already a big problem for you there anyway. And to expect a rolled 45 damage fireball requires one cast at 6th level, which isn't necessarily a given even if the caster is three levels up (since that requires an 11th level caster using up one of his 6th level slots that way, or a sorcerer with Fireball as a signature spell). I'm not saying it can't happen, but that doesn't seem any intrinsically worse than if you're fighting a lot of 11th level opponents when you're 8th level. You're definitely in trouble if that's the case, but I'm not sure that someone's Reflex save is any worse of a problem than any defensive ability with that much difference.
 

My group can pretty consistently take on higher level foes in encounters, the reason its ok to take so much damage from that fireball spell is because that's already 2 of Team Monster's 3 actions (and I say 3 actions because if its a higher level enough to be facing that kind of power, the encounter budget won't give it friends) so then the players have a full round to patch themselves up, and fight back-- my players tend to prefer a dedicated healer for this reason although I suspect it could be handled otherwise, since they face harder encounters on average (since they also optimize pretty heavily and our adventuring days go to about 3 actual fights most of the time, in addition to 'other stuff' plus they're kinda slow so I tend to use a single conflict with a big group of mooks, rather than lots of little mook encounters to speed things up.)

Yeah, though we're an abnormal party, we could probably have sucked that up and dealt with it. We wouldn't have been blase about it, and we might have had anyone who took that double hit pull back to where the sorcerer/oracle could patch them up while the others of us distracted it (Kedric, my character, could already take something like 140 hits at that level and had some fire resistance, so as long as he didn't do two fumbles in a row he could have eaten a couple fireballs assuming the caster did it again).

We actually really love the feel level creates, my players love the feeling of meaningful progression as they move from a monster being difficult to being easy on a per monster basis, and I love how it creates meaningful and desperate solo encounters. Its also easy to tune to taste, by either offsetting the party's level by +1 or +2, or simply staying away from the higher end of the budget.

Yeah, I've seen the single-big-monster either be something we ran the hell away from, or we pwned thoroughly by taking advantage of the action economy depending on the specific opponent and the situation.
 

payn

Hero
My group can pretty consistently take on higher level foes in encounters, the reason its ok to take so much damage from that fireball spell is because that's already 2 of Team Monster's 3 actions (and I say 3 actions because if its a higher level enough to be facing that kind of power, the encounter budget won't give it friends) so then the players have a full round to patch themselves up, and fight back-- my players tend to prefer a dedicated healer for this reason although I suspect it could be handled otherwise, since they face harder encounters on average (since they also optimize pretty heavily and our adventuring days go to about 3 actual fights most of the time, in addition to 'other stuff' plus they're kinda slow so I tend to use a single conflict with a big group of mooks, rather than lots of little mook encounters to speed things up.)

We actually really love the feel level creates, my players love the feeling of meaningful progression as they move from a monster being difficult to being easy on a per monster basis, and I love how it creates meaningful and desperate solo encounters. Its also easy to tune to taste, by either offsetting the party's level by +1 or +2, or simply staying away from the higher end of the budget.
It's not so much that the severe encounters are not survivable, its that they are boring. The enemy can lay you to waste if you are not careful and you can deliver papercuts. After a thousand of those papercuts you win, half the session is over, and the PCs just get to look forward to doing it all over again.

I dont want to feel level while playing, ever. I want level under the hood, so to speak. I want the environment, the situation, the tactical choices of the enemy to be the experience.
 

It's not so much that the severe encounters are not survivable, its that they are boring. The enemy can lay you to waste if you are not careful and you can deliver papercuts. After a thousand of those papercuts you win, half the session is over, and the PCs just get to look forward to doing it all over again.

I dont want to feel level while playing, ever. I want level under the hood, so to speak. I want the environment, the situation, the tactical choices of the enemy to be the experience.
I kind of like Level as a part of the environment-- to me its like when you're running through Moria and the Balrog shows up, its the thing that makes Gandalf's "This foe is beyond you" line something meaningful, and its effects in PF2e is appreciated after 5e made solo's distinctly unthreatening without immense legwork, and grossly overshooting the stated encounter guidelines.

I don't tend to experience boss fights the way you do, they feel like strong tactical experiences where you have to set up your victory through teamwork and debuffs, and the enemies ability to lay you to waste offers tension as you wait to see just how bad the damage is, and when you do manage to deliver some big hits or debilitating conditions, they feel like turning points. They feel like a good reason to prep my spells in certain ways, and it feels good lining up a plan. Then again, your description reminds of Raiding in WoW or FFXIV and I've always really enjoyed that kind of experience, since the 'if you're not careful' part is skillful, pulling through feels like an achievement.
 

Yeah, though we're an abnormal party, we could probably have sucked that up and dealt with it. We wouldn't have been blase about it, and we might have had anyone who took that double hit pull back to where the sorcerer/oracle could patch them up while the others of us distracted it (Kedric, my character, could already take something like 140 hits at that level and had some fire resistance, so as long as he didn't do two fumbles in a row he could have eaten a couple fireballs assuming the caster did it again).



Yeah, I've seen the single-big-monster either be something we ran the hell away from, or we pwned thoroughly by taking advantage of the action economy depending on the specific opponent and the situation.
What was really scary for us, is that encounter math breaks a bit if you have an oversized party (7 PCs in this case) and spend the exp on like +2 monsters with AOE... several Skulltaker Horrid Wiltings later we had our first ever TPK, and there was a dicey situation before that with a couple of Banshees using their wails. The players still felt like it was their fault because the cleric won initiative and meandered by himself around the corner alone and decided to stand there alone and exposed, which put their usual recovery tactic offline, and since no one else had wanted to prep healing spells (despite the primal sorcerer in the party) they fell apart pretty fast, and we had to stage a retreat and some resurrection scenes.

The issue in question is that kind of exp gives you monsters that can do substantial damage to PCs, which is normally fine because the party can soak it over the additional HP pools, but since the total damage dealt by AOEs increase proportionally to the number of targets, and you have so much EXP to buy a handful of perfect little +2 with the right mix of "higher level" "cheap enough to get multiple" things get dicey. Honestly the skulltakers are our only 'that would have been a tpk' in 2 years of me GMing for them in this game, and favoring the hard side of the scale.
 

Retreater

Legend
Though I will note a 4 or 5' table is pretty high; is that actually how they defined it? Because if its 3' or less no roll is required.
The table height was not defined, but I reasoned it wasn't higher than 3 ft. The issue was that the rule that you don't have to roll for that height of jump was lost (to me) and all I could find was the rule for high jump. So I saw it as THE rule for all vertical jumping. Two rules for essentially the same thing can confuse a GM.

Well, honestly if you're dealing with a +3 level spellcaster, there's already a big problem for you there anyway. And to expect a rolled 45 damage fireball requires one cast at 6th level, which isn't necessarily a given even if the caster is three levels up (since that requires an 11th level caster using up one of his 6th level slots that way, or a sorcerer with Fireball as a signature spell)
Not exactly sure it was a 90 HP fireball specifically because it's been several weeks, but we'd see different spell/ability criticals get in the 70-80 HP range every so often, and it was nasty.
The -10/+10 critical rule seems to work against the party more often than it works against the enemies overall. This is because it's typically worse when characters feel outmatched and hopeless than when your enemies are a little bit of a pushover.
 

The table height was not defined, but I reasoned it wasn't higher than 3 ft. The issue was that the rule that you don't have to roll for that height of jump was lost (to me) and all I could find was the rule for high jump. So I saw it as THE rule for all vertical jumping. Two rules for essentially the same thing can confuse a GM.

That's fair. It does specifically mention under the failure for Athletics that you only jump your "normal" distance, but in the heat of events I can see how that'd be easy to miss.

Not exactly sure it was a 90 HP fireball specifically because it's been several weeks, but we'd see different spell/ability criticals get in the 70-80 HP range every so often, and it was nasty.

Well, that's a lot more doable, honestly (though it still requires a fireball with an enhanced level; the basic fireball is only 6D6 after all, so you'd have to roll one of those almost maxed out to get 70 even). There's also a thing where the lower level the party is when you hit spellcaster, all other things being equal an up-level spellcaster will hurt more. If you had, say, a 6th level party and hit a 9th level spellcaster, the fumble is actually more likely to be a big issue than our 14th level party hitting a 17th level spellcaster (though I'm sure that'd still hurt...)

The -10/+10 critical rule seems to work against the party more often than it works against the enemies overall. This is because it's typically worse when characters feel outmatched and hopeless than when your enemies are a little bit of a pushover.

There's definitely a psychological effect that can be there.

That said, I'm used to playing games with strong critical and fumble effects, so the fact you really don't want to be fumbling or catching a crit seems naturalistic to me, and honestly, is less lethal than in the ones I'm used to (if for no other reason than under normal circumstances its actually relatively hard to die in PF2e barring a couple of specific and not common monster special abilities).
 

dave2008

Legend
appreciated after 5e made solo's distinctly unthreatening without immense legwork, and grossly overshooting the stated encounter guidelines.
I'm going to disagree here. The encounter guidelines never provide you with the explicit guidance to make a dangerous solo battle. They don't exist in the RAW guidelines, so you can't overshoot them.

However, if you do get into the math, it is pretty clear what you need:
  1. Ideally a Legendary Monster for the action economy (which I think is better than 4e solos or PF2 monsters)
  2. Use 50-100% of the daily encounter budget. Here is a table to make it easy for you: Encounter Building - It's not Deadly, its Epic!
The mistake people make is seeing "deadly" (also the mistake in WotC's naming) and assuming it means deadly without reading the description or actually looking how that encounter's XP cost compares to the daily XP budget.
 

It's not so much that the severe encounters are not survivable, its that they are boring. The enemy can lay you to waste if you are not careful and you can deliver papercuts. After a thousand of those papercuts you win, half the session is over, and the PCs just get to look forward to doing it all over again.

I dont want to feel level while playing, ever. I want level under the hood, so to speak. I want the environment, the situation, the tactical choices of the enemy to be the experience.

This is why its kind of hard to engage with this; I can't say I've found any uphill battle boring PF2e; its all been about trying to find ways to impair them long enough to put them down (but that latter is pretty much business as usual with D&Doids, when I don't want to deal with that I don't play anything D&D derived).

And it seems like level is always visible in this style of game to me. When I don't want that to be the case, I don't play a game with levels.
 

I'm going to disagree here. The encounter guidelines never provide you with the explicit guidance to make a dangerous solo battle. They don't exist in the RAW guidelines, so you can't overshoot them.

However, if you do get into the math, it is pretty clear what you need:
  1. Ideally a Legendary Monster for the action economy (which I think is better than 4e solos or PF2 monsters)
  2. Use 50-100% of the daily encounter budget. Here is a table to make it easy for you: Encounter Building - It's not Deadly, its Epic!
The mistake people make is seeing "deadly" (also the mistake in WotC's naming) and assuming it means deadly without reading the description or actually looking how that encounter's XP cost compares to the daily XP budget.
My criticism comes from a place of understanding all of that and GMing and playing 5e for several years, tried many different solutions, none of them work as half as well Paizo's approach, especially since Paizo's isn't as dependent upon attrition as a means of creating difficulty. By the end, I could do it in 5e, but it was a lot of effort for limited payoff, especially since my players were less than thrilled with the way legendary stuff works (and funnily enough, I came from 4e before that, where I also preferred the bosses.)

Also, 5e does not handle optimized PCs very well at all, which is a big problem for our playstyle in terms of 5e's bosses, even with legendary stuff in play.
 

Huh. Oddly, the Legendary and Lair stuff was one of the few things I liked about 5e when I read it. Maybe I'd have felt differently as a player.
 

Huh. Oddly, the Legendary and Lair stuff was one of the few things I liked about 5e when I read it. Maybe I'd have felt differently as a player.
My players disliked it because Legendary resistances felt like a bad meta to them, they didn't like the boss just turning their abilities off (psychologically, the low chance that any spell could penetrate in pf2e is more appealing) the meta of "fling saving throws at them to get rid of the resistance, then drop the save or suck" also felt pretty cheap. All of this was exacerbated by the fact that the monsters couldn't stand against them in a material way, so once those were gone the bosses went down like wet pool noodles without us customizing hellish bosses for them to fight because 5e is out of whack with its own optimization meta.

Similarly players didn't love that the boss monster got extra actions in the fixes since it felt arbitrary, and it limited our capacity to use the same creature in different circumstances. My level 9 PCs should not be able to crap all over a Balor unless the Balor is using guerilla tactics, or has a tripled HP pool, or has been customized into a super special boss balor with new funky mode featuring dante from devil may cry (snark at 5e, not you guys.) Its nice to be able to just whip something out of the Bestiary, have clear guidelines for how to use it for a cool boss battle, and have it function, especially since pf2e creatures do tend to have cool powers I can use to spice up the fight that really come alive in these solo encounters where the creature has a lot of staying power.
 

Campbell

Legend
I was not a fan of extra actions and other meta elements in 4e solo monsters, but could stomach the abstraction level by treating it as alternate way to present power differences solo->elite->normal->minion being a way to represent the same creature in different ways for different power levels. The abstraction was somewhat consistent in my mind. Legendary creatures somehow feel more blatant to me, especially stuff like Legendary Resistance.

At it's core I have strong aesthetic preference for D&D levels to be more meaningful in terms of the fiction. I want to eventually treat that dragon as my equal or even my lesser. That's the entire appeal of levels to me. Otherwise I would just play something with more consistent power levels and organic advancement.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
Legendary Resistance is just terrible, but it's reflective of how "Save vs. Suck" works in 5E. It's certainly better than other editions, but at the same time they did not find the sweet spot and thus there's a really unsatisfying band-aid put on it. I've seen people complain about Incapacitation as a concept, but I think it ends up working better by comparison. At the least, with the gradated results you were more likely to get something out of it.

Legendary Actions, though, were pretty good. My biggest problem was that they didn't commit harder to them: they were really good ways of breaking up the action for solo monster threats, and they definitely should have been used more. Generally speaking I liked to give big monster with multiple attacks a few legendary actions at the cost of extra attacks. It worked well with giants, and I got creative in creating a bunch of different attacks for them to use and spread out.
 

That's all fair. I think there's a problem with 5e in that it wanted to do that whole bounded-accuracy thing, but still wanted solo opponents to be viable, and especially as long as you also have SOS style spells, that's a problem. There's no good way to deal with it. The alternatives are just to make solo monsters generically tough as hell, and there's some prices to be paid for that approach, too.
 

payn

Hero
Then again, your description reminds of Raiding in WoW or FFXIV and I've always really enjoyed that kind of experience, since the 'if you're not careful' part is skillful, pulling through feels like an achievement.
Thats interesting I was thinking earlier about how severe encounters feel like MMO raids, and how I don't want that experience in my TTRPG.
 

Retreater

Legend
Thats interesting I was thinking earlier about how severe encounters feel like MMO raids, and how I don't want that experience in my TTRPG.
My "coming of age" as a DM was running a Ravenloft-inspired campaign back in 2e. For one of the adventures I had taken inspiration from an obscure German Expressionistic novel from the early 20th century called "The Golem." The party had been disincorporated from their bodies and put in the bodies of townspeople while a berserk golem was rampaging through the slums of a city. They had to use traps, rig buildings to collapse, etc., to stop the creature since they couldn't stand toe-to-toe with it. It was thrilling. It felt like a big achievement without feeling like an MMO raid. That adventure I wrote as a teenager felt better than anything Paizo has put out for PF2.
 

dave2008

Legend
My criticism comes from a place of understanding all of that and GMing and playing 5e for several years, tried many different solutions, none of them work as half as well Paizo's approach, especially since Paizo's isn't as dependent upon attrition as a means of creating difficulty. By the end, I could do it in 5e, but it was a lot of effort for limited payoff, especially since my players were less than thrilled with the way legendary stuff works (and funnily enough, I came from 4e before that, where I also preferred the bosses.)
I have the opposite issue generally, I have to try not to destroy my PCs in 5e. If I used the epic encounter guidelines with my current group it would be a TPK every time. No effort for me with great payoff.

So, just curious, what is so difficult about throwing a monster that is 6-10 CR above your groups level? How did that not work for you? What didn't pay off? What are is the pay off you are looking for?

PS It sounds like you left 5e, but did you get a chance to use any Mythic monsters. I really nice wrinkle to add to solo monsters.
Also, 5e does not handle optimized PCs very well at all, which is a big problem for our playstyle in terms of 5e's bosses, even with legendary stuff in play.
I can't really speak to that to much. Though I have built many a monster to defeat optimized PCs, and I have been told they work well, my players are not optimizers, nor to we have a lot of magic items.

I much prefer the solo tools in 5e (legendary actions & resistances, lair actions, mythic trait) conceptually to what PF2e offers (higher level). But everyone has different desires and wants. I personally feel I have a lot more freedom to make the monsters I want in 5e, but to be honest it has been a long time since I tried to make a PF2 monster.
 
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dave2008

Legend
That's all fair. I think there's a problem with 5e in that it wanted to do that whole bounded-accuracy thing, but still wanted solo opponents to be viable, and especially as long as you also have SOS style spells, that's a problem. There's no good way to deal with it. The alternatives are just to make solo monsters generically tough as hell, and there's some prices to be paid for that approach, too.
I think think there is a way to do it. I think 5e Legendary monsters are close and 5e Mythic monsters closer. The big issue I have with them is Legendary Resistance, though simple, is not the best solution to SoS spells / effects (to punitive to the PCs). I don't think a one-size fits all approach to this issue was the right way to go (though I understand why they did it). I have come up with a few different alternates myself.

There are a few other tweaks I would make too, but the general concept of legendary and particularly mythic monsters in 5e are the best "official" solos I have seen/used in D&D or a PF. The big problem people have, IMO, is they often try to use them at the wrong CR.
 

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