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Pathfinder 2E PF2: Second Attempt Post Mortem


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Retreater

Legend
Do the published adventures follow that table?
I've run only three official adventures, but none of them seemed regularly to include defined activities that would've used these simple DCs. I'm guessing they assume the GM can use those DCs on-the-fly to resolve actions their players attempt that aren't typical in playtests. That type of guidance and freedom with the rules is something I like.
The more we discuss PF2, I am finding my biggest issue might be the presentation of the CRB. For example, I remember the chart for levelled DCs not this Simple DCs chart. Because the Simple DCs chart takes up less room, it doesn't get as much attention, and I am not clear when to use which chart.
So again like the Leap vs High Jump action distinction I saw earlier, WTH not just have one chart for assigning DCs? They end up similar enough.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
The more we discuss PF2, I am finding my biggest issue might be the presentation of the CRB. For example, I remember the chart for levelled DCs not this Simple DCs chart. Because the Simple DCs chart takes up less room, it doesn't get as much attention, and I am not clear when to use which chart.
This was one of the other issues for me too. Even after a year of running PF2, I never felt like I had a mastery of the system. The way the CRB was organized and written was not helpful for me in practice. 😣
 

How is this handled in published adventures? My understanding was that PF2 adventures did in fact follow the treadmill @Staffan describes, but I have not looked myself.
There's a bit of both, to be honest. The treadmill is definitely there, but it's not everywhere. But it is there in every actual encounter. You want to Recall Knowledge about those things you're fighting? Better hope you're specialized in the relevant knowledge skill and/or Lore. You don't want to be killed dead by a trap? Better have a ranger or rogue in the party to spot it, and hope someone's pumped Thievery to the max in order to have even a reasonable chance of success.

(Traps are a bit of a special case because they suffer from pushing difficulty classes in two ways. Traps are designed to have higher DCs than the normal level chart, for some reason. Then complex traps count as a same-level creature when building an encounter. But a "standard" encounter against same-level creatures are against two foes, so if you're going to have a trap as the thing in an encounter it will be level+2 which means even a hyper-specialist is in big trouble. An 8th level character would max out Thievery at +19 or so (+14 Master, +4 Dex, +1 Item), and a level 10 trap would have a Disable DC of 32.)

What's more pernicious in my opinion are character abilities with scaling DCs. For example, if I take the bard feat Lingering Composition, I get the lingering composition focus spell, which lets me extend the duration of a composition cantrip (e.g. inspire courage) from 1 to 3 rounds on a successful Performance check (4 on a crit). Basically, this means that I'll be saving an action per round over the next two rounds. Successful against what DC? Well, "usually a standard-difficulty DC of a level equal to the highest-level target of your composition", or in 90% or more of cases equal to my own level. I find this design... well, infuriating is a bit strong, but strongly annoying. I shouldn't have to roll for my buff spells. If you want to reward boosting Performance, a better design would be something like basing the additional duration on my Performance proficiency.

I remember back in the playtest, they wanted a similar thing for Treat Wounds, but there we managed to make them think better of it.
 

Ok, so what your discussing doesn’t directly relate to what the OP is discussing. Got it - thanks!
Careful, the passive aggression is showing-- but more specifically its related in so far as an evaluation of the system as a whole probably shouldn't be dependent on the skill of whoever happened to write a particular book of a particular adventure. A lack of simple DCs in them might be valid criticism of the adventures, but a less than valid criticism of the system as a whole, that includes them at the top of the page where the leveled DC chart can be found for a reason.
 

Uni-the-Unicorn!

Adventurer
Careful, the passive aggression is showing-- but more specifically its related in so far as an evaluation of the system as a whole probably shouldn't be dependent on the skill of whoever happened to write a particular book of a particular adventure. A lack of simple DCs in them might be valid criticism of the adventures, but a less than valid criticism of the system as a whole, that includes them at the top of the page where the leveled DC chart can be found for a reason.
I agree!
 

Yeah, being over fatigued by boss encounters might be what I'm experiencing from my recent foray into PF2. I do wonder how waves of enemies can or cant work in PF2. Also, how to spice up environments more, maybe have some hazards on the battlefield something to spice it up?

That's one of those cases where as much as some people have a reflexive aversion to D&D 4e, examining it for ideas might be useful here.

Regarding waves--its hard to say, and depends a lot of how they arrive. Obviously not getting time to regenerate any Focus Points or do post-combat healing is going to make it harder than two completely separate encounters, but how much harder is a good question. It becomes even more a question if reinforcements arrive while the first part of the combat is still finishing up; its not as dangerous as just having them there the whole time, but how much less?

I suspect it would require some experimenting to figure out.
 

It's at least good to see that people are passionate enough about Pathfinder to discuss how to make it more to each player's taste. That says something about the core game experience.
Maybe one of these days I'll take part in a game of it that isn't as much of an experiment and more just experiencing the game.

In some ways its also hard to get a feel for it from a purely GM position, I'd think; I'm fortunate that I've gotten to play it long before I'd need to run it (not the usual thing with me), so I can see the things that can be fun (and a few that are less so) in a far more visceral way.
 

Traps are a bit of a special case because they suffer from pushing difficulty classes in two ways. Traps are designed to have higher DCs than the normal level chart, for some reason. Then complex traps count as a same-level creature when building an encounter. But a "standard" encounter against same-level creatures are against two foes, so if you're going to have a trap as the thing in an encounter it will be level+2 which means even a hyper-specialist is in big trouble. An 8th level character would max out Thievery at +19 or so (+14 Master, +4 Dex, +1 Item), and a level 10 trap would have a Disable DC of 32.)
This is potentially true if you have one character versus a full level+2 hazard, but encounters are meant to be for a group? So we can assume a group of people. Just for fun, I'll use my containment specialist wizard as an example. She's level 9 wizard and professional dancer, so has good dex, but only trained thievery, so +15 (+11 Trained, +3 dex, +1 item). Nowhere near a specialist.

If she's handling a trap in an encounter, it'll probably be level 9 -- the bottomless pit hazard (p524) has a DC of 28, so I'd need a 13 to defeat it. The level 11 trap on page 525 has a DC of 28, but I'd need to be an expert to try it -- if I was, though, I'd only need 11 to defeat it. Jumping all the way to a level+3 trap, that's a DC 32 and needs me to hit a 17, which is above my pay grade,

But for DC 28 trap at level+2, where I need a 13 (ignoring the expert requirement); what are my chances of defeating it?

Naively, 8/20 or 40%. Not great, but not unexpected. But at this level I can get a heroism or a nudge fate or some help to make me only need a 12. It's rare an ally cannot add me, so I'll take another +1 bonus ¾ of the time (assuming someone like me was assisting me), so it's an 11 -- I'll succeed 50% of the time.

But wait -- I'm a magician. Is there any spell that can help me? Why yes, I can cast Diviner's Sight as a focus spell -- effectively free if I can wait 10 minutes after, otherwise a minor cost, to get two rolls for that 11+, so now I am going to succeed 75% of the time.

But here's the real kicker -- if I fail, nothing happens. The trap doesn't trigger and I can try again! So if the trap is the only thing I have to worry about, I can make as many 2-action disable checks as I like until I either succeed (rolling 11+) or critically fail (rolling 1).

So, for good dex character with minimal training aginst a level+2 trap, if they have no magical assistance they succeed if they can roll 11+ before they roll a 1. And I can always hero point if I'm super-unlucky!

PF2 traps are dangerous only if you don't notice them, if you are in a time-critical situation, or you fail to understand how to disable them. Otherwise it's just a question of how long it takes to disable them. And even if you critically fail your check, you are taking about half your hit points in damage from the trap and that's pretty much it.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Pathfinder 2 traps can be hysterically more lethal than you're used to from other games.

If you're not a specialist trap finder, you're generally given zero chance finding or disabling a trap higher level than you (which is standard given traps are often encountered one at a time). I don't mean you need to roll well or even succeed only on a 20. I mean literally no chance, you don't even get to make a check.

Even if you are a maxed out specialist you can still easily have less than a 50% shot dealing with it. Again, same as any other high-level creature. But it makes you question how that character can call herself an expert...

And traps can easily down multiple party members in one fell swoop.

The only saving grace is that monsters very seldom take advantage of traps to attack weakened parties. Triggering the trap rarely changes anything (outside of the trap area).

All this makes PF2 traps a very peculiar and artificial experience. As you say, you blunder into the trap, take a load of damage, get rescued by your friends, rest up for 40 minutes, and then proceed as if nothing happened. It can feel very... detached, inconsequential.

However, any GM that tries to place traps in more believable and sensible patterns will quickly find that brings its own disadvantages.

Either you adhere to the encounter budget guidelines and end up with both weak traps and weak monsters, or you risk TPKing your heroes.

It can be quite challenging finding a middle way, and you will easily end up with too easy encounters (where traps are mostly annoying and time-consuming) or really hard encounters where allowing the party to rest for 30-60 minutes after every fight becomes a must.

Also of note: haunts. I have found the support for integrating out-of-game mechanics and in-game descriptions is particularly weak in this case.

For instance, you hear moaning spooky voices.

How do you tell the difference between a monster (like a ghost you can kill with damage) and a trap haunt (impervious to damage but can be "disabled")?

And if it is a haunt how do you shut it down before it can kill you and your friends?

Do you talk it down? Angrily tell it to shut up? Play a soothing tune? Or just abstractly "exorcise" it (whatever that means)? Or something else...

You basically don't know unless the GM gives you a menu of skill choices. (Diplomacy, Intimidation, Performance, and likely Religion, for the above example) There is no advice on how to frame giving out this information using in-game descriptions.

And remember, this is a split-second decision on the trap finding hero's part. The trap is about to roll initiative and start hurting you.

I am struggling mightily. Just handing out "choose between Diplomacy, Religion, and Performance" feels abstract and gamey. But the game does not help me come up with evocative descriptions that make players understand what they can do and what options their characters have. There are no cues that let my players understand that this haunt ignores Performance, say, and is impervious to Intimidation, and for some reason needs to be exorcised using Occultism instead of Religion.

I'm getting an intensely videogamey feel as if the developers entirely forgot that telling the players which buttons to press makes for awful immersiveness roleplaying.

I'm used to games where players concretely tell me what their characters do. Not abstractly tells me what skills they use ("I make a Performance check... 19 on the dice, success! I defeat the trap and we move on!")

Haunts feel intensely abstract and gamey. Just a heads-up.
 
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Pathfinder 2 traps can be hysterically more lethal than you're used to from other games.
I guess they can. If you make a custom one for some reason. But the ones that are given as examples in the book aren’t, and neither are any I have encountered in 2 APs and maybe 30 PFS games.
If you're not a specialist trap finder, you're generally given zero chance finding or disabling a trap higher level than you (which is standard given traps are often encountered one at a time). I don't mean you need to roll well or even succeed only on a 20. I mean literally no chance, you don't even get to make a check.
Of the twelve traps in the book that are level 10 or less, 8 can be detected by a person only trained, and 6 can be disabled by a simple trained character. Most of the ones that require expert level are magic and can be dispelled by an untrained magician.

At 10+ levels, where you’d expect to see experts in most skills being attempted, the pattern is similar. “Generally” you will be able to detect a trap, and “generally” you can either dispell it or disable it with tier-appropriate skills.

Absolutely if you have a 5 person party, none of whom has taken any training at all in traps, you will find traps you cannot disable. In a game where traps are a trope and an expected part of the game, that seems pretty reasonable to me.

Even if you are a maxed out specialist you can still easily have less than a 50% shot dealing with it. Again, same as any other high-level creature. But it makes you question how that character can call herself an expert...
OK, here is where we see a fundamental failure of understanding. You can indeed have a 50% chance of failure — but that’s per action! You can keep trying without cost until you either succeed or critically fail. So if you have a 50% chance of failure per action, you can only crit fail on a 1, and so have a 90% chance of success! if you have a hero point in hand, you have a 99% chance of success!

And traps can easily down multiple party members in one fell swoop.
please point me to the trap in the core rules book that can “easily down multiple members” of a party at full health. I just don’t see one.
All this makes PF2 traps a very peculiar and artificial experience. As you say, you blunder into the trap, take a load of damage, get rescued by your friends, rest up for 40 minutes, and then proceed as if nothing happened. It can feel very... detached, inconsequential.
This is indeed a fundamental issue with traps. I remember I played in a 3.0 D&D campaign and my wizard / barbarian character was the main trap finder. I never took any skill, just walked into all the traps, took the damage and was healed up with a cure wounds wand.

Traps are tricky to make interesting in any system. I personally think the ones that are best are the ones that give a status effect that will last multiple scenes; like the Pharaoh’s Curse trap in the Core Rules. Solo traps that just do hits are irrelevant. They never can do enough to kill anyone from full, so they just either cost you an hour of time or use up your healing supplies. Boring as heck in every edition since at least AD&D.

Also of note: haunts. I have found the support for integrating out-of-game mechanics and in-game descriptions is particularly weak in this case.
Agreed. I’ve had a lot of good GMs, but if you are new, the support for haunts is weak. Much like 4E skill challenge, the base rules are too easy to use in a way that is unrealistic and annoying. A section on running haunts effectively would be great.
For instance, you hear moaning spooky voices.

How do you tell the difference between a monster (like a ghost you can kill with damage) and a trap haunt (impervious to damage but can be "disabled")?
Well, in the last couple of encounters (caveat: with good GMs) it’s been one of these ways:

A) attacked, rolled high, no effect. GM says “your attacks appear ineffective; it doesn’t look like you can just kill this”
B) On first round of combat, made a knowledge check as per usual and got the info
C) GM straight up told us it was a haunt

I’m a big fan of making knowledge checks. Especially in the 3 action economy, it often is the most effective action you can take, so my favorite of the above is (B). If characters aren’t taking the time to assess the situation, then honestly, a few failed (A) type activities seems ok to me.

But I agree it might be nice to have some solid guidelines for newer GMs

I am struggling mightily. Just handing out "choose between Diplomacy, Religion, and Performance" feels abstract and gamey. But the game does not help me come up with evocative descriptions that make players understand what they can do and what options their characters have. There are no cues that let my players understand that this haunt ignores Performance, say, and is impervious to Intimidation, and for some reason needs to be exorcised using Occultism instead of Religion.
Yup, i have been in situations like this where we failed our skill checks (or had a GM who didn’t allow me to use “spirit lore” to work out what the spirits wanted … sighs) and were flailing around wondering what to do.

My suggestion when running haunts is simply to be generous with skill checks and keep hinting to the players that you can use them. Once initiative starts, even if players miss on an attack, I’d suggest lettting them know their attack seems ineffective.

In future revisions, my thought is to make haunts more like social encounters (they kinda are, as your goal is to placate and persuade) and allow players to make checks to discover what skills work.
Haunts feel intensely abstract and gamey. Just a heads-up.
Yup. unlike traps, which I have had a fundamentally different experience from you — enough to wonder if you’ve been playing mostly with non-standard traps — I agree that haunt encounters have tended to be gamey and annoying. Definitely heads up that if you see one as a GM, go ahead and modify it or make up stuff so it’ll be fun. Don’t just run it by the numbers …
 

Retreater

Legend
Also of note: haunts. I have found the support for integrating out-of-game mechanics and in-game descriptions is particularly weak in this case.
For instance, you hear moaning spooky voices.
How do you tell the difference between a monster (like a ghost you can kill with damage) and a trap haunt (impervious to damage but can be "disabled")?
And if it is a haunt how do you shut it down before it can kill you and your friends?
Do you talk it down? Angrily tell it to shut up? Play a soothing tune? Or just abstractly "exorcise" it (whatever that means)? Or something else...
You basically don't know unless the GM gives you a menu of skill choices. (Diplomacy, Intimidation, Performance, and likely Religion, for the above example) There is no advice on how to frame giving out this information using in-game descriptions.
And remember, this is a split-second decision on the trap finding hero's part. The trap is about to roll initiative and start hurting you.
Yes. Every time I have run a haunt, it goes exactly like this. The players try to fight it, but can't affect it. (e.g. But they can fight other ghosts - why not these ghosts?)
I think the only way to do a haunt is to tell players "you are facing a haunt," "these are some of the skills that will work," "attacks will not work."
When a player is facing a trap, he knows that the pit trap is not a kobold. Haunts are not as clearly defined. I think it's less frustrating for everyone to let them know what they're supposed to be doing, because it's such a niche case.
The player doesn't need to be told that she can shoot a bow or stab a kobold, and if she has some system knowledge, knows that she can try to intimidate or deceive the creature. For haunts, who knows what will work? Who knows if it is a creature or a trap?
I don't think haunts are bad - they just need a GM to give a little more insight into what will work from the get-go.
 


payn

Hero
Yes. Every time I have run a haunt, it goes exactly like this. The players try to fight it, but can't affect it. (e.g. But they can fight other ghosts - why not these ghosts?)
I think the only way to do a haunt is to tell players "you are facing a haunt," "these are some of the skills that will work," "attacks will not work."
When a player is facing a trap, he knows that the pit trap is not a kobold. Haunts are not as clearly defined. I think it's less frustrating for everyone to let them know what they're supposed to be doing, because it's such a niche case.
The player doesn't need to be told that she can shoot a bow or stab a kobold, and if she has some system knowledge, knows that she can try to intimidate or deceive the creature. For haunts, who knows what will work? Who knows if it is a creature or a trap?
I don't think haunts are bad - they just need a GM to give a little more insight into what will work from the get-go.
Its true, haunts have one foot in the trap bucket and another in the encounter bucket. They are indeed different and I think it speaks to how little folks differentiate combat and exploration. Haunts are unique because they force the party to make a decision. Does the party run past/thru the affected area, temporarily disable the haunt and move on, or consider the means to permanently put the haunt to rest? I find that to be a fun and interesting position to be in.

That's fine, but what about knowing its a haunt and not a trap or monster? I usually take advantage of the provided description to tell a tale to the players when they encounter a haunt. I call it a psychic flashback, where the PC(s) experience the event that caused the haunt into existence in the first place. Only those that fail their saves, however, get this experience so others just watch in terror as their companions start choking, burning, whatever with no explanation before their eyes! It's a lot of fun and gives life to places that are otherwise just another dungeon.

I think their are two things working against haunts. The obvious is how little Paizo has dedicated to explaining them. Often, you get a simple stat block and little in the way of flavor on how to spring a haunt on the players. There are items to help combat haunts like haunt siphons and Ouija boards which seem to be delegated to the pits of Carrion Crown back pages. This info should be in the core rulebook or at least the game master guide. (Maybe, they are? I haven't read the GMG for PF2). The second element is a lot of players absolutely hate not being able to skill check or fight away anything. This is a generalization on my part, but a lot of players hate encountering things with resistances and/or immunities. The temporary disablement annoys players too. They don't have the patience to play the haunt mini game and find out how to put it to final rest. A shame, because I think an entire AP designed around the PCs being ghost busters and putting haunts to rest would be dope.
 

GungHo

Explorer
The vague nature of haunts is less a PF2 issue than a Paizo issue (at least as far as the APs go). They were weird in PF1. A lot of the "solutions" are vague in the moment even if the direct effect of them is very much not vague and have often involved backtracking or picking up the special item as though it were a computer game, with very little time spent on really explaining why that would work or how someone would come to a conclusion as to why it would work. It honestly comes across like a modern procedural TV show where you know whodunnit because they were a character actor you recognized from other shows.
 

Justice and Rule

Adventurer
We've had this discussion before, but I think the problems that are talked about here are features, rather than bugs.

One of the things that we've been trained to think is that for every problem in the D&D world, you can basically hit it with a good enough sword and it will go away. It demystifies the spiritual and makes it so that your best priests have to be great warriors to do incredible spiritual feats.

What haunts do is force players to be cautious when confronted with spirits. Maybe you can hit it with a sword... or maybe you can't. Stuff gets weird when you are oscillating between the living and the dead. That lack of obviousness gives an uncertainty that I want more of in these sorts of games: the villagers talk about an old haunted house. Is it an actual active spirit, or is it a haunt? That's something you might not be able to find out until confronted with it.

But also that design space allows us to create useful positions for non-casting religious figures. Suddenly the village elder doesn't have to be a 5th level Cleric, he can just have a high level in Religion or Occult to actually know things and get things done. A well-known Priest doesn't have to be a Divine Caster, he can just be an ordinary man whose faith is strong.

While I agree that potentially less-obvious solutions might frustrate players, at the same time that's up to you in how you build them. The DMG has a bunch of examples and while I don't like all of them, I think the main point is that they are meant to show the versatility of the design space you can operate in. When you create a haunt, you can make the design more obvious or be more generous with how you hand out information. There's nothing that stops you from allowing novel ways of handling it as a GM if you feel they are appropriate; no trap listing is going to definitively list all the different ways one might be able to handle a trap. That goes double for haunts, which you can arguably create a bunch of different ways to handle depending on how the players want to approach it. Maybe it doesn't initially list a Diplomacy DC, but if a player comes up with a good idea in it... why not? There just isn't a need to be as rigid as you would be with traps because traps are often bound to the physical world, while haunts obviously aren't and can even have some level of sentience.
 

PF2 traps are dangerous only if you don't notice them, if you are in a time-critical situation, or you fail to understand how to disable them. Otherwise it's just a question of how long it takes to disable them. And even if you critically fail your check, you are taking about half your hit points in damage from the trap and that's pretty much it.
I'm primarily talking about complex traps, which are generally the ones encounters are built around. Looking at the guidelines for what a trap for a level 9 standard encounter should be (level 11 complex trap), we see that it will have a stealth and disable DC of 33 (or possibly 36 – a hazard is supposed to have at least one stat at "extreme", usually either Stealth, Disable, or save DC/attack bonus, but let's ignore that for now). Let us for the moment ignore the skill gating of requiring Master proficiency to deal with a level 11 trap, because proficiency gating is naughty word of the highest order.

Your 9th level wizard likely has a Perception of about +11 to +15, depending on Wisdom and magic items. That's not something I'd feel confident about rolling against DC 33. If the party has a barbarian they probably check in at about +14-15 or so (Expert, and stereotypically barbarians don't focus much on Wisdom). A fighter might hit +17 or +18, which means they "only" need a 15 to find the trap if searching (and if they're searching for traps in exploration mode, they're not doing things like keeping their shield up). If you don't, someone in the party is going to get hit by the trap's reaction, and then you need to try to disable it while it's actually trying to murder you.

Let's take an 11th level specialist in traps: Rogue 11, Dex +5, Master Thievery (so +17), item for +1, Wis +4, Master perception (+17), and let's throw in the Trap Finder feat for good measure. That's +23 to Perception and +23 for Thievery. This is someone who's focused as hard as they can in kicking the ass of every trap they come across. They still need to roll a 10 (55%) to find a trap in the first place, and another 10 to disable it. But if this specialist comes across a level 11 complex trap by itself, that's a trivial encounter. That's what I mean by traps double-dipping. First their DC is pumped above normal level-based DCs (a normal level 11 DC is 28) because they're designed to challenge specialists, and then the encounter guidelines are set up to often throw over-leveled traps at the party, making them super deadly.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
This is indeed a fundamental issue with traps. I remember I played in a 3.0 D&D campaign and my wizard / barbarian character was the main trap finder. I never took any skill, just walked into all the traps, took the damage and was healed up with a cure wounds wand.

Traps are tricky to make interesting in any system. I personally think the ones that are best are the ones that give a status effect that will last multiple scenes; like the Pharaoh’s Curse trap in the Core Rules. Solo traps that just do hits are irrelevant. They never can do enough to kill anyone from full, so they just either cost you an hour of time or use up your healing supplies. Boring as heck in every edition since at least AD&D.
I may do it completely wrong, but I look at (especially) complex traps as if they were lair actions in 5e. building a trap that is part of a larger encounter "feels" like a more immersive player experience to me (but you'd have to ask my players if true). If I were to run a Haunt (I haven't yet), I'd likely include a haunt complex hazard in a larger undead encounter so that the totality of the encounter would "work" narratively.

Cheers,

J.
 

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