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Pathfinder 2E PF2: Second Attempt Post Mortem

dave2008

Legend
This is definitely my experience. A couple of times everyone failed the RK check and then it was pretty much no fun. If this was a Call of Cthulhu or similar game, then such failure is expected and the answer is "to the library to do some research!" and I think once that's actually what we did -- we left and asked for help. But D&D is often structured so this is impossible, and when this last happened to our group we just made random rolls and looked sadly at the GM until they took pity on us and said "having tried a variety of things, you have landed enough to make another RK check" which was nice of them.

On the other hand, it was amusing to be pummeled in the face with rock and respond with a variety of options like "I sing calming songs" or "I use Absalom Lore to explain why they should no longer be here" or "I implore the Gods to speak sense to the spirits". But yeah, the need for a single skill is like gating for a specific level of training -- it makes it possible that the encounter cannot be run in a way that is fun.

I'm not sure it does any harm to ignore gating expertise levels, or to allow any vaguely useful skills for haunts.
Make me wonder why they didn't use the VP system for haunts.
 

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I mean the other half here is that, as a GM, you gotta give hints beyond just RK to give the players a chance, or if it's that hard you have to give the players a chance to back out and do the CoC-style research.
 



Celtavian

Dragon Lord
And that might be realistic, but it's not fun.

If I'm facing a level 1 foe at level 1, I have many ways of dealing with them. I can try to outrun them (Athletics). I can try to turn them to my side (Diplomacy). I can try to coerce them (Intimidate). I can try to fool them (Deception). I can try to understand them (whatever knowledge skill is appropriate).

But at level 8, or even higher, facing an 8th level foe, some of those avenues will be harder than they were at level 1 against the level 1 foe. My competence, relative to the challenges I'm facing, have narrowed.

It doesn't matter that I'm much better at dealing with, say, a level 4 foe at 8th level even in my weaker areas, because the chances of a 4th level thing being a narratively meaningful challenge are nil.
Let me see. The bolded statement does not jibe with my experience in PF2 using skills.

If you're an expert in say Deception with an 18 charisma at lvl 8, you should have a Master +6 proficiency, +4 Charisma, and an item bonus of +1. That would be +14 proficiency +4 cha +1 item bonus for a +19 Deception bonus.

A creature lvl 6 (generally lvl-2 is a common mook) has a Perception DC of 23 to 25. So you succeed on a 4 to 6 roll.

A creature lvl 8 which is on level has a Perception DC of 25 to 27. So you succeed on a roll of 6 to 8.

I think one of the often overlooked bonuses for early PF2 players is the item bonus to skills. It's very important to pick up an item to become an expert in a given skill. Even without the item, you would boost the rolls needed by 1.

You definitely become much better at using skills against enemies as you level. I've built characters in PF2 around skills, especially Stealth, Intimidate, and Deception, and they've been very effective.

It took my group quite a while to get used to PF2 from years of playing PF1 and 3E. It's a different game. We overlooked item bonuses and other ways to boost skills like gaining a circumstance bonus on Strength with Intimidate. But there is a definite improvement in skill ability moving up the ranks with proficiency along with item bonuses and statistic boosts.
 

Let me see. The bolded statement does not jibe with my experience in PF2 using skills.

If you're an expert in say Deception with an 18 charisma at lvl 8, you should have a Master +6 proficiency, +4 Charisma, and an item bonus of +1. That would be +14 proficiency +4 cha +1 item bonus for a +19 Deception bonus.

A creature lvl 6 (generally lvl-2 is a common mook) has a Perception DC of 23 to 25. So you succeed on a 4 to 6 roll.

A creature lvl 8 which is on level has a Perception DC of 25 to 27. So you succeed on a roll of 6 to 8.

I think one of the often overlooked bonuses for early PF2 players is the item bonus to skills. It's very important to pick up an item to become an expert in a given skill. Even without the item, you would boost the rolls needed by 1.

You definitely become much better at using skills against enemies as you level. I've built characters in PF2 around skills, especially Stealth, Intimidate, and Deception, and they've been very effective.

It took my group quite a while to get used to PF2 from years of playing PF1 and 3E. It's a different game. We overlooked item bonuses and other ways to boost skills like gaining a circumstance bonus on Strength with Intimidate. But there is a definite improvement in skill ability moving up the ranks with proficiency along with item bonuses and statistic boosts.
Again, the problem is not the specialist not being good. The main problem is the non-specialist falling behind. If I'm 11th level and Trained in Stealth, and I have an Dexterity of +4, that's +17 against a typical level 11 creature's Perception of +21.

My preference would be that Trained is the baseline, at least in skills, and should get you a success chance of 50-60% against level-appropriate challenges. Increasing things beyond that would allow you significantly higher chances in your area of specialization, as well as allow for more ability to deal with various penalties/DC adjustments (e.g. the +2/+5 DC for recalling knowledge about an uncommon/rare thing).

In other words: a 20th level character Trained in Thievery should have a good chance of disarming a 20th level hazard. A 20th level character who has dedicated themselves to Thievery (Legendary, best items, skill feat support) should be good enough at it that they just give the hazard a stern glare and then it gives up and goes away.
 

Again, the problem is not the specialist not being good. The main problem is the non-specialist falling behind. If I'm 11th level and Trained in Stealth, and I have an Dexterity of +4, that's +17 against a typical level 11 creature's Perception of +21.

My preference would be that Trained is the baseline, at least in skills, and should get you a success chance of 50-60% against level-appropriate challenges. Increasing things beyond that would allow you significantly higher chances in your area of specialization, as well as allow for more ability to deal with various penalties/DC adjustments (e.g. the +2/+5 DC for recalling knowledge about an uncommon/rare thing).

In other words: a 20th level character Trained in Thievery should have a good chance of disarming a 20th level hazard. A 20th level character who has dedicated themselves to Thievery (Legendary, best items, skill feat support) should be good enough at it that they just give the hazard a stern glare and then it gives up and goes away.

I really disagree with this idea of skill leveling. As DCs go higher and levels go up, at-level challenges should be more challenging because they are creating more specialized, more ridiculous circumstances, thus requiring more specialization. What you get for putting in the minimal effort into Stealth at 20th level with a Dex +4 bonus is a half-half shot at a DC 36, which falls short of the DC40 recommend for 20th level. But you know what makes up that gap? Following the Expert with your 20th level Legendary Stealth thief.

To me, I see skill checks in a more naturalistic fashion: at early levels you'll see many more at-level checks because you're low-level and there are just many more low-level checks to make. But as time goes on, at-level challenges drop off exponentially, becoming rarer and suitably more hard as circumstances become crazier but harder to get consistently. Thus the specialists become important, but being merely Trained in Stealth is still useful since you're still getting a +26 at 20th level, allowing you to bypass 90% of the most commons Stealth checks.

For example, you need to infiltrate a castle. Simply sneaking all the way into the inner keep is going to be too difficult for the Trained Stealth Fighter... but it turns out that people don't guard 40 ft sheer walls like they do places that you can just walk through, so it's a much easier Stealth check to make it to the wall where he can then use his Legendary Athletics to scale it. Similarly the Legendary Deception Bard can bluff and disguise his way through a good portion of the castle, getting deep enough in that security ends up dropping off (because no one could ever get this deep anyways!) and he can get by Untrained in Stealth.
 
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Retreater

Legend
It's up to GMs (and adventure designers) to come up with fantastic settings that would require such high DCs. I feel that in too many cases, numbers are just scaled up to keep up with the treadmill of level advancement. "Is there a reason this castle wall should be significantly harder to climb than the one you climbed at 3rd level?"
So at high levels, maybe you should be climbing out of the caldera of an exploding volcano? Climbing the body of an angry titan (like Shadow of the Colossus)?
Or, the alternative, is to just assume that characters of sufficient level to be climbing a titan can make regular Climb checks and that characters who are low-level simply cannot perform these feats. Or even if they did, they'd still be incinerated by the volcano or swatted to paste by the titan - in which case, the game can already limit what they can do based on HP. No real need for skill checks at all, because HP limits the types of challenges characters can conquer.
 

I really disagree with this idea of skill leveling. As DCs go higher and levels go up, at-level challenges should be more challenging because they are creating more specialized, more ridiculous circumstances, thus requiring more specialization. What you get for putting in the minimal effort into Stealth at 20th level with a Dex +4 bonus is a half-half shot at a DC 36, which falls short of the DC40 recommend for 20th level. But you know what makes up that gap? Following the Expert with your 20th level Legendary Stealth thief.
I would be more inclined to agree with you if the natural skill progression wasn't going from 6+Int skills in which you are reasonably competent to 3 skills in which you are quite competent and 3+(higher) Int skills in which you are fairly incompetent. If the natural progression had been more staggered – some legendary, some master, some expert and some trained skills, that would have been different.
 

It's up to GMs (and adventure designers) to come up with fantastic settings that would require such high DCs. I feel that in too many cases, numbers are just scaled up to keep up with the treadmill of level advancement. "Is there a reason this castle wall should be significantly harder to climb than the one you climbed at 3rd level?"
So at high levels, maybe you should be climbing out of the caldera of an exploding volcano? Climbing the body of an angry titan (like Shadow of the Colossus)?

That second sentence feels like it's what people fall too often into. If a castle wall is just DC25, let it be DC25 even if you're at 20th level; your Barbarian might well just leap over it, but the others have to figure something out (which they likely will given their level). Becoming good at something doesn't always mean you have to find similarly-tough tasks, but rather that you open up new options in your repertoire. If you are good enough to scale sheer surfaces, that doesn't mean the GM suddenly has to start pouring cooking oil on all of them to make it more challenging, but instead allow you to use that skill to do more.

Or, the alternative, is to just assume that characters of sufficient level to be climbing a titan can make regular Climb checks and that characters who are low-level simply cannot perform these feats. Or even if they did, they'd still be incinerated by the volcano or swatted to paste by the titan - in which case, the game can already limit what they can do based on HP. No real need for skill checks at all, because HP limits the types of challenges characters can conquer.

You mean basically go the Detecting/Disarming Traps route? I did that in 5E with Trained/Untrained and it's certainly a route to go. Personally I like where it's at and simply think that if you make a task that is specialized like that, you better plan on what your other players can do or make it so that most of them failing is part of the story (failing the check forces some of the players to navigate a lava tube using Acrobatics, Survival, etc).

I would be more inclined to agree with you if the natural skill progression wasn't going from 6+Int skills in which you are reasonably competent to 3 skills in which you are quite competent and 3+(higher) Int skills in which you are fairly incompetent. If the natural progression had been more staggered – some legendary, some master, some expert and some trained skills, that would have been different.

But the problem is you aren't incompetent in them. You're competent at 99% of the tasks you could possibly do by the end. The whole point of my post was that, at higher levels, judging yourself against at-level tasks isn't a good indicator for what you can do because those tasks should become exponentially rarer, while you're useful stuff will likely be below your level. As time goes on, higher level skill checks represent more and more specialized tasks, while general checks competence is easily achieved by being trained.
 

But the problem is you aren't incompetent in them. You're competent at 99% of the tasks you could possibly do by the end. The whole point of my post was that, at higher levels, judging yourself against at-level tasks isn't a good indicator for what you can do because those tasks should become exponentially rarer, while you're useful stuff will likely be below your level. As time goes on, higher level skill checks represent more and more specialized tasks, while general checks competence is easily achieved by being trained.
If I want to Recall Knowledge about a level 20 creature, I'm facing a level 20 DC. If I want to identify a level 20 item, I'm facing a level 20 DC. If I'm faced with a level 20 hazard, I need to roll against a DC that's even higher than a "regular" level 20 DC. If I want to repair a level 20 item, I need to roll against a level 20 DC (and if I have the temerity to want to craft a level 20 item, the game gates that behind a completely arbitrary requirement that I get legendary in Crafting). If I want to cast lingering composition to boost the duration of inspire courage on my level 20 buddies, that's a level 20 DC. These are all fairly routine things you'd be doing at level 20, at least as common as doing the level 1 equivalents at level 1.
 

If I want to Recall Knowledge about a level 20 creature, I'm facing a level 20 DC. If I want to identify a level 20 item, I'm facing a level 20 DC. If I'm faced with a level 20 hazard, I need to roll against a DC that's even higher than a "regular" level 20 DC. If I want to repair a level 20 item, I need to roll against a level 20 DC (and if I have the temerity to want to craft a level 20 item, the game gates that behind a completely arbitrary requirement that I get legendary in Crafting). If I want to cast lingering composition to boost the duration of inspire courage on my level 20 buddies, that's a level 20 DC. These are all fairly routine things you'd be doing at level 20, at least as common as doing the level 1 equivalents at level 1.

Yes, and most of what you talk about are specialist tasks. At that level, those tasks are so rare that they are generally going to be handled by a specialist. You will still encounter monsters of lower level (in fact, more likely so, since grouping lower-level monsters raises their CR), items below your level, and many, many tasks below your level.

For example, by just being Trained at Survival at 20th Level you'll succeed at being able to track something whose trail is obscured by winter snow, find and track a creature the size of a mouse, and even track stuff on surfaces that don't hold prints like bare rock. You'll do that 85% of the time. And while you will only succeed 35% of the time, you can at least attempt to track something in the middle of a hurricane. That's, to put it lightly, useful. Trained in Performance at that level? Well, you can play for high nobility and minor royalty. Athletics? You'll consistently swim and even crit stormy seas, and have a chance of swimming up a waterfall.

This is the point. Yes, you won't be doing what the people who specialize in those areas do. That's because those people dropped levels into that stuff, while you chose something at first level and didn't need to put any more investment into it. But even now, you can do a ton of stuff with it. Again, you can do 99% of what is going to be asked of you; not having the last percentage isn't incompetence, it's simply the difference between minimal investment and maximum investment.
 

Yes, and most of what you talk about are specialist tasks. At that level, those tasks are so rare that they are generally going to be handled by a specialist. You will still encounter monsters of lower level (in fact, more likely so, since grouping lower-level monsters raises their CR), items below your level, and many, many tasks below your level.
Recalling Knowledge is a basic task, particularly about monsters. The game is set up to make knowledge about creature strengths and weaknesses super important, so you can cast spells that target their weak saves, and avoid resistances and exploit weaknesses. So someone's going to be making checks almost every combat, and those checks are spread out over 5+ skills. That can't be a specialist task.

Repairing things is also something you'll be doing after each combat, at least if anyone's using a shield to block. That's a basic task, not a specialist task.

Finding magic items and identifying them is something you do all the time, and those items will more or less scale with your own level. That can't be a specialist task either, because you're supposed to do a lot of it. This is somewhat easier because most (but not all) items can be IDed with any magic-associated skill, and you're likely to have someone who's good at at least one of them, but still.

Lingering composition is a spell every Maestro bard knows. Being able to use that spell properly is not a specialist task.

Hazards use DCs that are even higher than the normal level-based DCs – 48 to 51 is the recommended DC to disable a level 20 hazard. A superior lock is item level 17 and has a level 20 DC, and requires six successes. Stealing an object uses the target's (and any onlookers) Perception DC which would be 43 on average for a level 20 creature. If both stealing things, picking locks, and disabling traps are super-specialist tasks, what is a "normal" task for Thievery you'd be doing at level 20?
 


Recalling Knowledge is a basic task, particularly about monsters. The game is set up to make knowledge about creature strengths and weaknesses super important, so you can cast spells that target their weak saves, and avoid resistances and exploit weaknesses. So someone's going to be making checks almost every combat, and those checks are spread out over 5+ skills. That can't be a specialist task.

Repairing things is also something you'll be doing after each combat, at least if anyone's using a shield to block. That's a basic task, not a specialist task.

Finding magic items and identifying them is something you do all the time, and those items will more or less scale with your own level. That can't be a specialist task either, because you're supposed to do a lot of it. This is somewhat easier because most (but not all) items can be IDed with any magic-associated skill, and you're likely to have someone who's good at at least one of them, but still.

Yes, those tasks are done all the time, but the level they are done at are not always the same. Not every task at 20th-level should have a 20th-level DC because, as the scaling goes, they are meant to be difficult for people who didn't put some level of investment into those skills. That's the point: checks at-level when you start to get closer to the leveling end game become difficult because they become a smaller and smaller sliver of what can be done. Most checks at that level shouldn't be 20th unless they are going to require a specialist, which makes sense: at a certain point there should be a requirement for investment in something, rather than being able to continue to stay at the same relative level for the entire game.

Lingering composition is a spell every Maestro bard knows. Being able to use that spell properly is not a specialist task.

The Bard gimmick is based around Performance and you get ample upgrades to get to that level. I would argue that you should get automatic upgrades over time simply because they made it important to the class, but I don't think this makes the argument you want it to.

Hazards use DCs that are even higher than the normal level-based DCs – 48 to 51 is the recommended DC to disable a level 20 hazard.

Yes, it's almost like disabling a 20th-level trap rather than destroying it or avoiding it is particularly difficult. That feels like part of the point. As for non-trap hazards, a lot of them allow for alternative ways of going about them.

A superior lock is item level 17 and has a level 20 DC, and requires six successes.

Yeah, the last level of lock is particularly tough and requires you to be a specialist to have a consistent chance at success? I don't see the problem. With one choice made at the beginning of the game you can consistently pick all but the toughest locks by the end of the game feels like an incredible power given that some people will have trouble picking any lock.

Really, why should someone who is merely Trained, not an Expert or a Master be able to handle the highest level of lock consistently?

Stealing an object uses the target's (and any onlookers) Perception DC which would be 43 on average for a level 20 creature. If both stealing things, picking locks, and disabling traps are super-specialist tasks, what is a "normal" task for Thievery you'd be doing at level 20?

Yes, stealing things from level 20 creatures is damn difficult without getting noticed. Most of those creatures are meant to take on a party of 20th level characters, hence why their stats make it that tough.

The bigger point would be "how often do I need to make a 20th-level thievery check on a 20th-level monster?" The answer should be "rarely", since doing such a risky maneuver should be suitably dangerous.

Again, we're talking about a skill with minimal investment. You can still loot 99% of the population without a problem. But as you level up, yes, these checks are meant more and more to be for people who are pouring resources into those skills, and thus they balance them about making it a challenge for them and not for the person who took it at 1st level and never did anything else with the skill. And that works out well, because as time goes on, those max-level skill checks should become rarer and rarer, since pickpocketing balors shouldn't be the standard for the kind of check you make all the time, even at 20th level. Those are spotlight skill checks for specialists, not meant for just anyone to take.

And again, there's still the possibility (however low) that you can pull that sort of thing off. With a few bonuses and some planning, maybe you can! But if you aren't putting some resources into those skills... yeah, you'll find yourself falling behind at the higher levels. But tunnel-visioning on just those high-level checks misses how much you can do with a low-level investment over time. Heck, just take Assurance and you'll be getting an automatic 32, which means you'll be able to always pull off Master-level tasks without fail. That's impressive on its own.
 

Yes, those tasks are done all the time, but the level they are done at are not always the same. Not every task at 20th-level should have a 20th-level DC because, as the scaling goes, they are meant to be difficult for people who didn't put some level of investment into those skills. That's the point: checks at-level when you start to get closer to the leveling end game become difficult because they become a smaller and smaller sliver of what can be done. Most checks at that level shouldn't be 20th unless they are going to require a specialist, which makes sense: at a certain point there should be a requirement for investment in something, rather than being able to continue to stay at the same relative level for the entire game.

But you only ever get to be legendary in three frickin skills. Unless you're a rogue or investigator, but you shouldn't need to have one of those in your party. So if I want to knock people around and block things with my shield and be able to fix it up after a fight, should I just give up on meaningful contribution in other skills until 13th level where I get my third mastery skill? And should a whole party just give up on five out of seventeen skills?

Really, why should someone who is merely Trained, not an Expert or a Master be able to handle the highest level of lock consistently?
Because you're a frickin' demigod at that point.

Yes, stealing things from level 20 creatures is damn difficult without getting noticed. Most of those creatures are meant to take on a party of 20th level characters, hence why their stats make it that tough.

The number of 20th level creatures I encounter at 20th level should be about the same as the number of 1st level creatures I encounter at 1st level. And yet, my options in dealing with 20th level creatures using skills are much more limited. Why should that be? I think that is bad game design. I want my characters to be widely competent. I want a party to have numerous people who can handle most challenges – one of them might be better, but multiple people should often have the needed competency.

I think a character should be able to operate at their level with any skill in which they are Trained. Investing more than that should let you operate above your level. You shouldn't need to specialize in order to operate at your level, and instead operate below your level in non-specialized fields.
 

payn

Hero
Im starting to have flashbacks of conversations about level in combat. "you dont feel awesome because your GM isnt sending goblins at you now that you are level 5..." So, skill stuff has a baseline and should only be increased occasionally to feel severe/extreme for the investors? Or are skills unrelated to combat in how they are run at the table and leveled?
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Im starting to have flashbacks of conversations about level in combat. "you dont feel awesome because your GM isnt sending goblins at you now that you are level 5..." So, skill stuff has a baseline and should only be increased occasionally to feel severe/extreme for the investors? Or are skills unrelated to combat in how they are run at the table and leveled?
Every character gets better at combat, although in different areas. But any of those areas can contribute. If you get attacked by CR 20 monsters, every character has level 20 combat abilities.

With skill challenges, there's no guarantee that anyone has the skill. And especially that it is at legendary level.
 

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