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Pathfinder 2E PF2: Second Attempt Post Mortem

Campbell

Legend
If you are going to have a specialist there need to be challenges that are tough for them. Those can be level 23 challenges instead of 20, but that leaves us in a pretty similar place. Right now the band between Trained and Legendary is 6. That's quite large in PF2 given the way critical success and failure work. Maybe it should be less, but I'm not sure how to make it less impactful without making each step feel too small. Maybe the band should be trained to master.
 

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Come to think of it, I think part of my possibly irrational rage at skill DCs comes from this:

Combat values in Pathfinder 2 are tightly controlled, and not really subject to a lot of player choice. You get your proficiency rank from your class, add a level-appropriate item bonus, and an ability bonus, and that's that. You can be pretty damn sure that a combat-focused level 11 character will have an attack bonus of +22: +15 expert proficiency, +5 stat, +2 item (OK, add +2 for a fighter, but that's sort of their "extra damage" mechanic – barbarians hit harder, fighters hit and crit more often). So you can balance a level 11 creature around that, with a typical AC of 31. AC is similar, with a bit more class variance, but still to the point where you can be pretty certain what AC a combat-based character would have just based on class and level, and to some degree you can use that as part of class balance (e.g. barbarians have worse AC, particularly when raging, but more hp and hit harder).

Skills have a lot more variance, because you only get so many skill increases. So there's no way to tell if a level 11 character would be trained, expert, or master in a particular skill. That means that when you design the game, you need to decide where to put the baseline: trained or specialist. I think the game would have been more fun if the baseline was someone who was trained in a skill, and allowed the specialist to reach beyond that – possibly in ways other than just skill bonus (e.g. how Repair repairs more damage if you have a higher proficiency, or how Treat Wounds opens up higher DCs that let you heal more). But instead, they chose to make the specialist the baseline, and punish those who try to do things they don't specialize in.

Some examples of how it could be done with the examples I used above:
  • Recall Knowledge: learn one fact per proficiency rank.
  • Identify Magic: this is a bit harder to have rank-based benefits in the skill use itself, but the skill feat Quick Identification is nice in that it cuts down the time needed based on rank.
  • Repair: Already repairs more hp per rank.
  • Disable Device: Require multiple successes, and higher ranks gets you more "hits" per actual success. So someone Trained in Thievery could still have a good chance of picking a Superior lock but they'd require the full 6 successful rolls, while an Expert could do it in 3 and a Master or Legend in 2 (this would likely require some fiddling with the number of successes required).
  • Lingering composition could just base the additional duration on Perform ranks.
 

If you are going to have a specialist there need to be challenges that are tough for them. Those can be level 23 challenges instead of 20, but that leaves us in a pretty similar place. Right now the band between Trained and Legendary is 6. That's quite large in PF2 given the way critical success and failure work. Maybe it should be less, but I'm not sure how to make it less impactful without making each step feel too small. Maybe the band should be trained to master.
I'm not sure I agree. I think challenges should be for trained skills. Higher proficiency ranks should be the "Don't worry, I got this" skills.
 

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?

You don't need to be Legendary at everything to get what you need. Master is enough unless you really desire a Legendary-level feat, if you want to go by the numbers.

Because you're a frickin' demigod at that point.

Which is why you can consistently beat a Master-level rating without any extra training, like being told the "Oh, I thought this was my pocket" excuse one day and then by the end of your career you can basically pickpocket all but the most perceptive of creatures consistently without ever learning anything else.

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'll point out that 20th level creatures aren't the same as a CR20, which can be made up of multiple lower-level creatures. I much more consistently tossed CR0 and CR-1 creatures in groups, punctuated by the occasional CR 1 creature to start out.

And your characters are widely competent. The idea that only at-level challenges prove competence misses that over time you gain a ton of options over time that are way more generally applicable. Yes, you are able to do more with 1st level challenges... but also those successes are way more limited. Once you get into the DC20-30 range, that's where the most useful and common big challenges lie. The ultra-specialized are things that shouldn't be just tossed out, but focus points for your specialists. By merely being trained in something at 20th level you can absolutely due some crazy stuff for minimal investment.

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 aboveyour level. You shouldn't need to specialize in order to operate at your level, and instead operate below your level in non-specialized fields.

I dunno if that's for me. If you've put nothing into a skill from start, over time it should be come less effective if you don't upgrade it as challenges get more difficult. The way it's done in PF2 works well enough for having minimal paperwork, while still also allowing you to use that skill effectively. No, you won't take on leveled challenges, but as time goes on you still get to do more and more; just tunnel-visioning on only the top challenges misses all the things you can do besides those.

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?

PF2 has a habit of making things slightly more difficult relative to what came before; it's why leveled checks your secondary stuff generally loses a little bit of effectiveness over time. You're expected to have stuff to mitigate that, like spell buffs, talismans, skills, teamwork, etc, to make up for that.

If I were to give a fix, @Staffan , you might want to have automatic upgrade point at certain levels. For example, once you reach 10th level all skills that were Trained upgrade to Expert, and at 17th all skills get raised to Master if they weren't already. You're paying skill ranks to be better in your specialty at that time, and once the rest of your skills catch up you can further upgrade and specialize as needed. It's not really for me, but it might work out for you.
 
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Skills have a lot more variance, because you only get so many skill increases. So there's no way to tell if a level 11 character would be trained, expert, or master in a particular skill. That means that when you design the game, you need to decide where to put the baseline: trained or specialist. I think the game would have been more fun if the baseline was someone who was trained in a skill, and allowed the specialist to reach beyond that – possibly in ways other than just skill bonus (e.g. how Repair repairs more damage if you have a higher proficiency, or how Treat Wounds opens up higher DCs that let you heal more). But instead, they chose to make the specialist the baseline, and punish those who try to do things they don't specialize in.
This is a very interesting point. Now, I’m wondering what it would have been like if the baseline was expert (so, if you only invested to trained, you are at a slight disadvantage, but nothing insurmountable) but specialists keep their consistent advantage.
 

Retreater

Legend
My opinion (and it's only my opinion)...

I think PF2 came out half-baked. I think it needed to be playtested further, re-edited, streamlined. When the selling point of your game is the mechanical system, it had better be as close to perfect as you can get it. (Pathfinder isn't Call of Cthulhu - which you play for the mood; it's isn't Warhammer Fantasy - which you play for the setting.) The primary appeal of Pathfinder has been to have deep character customization and run them through various challenges to test their mettle. If you were playing for deep story, roleplay - why would you need all the crunch?

PF1 was the result of fortunate circumstances for Paizo. I doubt they'll ever duplicate the success of that Core Rulebook. I think that's because they didn't understand how to actually design a game. The more they stepped away from 3.5, the more they staggered. I noticed this even with the first Advanced Players Guide - the Alchemist, the Summoner, the Oracle, etc. Bad classes, confusing mechanics, undefined party roles - at least in my experience (and probably the two dozen Pathfinder 1e players I've played with).

But it's printed and bound in hardcover, with lots of support material. It's too late to change anything now. And I suppose enough people enjoy it to keep the line afloat. For me, I'll phase it from its spot on my shelf as I get new books, and I'll gradually put it up in the attic with the PF1 books, AD&D 2e, etc. I'll need that room for Level Up.
 

payn

Hero
I wouldnt say PF2 is half baked, its more of a 90 degree turn from PF1. Some long time fans like myself might find it a bit too wound up tight, others have perhaps wanted a tighter system like this. I could sort of see it coming with Paizos delve into card, board games, and popularity of organized play . 5E stole the 3E fans back and Paizo had to differentiate PF or look like second rate copy cats.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Let me reassure you: no, it is not only your opinion...

I would not stop at "half-baked" however.

Yes, they severely over-engineer far too many subsystems. "Baking" the system another go would cut away lot of excess verbiage for sure.

But the real issue is not that they aimed for greatness, and didn't get all the way.

The real issue is that they aimed for a system with thousands of pre-determined choices. They aimed for a system that does not trust the GM. They aimed for a system where it is basically impossible to tweak anything Paizo doesn't want you to tweak.

Bake it all you want, it will never be lean, it will never be elegant, it will never be friendly and it will never be trusting.

My best way to phrasing it succinctly: Paizo reserves all the design space for itself.

Not all of you will immediately get what I mean by that, but it remains the shortest way to get to the heart of why I think PF2 is essentially a failed system.
 

This is a very interesting point. Now, I’m wondering what it would have been like if the baseline was expert (so, if you only invested to trained, you are at a slight disadvantage, but nothing insurmountable) but specialists keep their consistent advantage.
I think it would be interesting if the game was more supportive of a pyramidal skill structure. As written, if you ever want to get close to "I got this" for a skill, you really need to give that skill your all – maxed-out proficiency, maxed-out ability score, best items. And that means there's not really room for other, so the natural state of a level 19 character is 2+Int trained skills (plus Lore) and 3 legendary – 4+Int trained skills if you're a class that pretends to be highly skilled at level 1 like a bard or a ranger, but you're still stuck with 3 skills in which you're actually good. The only ways to get more skills at expert or higher are:
  • be a rogue or investigator.
  • multi-class into rogue/investigator and take the Skill Mastery multiclass feat (which costs one level 2+ class feat for the dedication and one level 8+ class feat for Skill Mastery), giving you two additional skill increases (one to expert and one to master) and a skill feat.
  • take one of the dedications that boost skills above trained – there are quite a few that gets you Expert in a skill, and one I'm aware of that gets you an auto-increasing skill (Acrobat, with Acrobatics of course). But again, this costs class feats.
  • take the Additional Lore feat which gives you an auto-increasing additional Lore skill.
  • be a Skilled human, which gets you an additional Expert skill at level 5.
These are all significant investments, except Additional Lore (and that only gets you a Lore, which is not on par with other skills). That's either a specific ancestry and heritage, a specific class, or an archetype. I think there ought to be other ways to get skill increases, because competent characters are fun. One way would be to add some more skill increases to the baseline, perhaps with the caveat that they can't be used to max out a skill. Another would be to let you boost a skill for a General feat. A level 3 general feat could boost a skill to Expert, and a level 11 to Master (perhaps even include a free boost, like with Canny Acumen – but that would be dangerously close to overshadowing Skill Mastery, so maybe not). As a side benefit, that would give Fleet and Toughness some competition for general feat slots. And throw bards and rangers and similarly-skilled classes a bone with some additional increases. Perhaps one each at levels 4, 10 (max to Expert), and 16 (max to Master).
 

My opinion (and it's only my opinion)...

I think PF2 came out half-baked. I think it needed to be playtested further, re-edited, streamlined. When the selling point of your game is the mechanical system, it had better be as close to perfect as you can get it. (Pathfinder isn't Call of Cthulhu - which you play for the mood; it's isn't Warhammer Fantasy - which you play for the setting.) The primary appeal of Pathfinder has been to have deep character customization and run them through various challenges to test their mettle. If you were playing for deep story, roleplay - why would you need all the crunch?

I don't think it's half-baked at all, but rather I think you're just bouncing off aspects that they intended to create. I also disagree with crunch being antithetical to deep story/roleplay, since I've had deeper games running GURPS than some less crunch-intensive systems.

I wouldnt say PF2 is half baked, its more of a 90 degree turn from PF1. Some long time fans like myself might find it a bit too wound up tight, others have perhaps wanted a tighter system like this. I could sort of see it coming with Paizos delve into card, board games, and popularity of organized play . 5E stole the 3E fans back and Paizo had to differentiate PF or look like second rate copy cats.

This is what I think it is. It's not that it's more complex (honestly it's way less), but complex in different ways. Trying to copy 5E is pointless because why play anything other than 5E at that point? Better to catch a distinct crowd, those who want something more complex than 5E but less so than 4E or 3.X. PF2, to me, sits in that sort of sweet zone, where it is closer to the balance of 4E but while still feeling like a classic d20 game.
 

Let me reassure you: no, it is not only your opinion...

"but wait! there's more..."

I would not stop at "half-baked" however.

Yes, they severely over-engineer far too many subsystems. "Baking" the system another go would cut away lot of excess verbiage for sure.

But the real issue is not that they aimed for greatness, and didn't get all the way.

The real issue is that they aimed for a system with thousands of pre-determined choices. They aimed for a system that does not trust the GM. They aimed for a system where it is basically impossible to tweak anything Paizo doesn't want you to tweak.

Bake it all you want, it will never be lean, it will never be elegant, it will never be friendly and it will never be trusting.

My best way to phrasing it succinctly: Paizo reserves all the design space for itself.

Not all of you will immediately get what I mean by that, but it remains the shortest way to get to the heart of why I think PF2 is essentially a failed system.

Why are you spoilering this? Do you give away the plot to Shang-Chi in this post or something? This is literally what you always say in every thread, so why hide it?
 

Retreater

Legend
This is what I think it is. It's not that it's more complex (honestly it's way less), but complex in different ways. Trying to copy 5E is pointless because why play anything other than 5E at that point? Better to catch a distinct crowd, those who want something more complex than 5E but less so than 4E or 3.X. PF2, to me, sits in that sort of sweet zone, where it is closer to the balance of 4E but while still feeling like a classic d20 game.
I dunno. I think PF2 is more complex than 4E.
I often ran 4E while drunk. I can't imagine having a single beer while running PF2. That is my metric. ;)
 


Teemu

Adventurer
I'm not sure I agree. I think challenges should be for trained skills. Higher proficiency ranks should be the "Don't worry, I got this" skills.
The issue is that when a character can nearly guarantee an auto success with a check, you lose the stakes. It can be awesome to be so good at something that you kind of don’t need to roll, but it gets boring after a while.
 

Retreater

Legend
The issue is that when a character can nearly guarantee an auto success with a check, you lose the stakes. It can be awesome to be so good at something that you kind of don’t need to roll, but it gets boring after a while.
There are certain tasks that don't need stakes: a high level rogue picking a low quality lock, for example.
In those cases, I think an "auto succuss" condition would be fine. As a GM I wouldn't even require a roll.
Hopefully by the time a high level rogue is breaking into a place, it's better protected (thus making a better challenge).
 

Teemu

Adventurer
There are certain tasks that don't need stakes: a high level rogue picking a low quality lock, for example.
In those cases, I think an "auto succuss" condition would be fine. As a GM I wouldn't even require a roll.
Hopefully by the time a high level rogue is breaking into a place, it's better protected (thus making a better challenge).
Sure, in that scenario you’ve set the stakes low. But if you do want to set the stakes high for a level 16 rogue, should the default be level 16 or level 22? What if you want them very high? Should I have to use a level 19 or a level 25 DC?
 

Retreater

Legend
Sure, in that scenario you’ve set the stakes low. But if you do want to set the stakes high for a level 16 rogue, should the default be level 16 or level 22? What if you want them very high? Should I have to use a level 19 or a level 25 DC?
What I suggest to every GM is to not even look at the system. If you're wanting your rogue to succeed half the time, set the DCs at 10 + the thievery skill bonus (or 15 + the bonus for harder checks). Just look at the die roll and go from there.
Most GMs don't want to admit that we don't actually need 600+ pages of rules. The publishers certainly don't want us to admit it.
 

The issue is that when a character can nearly guarantee an auto success with a check, you lose the stakes. It can be awesome to be so good at something that you kind of don’t need to roll, but it gets boring after a while.
I'm perfectly OK with the main question faced by a 20th level character making a check for a skill in which they have legendary proficiency is "do I succeed, or do I crit?". There are plenty of skills in which you don't have legendary proficiency where you can have a challenging ~60% success rate.
 

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