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PF2E Play report (Extinction Curse spoilers)

CapnZapp

Legend
A brief summary of our first session of the Extinction Curse Adventure Path.

Five players:
  • Croezan, human male fighter (clown)
  • Leena, half-orc female barbarian (animal wrangler)
  • Mork, gnome male wizard
  • Kurat, goblin male ranger (living bouncy-ball)
  • Brynhilde, half-elf female cleric (wasp tamer)

The circus performance was a critical success, mostly (if not wholly) due to the random event: the tent collapsed, which limited Anticipation to 10. Not only did this lower their target number from a very difficult 15 Excitement to a much more reasonable 10 Excitement, it also saved their bacon on multiple occasions, since the Anticipation could not rise. This increased their Circus Prestige from 1 to 5.

The adventuring was... less successful.

The first real encounter was with the pods in the Ringmaster's wagon. And they got wiped out. Yes, after two rounds three out of five heroes were unconscious on the ground and the hazard hadn't taken a single point of damage! That's Pathfinder 2 for you! :LOL: Five heroes vs a single Hazard 3 - a guaranteed TPK were it not for the way the combat could be "blocked".

(The pods rolled well on Initiative, and scored three hits out of its five. All three struck heroes became confused, and randomly attacked each other. I suggested to the two unharmed heroes they block the entrance with the fallen-off door, and thus break off the combat.)

They never really recovered after that. They used up whatever healing they had left, including me having the Professor give them their show bonus in Healing Potions (twelve in total).

Then they managed to placate Bardoph with a lucky Animal Handling roll, before he could maul them. They went to investigate snakes in the woods, and managed to kill two vipers and one giant viper, but not before the fighter got poisoned and was a single "death save" (a much better term than "recovery check from dying") from death.

At that time, they were thoroughly beat, and retreated to recuperate for a few hours. (Thanks to Medicine, you almost never need days in PF2 to gain back your hit points, "only" hours).

But of course this adventure isn't some static dungeon where you can just walk back to Starter Town and the dungeon just sits their until you return...

Sensing that they weren't ready after the first hour for the show down with Nemma, I had to improvise - I had her proceed with her original plan: killing off people. So I randomly rolled two NPCs, and rolled a random die to indicate the "severity" of the attack. For the first, the Cook, I said she was beset upon by rats, but managed to fend them off without too much trouble - perhaps she poured out boiling hot soup over her attackers. For the second, however, I rolled 8 on a d8. The NPC was Axel, so I narrated how he was found dead and bloated from snake poison, just like Thunder Stendahl. He never did get to perform after all (they selected him but could not get him to overcome his stage fright)...

At this point, they told all the NPCs to gather in a single location, circling the wagons as it were. After one more hour of healing up (everyone is at full health, except the ranger at ~half), I decided Nemma had had enough. Singling out individual targets was no longer possible, so it was time to make her frontal assault.

And with that, the session ended.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
This space seems as good as any to upload my expanded circus roster, with portraits of every important NPC.

This document contains a number of tweaks - two performers are level 2 (since the first circus show is next to impossible otherwise), there are expanded circus rules (as discussed over at Paizo's GM forum for the AP), and the backstories of the Sideshow members have been altered to match the pictures.

Finally, I have cobbled together a number of soapy relationship stories to flesh out the life of the circus between shows. I have asked the players to each select one NPC with which their character has a relation (anything from drinking buddy to spouse), giving them a +5 bonus to social interaction checks vs that NPC.

(Croezan chose Gerban the Carpenter; Leena chose Elizia the Snake-Charmer, Mork chose Gunner the Dog-Faced Dog, Kurat chose Tanterra the Bouncer, and Brynhilde chose the Flamboni Sisters.)

The document isn't very NSFW, but it isn't PG either.
 

Attachments


Porridge

Explorer
A brief summary of our first session of the Extinction Curse Adventure Path.

Five players:
  • Croezan, human male fighter (clown)
  • Leena, half-orc female barbarian (animal wrangler)
  • Mork, gnome male wizard
  • Kurat, goblin male ranger (living bouncy-ball)
  • Brynhilde, half-elf female cleric (wasp tamer)

The circus performance was a critical success, mostly (if not wholly) due to the random event: the tent collapsed, which limited Anticipation to 10. Not only did this lower their target number from a very difficult 15 Excitement to a much more reasonable 10 Excitement, it also saved their bacon on multiple occasions, since the Anticipation could not rise. This increased their Circus Prestige from 1 to 5.

The adventuring was... less successful.

The first real encounter was with the pods in the Ringmaster's wagon. And they got wiped out. Yes, after two rounds three out of five heroes were unconscious on the ground and the hazard hadn't taken a single point of damage! That's Pathfinder 2 for you! :LOL: Five heroes vs a single Hazard 3 - a guaranteed TPK were it not for the way the combat could be "blocked".

(The pods rolled well on Initiative, and scored three hits out of its five. All three struck heroes became confused, and randomly attacked each other. I suggested to the two unharmed heroes they block the entrance with the fallen-off door, and thus break off the combat.)

They never really recovered after that. They used up whatever healing they had left, including me having the Professor give them their show bonus in Healing Potions (twelve in total).

Then they managed to placate Bardoph with a lucky Animal Handling roll, before he could maul them. They went to investigate snakes in the woods, and managed to kill two vipers and one giant viper, but not before the fighter got poisoned and was a single "death save" (a much better term than "recovery check from dying") from death.

At that time, they were thoroughly beat, and retreated to recuperate for a few hours. (Thanks to Medicine, you almost never need days in PF2 to gain back your hit points, "only" hours).

But of course this adventure isn't some static dungeon where you can just walk back to Starter Town and the dungeon just sits their until you return...

Sensing that they weren't ready after the first hour for the show down with Nemma, I had to improvise - I had her proceed with her original plan: killing off people. So I randomly rolled two NPCs, and rolled a random die to indicate the "severity" of the attack. For the first, the Cook, I said she was beset upon by rats, but managed to fend them off without too much trouble - perhaps she poured out boiling hot soup over her attackers. For the second, however, I rolled 8 on a d8. The NPC was Axel, so I narrated how he was found dead and bloated from snake poison, just like Thunder Stendahl. He never did get to perform after all (they selected him but could not get him to overcome his stage fright)...

At this point, they told all the NPCs to gather in a single location, circling the wagons as it were. After one more hour of healing up (everyone is at full health, except the ranger at ~half), I decided Nemma had had enough. Singling out individual targets was no longer possible, so it was time to make her frontal assault.

And with that, the session ended.
Out of curiosity, did any of the PCs use hero points against the hazard?

The PF2 APs seems to be balanced around the idea that PCs will have plenty of hero points, and use them. So if the players haven’t gotten used to using hero points at opportune times, that can make things harder for the PCs.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm using an alternative set of Hero Point rules in my campaign.

Feel free to check them out! :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
The PF2 APs seems to be balanced around the idea that PCs will have plenty of hero points, and use them.
I'm not sure I like the implication; that the crutch that-is-hero-points is an essential part of the official AP experience. And "plenty" feels like an exaggeration either way, seeing that you would likely have only 2 hero points at that stage (maybe five hours into the session). And that's assuming the player hasn't spent them already!

In contrast, my analysis is simple - the hazard is quite deadly against a level 1 party when it wins initiative.

(But that assumes "fair" combat - had the party scout not rolled poorly on Perception, they might have won automatically; if given a chance to come up with a cunning plan to destroy the pods from a distance.)

My point isn't that PF2 is unfair.

Just hard. Much MUCH harder than 5E :)
 

JeffB

Legend
Yeaah, I'm thinking PF2 is going to be the polar opposite of 5E when it comes to how deadly game play is.

Does PF2 have a low level equivalent of revivify?
 

CapnZapp

Legend



The first real encounter was with the pods in the Ringmaster's wagon. And they got wiped out. Yes, after two rounds three out of five heroes were unconscious on the ground and the hazard hadn't taken a single point of damage! That's Pathfinder 2 for you! :LOL: Five heroes vs a single Hazard 3 - a guaranteed TPK were it not for the way the combat could be "blocked".
(The pods rolled well on Initiative, and scored three hits out of its five. All three struck heroes became confused, and randomly attacked each other. I suggested to the two unharmed heroes they block the entrance with the fallen-off door, and thus break off the combat.)
For those of us less familiar with PF 2e, could you explain in more detail? Do the PCs have bad attack bonuses?

Confusion said:
Spell 4
You befuddle your target with strange impulses, causing it to act randomly. The effects are determined by the target’s Will save. You can dismiss the spell.


Critical Success The target is unaffected.


Success The target babbles incoherently and is stunned 1.


Failure The target is confused for 1 minute. It can attempt a new save at the end of each of its turns to end the confusion.


Critical Failure The target is confused for 1 minute, with no save to end early.
Is that balanced for a 3rd? level adventure?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
For those of us less familiar with PF 2e, could you explain in more detail? Do the PCs have bad attack bonuses?



Is that balanced for a 3rd? level adventure?
Confused, the condition, not Confusion, the spell.

SPOILER

The four "dream pollen pods" have one +12 attack each, plus one extra attack when the trap is sprung. A hit cause some damage, but most importantly trigger the special effect:

Hallucinogenic Pollen A creature hit by the trap’s pollen
spray must succeed at a DC 20 Will save or it is confused
for 1 round and takes a –2 status penalty to Perception
checks and saves against mental effects for 1d4 hours.
On a critical failure, the penalty is instead –4.

Since the pods won initiative (rolling 19 on the initiative check) all three melee fighter heroes were damaged and confused when they got to act (DC 20 is hard on 1st level), inflicting damage only on each other. (The pods actually missed two out of five attacks even though no hero has more than AC 18) The penalty to mental damage is not important here and now; but will be a serious drawback in the final showdown with the evil BBEG of the chapter.

The two remaining characters made an ineffectual attack (a cantrip I believe; unlike 5E ranged attacks is NOT king in PF2; dealing less damage and with lower attack bonuses. The pods have AC 18, very respectable at 1st level) and went and collected the door.

Then the first combat round was over, and it was the pod's turn again. It easily downed the one or two melee heroes still standing (can't remember exactly), and the two unharmed heroes plopped back the door to block any further pollen attacks.

It was me who quickly realized the fight was headed for a TPK (not that it's hard to predict how a combat will end if three out of five heroes are knocked unconscious before a single point of damage has been dealt to the enemy... ;) ) so I encouraged them to break off the combat, in order to drag away their unconscious friends to safety, and stabilize them before they could die.

To give a complete confession, I fudged the roll when it was time to determine which random creature the confused character closest to the wagon entrance should attack - by that time, I realized that if I randomized a "you charge the pods" result, that character would likely just die. I was aware I likely came along as as a hardass dick GM when I announced they all attacked each other, but in reality I likely saved at least one life that way, by preventing anyone from running inside the wagon... ;)

One of the players wasn't ready to give up, arguing they could take out the pods safely from a distance, and the other player had to convince him it wasn't worth the risk, and that they didn't have the time. In the end though, they saved the pod-infested wagon "for later".
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
PS. The fight is the very first serious combat encounter of the entire adventure path, and it's rated "Moderate" for a group of four level 1 heroes. (I ran it without modifications even though there are five heroes)
 

The four "dream pollen pods" have one +12 attack each, plus one extra attack when the trap is sprung. A hit cause some damage, but most importantly trigger the special effect:

Hallucinogenic Pollen A creature hit by the trap’s pollen
spray must succeed at a DC 20 Will save or it is confused
for 1 round and takes a –2 status penalty to Perception
checks and saves against mental effects for 1d4 hours.
On a critical failure, the penalty is instead –4.
I think this is an adventure issue, not a PF2e issue!

+12 sounds pretty hard for a 1st-level attack. Even if a fighter can start with AC 20 or so, most PCs would not. Furthermore DC 20 sounds (as you mentioned) too much for 1st-level PCs.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think this is an adventure issue, not a PF2e issue!
When I said "That's PF2 for 'ya" that wasn't meant to absolve the adventure writers from any mistakes.

But it was meant to say "PF2 is taking off the carebear gloves that 5E is wearing" :)

Zapp



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That said, I still find the Assassin encounter in the Hoard of the Dragon adventure (I think?) hilarious. But since that was an honest mix-up mistake*, it doesn't count. ;) :D
*) IIRC the "Assassin" NPC was much lower level in the playtest iteration available to Kobold Games than the level 9(?) glass cannon it ended up being printed as in the published Monster Manual.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Just for funsies, here's another play report:

Valeor said:
Run my first session on previous week.

My party consist of:
Andre - half-naked human barbarian, who loves burn himself
Valda - leshy, acrobat, wizard
Moonshaez - goblin dog rider ranger with trained goblin dog
Selvin - gnome wizard with parrot
Veles - half elf alchemist (who take role of circus doctor)
Kithum - human rogue clown


First part - the show go smoothly. Mainly Beacuse they have pyrotechnic role and two shows with fire trait. Also they pursued feather fall five to perform without net. At end they have 18 Exitement vs 17 anticipation.

Second part - the investigation becomes hell for them, after a really fun show, they relaxed and separete from each other, group of 4 goes to investigate forest (mainly because one of the players run to forest and not all party followed her) and other two go to investigate ringleader wagon.

In forest party find snakes and kill them, but the fight was extreemly difficult, Valda and trained goblin dog died, 1 charater was unconscious, and Ande have only 1 hit point left.

Meanwhile plants in ringleader wagon eat clown Kithum. When party alltogether again, they healed and go investigate further (two players whoes characters died reroll to circus guards).

With Barnolf the all survived only because of lucky roll of charachter who have dying 3 and that bear fights only 2 rounds).

After that they gather all circus around the fire and try to rest and recover, but fairys come to have fun with them. After having pain with dancing and persuding fairys to leave them alone, they just sit near fire cowering in horror.

This time i think Nemia become impatient of hours of seating in wagon and she show herself to make a speach to PCs and atack. Terrified players have accepted combat and survive.

Now they do some gravedigging and furneal... Selvin got some mental damage and thinking of going to forest and hang some squirells on trees, other characters feel pain and anger for fallen comrades.

Don't know where it leads, but players don't expect such difficult battles and such brutality). Anyway players want to continue)
Sauce.

:ROFLMAO:
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Revisiting this to report that the tables have turned. Oh how they have turned.

Now the party is 5th level, and all three martials have Striking runes. That means they make mincemeat of any lower-leveled foe.

Levelling up from 4th to 5th level feels more like two or even three steps than just one, TBH.

This also goes for monsters. Level 6 or 7 monsters are still scary, so it's not like I'm complaining.

I'm basically just saying level 5 is a HUGE milestone that feels like a big deal.

(For martials. That the Wizard is given a 6d6 Fireball is just sad in comparison)

---

As for the actual adventure (remember this is a thread spoiling Extinction Curse) they've cleaned out much of the map of chapter 1, book 2 called "Dangerous Plot".

That despite me significantly beefing up the opposition. Now why would I do that?

I (now) realize the writers probably made most encounters "moderate" for a specific reason: to make players feel like they've leveled out of the apprentice levels, and to make them feel like awesome heroes that can take on an almost endless stream of level 3 or 4 critters.

I did not accomplish that. The reason is that I wanted to stretch out the chapter over several days, to give time for social events to progress evenly throughout the week leading up to their circus performance. (Social events of my own making, that is, inspired by how the succubi Balenni managed to survive her encounter with the heroes in the last chapter)

However, even though I made the monsters more dangerous and plentiful, they've still mopped up everything in the second day.

The harsh truth is that thanks to the Medicine skill Pathfinder 2 almost entirely abandons the attrition model. You basically never need more than an hour's rest to replenish everybody's hit points to full once you reach level 5 and take the optimal feats. The Cleric can then focus almost entirely on in-combat healing (a role that fell by the wayside in 5E).

Just about the only reason why a party of heroes would ever take a night's rest (instead of just pressing on) is the presence of casters in the party. That is: the way casters run out of spells means martials will have to go much slower than they are capable of simply because the game becomes much more fun for a caster if loaded up on spells. (We're still at a level low enough that the offensive capabilities of casters are meagre enough to simply not be necessary)

So even though I added a Shambler and a pair of Harpies and a Hydra to the map, and made Kalkek's wolves five Dire Wolves instead of regular ones, and let the Will o Wisps be regular level 7 critters, that still didn't slow down the heroes - now it's lunch time the second day and only the Harpies remain. And as I said, the only reason that not everything died on the first day was because the three martials decided it was more fun for the casters to have spells to play with.

Now you might think it was a cakewalk. It definitely wasn't. The first time the heroes were ambushed by the Will o Wisps while caught in quicksand they were clobbered and had to flee. The Black Pudding alone almost killed them (and did yank one hero point* from the Fighter). Kalkek attacked even though the party was still fighting four Dire Wolves. On their second encounter with the Will o Wisps, they were ambushed by the Hydra. (This encounter easily qualifies as "Extreme" by Paizo's guidelines. That didn't prevent the heroes from comfortably winning - thanks to Acid Splash in fact) Each level 6 monster has the capacity to take a character from full hp to zero in a single round, so the Cleric was essential.

But this didn't slow them down, is my point. Even a fight where three heroes are downed and brought back up again (by Heal or Battle Medicine) doesn't slow down the party more than 20-60 minutes, then they're fully healed and ready for more.

Basically, you cannot rely on combats to create a narrative take plays out over days. You need specific adventure support. (Something like the heroes not becoming aware of the next threat until the day after, or a map requiring significant travel from encounter to encounter)

So if given the chance to redo this chapter, I would probably have kept the monsters as-is to give the heroes their sense of awesomesauce, and simply retooled my progression of "succubi hijinks" to account for the fact that the adventure as written definitely does not need two weeks. More like a single afternoon.

This is an observation, not a complaint, by the way. It's not good or bad, it simply is.

Zapp

*) Think Warhammer fate points, not CRB hero points.
 

Schmoe

Explorer
The harsh truth is that thanks to the Medicine skill Pathfinder 2 almost entirely abandons the attrition model. You basically never need more than an hour's rest to replenish everybody's hit points to full once you reach level 5 and take the optimal feats. The Cleric can then focus almost entirely on in-combat healing (a role that fell by the wayside in 5E).

<snip>

Basically, you cannot rely on combats to create a narrative take plays out over days. You need specific adventure support. (Something like the heroes not becoming aware of the next threat until the day after, or a map requiring significant travel from encounter to encounter)
That's interesting. So basically the only constraint on how much the adventurers can do in a day is literally how much time it takes. That's actually kind of cool. At some point you need to sleep, I guess, before becoming exhausted.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
That's interesting. So basically the only constraint on how much the adventurers can do in a day is literally how much time it takes. That's actually kind of cool. At some point you need to sleep, I guess, before becoming exhausted.
I should make clear that none of this is obvious when you first browse the rulebook. And characters certainly do not get these capabilities automatically.

But yes, by judiciously examining the available list of skill feats, crafty players can end up with a party that seldom needs more than 20-60 minutes of downtime to heal up completely (and to do so without using any resources - such as Cleric spells, healing potions).

And no, I'm not talking about the Paladin. No Paladin in this party. Just regular schmoes.

Schmoes that can go on for hours upon hours unless the GM says otherwise; yes. If you have spellcasters in the party, them running out of spells is likely going to constrain your progress sooner than "we've been awake the whole night", though. But we all know that a day contains enough combat rounds to - theoretically, at least - fight and kill all the monsters you need to advance from level 1 to 20, so...

Of course this assumes an adventure where you have a relatively contained map and you can keep on trucking without awaiting "story developments". Official adventures don't work like that at all, though. After a maximum of one level's worth of monsters it's almost always so that the heroes need to "report back" to make the story progress, level up, and be told where to find the next level's worth of encounters.

That's not meant as criticism by the way. It just is the way it is with Adventure Paths. But it does mean that Paizo might not see Duracell Bunny fighters as much of a problem. The game simply isn't set up to handle "open vistas" well.

If you on the other hand want a more traditional game where heroes can run out of steam just by hit points alone, such as in an old-school sandbox, I would highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the (very cluttery) inner workings of Medicine and its related feat (spread over more books than the CRB alone), and make adjustments as needed.

Or, (much) simpler and (much) blunter, simply add a house-rule saying "you can't fight all day even if the rules let ya".
 
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Schmoe

Explorer
As a Schmoe, I approve!

I'll have to study how Medicine works a bit more, as I still haven't had a chance to play yet. One thing that might change it slightly is that I only have the CRB right now, and don't intend to get any of the supplements in the near future. My natural inclination is to do just as you say, though - add some house rules about exhaustion and fighting all day.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Just for completeness, the following thread expands on NPC interactions with the circus discussed herein.

 

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