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PF2E Regarding the complexity of Pathfinder 2

CapnZapp

Legend
Breaking this out from the "Is this a fair review" thread for all of us not interested in discussing the nature of hit points.

Cheers,
Zapp
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
In my analysis the game contains multiple subsystems that can charitably be characterized as overengineered. Here are three that we have recently started discussing:

Medicine and Treat Wounds
Recall Knowledge
Crafting
 

I'm sure it is well-intentioned to create different 'two weapon fighting' feats that can be taken variably by fighters, rangers, rogues, etc, because each one has its own fiddly math-iness to ensure no build is better than any other build by too much of a margin.

But sheeeeeeeit, in 5e I just use the default two weapon fighting rules that anyone can do, and it works, y'know, well enough. Use my action to attack with my main weapon, and a bonus action to get one off-hand attack. Done.

That feels much less, I dunno, stressful. I don't have to go hunting for the ideal min-maxed choice out of a list of hundreds of small perks. That might work in a video game, where you can gain enough XP to pick up a new perk every 15 minutes or so. But for a tabletop game, yeah, that's too complex.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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CapnZapp

Legend
Regarding resting between encounters, let me make the following assertions and we can discuss:

§ the game is predicated on heroes entering each encounter at or close to full health
The classic notion of wandering monsters can't easily be used to motivate heroes to keep adventuring while they still have damage

§ the game is predicated on 10-minute exploration activities being a scarce resource, so that your choice of such activities doesn't become "I'll do all of them"
Rests should thus be completed in 10-30 minutes, except Medicine/Treat Wounds isn't powerful enough. You easily need 40-70 minutes.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm sure it is well-intentioned to create different 'two weapon fighting' feats that can be taken variably by fighters, rangers, rogues, etc, because each one has its own fiddly math-iness to ensure no build is better than any other build by too much of a margin.
Here's my relevant post from the other thread:

A Ranger at mid level can have an attack modifier of 0, -2, -3, -4, or more and that's only depending on his own gear and action choices (not any external factors, of which there are nearly always some). Then you roll heapfuls of dice for every attack, and you modify many of them with weaknesses and resistances.

So. Anyone's basic attack modifier is 0, -5, -10 if you spend your round doing three attacks. This is reminiscent of "BAB" from d20 if you remember. (And as you probably know, D&D 5E ignores this and just lets you do each attack at your normal attack bonus)

Agile weapons get a special "one less" modifier, so this becomes 0, -4, -8. So far, so good.

Now Rangers get 0, -3, -6 against targets that they have previously marked. If Rangers use agile weapons we get 0, -2, -4.

Now then, all heroes get to choose from class-specific feats and the Ranger can choose "Twin Takedown" which allows him to attack with both weapons with a single action assuming he wields one weapon in each hand. There is also a feat called "Dual strike" that pretty much does the same thing, just with completely different specifics. For one thing, it requires two actions, not just one. (Rangers access this feat through multiclassing or archetypes)

Our level 11 Ranger has both these feats. He also has three weapons: one throwing dagger which carries all the magical runes, one hatchet, and one cold iron bastard sword. The dagger and hatchet are agile, the sword is not.

This immediately makes the combinatorics explode.

He can start off a turn making a dagger/hatchet twin takedown attack, with 0, -2 attack modifiers (assuming the target is previously marked). He can then make a dual strike (with the same weapons) with his second action, and the attack penalties are -4, -4 for those attacks. If he takes these two actions in reverse order, we get 0, 0, -4, -4, so that's better (and different). Obviously the damage will be different for each weapon.

Okay so lets do Dual Strike before Twin Takedown in the future.

Now imagine he's attacking with dagger/sword instead of dagger/hatchet. The penalties become 0, -2 followed by -4, -8. Wait, what? The dual strike feat (but not the twin takedown feat) specifies that if the second attack is not made by an agile weapon, there's an additional -2 penalty. This explains why the first pair of attack modifiers are 0/-2 instead of the expected 0/0. For the second pair of attack modifiers the extra penalties comes from both this and how the third attack carries a "double -3" penalty for a non-agile attack (again assuming a ranger with a marked target, otherwise we're talking -10) explaining the -8. The -4 is the double -2 penalty for an agile weapon.

Okay so let's instead do the sword attack before the dagger in each pairing. Dual strike sword/dagger, twin takedown sword/dagger becomes 0, 0, -6, -4. Note how the numbers are completely different. (In fact, if you aren't a PF2 rules expert, I don't expect you to be able to follow along. Just go "this sounds extremely fiddly" and that's all I ask of you) Finally we have arrived at the optimal sequence.

That is just a single very small example. It just scratches the surface of what a single hero has to deal with for each and every combat turn, since the specifics rarely stay the same.
 


FrozenNorth

Adventurer
It is rather disingenuous to say that there are 2126 feats with "all filters off" when feats are heavily siloed. You are never picking feats with "all filter off".

_
glass.
This is a fair point. PF2 calls everything a feat, so you are correct that putting all the feats in one bucket is comparing apples and oranges (though to extend the analogy, both are still fruit 😀).

For the benefit of those who may not have played PF2, there are 5 types of feats: Racial Feats, Class Feats, Archetype Feats, General Feats and Skill Feats.

What kind of muddies things up however, is that some of the feats are interchangeable. There is a Racial Feat that allows you to pick a General Feat, a Racial Feat that allows you to pick a skill Feat, a Racial Feat that allows you to pick a Class Feat, a General Feat that allows you to pick a Racial Feat, a General Feat that allows you to pick a Skill Feat, and Class Feats can always be used to pick an Archetype Feat (and this is the only way to pick an Archetype Feat).

Focussing for the moment of Skill Feats (which are not gated behind a specific Class or Race), there are currently about 170 Skill Feats on Archives of Nethys after the game has been out for 1 year. Your tastes may vary, but to me, this is a lot of skill feats given that most Pathfinder books are continuing to add to that list.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
Focussing for the moment of Skill Feats (which are not gated behind a specific Class or Race), there are currently about 170 Skill Feats on Archives of Nethys after the game has been out for 1 year. Your tastes may vary, but to me, this is a lot of skill feats given that most Pathfinder books are continuing to add to that list.

While this is true, you're never choosing amongst the full list of 170, since they are all tied to level, and most often to your level of expertise. Usually you have a choice between 1-4 feats for each skill you're trained in (or whatever level of expertise you've reached).

Personally, I like the new way they have covered advancement in non-combat skills, compared to the skill point hassle that was the heart of DD3.x and PF1.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
While this is true, you're never choosing amongst the full list of 170, since they are all tied to level, and most often to your level of expertise. Usually you have a choice between 1-4 feats for each skill you're trained in (or whatever level of expertise you've reached).
For the record, depending on how many skills you are trained in, that could easily be choosing between 15 skill feats each time you receive a new skill feat. And, as I mentioned, that number is growing as new books come out.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
It is rather disingenuous to say that there are 2126 feats with "all filters off" when feats are heavily siloed. You are never picking feats with "all filter off".

_
glass.
No you never choose between two thousand choices, but that's hardly the point.

I feel the number speaks for itself.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
While this is true, you're never choosing amongst the full list of 170, since they are all tied to level, and most often to your level of expertise. Usually you have a choice between 1-4 feats for each skill you're trained in (or whatever level of expertise you've reached).

Personally, I like the new way they have covered advancement in non-combat skills, compared to the skill point hassle that was the heart of DD3.x and PF1.
Browsing through half a dozen books to find those feats that you qualify still means dismissing dozens and dozens of feats.

When you say you only have four feats to choose from, you will already have completed a hefty sorting task that should not be ignored.

Even feats you can't choose still count towards the brain power you need to spend, after all.

This is actually a great illustration of why you basically need the app...
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
For the record, depending on how many skills you are trained in, that could easily be choosing between 15 skill feats each time you receive a new skill feat. And, as I mentioned, that number is growing as new books come out.

Yeah, that sounds about right. I've just started playing a rogue with a high INT and he has all but 3-4 skills (not counting lores) as trained right at 1st level.

But of those 15 or so choices, I find you can narrow it down very quickly. If I've decided I want to focus on stealth and thievery, or intimidation and diplomacy, I'll look hardest at the choices proposed for those skills.

Really, the depth of possible customization in PF2 still astounds me. I mean, I'm not looking to "optimize" my character for any specific trick, just give him cool things he's good at. Very quickly, in a few short levels, your character is going to be unique - above and beyond any quibbling about funky mechanics on different two-weapon fighting feats, or what have you.

I haven't played D&D since DD3.5, but from what I gather, DD5 characters are far less unique, with fewer options as the level up.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think if you take every class and subclass and race feature or ability in all of 5E and call them “feats” you’ll probably get way more than 2000.

Pathfinder 2 calls everything feats. All that means is that PF2 has 2000 things in it.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
In the other thread someone used the phrase "complex and complicated."

I think it's worth making a distinction here - I'll call complexity the number of moving parts, and complicatedness the ease of access of those parts - in other words, how hard is it to find the rule you're looking for?

And PF2 is pretty good on the later, for a game as complex as it is. The heavy use of defined traits makes cross-referencing fairly easy in most cases. A negative example would be 3.x DnD, which had a lot of hidden rules that you had to already know about to even realize they were supposed to apply.

But PF2 is complex - that complexity buys a lot of depth and customization, but it's complex compared to most other ttrpgs.
 

Puggins

Explorer
Supporter
I think if you take every class and subclass and race feature or ability in all of 5E and call them “feats” you’ll probably get way more than 2000.

Pathfinder 2 calls everything feats. All that means is that PF2 has 2000 things in it.

This is the main point- the pathfinder team basically decided to name every single option in the game a feat, for good or ill. The only ones that resemble feats as they exist in 3/4/5e are skill feats and general feats, both of which are disassociated from specific heritages or classes. Heritage and class feats are more appropriately named "features."

There are fewer than 50 general feats (this a deficit that the APG did NOT address well) and about 100 skill feats. You can make the case that more are needed.

I do agree that several of the sub-systems are over-engineered. The general philosophy working here is that most actions require a die roll, which is complicating things a ton. Using medicine to treat wounds out of combat should require no die rolling, at all. Something like "10 minutes to heal 5+your level in hitpoints, 10+level for expert, 15+level for master, 20 + level for legendary" would probably be the way to go. Battlefield medicine or stabilizing a character could require rolls, since those are time-sensitive actions performed under stressful conditions. Crafting should function similarly.

Recall Knowledge, on the other hand, I would argue is under-engineered. There's an awful lot of hand-waving going on there. Say you want to make a recall knowledge check to figure out a Clay Golem's abilities and weaknesses. What should the DM tell you if you roll a success? how about a critical success? Ask different DMs and you'll probably completely different answers. The "official" result should be success will give you their most prominent feature- which one is that? The spells that slow them? The ones that harm them? The ones that heal them? How about their cursed wounds? How about their saves? It's very vague and can make a major difference in a combat.
 

TreChriron

Explorer
Supporter
So - PF2 combat and game play don't seem terribly complicated to me. I've been at this 40 years now and I GM games like GURPS and HERO. There are not a ton of complicated procedures (maybe figuring modifiers to a roll having the potential for most "points of handling"). What is unfortunate is many gamers look at the breadth of a game and measure complexity on choices. There is a LOT of choices in PF2, but in my experience players like choices. I like choices when I play!

Another thing to consider is classic level-based games are not designed for you to digest every option upfront. Sure, there is a whole segment of the gaming community that LOVES system mastery, planning out character builds, and getting the "perfect combo" of choices. That is a valid engagement and I applaud people who love to do it. Just like the segment of gamers who love to build things (the tinkerers as it were). But judging a game's complexity on availability of choices is misleading.

Personally, I determine complexity by a few things;

1) How often do the players have to engage the system in order to accomplish "the thing".
2) How often do players need to reference the rules in order to remember "the thing".
3) How long do the procedures take to resolve "the thing".

PF2 character creation at 1st level is not overly complex. I could argue that the process is more streamlined than 3.x days. For the build masters, it's more complex because there are TONS of options to chew on. That doesn't mean the game is complex, that just means system mastery is harder to obtain. You don't need system mastery to enjoy a game.

There is more clarification around the common procedures in PF2 (it's obvious the devs learned much about explaining things in a concise manner in hopes of reducing the debates or interpretations of the rules...). However, I don't see how combat or skill checks or using magic are any more or less complicated than 5e/PF2/PF1/3.x. You can easily add some notes on a character sheet for a new player, help them focus one level at a time, and build them into system mastery by level 6. By level 9 they should likely have the same fluency with the rules to plan out the next 9 levels with the same proficiency the master builder came in with.

In summary, I think many gamers see lots of options as making the game complex. This is misleading. The game is no more or less complex than other RPGs in its category. You likely won't have the same system mastery when you begin, but that is hardly necessary to enjoy the game if you want to take it one level at a time. Just my two cents...
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
I do agree that several of the sub-systems are over-engineered. The general philosophy working here is that most actions require a die roll, which is complicating things a ton. Using medicine to treat wounds out of combat should require no die rolling, at all. Something like "10 minutes to heal 5+your level in hitpoints, 10+level for expert, 15+level for master, 20 + level for legendary" would probably be the way to go. Battlefield medicine or stabilizing a character could require rolls, since those are time-sensitive actions performed under stressful conditions. Crafting should function similarly.
If I were to DM PF2, I would steal this houserule.
 

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I consider PF2 to be a fairly simple game, but that’s obscured by the presentation. The Playing the Game chapter of the CRB is a pretty tough slog. It introduces checks, which is not too bad. After that, it’s just page after page of definitions. Things like vision are actually pretty simple (and cleverly designed), but that’s obscured by the three pages of definitions and explanations. One could say it was written to be a reference, but it also needs to teach the game, and it doesn’t do that very well. Happily, the a PF2 Beginner’s Box is due out sooner rather than later (one year after launch instead of a couple like PF1), but it probably should have been released along with the CRB or even prior to it (like 5e did).

§ the game is predicated on heroes entering each encounter at or close to full health
I’m dubious of this assumption. The system doesn’t prescribe any particular adventuring day. The only time it even mentions being fully rested is for extreme encounters, which are meant to be infrequent. Severe-threat encounters actually acknowledge that PCs might not be at full resources as a complicating factor (along with bad luck and poor tactics). If the game were predicated on PCs always being rested, then why not just say that?

The classic notion of wandering monsters can't easily be used to motivate heroes to keep adventuring while they still have damage
If the PCs get into something that’s too dangerous for them, they should flee. The CRB mentions it when discussing severe-threat encounters, but the GMG also calls this out. In the Hexploration subsystem, it discusses one approach that includes having encounters so powerful that the correct tactic is to flee. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether PCs are at full hp. They can’t win regardless. If we accept that as a valid encounter, then it’s not too much of a stretch to consider ones where they’re too depleted as valid too. And if those are valid, they become useful tools for applying pressure to PCs in a dungeon.
 

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