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PF2E Regarding the complexity of Pathfinder 2

kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
I think when it comes to encounter difficulty part of the issue with getting some groups to adjust encounters to suit their needs is psychological. PF2 calls a spade a spade, but as we have seen in the video game world there a number of people who want to play games on an easier mode while not wanting to call it that. When you say maybe stick to low threat encounters until you find your feet it does not feel good despite being a fairly accurate assessment of encounter difficulty. Like the encounter difficulty categories in 3e, 4e and 5e have this psychological boosting effect because they call things challenges that are not in fact challenging like at all.
Maybe call low-threat instead of moderate-threat? I agree there’s a bias against “easy” fights (as evidenced by some of the comments here), but I wonder if there’s also a counter-intuition with the term “moderate-threat” that will actually beat the crap out of the party unless they work together effectively as a team.

Alternately, instead of calibrating the guidelines against expectations, just build them with those expectations in mind. Shift all the creatures’ levels up by 2. Everything is built to a guideline anyway, so it’s not like level matters. Now, you can have four 1st level creatures fight a 1st level party, and it won’t be an extreme (i.e., deadly) encounter.
 

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kenada

Adventurer
Supporter
These last few posts got me thinking more about why I view simplicity the way I do. Well, I have a computer science background and work as a software engineer. Taking small things and building bigger things out of them is just what I do. 😃

So traits and stuff like that appeals to me because they are like little boxes that I can combine into bigger effects. With free-style rules, you’ve got to infer intent and hope that your overall understanding of the system is enough that you don’t accidentally break things. With a trait, you should just need to reason about the effect it will have on things with that trait (which are all conveniently identified because that’s how traits work).

So at the risk of possibly not endearing my position or argument to some here, that seemed like an observation worth sharing. 😅
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think when it comes to encounter difficulty part of the issue with getting some groups to adjust encounters to suit their needs is psychological. PF2 calls a spade a spade, but as we have seen in the video game world there a number of people who want to play games on an easier mode while not wanting to call it that. When you say maybe stick to low threat encounters until you find your feet it does not feel good despite being a fairly accurate assessment of encounter difficulty. Like the encounter difficulty categories in 3e, 4e and 5e have this psychological boosting effect because they call things challenges that are not in fact challenging like at all.
"Story Mode" :p
 

Pathfinder is a book full of options (2000+ options) but I would not consider it difficult. It's extremely processual with the most consistent, predictive math I've seen in an RPG since GURPS.
 

Campbell

Legend
These last few posts got me thinking more about why I view simplicity the way I do. Well, I have a computer science background and work as a software engineer. Taking small things and building bigger things out of them is just what I do. 😃

So traits and stuff like that appeals to me because they are like little boxes that I can combine into bigger effects. With free-style rules, you’ve got to infer intent and hope that your overall understanding of the system is enough that you don’t accidentally break things. With a trait, you should just need to reason about the effect it will have on things with that trait (which are all conveniently identified because that’s how traits work).

So at the risk of possibly not endearing my position or argument to some here, that seemed like an observation worth sharing. 😅

I am in a similar position (software engineer and user experience designer) although my degree is in Information Systems rather than Computer Science. I also do have substantial time in art school though.

For me personally the way the rules of a game are written contribute substantially to how smooth it feels at the table. PF2 feels smooth to me because I find it much easier to tell what rules are actually in effect compared to games like 5e that use "natural language" where if I want to actually use the rules I have to interpret it like a bible verse. I think most people are not aware of how complex a game like 5e can feel because they gloss over substantial portions of the rules because they are hidden in obscuring paragraphs.

Most rules elements in PF2 are written in a very crisp, procedural way where it is very easy to follow the steps. You resolve something and you are basically done with it. Interactions are easy for me to process due to how modular and object oriented the game is with traits and some fairly consistent interface stuff like a consistent proficiency system, counteracting, and a very consistent action economy with very few passive effects built into the game. It is also extremely explicit about where and when it expects the GM to apply their judgement.

The text absolutely should have been better organized. There's also tons of ways it could be written to provide a better user experience. Crafting could have used another pass. The character sheet is fairly awful (so is the official 5e sheet).

Still the technical writing, actual play processes, and core game play loops feel very smooth in play to me. The game is actually designed in a very modular way with a fairly good design manual in the Game Mastery Guide. Feature like rarity, traits, modular actions and activities that look like Apocalypse World moves structurally let you extend and change the system in more of an agile way,

Some people like @CapnZapp would have liked a game designed for a tighter experience where attrition was less dynamic and you could design to an experience better. So they spend an inordinate amount of time reading the tea leaves for more exacting guidelines than actually exist. PF2 is not 4e.

I think one of the reasons why PF2 might feel more smooth (and possibly you @kenada ) to me personally is that one of the lead designers is actually a very well trained Computer Scientist. Before joining Paizo Mark Seifter was working on his PhD at MIT. I think that's way there is such a strong like modular and object oriented approach to systems design. Also probably why it sometimes shows too much of its guts.
 

Campbell

Legend
Ayep.


Like it or not, far too many D&D gamers just aren't interested in how other games solve issues.

Being able to say "but AD&D fixed it" or "it works without a hitch in 4E" or "just look at Pathfinder for a much better solution" carries much more weight than pointing to OSR or Apocalypse Now or Call of Cthulhu. While this is partly unwarranted, it actually is partially warranted. D&D needs to solve a particular set of questions that other games can just drop.

I might not like everything about 5E, but i consider it undeniable that its designers managed to truly get rid of the 3E crud and many darlings were killed. 5E really represents a very impressive effort in pleasing your customers while actually not listening the the demands that existing detail and structure "must" be retained.

Sure, the game erred on the side of simplicity too much, but still: PF2 would have been a vastly better game had Paizo bothered to check up on the competitition... and made that show in its own rulebook.

Absolutely. And when it does I'm there to point it out. (For instance with its legacy crud about hand usage, spell components and object interaction. When you read those rules you get the distinct impression you're no longer reading the easygoing game 5E is elsewhere)

I think this post encapsulates a lot of why we often butt heads sometimes. I am not really concerned with "D&D gamers" or even gamers in a general sense. I evaluate games based on if provides a compelling play experience that I and the rest of the people I play with or might want to play with would be interested in. That is a very small subset of that group. Solving for the general subset will often result in a poor experience for the subset I am interested in.

I also have about zero interest in chasing after some mythical perfect game that we can play until we do not want to play anymore. That sounds absolutely dreadful to me. I have about 7 games that are D&D adjacent on my shelf. Even within the dungeon fantasy substrate I value that diversity of play.

I honestly do not understand the focus on a greater meta narrative about what the game should be instead of concrete discussion of what the game actually is. Speaking personally sometimes it seems to skew towards a gate keeping direction. I do not want to be unfair here, but a substantial part of things you consider outmoded are things I consider essential to dungeon fantasy. In any event I do not think these sorts of meta narratives do much to further discussion in a fruitful direction. It absolutely undermined meaningful critical analysis of Fourth Edition because it changes the discussion from one about a game and how it functions to if the game has a right to exist in its present form. I do not think that discussion is helpful.
 

Campbell

Legend
Maybe call low-threat instead of moderate-threat? I agree there’s a bias against “easy” fights (as evidenced by some of the comments here), but I wonder if there’s also a counter-intuition with the term “moderate-threat” that will actually beat the crap out of the party unless they work together effectively as a team.

Alternately, instead of calibrating the guidelines against expectations, just build them with those expectations in mind. Shift all the creatures’ levels up by 2. Everything is built to a guideline anyway, so it’s not like level matters. Now, you can have four 1st level creatures fight a 1st level party, and it won’t be an extreme (i.e., deadly) encounter.

That's pretty much the Fourth Edition model. It definitely can work well, but also usually comes with other ways in which adversaries and player characters are treated differently in regards to the rules. I really appreciate how level being a fairly consistent measurement of power has allowed for a smooth play experience. Spells can just refer to level. You can build NPCs like PCs and have the encounter building guidelines work pretty well. I do think a better label for moderate should have been chosen, Maybe something like how Blades in the Dark calls its baseline Risky to let players know it's still fairly dangerous. Maybe Tough Threat or something like that. Words are hard.

I do think Paizo has made a fairly conscious marketing decision to try to be the Dark Souls to Fifth Edition's Mass Effect. It honestly plays to their strengths as a company. From the beginning when they were publishing Dungeon magazine Paizo adventures have always focused on going deep into the lore of the game and being like pretty damn difficult. I think the game was pretty designed with that approach in mind. It is very modular and can be played at a less highly tuned level, but it was absolutely designed with that sort of material in mind. For instance, the level scaling was definitely put in place largely to make boss monsters more threatening in like an aggressive Dark Souls way where Legendary Monsters in 5e feel more like the Reaper fight or a World of Warcraft raid encounter (not meant negatively).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Opinion on PF2 hasn't changed. Bought the PDF to complex and a pain to navigate.

Would play, would not run. Effectively means I'm not going to get to play it.

If I'm not playing 5E my tastes lean towards OSR or D6 Star Wars.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Meanwhile I'm still unsure of whether I like +10 crit or not.

I mean, the way I observed is that it works: low level mooks without flanking or debuffs likely only crit party's martials on nat 19 or 20, high level solo enemies deal enough damage even if party kites them to be threathening. However it doesn't really feel fun from player perspective to be critted a lot by enemy :p

I'm still under impression that system works best when "higher than pc level" enemies are rare, so most of time "+2 party level" enemies should be the "strongest enemies" while most enemies should be equal level or lower with couple "+1" mixed in among the mooks and encounters should almost never have multiple higher leveled creatures at same time.

But yeah, I still long for that 1-20 campaign experience, so far my experience is PF2e scenarios up to level 8 and plaguestone/slithering which are both incredibly difficult in different ways(plaguestone is composed of severe level difficulty encounters, while slithering starts with ooze hell and then becomes easy once oozes are done with :p)

Overall though, system is so far my favorite tabletop game ever besides Cypher system, but at least I get to play this game :p

(I have really strong dislike of 5e more I run it, I do kinda tolerate it but I couldn't play it as my main game, one oneshot every meanwhile or maybe one campaign that gets to high levels might be nice, but I kinda got bored of it when I did actually get chance to play long games of it

So while 5e is markting success, I get strong distaste on "2e should be more like 5e to be successful in the market!" especially nobody can hope to beat wizard of the coast's market share unless they bungle it up horribly.)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I too have a background as a programmer and computer consultant. I too found the "clean" approach of PF2's three-action system and orthogonal core systems intriguing.

To me, all your praise for Pathfinder 2 is fair. At first look, when you're playing at first level.

What I'm telling you is that the complexity quickly - too quickly - snowballs to ridiculous extremes. To me, Pathfinder 2 comes across not only as a game where the dev team is fighting to rein in system complexity but lost control - but as a game where the dev team is completely oblivious as to the negatives of system complexity, and in fact is pushing hard to exploit every single little design nook or rules cranny.

I would have hoped that the dozen examples already posted would be enough to convince you but maybe I have to go deeper into the scary rabbit hole that is PF2 rules exceptions and things that should work identically but merely works similarly.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
If that is aimed at me, I am not sure what argument you think I was making in that post? I stated a few facts, and then gave a couple of opinions. That said, do you really disagree that working to get the maths to work is something that RPG designers should be doing?

_
glass.
That kind of questioning isn't going to lead anywhere worthwhile. What I mean is that I would like to invite you to engage directly with the specific examples I have brought up. Just pick one for starters.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
What I'm telling you is that the complexity quickly - too quickly - snowballs to ridiculous extremes. To me, Pathfinder 2 comes across not only as a game where the dev team is fighting to rein in system complexity but lost control - but as a game where the dev team is completely oblivious as to the negatives of system complexity, and in fact is pushing hard to exploit every single little design nook or rules cranny.

I would have hoped that the dozen examples already posted would be enough to convince you but maybe I have to go deeper into the scary rabbit hole that is PF2 rules exceptions and things that should work identically but merely works similarly.
Umm, its mostly the subjective opinions and experiences. Like I don't have enough 2e experience to say for sure, but my experience from playtest was that high level 2e wasn't much different than low level in terms of complexity. Examples about opening doors and gripping on weapons and crafting still being annoying doesn't really change much.

I mean, unless you are again comparing it to 5e which is super milktoast simple(except when it isn't, 5e is annoying hybrid between "Oh, there aren't rules for this, GM decides what happens and what you roll" and "Oh, there IS rule for this small thing), I haven't had that experience by level 8. PF 1e is complicated to GM because every single NPC is built like pc and changing small thing changes two other things, where 2e npc creation is "they have stats you want them to have" without need to reverse engineer them to basic root or search for feats you need for the monster. Player side it is complicated because at high levels it becomes matter of tracking dozen buffs and calculating them into stats.

What I mean is, I have read your examples earlier in thread and while you weren't trying to convince me(as I wasn't part of conversation), I wasn't really convinced by your arguments and on some of them I had reaction of "I don't see that as issue" or even "I prefer that to 5e or 1e". What I get from your arguments is that you believe you have discovered method to be surefire market success based on 5e and assume same works in PF 2e and that because paizo isn't following your ideas, they are going to fail eventually. Meanwhile I see that as "If the system was too similar to 5e, the players would play 5e anyway"

ON sidenote since scenarios were discussed earlier, there is one thing that annoys me about encounter design in 1e and 2e PFS scenarios: Besides the apparently having quota of how many encounters there are in the adventure, I feel like the encounters try too hard to be tactically difficult. Like having complicated hazards/terrain unique to the adventure, meanwhile AP encounters tend to be more of "And here is cool monster/scene". Its mostly thing in higher leveled scenarios, but I'm also kinda tired of every scenario(especially in 2e) having boss fight that feels like "end of ap book or campaign final boss" level difficulty :p
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I actually recognized that in one of my other posts when I brought up skill feats. I think it’s a good idea, but it screws up the simplicity.

When I say the framework is consistent with few exceptions, I mean the framework. You get three actions and a reaction, and you don’t have various exceptions written into the framework. We don’t need to have discussions about how many times a paladin can smite in a round or whether under some circumstances we can cast two spells because the action economy handles that. We also don’t need to memorize a table of situations where something provokes an AoO, but we also don’t have to give up the richness that 3e and PF1 had by simplifying it down to one or two events. Yes, there are traits like [Flourish] and other traits, but if you’re not dealing with those, you can ignore them. If you are, they’re explicit about what they do.

The same goes for making rolls. Everything is a check. Everything works on a same scale. If you can justify rolling a Reflex attack versus an Attack DC, the math will work. Something modify Strength checks? Then yes it affects your attack roll. They restate that in conditions like enfeeble, but I think that’s just to accommodate people who are used to attacks and saves and checks all being distinct things.
This is true.

Had Paizo been able to resist cluttering this down to the point where this clean design is entirely obscured by fiddly exceptions I would agreed. Now I merely see myself some 15-20 levels ago, before I got disillusioned.

After all, we're not playing the framework. We're playing the full game.

Let's take an analogy from the computing world, just because people here seems to be itchin' for a computative dick-measuring contest! ;)

PF2 comes across as if a competent programmer (let's call him "Kenada") went down the basement and came back up a year later with a elegant core engine that just hums, across all levels. Pressing F11 gets you consistent results, just stronger as you level up. Then you have the sales force that just say "yes" to every customer, no matter how ridiculous or incompatible their demands, forcing this "Kenada" to create all sorts of subroutines and overlays. You press F11 to do this, except you can't if these three circumstances are in play (but do press CTRL+L to allow F11 even when that middle circumstance has happened!), and if you've installed this thing over here, it actually does the reverse of what you want it to do, but you'll have to remember that yourself.

This framework you are speaking of is the core engine. The subroutines and overlays foisted upon it by the sales dept are the feats, and the items, and the individual skill actions.

The problem is that at level 1, you're mostly interacting with the core framework, easily compartmentalizing the odd feat rule, dismissing the weirdly limited skill rule as "we're just level 1" and probably not interacting with magic items at all. At this point I would not recommend making predictions about your future experience, at level 11 or 19... Just sayin'
 

CapnZapp

Legend
For example, I have my PCs carry bows in slings when they’re traveling. How long does it take to ready a bow? You need to Interact to take it off your back, Interact to remove it from the sling, Interact to brace it behind your leg, Interact to bend it forward, and Interact to put the string in place. Five actions! The system doesn’t have rules for that, but I was able to come up with something that just naturally fit in the action economy and actually makes sense realistically (just go watch some videos on Youtube and see how long it takes people to string a bow). No rulings, just applying the framework.
Not to sling mud on your house rules, but that would limit bows to only encounters where you know things are about to get real. I'm assuming we are in agreement this rule would be a poor fit as a general CRB rule, given the propensity for AP encounters to just begin with "the Ogre wins initiative, it charges forward and sinks its Club into your face!"

It's not a poor rule, I mean, just one that caters to a subset of campaigns (more realistic ones).
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Like I said before, skill feats are problematic. They muddle the framework. I don’t find your example problems compelling, but I agree with the basic premise: it should be possible to do something unusual with a skill at a higher DC than normal. If you want to Make an Impression to a group, it should just be possible to attempt that at a higher DC. Technically, that wouldn’t negate the benefit of Group Impression, but the rules aren’t clear on being able to do that, and we can’t trust that Paizo will never design skill feats that don’t mess up that approach.
I would be interested in your help coming up with more compelling examples. For starters: What about my examples aren't compelling?
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
On sidenote, why do you keep posting multiple posts in row instead of either putting everything in single post or just focusing on single issue at time? I notice that multiple posters in thread do that, so is that just common practice on this site?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Full disclosure: I have a hard time believing anyone who likes the rule actually runs their game RAW.

On one hand I am struggling to see how you could use all the rules and not come away frustrated and emasculated (as a GM, as a player).

On the other, I can easily see the game engine humming if you just plain ignore every niggling exception and limitation. Of course it works then. But in that case, defending Paizo's CRB would in my mind be disingenuous, since what you're really selling is "Bob's Pathfinder 2" or "Sue Cherry-Picking What She Likes About The CRB".
 

glass

(he, him)
That kind of questioning isn't going to lead anywhere worthwhile. What I mean is that I would like to invite you to engage directly with the specific examples I have brought up. Just pick one for starters.
I reread your posts in the last two pages of this thread (which is already far more effort than this warrants), and I do not see any examples. The only one I recall from before that is surprise (or the lack thereof), which I already agreed with. I am not going to reread a 17 page thread chasing down examples if you cannot be bothered to reiterate or link back to them.

EDIT: As for "not leading anywhere worthwhile", I think that is more true of your cryptic one liners than my calling you on them.

EDIT2: When I ran PF2 (and 12th level one shot homebrew), I played everything RAW as far as I am aware (with the aforementioned possible exception of surprise). I obviously cannot rule out the possibility that I made mistakes along the way.


_
glass.
 
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MaskedGuy

Explorer
Full disclosure: I have a hard time believing anyone who likes the rule actually runs their game RAW.
You say that, but I don't know anybody who runs any system 100% by raw, even 5e :p

Joking aside, I don't really see big deal with grips and door opening? I mean, yeah, one of my players started to troll me about two handed weapon casting fiend until we noticed that you can actually cast somatic spells while having two handed weapon. Its kinda weird, but it seems to be mostly to give reason for "one hand free" character types to exist(such as saving hand free for shoving or tripping while having rapier)

But yeah, I... Don't really get what you mean with the middle sentence besides that its your personal opinions and I personally disagree with it and I've felt much more freedom playing and running 2e than running 1e?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
On sidenote, why do you keep posting multiple posts in row instead of either putting everything in single post or just focusing on single issue at time? I notice that multiple posters in thread do that, so is that just common practice on this site?
Honestly I feel multi-quotes aren't worth the trouble.

Right now I'm in front of desk, where a mouse+keyboard makes it easy-ish to construct longer posts. But half the time I'm accessing the site from my phone. Having to manually extract parts of long replies on a touch screen is a pain in the rear, so by avoiding multi-quotes, I'm hoping everybody else avoids them too. It's just too bothersome to reply without just leaving the full quote intact, so ideally that full quote is just a single thought from a single person.
 

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