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PF2 The Sameness Of The Six Abilities Over Time

Kaodi

Adventurer
I think we may have talked about this in one of the big PF2 threads but I do not remember where and I do not want to sift though all of that and maybe it would be better for it to be its own thread anyway.

First and foremost I rather like the new stat system, and I am not necessarily looking to change it. But I do think it has one notable shortcoming: everyone's ix ability scores are going to be more or less the same in the end. This is perhaps not necessarily as clear in theory crafting where you just imagine what the "end point" is going to look like (even though it is not that different there either). But when you think about what playing the game is actually going to be like it becomes more clear: there is not really any point in raising an ability score to an odd number at level 15, and in many cases probably even level 10, because you need 9 or 10 levels to raise an ability score past 18 to an effective level. In a system where stacking +1 bonuses are hard to come by it is always going to be better to put a boost in a sub-18 ability where you will actually get some use out of it for the next 5 levels and see some improvement over the last 5.

Because of how this system works I also think it is important in PF2 to try and be upfront about how long a game is expected to last so that no one makes an ability score odd when they will not get the chance to make it even later. If you are planning on playing until past level 10 then it makes sense to have a 19 at level 5, but if not, then again, you might as well put that boost somewhere it is going to actually affect the game (I was sort of thinking about this in particular because of the Knights of Everflame promotional game, where everyone is level 5 and is going to more or less stay that way). Basically I think there are two optimal end game stat distributions, 20 18 18 18 18 16, where you get that 20 in your key ability at level 10, or maybe 20 20 18 18 18 12, where you get both of those 20s at level 15. But unless maybe you are playing a campaign where you expect to keep your level 20 characters for a long period of time, just without the level ups, there is not point in making an ability 19 or 21 at level 15.

This was all less of an issue in PF1 because of the way ability damage worked. And if you are one of those purists who likes to roll 4d6 for abilities you may get a bit more mileage out of boosting odd ability scores because when you boost a 17 it becomes 19 rather than an 18. But overall this is the reality for PF2. As I said I am not looking to change it per se. It is just a part of the system that people should be thinking about when they plan their characters ability scores.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
These are good points, but I am not sure how this is fully particular to PF2. The "sameness" of PF2's ability scores is not that far removed from having a standard array or point buy. It's arguably something of a hybrid of the two methods. Though to be perfectly honest - apart from "tradition" - I'm not sure why PF2 decided to stick with ability scores and not just use modifiers such that a boost would be +1.

Knowing the longevity of the game for making decisions about stats is also something of an issue in 5e. Sure getting a bonus ASI to my stats is useful, and I should try to max my main stat, BUT if the game starting at 1st level is probably only going to 8th level before the DM burns out, then I may prefer taking the "cool" feat over the ASI.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
In general I consider it a positive trend that Pathfinder 2 characters are more broadly capable and less specialized than what we see in most other versions of modern Dungeons and Dragons. This means the core math of the game is far less likely to break over time as characters rise in levels. It also means certain concepts like fighters who are every inch a legitimate knight with strong social skills or multi-class wizard/fighters are much easier to realize without tanking their core competency.

I do think you are somewhat underselling the impact of specializing, particularly in a game where every single bonus is worthwhile. Some ability scores like Intelligence, Charisma, and Strength (also if you want to be melee) are really only useful if you have the skill training to back it up. Honestly I expect to see more specialization than you expect because I have a lot of experience with games like Legend of the Five Rings and Exalted where escalating costs for ability scores are a thing and while you do see some generalists specialists are still definitely a thing. My experience with these games is that most characters will pick a couple of key areas to specialize in instead of just one, not that they try to be good at everything.

More importantly I think it's a good thing that when we get to things like social encounters or dealing with traps and the like that multiple characters are able to effectively contribute, even if one character may be better. It means these things engage multiple players which means we can have more of them at the table.

I also think even if you are right and ability scores are very similar it will not really be felt in play that much because differences in proficiency level and specializing through skill and class feats will provide plenty of differentiation in terms of what characters are capable of that characters will still feel plenty distinct. I played in a lengthy Exalted game once where my Zenith caste martial artist had ability scores that were very similar to the Eclipse Caste bureaucrat (strong physical and social scores), but our skills and special abilities were so different that at the table they felt materially different.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Because of how this system works I also think it is important in PF2 to try and be upfront about how long a game is expected to last so that no one makes an ability score odd when they will not get the chance to make it even later.
As an alternative take: it is entirely fine for the GM to not discuss their plans for the campaign end with their players.

Just to say that while it's certainly nice of the GM to volunteer such information to you as a player, you are not entitled to it, and cannot demand it. Expecting you can and will level up your character without full information is entirely reasonable.

Cheers
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Let's consider a fairly typical 4th Level Fighter

Vertigan (Level 4)
Ability Scores: 18 Strength, 12 Dexterity, 14 Constitution, 10 Intelligence, 14 Wisdom, 10 Charisma
Trained Skills: Athletics (Expert) 12, Intimidate 6, Lore(Warefare) 6, Medicine 8, Nature 8, Survival 8

This is Vertigan if assuming a long term campaign

Vertigan (Level 5)
Ability Scores: 19 Strength, 12 Dexterity, 16 Constitution, 10 Intelligence, 16 Wisdom, 12 Charisma
Trained Skills: Athletics (Expert) 13, Intimidate 8, Lore(Warefare) 7, Medicine (Expert) 12, Nature 10, Survival 10

This is Vertigan if assuming a short term campaign

Vertigan (Level 5)
Ability Scores: 18 Strength, 12 Dexterity, 16 Constitution, 12 Intelligence, 16 Wisdom, 12 Charisma
Trained Skills: Athletics (Expert) 13, Intimidate 8, Lore(Warefare) 8, Medicine (Expert) 12, Nature 10, Society 8, Survival 10

Is the short term version better off? Sure. He managed to pickup a skill (Society) and is slightly better at Lore (Warfare) then he was before. Is he much better off? I don't really think so. He picked up a skill that chances are someone else in the party was already much better at. I mean maybe Religion or Diplomacy might have been a better choice, but the same line of reasoning likely applies. He is not meaningfully better at any of his core competencies.

You are already getting boosts to 4 Ability Scores. Choosing not to boost your primary score means you are dropping to your fifth priority. In this case Vertigan has opted to stay at 12 Dexterity because he wears heavy armor so it's kind of his last priority.

Let's also be real about picking up a skill. Vertigan is human. He has had so many opportunities to train in another skill. Every general feat, ancestry feat, and skill feat has been an opportunity to pick up Society. How badly does Vertigan's player really want it?

I mean it is useful to have a more broadly capable character, but the fundamental question here is how much of an impact that 12 Intelligence is really going to have on play. Will long term play planning Vertigan's player miss it? Will his fellow players notice the difference?

Personally I would be fine with players retraining their boost given maybe a month of downtime. It's not something I consider a super big deal, but would want some time in the fiction to justify.

I do not think in most cases you can really plan this stuff out. Most campaigns do not close at a certain planned level. I know the way I run games I have no way of knowing when the story will be finished because I do not have an outcome planned out. We just play until there is no more story left to tell for these characters.

Even if there is a plan it often does not go the way you think it will. Unexpected things happen. New story arcs appear out of play. Sometimes real life just gets in the way. Sometimes you go back to a game everyone thought was finished because you decide there is more story there or you just like the game.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
As an alternative take: it is entirely fine for the GM to not discuss their plans for the campaign end with their players.

Just to say that while it's certainly nice of the GM to volunteer such information to you as a player, you are not entitled to it, and cannot demand it. Expecting you can and will level up your character without full information is entirely reasonable.

Cheers
This is specific to the culture of the table. For its part the text of the Core Rulebook instructs GMs to foster a welcoming and collaborative relationship with the other players. This is why the First Rule is stated in terms of the playgroup. The GM is given authority, but they are expected to use it responsibly.

Core Rulebook said:
The First Rule

The first rule of Pathfinder is that this game is yours. Use it to tell the stories you want to tell, be the character you want to be, and share exciting adventures with friends. If any other rule gets in the way of your fun, as long as your group agrees, you can alter or ignore it to fit your story. The true goal of Pathfinder is for everyone to enjoy themselves.
For my part if I am player I expect a welcoming GM who will work with me. I will not play a game with someone who will not. Likewise when I run games I do my best to build strong collaborative relationships with the other players and I expect that everyone is willing to work together. You might have different expectations, but that does not mean that those of who do have those expectations are wrong. Just that we probably should not play together.
 
On a slightly different note (I agree that all will start to look the same, just as they do in 5e), This is just one reason to try no stats. They not only make characters the same, they limit the class and race (heritage) as well. It would be nice for one of the "big two" to break this mold. I know that in my preferred system, there are no stats, only skills (which inherently rely on stats but are not racially or class based).
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
This is specific to the culture of the table. For its part the text of the Core Rulebook instructs GMs to foster a welcoming and collaborative relationship with the other players. This is why the First Rule is stated in terms of the playgroup. The GM is given authority, but they are expected to use it responsibly.



For my part if I am player I expect a welcoming GM who will work with me. I will not play a game with someone who will not. Likewise when I run games I do my best to build strong collaborative relationships with the other players and I expect that everyone is willing to work together. You might have different expectations, but that does not mean that those of who do have those expectations are wrong. Just that we probably should not play together.
Yes...?

I'm just saying that if you demand meta knowledge just to assist your char-building, you're way off base. Especially if you point to rules pages to try to "prove" your right.

If on the other hand, you express gratitude over a GM voluntarily divulging the exact same information, that is entirely fine.

Look at it this way: I'm not supposed to take gifts for granted, I'm supposed to be pleasantly surprised.


One GM might discuss the campaign end with his players. Another might, say, hand out better starting gear. A third might, I don't know, say he doesn't like the way you only get one Ancestry feat at first level and instead hand out two. And a fourth one might simply toil away at creating a great and immersive story for the campaign.

All these approaches are equally fine. As a player you are not entitled to any of it.

If you do get it, just be thankful for having a great Games Master :)
 

ccs

39th lv DM
This is specific to the culture of the table. For its part the text of the Core Rulebook instructs GMs to foster a welcoming and collaborative relationship with the other players. This is why the First Rule is stated in terms of the playgroup. The GM is given authority, but they are expected to use it responsibly.



For my part if I am player I expect a welcoming GM who will work with me. I will not play a game with someone who will not. Likewise when I run games I do my best to build strong collaborative relationships with the other players and I expect that everyone is willing to work together. You might have different expectations, but that does not mean that those of who do have those expectations are wrong. Just that we probably should not play together.
So let's say you join our game. And you request/demand to know how long the campaigns expected to run.
I'm going to tell you: "About 15-18 months of real time. We generally play every Sunday for about 5hrs.
But I'm sorry, I don't know what lv you'll reach. Make a character that you'll enjoy playing for about a year & a half."
That's the honest answer. Is that inclusive enough for you?

If you press the point? Then I'll tell you "Lv.20"
Because that's the optimistic answer & we all hope for that to happen (even though it rarely does).
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
So let's say you join our game. And you request/demand to know how long the campaigns expected to run.
I'm going to tell you: "About 15-18 months of real time. We generally play every Sunday for about 5hrs.
But I'm sorry, I don't know what lv you'll reach. Make a character that you'll enjoy playing for about a year & a half."
That's the honest answer. Is that inclusive enough for you?

If you press the point? Then I'll tell you "Lv.20"
Because that's the optimistic answer & we all hope for that to happen (even though it rarely does).
Yeah. Totally, I am just looking for a relationship built on mutual respect and a sense that this is something we are all doing together. I want us to both be able to set boundaries and work things out as social equals. I am a GM too so I get that there like different responsibilities, but it is important to me that I can air concerns without judgement. I am willing to do the same in return. If we like have creative differences or differences in priorities that cannot be resolved than we can go our separate ways and hopefully remain friends.

So I just do not view the stuff a GM does as a gift to the other players. I do not view it that way when I GM. I run games because it is fun for me. I play because it is also fun, but a different kind of fun. Like the GM is given authority so the game can like happen, but it does not mean we cannot be socially equal if that makes sense.

In my view the GM is one of the players of the game, just one with like a different role to play. I just want everyone to be heard, valued, and respected. I try to foster that type of environment when I run games because I want to know if someone if not happy about something or like not getting what they are looking for. Mutual respect, consideration, and collaboration is all I am looking for on both sides of the screen.
 

Kaodi

Adventurer
One thing that I find kind of personally fun/ny: I have tried a kind of random character generation a number of times purely as an exercise, but not one where you roll 4d6 for stats.

I roll for for ancestry (half-elf and half-orc are counted as heritages for this step) then I roll to see which abilities get the free boosts.
I roll for heritage.
I roll for background using d100 (each background is gets two numbers for now, and I reroll if there is anything higher than 2x available backgrounds). I roll for which of the two listed abilities is boosted, then I roll where to put the remaining free one. If their background has a variable skill, probably roll for that too.
I roll for where to put the four free boosts.
I roll for class, but I sometimes roll which which ability gets the variable boost, sometimes not, depending on if there is a tie between the two relevant abilities to begin with. If there is no tie, I usually opt to stick it on the one that is higher.

So the fun thing is that is if your campaign lasts long enough and your character survives the sameness of ability scores at the upper levels means that eventually they will become basically the same as if you chose their abilities at the beginning. And that could be an interesting way to play it sometimes I think.

Here is the outline of a character I made last night using this method.

rock dwarf scout outwit ranger 1, lawful neutral
str 12 dex 14 con 12 int 14 wis 16 cha 10
feats
ancestral - dwarven lore
background - forager
class - monster hunter
skills
trained - arcana, athletics, crafting, deception, dwarven lore, intimidation, nature, occultism, plains lore, religion, society, stealth, survival
 

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