Pathfinder 2E Wish me luck: starting a Pathfinder 2 game via Foundry


Doing the best imitation of myself
For the first time in over two years, I'll be running a game for my group, and we're going to try Pathfinder 2. The last game I ran was Curse of Strahd in 5E so this will be a different experience.
We are going to the the Beginners Box to learn the system (and how Foundry works) and then move into Abomination Vaults.
Any thoughts, suggestions, or advice in general are greatly appreciated. I will try and update this with what happened to maybe give you some help if you're in the same situation.

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Doing the best imitation of myself
What kind of advice are you wanting? I've run PF2, this specific adventure, and on Foundry. I've got a bit of knowledge to share.
I left it open ended, so any of your thoughts is useful to me. I suppose if you had an idea for the best classes for the group to run with, I'd appreciate that. We're using Pathbuilder to create the characters and then I'll work with the players to add their characters to Foundry.


I left it open ended, so any of your thoughts is useful to me. I suppose if you had an idea for the best classes for the group to run with, I'd appreciate that. We're using Pathbuilder to create the characters and then I'll work with the players to add their characters to Foundry.
The best classes to use - stick with the ones included in the Beginner Box. Let the players use these more streamlined options to see how the game is played before they get into the big task of character creation.

Here's what "bad character" design can look like in Pathfinder 2:
  • As a spellcaster, you can't target different Saving Throws, AC, or do different kinds of damage.
  • As a rogue, you're set up to not be maneuverable enough to get flanks and the all-important Sneak attack.
  • As a cleric, you don't have Medicine to do First Aid checks outside of combat (where most healing takes place). You skimp on Charisma so you don't get as many "free" Heal spells.
  • For any character, you don't plan ahead for "the third action" and you end up wasting it on an ineffective third attack at -10. Are you going to be taunting, using Recall Knowledge, raising a shield? You need to use that third action smartly.
So if it's your first time in PF2, keep in mind that if you play with the mindset of 5e, you're going to run into a lot of trouble. My groups averaged a TPK every other session. It's best to use the Beginner Box how it's intended: as a learning exercise to teach the system. You're likely going to finish it in a session or two, so let it be a trial run of the system to learn how to play it.


Doing the best imitation of myself
One of the things on my schedule is to talk about "third act(ion) problems" just for this reason. That's the key difference that I see they may need to figure out.
That and making sure they have non-magical healing, since my experience playing is that you enter each combat near full HP.


Doing the best imitation of myself
I thought you might like an update on this since we made characters last night and I taught a little of the game system. I made a Discord for the game, and then shared my screen and opened up pathbuilder. The group was super impressed with it.
The characters for the game are: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, and Swashbuckler.
We went over some of the core differences in Pathfinder rules. The most important ones that my group talk about were:
  • The check rules with critical fail -->Fail-->Success-->Critical Success. This was a popular rule.
  • The three action rules in combat and "MAP attack". I explained many, many times how having something different to do with that third action is important.
  • The 10 minute encounter break and how you can heal with Medicine checks. The assumption that you will enter most encounters with full HP.
  • Focus spells and refocusing.
  • Exploration activities and what you can do between encounters.

I did an overview of Otari (where the game is taking place) and set the scene for both the Beginners Box adventure and Abomination Vaults.

And that's where we ended.


I can give some advice on running Abomination Vaults though I run in person not on a VTT.

Abomination Vaults is a megadungeon. My advice is to determine up front how you want to run it and what play experience you want your characters to have; tell your players you are running it that way, and take any steps to make the system run the way you want it too. For example: “traditional megadungeons” have tons of quests that take characters into the dungeon, monsters that move about and may take actions to counter the PCs, contain monsters they have little to no chance of defeating when they first meet them, have monsters that retreat or want to talk, restock monsters, etc. while a “kick-in-the-door style megadungeon” has no quest or plots, monsters that stay in their rooms waiting for the PCs to attack so they can die, no monsters that the PCs can’t defeat, etc.

Determining this up front (and communicating it to your players) makes sure everyone is on the same page and can prevent a lot of frustration. For example: if you are running a more traditional style megadungeon, a party playing hack-and-slash style that insists that once minis are on the map the only choice is to fight to the death, might get mad when they TPK to something like the Void Glutton or Volluk on the fourth floor or when you combine two moderate encounters into one extreme encounter or when you have the monsters retreat or move into different rooms.

Personally, I like to run megadungeons in a very “old-school”/”sandboxy”/combat as war” way. So if you want to run it that way here is what I did/am doing to facilitate that:
  • I used Decuma (which is a ‘game’ from Golden Lasso Games) to form the party. This ties everyone together and gives motivations. It also makes session zero really fun.
  • I use the free archetype and automatic bonus progression rules (with an addition to simulate sturdy shields). This makes more flexible, customizable characters and gives them tools to respond to a wide variety of challenges while allowing me to reduce the treasure load slightly in order make money/magic items feel more impactful.
  • I use the hero point deck, but use fortune/fate points instead of hero points. Fortune points work the same as hero points except I give each player one at the start of the session and at the two hour mark instead of one every hour after the first and they can only be used for rerolls or what’s on the card. Fate points save a character from death, no matter what they will survive the scene, but each player only gets 1 for the campaign. I do this so that people will more freely spend their fortune points instead of hoarding hero points.
  • I use XP instead of milestone leveling to let the players feel rewarded for exploring in any direction and to enable numerous side-quests.
  • For the lower levels of the Abomination vaults I run the game as theater of the mind (probably not something you want to emulate if your using a VTT). I do this to make the dungeon seem labyrinthine and mysterious. There are also environmental cues at the start of each chapter of the book which I use along with the read-aloud text (modified slightly) to describe the rooms.
  • I moved the dungeon an hour away by foot (still visible from town, but no longer practically IN town). Also it lets me do a sort of narrative transition from the relatively safe world of Otari to the dangerous world of the Abomination Vaults as the characters pass through the swamp.
  • I structure the game into ‘delves’ into the dungeon to avoid combat slog fatigue. I do this by:
    • Using a mandatory downtime rule. Each session requires a day of downtime outside of the dungeon for the heroes to recover (or they become fatigued). I also adjusted crafting to work on a day-to-day basis (basically earn income to buy the crafted item at full cost).
    • Handing out side-quest hooks like candy. I made a big rumor table with a bunch hooks from the Abomination Vaults and Trouble in Otari and use that to give side-quests. I also have NPCs trigger certain side-quests based on player actions (running of mayor for example gets side-quests from one of the other lumber companies promising support in the upcoming election if they investigate some sabotage occurring at the company). The goal is for each session to have a bunch of interesting things for the players to choose to try and accomplish (reach the library to retrieve books, defeat the morlock priest on the second level, investigate the mysterious fires around town, etc.) that they must choose between.
    • Checking for random encounters whenever the characters rest in the dungeon (once an hour if sleeping). I usually have wandering monsters from elsewhere in the dungeon be the random encounter and don’t pay attention to the difficulty (for example: when my players low-level characters attempted to sleep in the ruins, I had them encounter Volluk as he headed up to inspect the gauntlight)
    • Making purchasing lodgings in town unpleasant and/or expensive (sleep with drunken lumberjacks on the floor of the common room of the crook’s nook for 5 cp; or spend a night in a cot in the back of the rowdy rockfish for 5 sp). This is to incentive the characters to make friends in town. In the same vein, I also limit earn income levels to 0 without an appropriate sponsor in town.
  • I heavily foreshadow (or telegraph if you prefer that term) the more dangerous combat encounters and reward the players for scouting with lots of information. This lets the characters choose how they engage and gives the players much more agency in how they deal with encounters.
  • I have intelligent opponents, if possible, use their actions to make things worse situationally/environmentally for the players: they may call for help (which will arrive in a round or two), attempt to isolate and overwhelm a PC, snuff out a light source forcing the PCs to fight in pitch blackness, fall-back to a better position to fight from, etc.. Basically, the creatures never use “move into melee and attack until dead” as a strategy (unless they are mindless of course).
  • I made maps with all the room names, creatures, and hazards annotated on them (In hindsight should have included locked doors and treasure stashes as well). That way I can see at a glance what a room is supposed to be and what creatures are nearby.
  • I usually let the players retreat by moving to another level. I combined this with having the monsters use retreating to escalate the danger level (by splitting up the party as they pursue, by switching to hit and run tactics, by leading the PCs to dangerous areas or to other monsters, etc.) so that verisimilitude is maintained.
  • Because of the previous bullet, I have many creatures that survive encounters with the PCs. I have them take steps to counter the PCs exploration of the dungeon (bar doors, set traps, set up patrols, etc.) in order to make the dungeon a living place.

Don’t know if this is helpful, just my 2 cp.


Some thoughts from someone that runs the Beginner Box and Abomination Vaults on Foundry:

-If you haven't looked at them already, I would highly advise using the official Foundry implementations of both the Beginner Box and Abomination Vaults. I have been extremely pleased with their quality, well worth the money.

-The PF2e system is heavy and intensive relative to most other systems Foundry has (it's code base is close to as complex as Foundry's itself), and so are the official modules that include all the adventure content. Every time a player loads into your world they need to store game information in their browser cache. For Abomination Vaults that's approximately 500mb, delivered via TCP. That's per user, so if you are running the game for 4 people and they all load in/change maps enjoy waiting for your wifi connection to distribute 2 gb of data. You will want a wired Ethernet connection to your LAN or straight into your router if you are hosting on your own machine. If that isn't possible or your ISP is evil and throttles your connection sometimes, I suggest a service like Forge which will let you host the games on a remote server. I know it increases the cost of running the game by about 50$ a year, but the QOL improvement and flexibility it brings me is worth it in my circumstance.

-I would take the time to get comfortable with Foundry and the PF2e system within Foundry. Being able to answer questions like "where can I find spells to add to my character?" or "where are my Strikes listed?" right away will be as crucial for onboarding people as answering rules questions. Many tasks also have been automated or have the potential for being easily automated, such as the prebuilt macros for the Treat Wounds action, or for calculating XP which are in the compendium. I would learn those as well, utilizing the automation in the system can produce a ridiculously brisk speed of play (my record is 5 full combats in 2 hours). The documentation on github is...out of date CORRECTION: it was recently updated. I would suggest taking any questions to the devs of the system on their discord, they are quite active and responsive.

-While I would recommend being conservative with the amount of modules you use with the server, there are some I find to be quite nice/handy and would recommend unconditionally:
  • Dice so Nice - 3D dice that go clink and play animations on rolls. Fun. Each user can customize their own dice.
  • PF2e Companion Compendia - Automation for Animal Companions and Eidolons. Useful if you have anyone in your party that uses those.
  • PF2e Dorako UI - Beautifies the chat log in a way that conforms with PF2e's style. Clean, readable, convenient.
  • pf2e Persistent Damage - Automates persistent damage rolls and recovery. Very useful.


Doing the best imitation of myself
Thanks for the suggestions. We've added extra players, so it looks like we will have a full house for the game. I am running a fiber connection, so so far we've had no problems with connection speeds.

I thought I'd mention a rule that I'm using that is a modified version from my last 5E adventure: level advancement by defeating a boss. The Abomination Vaults has 10 levels (is that a spoiler?) and so I'm going to level characters when the defeat one of the boss encounters on a given level. Each level has 2-3 such encounters, so I won't gate the levels behind any one encounter.

For sidequests, I'm going to award Hero Points to the group as a whole that stick around from completing sidequests. I did something similar (with Inspiration that could hold over) in my previous game and the players wanted to track it all down.


Small Ball Archmage
I'm going to throw in a recommendation for the module 'Modifiers Matter' it just tells players when a special modifier they have makes a difference to hitting, so things like flanking with an ally, or having an ally frighten an enemy are more obvious about how useful they are (which is extremely.)

Also, are you using the officially supported version of Abomination Vaults through Foundry? If so, it's really great, though it's not like, necessary, I was just really impressed with the Beginner Box adaption.

Finally, if the players are creating their own characters at any point, they should have three things in place to be able to take on the challenge level of AV:

- An 18 in their primary stat, in other words, the one they hit things with, if they can't have an 18 due to playing one of the classes which has an offbeat key stat they don't actually hit things with, it should be a 16. Some people think a primary 16 is ok in general, maybe it is, I recommend sticking with an 18 to get a good baseline feeling. The game makes you well-rounded anyway, so I would discourage players from treating it as cheesy or anything.

- They should have a plan for AC, heavy armor with little dex, light or no armor with a lot of dex, or medium armor with middling dex. The point is, get the highest AC you can, while being as close to the dex cap of your armor as possible. Every class can get good AC.

- The party should have some form of healing, this doesn't have to be a dedicated healer, but at the very least one or two people should have medicine trained, so they can treat wounds, ideally with Battle Medicine as their skill feat, or maybe a focus ability that lets them heal someone, or maybe if there are two spell casters they should each prepare a healing slot if they aren't Arcane list. There are different ways to scratch the itch, you want both in and out of combat healing.

Doing these three things will largely set your party up for success and make the experience as enjoyable as possible, everything past this I would say is largely unnecessary, and they should feel empowered to take whatever for their feats and stuff.

Rule Notes for you:

- Remember that dex doesn't apply to damage unless the players have something that says otherwise (and that something is only the Thief Rogue) incidentally, strength isn't necessary on dex characters which is why I didn't mention it above, but the lack of it will hurt the most at low levels where it would otherwise be a relatively large percent of their damage.

- Mind the Incapacitation trait on their spells.

- The Manipulate trait triggers Attacks of Opportunity from creatures that have it, spells with the somatic component have the manipulate trait. As do some other things you might not expect, like picking up a dropped weapon or opening a door.

- Exploration is measured in a minimum of 10 minute increments for a reason, don't be afraid to let them use multiple 10 minute increments to heal between combat and stuff, even searching a room right after a fight takes 10 minutes at a minimum. Be mindful of the fact that your players are supposed to have exploration activities as you explore that they're doing, it'll help you spread the spotlight around.

- Double Check if monsters have aura effects, I always forget them, lol.

- Unlike 5e, they need their magic items as they start leveling, there are rule variants for if you want to play with fewer magic items. AV has rewards already picked out of course, but if you were going to deviate from the adventure's treasure (which I would not encourage except maybe to customize some of the items if you wish) stick to the Party Treasure chart on the CBR.
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