How Hard Should it Be? Adventure Card Game Power Curves

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Now that Wrath of the Righteous is finally in players' hands, I'd like to talk with you all about the thematic and mechanical motivations behind the different difficulty of each Adventure Path. In order to do this, I'm going to talk about each set while trying not to spoil anything, just in case some of you haven't started one of the sets.

Let's talk about what it's like to work on a game that's always changing and yet always somewhat the same. We explicitly design each PACG Adventure Path to be compatible with all of the others. This means that once you know how to play the game, you can easily jump into any set... and if you really like a particular character from a particular set, you can bring it into a different AP. Our default example of this is Lirianne, the iconic Gunslinger character in Skull & Shackles. If you decide that you'd really like to play Lirianne in Rise of the Runelords, Wrath of the Righteous, or in our upcoming release, Mummy's Mask, you can do so, and she'll work just fine. For Lirianne, we recommend that you also bring along some of the firearms from S&S, but that's up to you—she works either way.

At the same time, we also spend a lot of time, effort, and brainpower to make each Aventure Path a new and interesting experience. We use a wide variety of techniques to do this, including new characters, new mechanics, and of course, a brand-new story with each one. One important technique we use that might not be obvious to everyone is the power curve. This is a technical term we use to roughly mean, "How hard is it to get through the adventure at different points along the path?" If you've ever studied writing and film—and especially if you've ever GM'd a long campaign—you've gone through at least some of this process yourself. How strong are the characters at the start? When things get tough (as they usually do), when does it happen, and how often? Do the characters have the resources they need to protect themselves? Do they use them wisely, or do they have to scramble to get where they need to be? As the plot unfolds, are they ahead of the game, behind the eight ball, or both... and do they know it?

In our first AP, Rise of the Runelords, the adventurers start out in the small coastal city of Sandpoint. As the adventure begins, the town is attacked! A few minutes later, the typical adventuring party is moving from location to location, finding goblins with torches and kicking them in their oh-so-many teeth.

Mechanically speaking, the characters start off in a position of relative strength, but also ignorance. Unless they are risky or get unlucky, the typical character can go toe-to-toe with the typical goblin and expect to come out on top most of the time, especially if there's some help available. In the story, though, it's unclear why these torch-toting goblins would trouble the town. Figuring out that secret is the step that takes Rise of the Runelords from a one-shot "defend the town" session to an epic campaign against an ancient evil of the first order. As the story progresses, the characters grow in both knowledge and power, facing and overcoming increasingly dangerous threats on their way (both figuratively and literally) to the top.

In Rise of the Runelords, the character power progression is more or less linear over time, while the difficulty of challenges is a curve that dips and then rises. Character power starts very slightly behind the power curve in Adventure B. Then the difficulty curve dips beneath the power curve through the middle of the Adventure Path, rising over time until, very near the end, the two lines approach.

In story terms, this represents the change in difficulty as...

Rise of the Runelords spoilers
... you discover the stone giants behind the ogres, the rune giants behind the stone giants, and eventually the ancient Azlanti behind it all.

In Skull & Shackles, the doughty adventurers are press-ganged into service on a vessel most piratical. You start off by learning to handle life at sea, including learning to crew a vessel (and learning to hate geese) and learning how to get along with the rest of the crew, be they friendly or otherwise.

Here the characters start the campaign off-kilter—they're quickly tossed into a situation that's unlike what they're used to facing. Whether you played Rise of the Runelords or not, you probably recognized at some gut level that Valeros could fight his way free of his captors, but he would be alone on a boat in the middle of an unfamiliar sea. From both a narrative and a mechanical perspective, Skull & Shackles was a bit more difficult than Rise of the Runelords because we forced you to learn to do new things. You could still focus on being the strongest fighter, awesomest bard, or stabbiest rogue, but unless you could also handle yourself underwater, navigate a ship, and manage a crew, you were very likely to run into serious trouble. In game terms, we forced you to spread out your resources. Most characters can't afford to dedicate every card and feat to a single, focused goal.

In Skull & Shackles, the difficulty is much closer to linear—the difficulty increases mostly steadily over time—but the character power progression follows a parabolic curve. In the very beginning scenarios, character power is somewhat above the difficulty line, but it dips down below the line quickly in AD1, and then rises above the line for much of the AP. Near the end, the character power curve levels out, and it comes very close to the difficulty line by the end.

In story terms, this...

Skull & Shackles spoilers
... represents the narrative progression of the characters as they start out as "fish out of water" and then come to master their new environment, as they escape from captivity, gain their own ship, then make their mark in the Shackles as part of the Pirate Council. Eventually, they discover an invasion plot and move from freebooting around the islands to confronting the Chelish fleet and taking the fight directly to the Hurricane King.

In our current Adventure Path, Wrath of the Righteous, you're in the city of Kenabres to celebrate a famous past battle against the demonic invasion into the Worldwound. Just when the festivities are about to officially start, something very bad happens. This time, though, it's not goblins with torches or pirates with whips. It's demons... lots of demons. Again, I don't want to spoil too much, but the title of the first scenario in Adventure 1 is "The Fall of Kenabres." (I can assure you that it's not the follow-up to "The Summer of Kenabres.")

This is our third set, and we have once again changed things while keeping the game the same. In this case, the characters start out "behind the curve," both in knowledge and in raw power level. The demons you face right from the get-go are tougher, more numerous, and just meaner than you've seen before. On the other hand, you have a bunch of new tools to even the score. In particular, Wrath of the Righteous adds both cohorts and mythic power. Cohorts are a new card type in this Adventure Path, representing important, named characters that will help you in your struggles against the demonic hordes.

Cohorts are bonus cards given to the party at the start of scenarios. They make you a little bit tougher, and in the right hands, they have some potent powers. Additionally, we've brought you mythic path cards, representing the unlocked potential for mythic power possessed by each of the characters in this set. Paul talked about these already, but the way they're added to the AP is important here: mythic paths are unlocked by a specific event that happens in the story. When you're playing Wrath of the Righteous, you get a chance to play a number of scenarios before you pick a mythic path card, which helps with your understanding of the card and the narrative arc of the story. On the one hand, you now have some experience with the character, and you can make a better choice of which path will be the most fun. On the other hand, it lets us level up the characters in a new way. This helps us create the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed and in trouble at the start of the AP, but it then gives you a dramatic moment where you start climbing out of the pit, bringing yourself up to the level of—and even potentially ahead of—the mass of terrible, evil banes we've assembled for you.

In Wrath of the Righteous, both the character power level and the difficulties they face are curved. Difficulty starts high, but dips quickly below the character power level before rising again. At the same time, character power level starts off relatively linear, rising as the characters recover their footing.

In story terms...

Wrath of the Righteous spoilers
... the characters start off behind the curve as the initial troubles with the Worldwound are overbearing. You don't start with the feeling that you can solve the problems of the Worldwound so much as you hope that you can withstand them. As those that survive the initial onslaught unlock their mythic potential, the character power curve catches up and exceeds the difficulty curve. These things are tricky, though, and only time (and more Adventure Deck releases!) will reveal what the future holds for your valiant crusaders!

The use of the d20 in mythic paths is the final piece in the puzzle here. While it increases the top end of your checks, it doesn't help with everything. It also doesn't change the bottom end at all. As many discovered while demoing and playing WotR at the recent Origins Game Fair, d20s roll 1s just like every other die. In a set like Skull & Shackles, the d20 would be "too swingy" to use often, but in Wrath of the Righteous, it's a great fit. You each have within you the potential to do truly amazing things, but so do your opponents. The results are far from certain... which is kinda what we were going for.

Since we released Wrath of the Righteous, we've heard from some people that the start of the Adventure Path— especially the scenarios in Adventure B—are tougher than they expected. Hopefully, you now have a better idea what we were trying to accomplish with this set and how did it. On the other hand, if you are finding that the start of WotR is so hard that you're not having enough fun, there are a number of options available.

First and foremost, remember that the B Adventure is optional for the Adventure Path. It's recommended, but it's not required. If you would prefer to start with Adventure Deck 1: The Worldwound Incursion, that's perfectly fine. Also, if you'd like to play a little bit of AD1 and then go back and complete the B Adventure, you should feel free to do so. In a more extreme variation, you might even choose to finish all of AD1 before completing the B scenarios, but be aware that you will be significantly stronger at that point. In the end, any way that you find to have fun is a great way to play.

Chad Brown
Adventure Card Game Lead Developer

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Create Pit doesn't work on the Golem. DC 12 or lower.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
zeroth_hour wrote:
Create Pit doesn't work on the Golem. DC 12 or lower.

No, but it works on, say, the Corrupted Tree. And Sanctuary does work on it. So does the elven ranger cohort (whose name I forget) in Elven Entanglement.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
isiaic16 wrote:

I'm sorry, but I have to call you out on point 3. An ally that gives a combat boost and some blessings? okay, so I play a blessing, my ally plays a blessing, I play an ally that gives me a d4, and what the heck, maybe I used a Mendevian Crusader to explore so that's another 1. What's that add up to? 3d6+d4+1, which averages *drum roll* 13! Hey, you still have less than a 50/50 chance to win, after spending 3 cards, 2 of which were discarded, AND you were lucky in the exploration card you used. Golem IS that hard to kill with a caster. If it had been a 10 or even 12 DC, I don't think you'd have anywhere CLOSE to the frustration you're seeing here. However, 14 is right at that point where a group is spending a level of resources beyond what they'd be using when encountering a Villain with an unprepared character.

Every other point you make I agree with (I'd argue that golems have never appeared this early before, but that doesn't mean they can't). However, the idea that 'characters just need to put in a bit of effort' is foolish. The level of investment you need to put in is more than an average 1-2 person group could handle (you need 3 blessings to get to decent probability), and it's more exploration resources than a 5 or 6 person group can afford to spend (I haven't done the math, but I figure 6-player groups still need to spend at least 60% of their blessings/allies on explores even with average luck finding the henchmen). So, once again, if you're not in that 3-4 character sweet spot, you're boned.

Actually, 3d6+1d4+1 is an average of 14.. But that's not the point. The point is that the game is luck based. I could fail a check with 5d12+8 against a Carrion Golem. And trust me, someone probably has! We're talking about probabilies here. Are we saying that WotR is harder because some of the probabilities of certain DCs become lower? I disagree.

I think that people think that WotR became harder is because they have to become out of their comfort zone. In RotR you could just take 3 casters and win. Now: no. So the question we should ask ourselves is:

"Do we mind playing with a playstyle that synergizes better with this set than our previous playstyle?"

I've heard people saying that it's not fun to force someone in a Healer role, or to pick up an extra Armor as a Card Feat. But the game requires some thinking now, folks, and is that really a wrong thing to have? If you were to play certain Console-RPGs you'd have a choice between some archetypes too: Do I like to play with a CC heavy Mage? No. But does it work? Yes.

My point still is: The game didn't get harder, because some scenarios and Monsters got harder. The game got harder, because it forces us to think more strategic about our choices in the game! ("I better pick an armor card feat first." "Maybe I should upgrade Wisdom before Melee." "I could explore with this Blessing, but I'd rather safe it for my fellow players." "I should take 2 Cures instead of 1 Cure and a Flaming Weapon, perhaps a Skitter and a Cure would work too.").


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Donny Schuijers wrote:
Third and Last: The Carrion Golem is not THAT hard to kill with Seoni or Enora. If you have an ally that gives you a combat boost or some blessings over the characters, or even a longbow here and there, then every character can Melee a Carrion Golem to pulp, yes, even Enora.

Yeah, you can burn a crapload of cards (if everything's aligned that way) to get better than chance odds of defeating it, although there's still a decent chance of losing anyway after burning all those cards. 3 characters burning a blessing is 4d6 total, which only gives slightly better than 50% odds. I play with 2 players, and I've never even come close to being able to get enough dice to make the attempt worth it. If you play with more, there's a good chance everyone could burn a blessing or so, but with more people, you need those blessings for extra explores, making it a pain to burn them all on a crappy encounter.

The fact that it's random is precisely my problem with it. I had no qualms with the Scarecrow Golem in RotRL. You go into the scenario knowing that there's a magic immune monster lurking in one of the location decks. I'm fine with random monsters being resistant to spells (take hags for example), or immune to certain traits. Hell, I'm fine with random magic immune enemies after a certain point, but putting it in the base scenario? It's just frustrating and not fun to go against when your entire starting build is hosed over by a specific card, causing you to already be at death's door with almost no option for counterplay (unless you're in a sufficiently large group and lucky enough to still make the check).

By the way, the Carrion Golem in Pathfinder actually is affected by magical fire and cold spells; it just slows it down instead of damaging it. I feel like this could have been represented by allowing a character to discard a fire or cold trait spell to evade it.

I've since taken the Carrion Golems out of the box, and it's been more fun not having to worry it. I just don't find it enjoyable discarding 9 cards after my first exploration because a random card completely shuts down any chance I have of defeating it.


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Donny Schuijers wrote:

Actually, 3d6+1d4+1 is an average of 14.. But that's not the point. The point is that the game is luck based. I could fail a check with 5d12+8 against a Carrion Golem. And trust me, someone probably has! We're talking about probabilies here. Are we saying that WotR is harder because some of the probabilities of certain DCs become lower? I disagree.

I think that people think that WotR became harder is because they have to become out of their comfort zone. In RotR you could just take 3 casters and win. Now: no. So the question we should ask ourselves is:

"Do we mind playing with a playstyle that synergizes better with this set than our previous playstyle?"

I've heard people saying that it's not fun to force someone in a Healer role, or to pick up an extra Armor as a Card Feat. But the game requires some thinking now, folks, and is that really a wrong thing to have? If you were to play certain Console-RPGs you'd have a choice between some archetypes too: Do I like to play with a CC heavy Mage? No. But does it work? Yes.

My point still is: The game didn't get harder, because some scenarios and Monsters got harder. The game got harder, because it forces us to think more strategic about our choices in the game! ("I better pick an armor card feat first." "Maybe I should upgrade Wisdom before Melee." "I could explore with this Blessing, but I'd rather safe it for my fellow players." "I should take 2 Cures instead of 1 Cure and a Flaming Weapon, perhaps a Skitter and a Cure would work too.").

That is fine and I would be OK with the "better strategy" is needed aspect of WotR if that is what I wanted. I have enough Co-op games that my GF and I play that require deep strategy or planning or thinking to win.

We really enjoyed playing PACG because we could have a lot of fun casting spells or clubbing down enemies with maces and didn't have to optimize our character choices and spend 5-10 minutes a turn planning out every move and decision to win the scenario. We could play who we wanted and had an amazing and enjoyable time doing it. PACG was great because of how accessible it was for both of us. With WotR it seems that this aspect was lost and while some players find fun and enjoyment in this type of strategic and optimization heavy game, I can tell you that we are not in this group. So, for us, PACG fell very short with WotR.

I would love to see a difficulty "slider" on future sets. Perhaps on each scenario or each adventure pack. In Sentinels of the Multiverse each villain has an Advanced Mode section to turn up the difficulty. For PACG this could be as simple as adding to each of the scenarios (or adventures) "Advanced Mode: Subtract 3 from each of your checks to defeat a bane" or some flavor of that depending on the scenario/adventure deck number at hand. That would allow the hardcore strategic, optimization style players to have their fun while still allowing those of us who just want to have a fun adventure with whatever character(s) we choose to also enjoy our time.

In closing I will say that RotR and SnS were great fun and thoroughly enjoyed being able to play who we wanted. WotR feels more like work than being actual fun for us.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Shisumo wrote:
zeroth_hour wrote:
Create Pit doesn't work on the Golem. DC 12 or lower.
No, but it works on, say, the Corrupted Tree. And Sanctuary does work on it. So does the elven ranger cohort (whose name I forget) in Elven Entanglement.

Does Sanctuary work? I don't have the card in front of me at the moment, but I thought the Carrion Golem was immune to mental?


Mechalibur wrote:
Shisumo wrote:
zeroth_hour wrote:
Create Pit doesn't work on the Golem. DC 12 or lower.
No, but it works on, say, the Corrupted Tree. And Sanctuary does work on it. So does the elven ranger cohort (whose name I forget) in Elven Entanglement.
Does Sanctuary work? I don't have the card in front of me at the moment, but I thought the Carrion Golem was immune to mental?

You'd THINK (based on the RPG, where constructs are immune to mind-affecting unless you're an Impossible sorcerer); but in PACG, golems are only immune to Attack-trait spells.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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This discussion illustrates some of my feelings about realigning our perspective and strategies - the carrion golem is a huge threat to a pure caster. Often it's tougher than the scenario villain - so why is it a big deal to use resources to deal with it?

Upon meeting the golem you lose one card, and you risk eight more cards when you fight it, if you have a six card hand. If I stand to lose 8 cards from a bad roll you better believe I'm okay with spending 4 to try and make the roll. I think this is telling us that sometimes monsters will be worse than the henchmen and villains - it's not what we're used to, but I expect letting us learn that lesson in adventure B is better than learning it in 2 or 3.

I just see so many people assume Enora/Seoni meets Carrion Golem = auto hand wipe, when my first thought is, "how can I get stuff out of my hand/reduce the damage?"


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Zman1719 wrote:
I would love to see a difficulty "slider" on future sets. Perhaps on each scenario or each adventure pack. In Sentinels of the Multiverse each villain has an Advanced Mode section to turn up the difficulty. For PACG this could be as simple as adding to each of the scenarios (or adventures) "Advanced Mode: Subtract 3 from each of your checks to defeat a bane" or some flavor of that depending on the scenario/adventure deck number at hand. That would allow the hardcore strategic, optimization style players to have their fun while still allowing those of us who just want to have a fun adventure with whatever character(s) we choose to also enjoy our time.

You know: It's just a game, right? So you can actually make the slider yourself. Start the game with 3 skills feats or a power feat? Or remove the Arboreal Blight and Carrion Golem Banes? Or make a Basic Deck consisting of 12 Basic Boons and 3 Non-Basic Boons.

I love PACG for the reason of customising. If you think a scenario is too hard, skip it. If it's too easy, make it harder.

Yes, we are all allowed to our opinion. Yes, I love WotR. It's probably my favorite set up until now, because it's so challenging. But remember that you can just make the game easier by the things I just pointed out. That way it becomes a cakewalk, like RotR, and if you enjoy that, it'll probably make the game more fun to play. (With 3 skill feats, power feats, no hard banes and non-basic boons)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
ryric wrote:

This discussion illustrates some of my feelings about realigning our perspective and strategies - the carrion golem is a huge threat to a pure caster. Often it's tougher than the scenario villain - so why is it a big deal to use resources to deal with it?

Upon meeting the golem you lose one card, and you risk eight more cards when you fight it, if you have a six card hand. If I stand to lose 8 cards from a bad roll you better believe I'm okay with spending 4 to try and make the roll. I think this is telling us that sometimes monsters will be worse than the henchmen and villains - it's not what we're used to, but I expect letting us learn that lesson in adventure B is better than learning it in 2 or 3.

I just see so many people assume Enora/Seoni meets Carrion Golem = auto hand wipe, when my first thought is, "how can I get stuff out of my hand/reduce the damage?"

I play with only 2 people, so that isn't often an option for me. My best shot typically is each player burning a blessing for 3d6, which is pretty bad odds against a 14. This has actually happened 4 times so far (one of those also had an extra 1d4 from a bow), and every single time Enora lost the check anyway. Yeah, those 2 golems seem to have an unnatural attraction for showing up when Enora explores, so that's why I just chucked them from the box altogether. My point is that no monster from the base set should even put you in the kind of situation where failure is 9 cards lost. Certainly nothing in RotRL or S&S base set would put you in that kind of situation. The worse you'd get is a Siren.


Sandslice wrote:

I'll be willing to do an experiment here. Someone pick a number of characters, and what those characters are, to simulate a group of people taking the characters they want. 4, 5, or 6 - just fine by me.

I'll take that party through B-1-2 and see what happens.

I would love to take you up on this.

Let's go for broke with full 6, as that's my group size and I agree that the difficulty scaling up seems a bit out of wack for a full 6. And let's make it a real challenge with none of the (so far identified to be) upper tier characters.

Shardra, Enora, Seoni, Balazar, Harsk, Alain,

Bonne chance! There but for the grace of God go I.


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Donny Schuijers wrote:
I do think that people are blaming Carrion Golem on totally wrong reasons.

The problem with the carrion golem is the discards from your deck before and after the encounter. That's how you kill characters, because you can't even judge your mortality anymore by your hand size and the cards remaining in your deck. It's kind of cheap. If it didn't make you discard, I think we would see far less complaints about this card, if any.


Ilpalazo wrote:
Sandslice wrote:

I'll be willing to do an experiment here. Someone pick a number of characters, and what those characters are, to simulate a group of people taking the characters they want. 4, 5, or 6 - just fine by me.

I'll take that party through B-1-2 and see what happens.

I would love to take you up on this.

Let's go for broke with full 6, as that's my group size and I agree that the difficulty scaling up seems a bit out of wack for a full 6. And let's make it a real challenge with none of the (so far identified to be) upper tier characters.

Shardra, Enora, Seoni, Balazar, Harsk, Alain,

Bonne chance! There but for the grace of God go I.

Sounds good; I'll start it tonight when I get home.


Have fun, would love to know how the first couple of adventures in the B set go. Less worried once you get past those.

Pathfinder ACG Developer

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Ilpalazo wrote:

And let's make it a real challenge with none of the (so far identified to be) upper tier characters.

Shardra, Enora, Seoni, Balazar, Harsk, Alain,

Bonne chance! There but for the grace of God go I.

That's actually not that bad looking a party. Possible for a slightly rough start, but with a few boons and feats should be good to go.

I think I'd want to toss a Cure onto one of the other characters (Balazar or Harsk with a card feat) for insurance.

P.S. I was genuinely worried that Balazar would be considered overpowered, seeing him as second tier; boy what a metagame shift :)


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I think the context was Enora and Seoni...

The Carrion Golem is by far the most deadly for Enora; Fiendish Trees can be blasted with Fire and Cold, even with a double discard. And the evasion doesn't help much; you can't evade the barrier with Create Pit, and evading the Tree, while it gets rid of the Tree, means that Ulkreth has a chance of being summoned.

Sanctuary is Divine only, so that's not useful for Enora or Seoni.


Havent played enough to make an assessment on anyone yet, but Im actually playing Balazar and he seems super competent so far.

Was trying to avoid giving many divine casters for cures and Andowyn, Imrijka, Kyra and Seelah have been described on this board as all being quite good so was mostly going by that.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Jason S wrote:
That's how you kill characters, because you can't even judge your mortality anymore by your hand size and the cards remaining in your deck. It's kind of cheap. If it didn't make you discard, I think we would see far less complaints about this card, if any.

That is why it's a great strategy to take along characters with the "first-exploration-heal" power, at least in this set (you would need to import them). Your character choices are likely more constrained. Of course, character choices being one of the biggest elements of one's play style...

ryric wrote:
I don't think you have to play a perfectly balanced group, or pick different characters you don't like. I do think you have to adjust your play style...

...means that you really have to adjust your play style, and maybe pick a cast of characters that you may not prefer to pick. I would argue that people should be flexible and give all the characters a try, as I really don't believe any character is "useless" or not-viable, but hey.

Also: all this talk about which powers and skills to choose to deal with the threats in front of you doesn't really apply in a base scenario where those choices cannot yet have been made.

Paizo Employee Contributor

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Troymk1 wrote:
To most players, such abject failure to progress would be highly discouraging.

This is quite true. Let me give two data points from my own experience:

1) A year ago, I bought the LotR card game to play with my wife. We chose starting decks as recommended in the rules, and enjoyed the first scenario. We lost the second scenario in a quite demoralizing way, tried it again, and lost it again. I looked up online the next day, and found that a specific deck build--one not clearly presented in the rules--is necessary to win that particular scenario. We planned to try that deck trick someday, but that was a year ago-- we've shelved the game and haven't opened it since. I was telling someone the other day that I'm just not a fan of this game because it's crippling second-scenario difficulty lost me as a casual player.

2) My wife and friend and I are huge fans of the PACG. Despite the suggestion to play Adventure 1 before Adventure B, we've decided to go in the "normal" order. We loved scenario B-1 (The Godless Ones) and beat it on our first try. But we've lost scenario B-2 (The Elven Entanglement) four times and it's killed Kyra once. We will try it again for sure; but if we weren't already a fan of PACG, it would have been shelved just like the LotR card game for us.

I conclude that the uneven and harsh difficulty will cause people to shelve this game, unfortunately.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Sandslice wrote:

I'll be willing to do an experiment here. Someone pick a number of characters, and what those characters are, to simulate a group of people taking the characters they want. 4, 5, or 6 - just fine by me.

I'll take that party through B-1-2 and see what happens.

We used Enora, Imrijka, Adowyn, and Alain - with the suggested cards. It was so brutal I can't convince anyone to play it with me.

On paper it looks like a great group. I'm sure eventually will be great. If we ever find a Cure spell.

IMO every Divine character should have a Cure spell in their suggested deck.


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In RotR and S&S, I started with suggested decks. I felt that the added challenge and heightened sense of improvement made the 'B' scenarios more fun. In Wrath, the suggested decks are a death sentence. Don't use them, build your own decks.


Calthaer wrote:
That is why it's a great strategy to take along characters with the "first-exploration-heal" power, at least in this set (you would need to import them). Your character choices are likely more constrained. Of course, character choices being one of the biggest elements of one's play style...

Clerics with that power don't really help. The problem is that the discard power takes you by surprise.

For example if you're playing Enora, you can't use a single blessing or ally for exploration or you could potentially die from the Carrion Golem (he eats 9 of your cards and you need to draw 6). A cleric shouldn't be curing every time Enora discards an ally or blessing for an extra exploration (if you do you'll lose on time).

Our solution was the spell Mirror Image. Our casters with large hand sizes didn't do extra explorations until MI or armor was in the spellcaster's hand. We used armor if the combat check or Mirror Image failed. Our caster often stacked on Valeros, which made it possible to beat Carrion Golems in melee.

Everyone with a large hand size needs armor to protect it. It's a different way of thinking compared to previous sets where we couldn't wait to recharge armor out of our hands.

Although I don't like the design of the Carrion Golem (and it shouldn't be in B), it's not an insurmountable obstacle. And you certainly don't need specific characters to beat it, or any challenge.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Jason S wrote:
The problem is that the discard power takes you by surprise.

That is exactly why clerics with this power help - you don't have to wait for a Cure spell to heal players. You can top off everyone's decks whenever they get even somewhat low. Do you not consider someone who uses a different strategy from yours to be playing strategically?

You may or may not be able to get Mirror Image in the base scenarios; it's not a basic card. A lot of the strategies you seem to be suggesting are appropriate only for AD1+, not the base scenarios this post is addressing.


Like I said, if you're curing every time Enora discards a blessing or an ally, you've already lost. You won't have cures for anyone else and you've lost your own explorations. Time is tight in the scenarios I played, you'll definitely run out of time if you lose your 1st exploration each round.

And you certainly can't help her if she took an extra exploration and encounters a Carrion Golem.

If that strategy works for you, then great, but we took Amaryllis, Zarlova, and spellcasting Meliski through AD 1 and 2 and never had to do that.

The blog was about the overall power curve of the game, not just B. And Mirror Image is available in B. Even if you don't have Mirror Image yet, you could use Valeros or Alain to trade armor (or a weapon) to Enora, at least she'd have some protection. I don't expect beginners to do that, but veterans should be able to adapt.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
In RotR and S&S, I started with suggested decks. I felt that the added challenge and heightened sense of improvement made the 'B' scenarios more fun. In Wrath, the suggested decks are a death sentence. Don't use them, build your own decks.

I suppose I'll need to. But looking at the cards ahead of time always feels like cheating, and takes out half the fun. Sigh.

More seriously, though, most people who use the suggested decks are going to be new players. The suggested decks should *always* be built with new players in mind. They shouldn't be optimal, but they should be doable.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

pH unbalanced wrote:
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
In RotR and S&S, I started with suggested decks. I felt that the added challenge and heightened sense of improvement made the 'B' scenarios more fun. In Wrath, the suggested decks are a death sentence. Don't use them, build your own decks.

I suppose I'll need to. But looking at the cards ahead of time always feels like cheating, and takes out half the fun. Sigh.

More seriously, though, most people who use the suggested decks are going to be new players. The suggested decks should *always* be built with new players in mind. They shouldn't be optimal, but they should be doable.

I assure you, they have all been "do"ed, as it were. I'm curious what specifically people find troublesome with the starting decks, given that all 7 characters are built from one source.

I mean, sure, you could build more customized decks by only building a few characters and making the others unworkable -- as it turns out, there's rules for that in the rulebook. :-)

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

While we're not jumping in too often at this point, I assure you that we're all looking at the feedback on this blog post, and on the forums in general. Part of the reason that my difficulty vs power post came now is that I hoped it would help answer some questions about the set.

In general, I will say this: if your group is finding that part of B is not to your liking, consider just jumping up to AD1 and then either coming back or not, depending on how much time and interest you have. If you're playing with a new group and really want the introduction, then play the first scenario in B (i.e. "B1") and jump to AD1.

Also, if you're coming to WotR from RotR or S&S, and finding that you're having more trouble than you expect, consider if a change of strategy and tactics will help get you through a rough spot. The main point of my post was that we intend the experience to be different (and also fun, of course).

Thanks for playing!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Developer

Keith Richmond wrote:
P.S. I was genuinely worried that Balazar would be considered overpowered, seeing him as second tier; boy what a metagame shift :)

Me too. I'm looking forward to the explosion of "OMG Balazar imba!" posts in the future. :-)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My only real concern so far is that Enora in particular (but Seoni and Shardra seem to have some of these issues too) has a lot of "exposure," as it were; 6 cards in hand and neither weapon nor armor means she's got little in the way of backup plans if something goes badly off the rails. This has been true of other casters in other sets previously, but the difficulty level in the prior sets has not been quite so high at this point either. So far, Enora is the only character in my group who has actually run out of cards in her deck, although she did not die; she ran away to Kyra, and a Cure and some judicious "trickle" healing from Kyra's special abilities got her back up to 6 cards in her deck by the end of Kyra's turn (which was right after Enora's). Still, it did point out her vulnerability. That card feat at the end of the base set can't come fast enough for her.


Chad Brown wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
In RotR and S&S, I started with suggested decks. I felt that the added challenge and heightened sense of improvement made the 'B' scenarios more fun. In Wrath, the suggested decks are a death sentence. Don't use them, build your own decks.

I suppose I'll need to. But looking at the cards ahead of time always feels like cheating, and takes out half the fun. Sigh.

More seriously, though, most people who use the suggested decks are going to be new players. The suggested decks should *always* be built with new players in mind. They shouldn't be optimal, but they should be doable.

I assure you, they have all been "do"ed, as it were. I'm curious what specifically people find troublesome with the starting decks, given that all 7 characters are built from one source.

I mean, sure, you could build more customized decks by only building a few characters and making the others unworkable -- as it turns out, there's rules for that in the rulebook. :-)

Given the constraints of the 'suggested deck list' (i.e. that you can build all the decks simultaneously), you do the best you can. In practice, since you never build all of the decks at once, their are a bunch of mediocre choices. Some cards are close to unplayable (Enchanted Fang on Adowyn, I'm looking at you!)

Given the starting difficulty of Wrath, particularly in large parities, using the suggested deck list throws an unneeded hurdle at players.

edit: Also, don't get me started on Viper Strike.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't have much of a complaint about the overall difficulty of Wrath. I'm glad that it's different.

My biggest gripe, as explained earlier, is about the placement of 2 banes in particular. I feel they would've been better off later in the adventure path. But, don't change anything about them. Just move them.

I've played through the base scenarios twice now. 2 different groups. And by groups I mean solo play with 4 characters each.

I figured I would try out 8 characters and then pick the 4 from there that I wanted to take into Wrath. I ended up with Adowyn, Balazar, Seelah and Kyra. Seelah is there out of, "Why the heck wouldn't you want a paladin of Iomedae in Wrath"?

The 3 characters that I did not try out? Alain, Crowe, and Harsk.

@Ron Lundeen - Getting stomped while trying to quest through Journey Along the Anduin is kinda like a rite of passage. LOTR:LCG has a STEEP learning curve. I will say that you do not need a specific deck to win, you just need a more specific TYPE of deck.

Back to PACG - I have never constructed my own decks at the beginning. I have always used the deck lists in the book. Why? Because they are in the book. They are there for a reason. So, I use them.

Shadow Lodge

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Chad Brown wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
In RotR and S&S, I started with suggested decks. I felt that the added challenge and heightened sense of improvement made the 'B' scenarios more fun. In Wrath, the suggested decks are a death sentence. Don't use them, build your own decks.

I suppose I'll need to. But looking at the cards ahead of time always feels like cheating, and takes out half the fun. Sigh.

More seriously, though, most people who use the suggested decks are going to be new players. The suggested decks should *always* be built with new players in mind. They shouldn't be optimal, but they should be doable.

I assure you, they have all been "do"ed, as it were. I'm curious what specifically people find troublesome with the starting decks, given that all 7 characters are built from one source.

I mean, sure, you could build more customized decks by only building a few characters and making the others unworkable -- as it turns out, there's rules for that in the rulebook. :-)

Well, as I said above, the biggest problem for us was lack of any Cure spells, despite having half our party being Divine casters (Imrijka and Adowyn). I can see Adowyn being without, but surely Imrijka should have had one.


Donny Schuijers wrote:
isiaic16 wrote:

I'm sorry, but I have to call you out on point 3. An ally that gives a combat boost and some blessings? okay, so I play a blessing, my ally plays a blessing, I play an ally that gives me a d4, and what the heck, maybe I used a Mendevian Crusader to explore so that's another 1. What's that add up to? 3d6+d4+1, which averages *drum roll* 13! Hey, you still have less than a 50/50 chance to win, after spending 3 cards, 2 of which were discarded, AND you were lucky in the exploration card you used. Golem IS that hard to kill with a caster. If it had been a 10 or even 12 DC, I don't think you'd have anywhere CLOSE to the frustration you're seeing here. However, 14 is right at that point where a group is spending a level of resources beyond what they'd be using when encountering a Villain with an unprepared character.

Every other point you make I agree with (I'd argue that golems have never appeared this early before, but that doesn't mean they can't). However, the idea that 'characters just need to put in a bit of effort' is foolish. The level of investment you need to put in is more than an average 1-2 person group could handle (you need 3 blessings to get to decent probability), and it's more exploration resources than a 5 or 6 person group can afford to spend (I haven't done the math, but I figure 6-player groups still need to spend at least 60% of their blessings/allies on explores even with average luck finding the henchmen). So, once again, if you're not in that 3-4 character sweet spot, you're boned.

Actually, 3d6+1d4+1 is an average of 14.. But that's not the point. The point is that the game is luck based. I could fail a check with 5d12+8 against a Carrion Golem. And trust me, someone probably has! We're talking about probabilies here. Are we saying that WotR is harder because some of the probabilities of certain DCs become lower? I disagree.

I think that people think that WotR became harder is because they have to become out of their comfort zone. In RotR you could just...

Donny. That's complete BS

We are talking mainly about the B scenarios. We have not had the opportunity to take armour feats or what have you

Supposedly all the characters are equal. We know that to not be the case, ( it would almost be an impossible design feat ) so there should be a case for taking whomsoever you wish. However, I always design a well rounded group ( or make sure I play a complementary character and it's blatantly obvious this set is flat out harder than previous sets.

I find your insistence that we all don't know what we're doing disingenuous ( at the very least )


For those curious... I have started a run this past evening.

Short short form:
B1 The Godless Ones: Plenty of boons to be had, if you think you have the time to fetch them.

B2 The Elven Entanglement: One epic fail. While our friend the Tree Generator was the show-stopper, my approach to the run would have resulted in failure anyway, and will need a bit of revision. I do have a plan though.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Troymk1 wrote:
I find your insistence that we all don't know what we're doing disingenuous ( at the very least )

I'm sorry if I offended you, that was never my intention.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Donny Schuijers wrote:
Troymk1 wrote:
I find your insistence that we all don't know what we're doing disingenuous ( at the very least )
I'm sorry if I offended you, that was never my intention.

Heh. Friend of mine has a T-shirt that says "I did not intend to offend you. That was just a bonus." :-)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mogloth wrote:
Back to PACG - I have never constructed my own decks at the beginning. I have always used the deck lists in the book. Why? Because they are in the book. They are there for a reason. So, I use them.

They are there for a reason, and that reason is that many people want to just start playing right away, and if they're forced to read and understand every basic card in the game before they actually play the game, many people would just give up.

But these characters by their very nature are not optimal. Because we don't know which characters you're going to choose, we have to design them so that you can choose any 4 (or any 6 if you have the Add-On Deck) and you know that the cards on the list will be available to you. Which means that if you build from these lists, there's a very good chance that when you're done, cards that would be great for your character—often ones even better than some of the cards you have—are sitting in the box because we assigned them to a character that isn't being played in your game.

Once you understand the game, I would strongly suggest that when you start a new group of characters, you use this process, which I believe is the fastest way to get a great set of decks tailored to the characters you're playing.

• Pick characters
• Build starting decks using the deck lists
• Go through all the unused Basic boons and "trade up"


I get that Vic, what I don't understand is why you bother to include cards that aren't good for any, like Viper's Strike. But that's not a problem with the starting list, its a problem with what's int he box.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
I get that Vic, what I don't understand is why you bother to include cards that aren't good for any, like Viper's Strike. But that's not a problem with the starting list, its a problem with what's int he box.

Viper Strike is more problematic than most of the others I will grant you, but mythic archmages can use it just fine - and it doesn't take that long to get your mythic path going...

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

A trout-slapping promo spell that does zero damage would be more welcome in my box than Viper Strike.

At least the spell would be guaranteed to have some interesting traits.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
I get that Vic, what I don't understand is why you bother to include cards that aren't good for any, like Viper's Strike. But that's not a problem with the starting list, its a problem with what's int he box.

Part of the reason is to make sure any pre-built character works with any other pre-built character. I'm sure it's also just for diversity, but maybe there's not enough Divine spells to do it any other way?


Shisumo wrote:
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
I get that Vic, what I don't understand is why you bother to include cards that aren't good for any, like Viper's Strike. But that's not a problem with the starting list, its a problem with what's int he box.
Viper Strike is more problematic than most of the others I will grant you, but mythic archmages can use it just fine - and it doesn't take that long to get your mythic path going...

A mythic archmage can spend a mythic charge to make it equivalent to the the worst other attack spells in the game. That's awful. And there is no reason to ever keep Viper Strike in your deck for the games it takes you to get your mythic path.


Dave Riley wrote:
Joshua Birk 898 wrote:
I get that Vic, what I don't understand is why you bother to include cards that aren't good for any, like Viper's Strike. But that's not a problem with the starting list, its a problem with what's int he box.
Part of the reason is to make sure any pre-built character works with any other pre-built character. I'm sure it's also just for diversity, but maybe there's not enough Divine spells to do it any other way?

Make a new spell. Have viper strike use '2d6' instead of '2d4.' Allow the arcane check to make the spell 'reveal' instead of 'recharge.' Anything to give you some reason to play the spell.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

It has an easier recharge! :D


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What do you find so problematic with Viper's Strike?


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Fayries wrote:
What do you find so problematic with Viper's Strike?

The fact that it has the Poison trait, meaning that Undead and Demons are typically immune to it, based on their design template.

As Dave Riley points out, it's recharge is two easier than Fire Blade, so it's actually a pretty good spell for WotR Kyra to take, since she can use her own pwer to defeat Demons and Undead.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Hi everyone,
We tried for the 5th time yesterday to pass through B4 and failed again. But this time we made sure to record everything to understand exactly - and without any emotion - what we do feel is, if not plain wrong, at least a bit broken with the difficulty of B2 and B4.
We checked vs normal stats all of our dice rolls and we were absolutely not unlucky.
We chacked whether some cards could have been played at the wrong time, and no - ith the info we had at any given time, we didn't make any real mistake.

So what are the lessons learned after that much attempts ?

We strongly beleive Scenario B4 may be well tuned for groups up to 4, maybe 5, but certainly not 6.

What happens with 6 players is that there is a combination of bad effects that give exponentially frustrating results :

- Chances that the character who encounters the villain or the main henchman has a Magic attack gets much lower because there are only a few cards like that available when you reach B4 (except for pure casters), and they are spread in the group so usually not in your hand when needed.
- If you do not defeat the Villain, there is no way you can finish the scenario in time due to the additional location.
- You get to add the Abattoir location that gives +6 difficulty to all monsters. Ergo if the villain is there or escapes there, you are dead meat.
- Demon Hordes and the like barriers are killers because there is a significative chance someone will have to encounter 3 demons (do the maths). That player lose a full turn (and remember, with 6 players, you only get 5 turns each). Worse, any hand management optimization for that player is back to zero (usually that card with the magic trait is gone so anyway you are doomed). By the time he gets a new playable hand, game is over.
- Sending defeated henchmen in another location may seems a good idea to increase chances to close faster, but tries and tries prove that those Wights will then have you bury many cards through pre combat damage up to the point you won't have enough left to explore enough or confront the villain. This because you do have many more locations to close. Plus that forbids Balazar for example to add them to his hand.
- Speaking of closing locations, if you only have 3 players for example, if you have closed two locations fast, you can avoid difficult ones with a good gamble on keeping just one guy on each locations to be able to temp close and dig only in one location. You lose 2/3 of turns but chacnes of winning are high. With 6 players if you were to do the same, not only changes you are digging the right place goes from 1/3 to 1/6, but you are losing 5/6 turns insted of 2/3.

At the very least, we strongly feel that the scenario should not at the same time include a magic only villain and the abattoir for 6 characters.

Our $0.02.


Fayries wrote:
What do you find so problematic with Viper's Strike?

Just a couple things.

1. Roughly 1/3 of all monsters (including nearly all demons, certainly all undead, and most plant creatures) have an immunity to poison.
2. The two worst Spread Barriers spread demon servitors (immune by type) or plants (immune by type.)
3. To my current awareness, poison exploits no weaknesses at all.
4. The only compensation Viper Strike has compared to the other "boring" +2d4 spells is that its recharge is easier.

Kyra can use it, because most immunes are subject to her Blast Evil power. For any other caster, it's unreasonably likely to be a dead card.

---

Frencois: What's your party? If you have a lot of martials, consider trying to farm B-3 if it was comfortable enough; it has the Armory, so after a few runs you should be able to pull some magic weapons.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Sandslice wrote:
Frencois: What's your party? If you have a lot of martials, consider trying to farm B-3 if it was comfortable enough; it has the Armory, so after a few runs you should be able to pull some magic weapons.

We tried with

Kyra, Crowe, Alain, Balazar, Shardra and Enora.
or
Kyra, Crowe, Alain, Balazar, Shardra and Adowyn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Calthaer wrote:

A trout-slapping promo spell that does zero damage would be more welcome in my box than Viper Strike.

At least the spell would be guaranteed to have some interesting traits.

Probably the goblin trait, for one.

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