Running the Game

Friday, July 20, 2018

As the Pathfinder Playtest begins, Game Masters will need to quickly get up to speed with the new rules. The Game Mastering chapter of the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook is here to help you out! It covers the responsibilities of a GM, gives advice on running sessions, and teaches you how to adjudicate the rules of the game. Because this is a playtest, there aren't details about creating your own campaign or adventures, but rest assured, this information will appear in the Pathfinder Second Edition rulebook!

Running Modes of Play

A large section of the Game Mastering chapter runs through the special concerns of running the three modes of play: encounters, exploration, and downtime. The specific rules governing those modes appear in the Playing the Game chapter, so this chapter instead talks about how to set the pace of the game as you GM. Exploration and downtime get the most focus here, since most the rules for running encounters are addressed in Playing the Game. The section on exploration goes over exploration tactics characters might adopt, and gives advice on what to do when players want to choose tactics that aren't included in the default options. It also addresses how to begin and end encounters, including some advice on how to use the new initiative rules of the playtest. The section on downtime shows you how to play out a single downtime day at the table, and how to cover long periods of downtime quickly and keep them interesting. It also talks about buying and selling items and retraining abilities.

Difficulty Classes

Setting DCs is one of your major tasks as GM, and the rulebook covers how to create two different types of DCs: those that are appropriate for a certain level and those that are static challenges in the world. This first category is great when you need the DC of an obstacle created by an enemy of a certain level but don't have all their statistics, when you set the DC to Craft an item of a particular level, and so on. Levels and categories of difficulty are given in a table so you can pick a DC quickly. The level is based on your opposition's level, and the category depends on the particular situation. Here's a portion of that table.

LevelTrivialLowHighSevereExtreme
0 910121417
11012141518
21113151619

Static challenges are everything from climbing a tree to identifying a minor noble. These tasks don't really get more difficult if the PCs are higher level, but can still be expressed in terms of level and difficulty category. The guidelines explain how to select a level and category of difficulty. For instance, climbing a rope that's hanging in mid-air is a level 1 task, so it's normally a high DC (14), but it might have a low DC (12) if you can brace yourself against a wall while climbing through a narrow area, and maybe even a trivial DC (10) if you can brace against two walls. Because static DCs don't increase as the PCs advance in levels, eventually low-level static tasks will become nearly automatic for them. We give guidelines here for GMs crafting their own adventures, but it's ultimately up to them what level and DC tasks are. (In published adventures, this information is still provided.)

As you can see, the rules for DCs intentionally put far more choice in your hands as the GM. Rather than having a long list of DCs and modifiers pre-defined, we wanted to let the GM assess the particulars of any given situation and then use some simple tools to set the DC, rather than needing to calculate a DC based on rules that aren't always exactly suitable to the challenge facing the players.

This section also speaks to some particular categories of skill DCs for crafting, gathering Information, performing for an audience, practicing a trade with Lore, recalling knowledge with skills like Arcana or Lore, or training an animal.

Rewards

This section contains some rules not directly related to Doomsday Dawn, but that we want people to take a look at and use if they create their own campaigns during the playtest. One thing that shows up is rules on awarding Experience Points. This includes XP awards for accomplishments, so that you'll have guidance for when the group pulls off important tasks that aren't encounters or hazards. As noted previously, it normally takes 1,000 XP to level up, but there are also options for varying the players' advancement speed by having a new level every 800 XP or 1,200 XP. If you're playtesting your own campaign, you might want to have characters level up every 800 XP so you get a chance to playtest more levels of the game!

Environment and Hazards

The last section of the Game Mastering chapter briefly summarizes environments and the rules for hazards (such as traps, environmental dangers, and haunts). These are covered in more detail in the Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary. They'll be in the final version of Pathfinder Second Edition's core rulebook, but the Playtest Rulebook didn't have quite enough space for the whole thing!

Are you looking forward to GMing playtest games? What changes are you hoping to see? Are you going to run Doomsday Dawn, or try some of your own adventures too? Sound off in the comments!

Logan Bonner
Designer

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Tags: Pathfinder Playtest
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Brock Landers wrote:
Mats Öhrman wrote:
IconicCatparent wrote:


I am asking you! It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart, and I'm genuinely curious about what went so wrong in 4e's skill DC system.

The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Skill Challenges.

Once your skill roll was part of a skill challenge, the DC always ended up being the ”level appropriate” one no matter what you tried to do narratically.

We never got the narration to fit the mechanic either. Either we got trapped in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation: ”Ok, I rolled 39 on my stealth. Do I manage to sneak up on him?” - ”I’ll tell you after we’ve all rolled 13 more rolls.” or out-of-sync between mechanic and narration: ”What to you mean ’we’ failed to cross the gorge? Two of us managed all our climb rolls, and you said we succeeded in our climbs. Do we have a split party now?” - ”Um....” (Examples intended as quick few-sentence illustrations only)

Finally the GM wrote his own skill challenge system to fix mechanical issues, but we never got rid of the threadmill level appropriate skill DCs or the Schrödinger’s Cat problem.

(Played a full campaign in 4E, level 1-26, using a conversion of Rise of the Runelords)

Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

This one I'm not worried about, as it actually has an in-universe justification saying material A is stronger than B wise.

What I'm really worried about is that...

Deadmanwalking wrote:

I like these rules/guidelines fine, and think comparing them to 4E is more than a bit off. 4E's problem in this regard is that climbing a tree often (depending on DM) got higher DC as you went up in level. That's explicitly made not the case here (as may well have been the intent in 4E, but not so much the reality).

I don't really have much else to say.

...such atrocities against verisimilitude will frequent whether intentional or not. It's especially bad when your home country has around only 10000 active roleplaying gamers, with capable GMs less than a quarter of that...


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Yeah I have no problem with being able to quickly pull out an extreme Difficulty Level 16 check because the rules for picking the lock on the First Vault weren't ever written and thats what my players are trying to do. These kinds of quick tricks are very handy, especially for a GM with a more "go with the flow" style that encourages players to do what they fancy.

So long as that is combined with the players ability to go back to their hometown and find the old Oak tree is still the same DC as before I'm happy. And this seems exactly what they've done. Set numbers for a world so that it doesn't just scale with the players but a quick set of benchmarks for GMs to quickly decide a DC when it is needed.


Lucas Yew wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Mats Öhrman wrote:
IconicCatparent wrote:


I am asking you! It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart, and I'm genuinely curious about what went so wrong in 4e's skill DC system.

The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Skill Challenges.

Once your skill roll was part of a skill challenge, the DC always ended up being the ”level appropriate” one no matter what you tried to do narratically.

We never got the narration to fit the mechanic either. Either we got trapped in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation: ”Ok, I rolled 39 on my stealth. Do I manage to sneak up on him?” - ”I’ll tell you after we’ve all rolled 13 more rolls.” or out-of-sync between mechanic and narration: ”What to you mean ’we’ failed to cross the gorge? Two of us managed all our climb rolls, and you said we succeeded in our climbs. Do we have a split party now?” - ”Um....” (Examples intended as quick few-sentence illustrations only)

Finally the GM wrote his own skill challenge system to fix mechanical issues, but we never got rid of the threadmill level appropriate skill DCs or the Schrödinger’s Cat problem.

(Played a full campaign in 4E, level 1-26, using a conversion of Rise of the Runelords)

Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

This one I'm not worried about, as it actually has an in-universe justification saying material A is stronger than B wise.

The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really atrocious.


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Brock Landers wrote:
Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

I don't see how door quality improving is any worse than enemies conveniently leveling with you, the pit traps getting deeper, chasms getting wider, or a whole number of other things that have always happened in DnD and derivatives.

Now, I will agree that 4e had some problems, but I just don't see that particular one as one of them.


Nightwhisper wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.
I don't see how door quality improving is any worse than enemies conveniently leveling with you, the pit traps getting deeper, chasms getting wider, or a whole number of other things that have always happened in DnD and derivatives.

That's not really been a thing, IME, still fight lower level enemies, pits do not all suddenly get deeper around the world, not everything is conveniently within a few levels of the party.


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Thats probably true but if your going into dungeons with higher level creatures you should also expect better doors better traps etc. I do the world building to make it work in my own games anyways.


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Brock Landers wrote:
The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...

The party's opposition is supposedly epic by that point as well. Why would an epic creature of any appreciable intelligence acquire a lock it could itself pick open easily?


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Nightwhisper wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...
The party's opposition is supposedly epic by that point as well. Why would an epic creature of any appreciable intelligence acquire a lock it could itself pick open easily?

Food.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Brock Landers wrote:
Lucas Yew wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Mats Öhrman wrote:
IconicCatparent wrote:


I am asking you! It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart, and I'm genuinely curious about what went so wrong in 4e's skill DC system.

The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Skill Challenges.

Once your skill roll was part of a skill challenge, the DC always ended up being the ”level appropriate” one no matter what you tried to do narratically.

We never got the narration to fit the mechanic either. Either we got trapped in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation: ”Ok, I rolled 39 on my stealth. Do I manage to sneak up on him?” - ”I’ll tell you after we’ve all rolled 13 more rolls.” or out-of-sync between mechanic and narration: ”What to you mean ’we’ failed to cross the gorge? Two of us managed all our climb rolls, and you said we succeeded in our climbs. Do we have a split party now?” - ”Um....” (Examples intended as quick few-sentence illustrations only)

Finally the GM wrote his own skill challenge system to fix mechanical issues, but we never got rid of the threadmill level appropriate skill DCs or the Schrödinger’s Cat problem.

(Played a full campaign in 4E, level 1-26, using a conversion of Rise of the Runelords)

Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

This one I'm not worried about, as it actually has an in-universe justification saying material A is stronger than B wise.

The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...

Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."


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Brock Landers wrote:
That's not really been a thing, IME, still fight lower level enemies, pits do not all suddenly get deeper around the world, not everything is conveniently within a few levels of the party.

But you're probably suddenly encountering greater numbers of those lower level enemies compared to when they were higher level than you. The pits all around the world don't get deeper, but somehow wherever you go, they are deeper on average than the pits in the places you visited five levels ago.


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Malk_Content wrote:
Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."

Malk's got it; I am not saying higher level characters should not encounter higher level threats/DCs, or be in locales/situations that they couldn't handle at lower levels. 4th Ed does not present it that way, it makes the contrived assumption that at X level you will be on the outer planes or something, fighting gods and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times.


Elleth wrote:
Nightwhisper wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...
The party's opposition is supposedly epic by that point as well. Why would an epic creature of any appreciable intelligence acquire a lock it could itself pick open easily?
Food.

Elaborate?


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Somethings too take some narrative to get to work. I don't like pits magically getting deeper, but I do think that people developing traps probably get more deadly or intricate traps the more precious a person/place/thing they are trying to protect, especially if their assets to do so have increased.

For things like fighting larger amounts of low level enemies I've rarely had trouble dealing with this as a GM. I mean the fact that 3 levels ago you devastated the Orcs scout parties means that the remaining members of those tribes have scaled up their defenses, placed more men on raids etc because they KNOW there is something out there that they were not adequately prepared for previously.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Nightwhisper wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...
The party's opposition is supposedly epic by that point as well. Why would an epic creature of any appreciable intelligence acquire a lock it could itself pick open easily?

Limited resources, the fact that they might not actually be as good as your party rogue and would have trouble picking the lock so they thought it was good enough, they knew a lock won't stop people as powerful as them anyway and so sort a cheaper option that would at least keep out those less capable/not worth dealing with.

I mean all the locks on my house I could pick. Do I feel the need to upgrade them? No because I know most would be intruders aren't as capable as me at lock picking and if I lose my keys/lock myself out I want to be able to regain access to my property without calling a locksmith.


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My world has the world of warcraft thing kind of going on but not as generalized. (for the non wow players some area are naturally higher level areas. Usually this is cause by sentient races creating artificial and natural barriers. to separate more dangerous area's from the general populace ) Some continents are just harder to survive then others.


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Perfect. Page 42: The Revenge. I understand that in trying to fix the problems of Pathfinder they're going to tread much the same ground as 4e but this one needs to die. At the very least they shouldn't be advertising it.

The system is literally 4e's. Static DCs for specific things and a series of DCs for ad-hoc GM calls. It's a great system for streamlining (the damage tables even let you use it in combat). Except, as someone has already accused other posters of, people look at the tables and don't notice there are static DCs (though they were refering to reading the post). Or (leveled at 4e) developers use the table as rules for adventure design. Both are the treadmill, where you gain a level, grow in power, and still need the exact same roll on the dice to succeed.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
My world has the world of warcraft thing kind of going on but not as generalized. (for the non wow players some area are naturally higher level areas. Usually this is cause by sentient races creating artificial and natural barriers. to separate more dangerous area's from the general populace ) Some continents are just harder to survive then others.

Which is perfectly suited to 4th Ed, as it was designed at the height of WoW's success, and it was originally designed to be played on a VTT, but some unfortunate accident befell the designer of the VTT.

Another problem with the 4th Ed treadmill effect, is that whether you have +3 or +37 to a check, what you actually need to roll on the d20 is the same in level appropriate encounters.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:

Perfect. Page 42: The Revenge. I understand that in trying to fix the problems of Pathfinder they're going to tread much the same ground as 4e but this one needs to die. At the very least they shouldn't be advertising it.

The system is literally 4e's. Static DCs for specific things and a series of DCs for ad-hoc GM calls. It's a great system for streamlining (the damage tables even let you use it in combat). Except, as someone has already accused other posters of, people look at the tables and don't notice there are static DCs (though they were refering to reading the post). Or (leveled at 4e) developers use the table as rules for adventure design. Both are the treadmill, where you gain a level, grow in power, and still need the exact same roll on the dice to succeed.

Bingo! Especially that last sentence.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Brock Landers wrote:
Lucas Yew wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Mats Öhrman wrote:
IconicCatparent wrote:


I am asking you! It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart, and I'm genuinely curious about what went so wrong in 4e's skill DC system.

The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Skill Challenges.

Once your skill roll was part of a skill challenge, the DC always ended up being the ”level appropriate” one no matter what you tried to do narratically.

We never got the narration to fit the mechanic either. Either we got trapped in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation: ”Ok, I rolled 39 on my stealth. Do I manage to sneak up on him?” - ”I’ll tell you after we’ve all rolled 13 more rolls.” or out-of-sync between mechanic and narration: ”What to you mean ’we’ failed to cross the gorge? Two of us managed all our climb rolls, and you said we succeeded in our climbs. Do we have a split party now?” - ”Um....” (Examples intended as quick few-sentence illustrations only)

Finally the GM wrote his own skill challenge system to fix mechanical issues, but we never got rid of the threadmill level appropriate skill DCs or the Schrödinger’s Cat problem.

(Played a full campaign in 4E, level 1-26, using a conversion of Rise of the Runelords)

Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

This one I'm not worried about, as it actually has an in-universe justification saying material A is stronger than B wise.

The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...

Well, here's another way to look at it - once you reach epic level, from a game design point of view, the game shouldn't pause for a dice roll to open a basic DC 10 lock (dice rolls only exist to add a chance of failure to situations where there failing actually means something) I think it shouldn't be "all locks are now made by the god of locks" instead it should be "the only locks we need to bother rolling to pick are the really difficult ones that actually present a challenge". The normal everyday locks are still there, they just don't present a challenge for the rogue to pick so we skip over them in the narrative.


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Your problem is assuming that every door lock pit and DC is all going to be the same increase. That is not the case in my set up. Dungeons may have harder lock sure and higher level monsters etc. That's no different then it has ever been. It doesn't mean I'm going to randomly make it a higher DC to jump or climb or swim. Circumstances would have to require that. I also think your translating what their revealing wrong. I don't think there saying all DC's will increase as such as you level but rather its a quick reference to help you decide what would be a hard or easy DC for that level.

However if you guys are just looking to be negative and trash things then please don't involve me.


Nightwhisper wrote:
Elleth wrote:
Nightwhisper wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
The only problem is that seems so contrived, oh, suddenly every lock your Rogue needs to pick is made by the God of Locks, because you are epic level. The Page 42 improv DC/damage table is also really...
The party's opposition is supposedly epic by that point as well. Why would an epic creature of any appreciable intelligence acquire a lock it could itself pick open easily?
Food.
Elaborate?

Adventurers, and especially thieves, see a locked doorway to some half-forgotten subterranean palace?

They're going to want to pick that door.

High level martials going to taste good to dragons, high level wizards going to taste good to mind flayers. They all taste good to mimic houses and, after all, demilich needs her souls.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Brock Landers wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."
Malk's got it; I am not saying higher level characters should not encounter higher level threats/DCs, or be in locales/situations that they couldn't handle at lower levels. 4th Ed does not present it that way, it makes the contrived assumption that at X level you will be on the outer planes or something, fighting gods and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times.

Just to verify that your criticism could also be leveled against PF1, I skimmed through the sixth volume of several of the AP's in my collection. None of them have DCs that aren't in the 20s and 30s and the lowest CR encounter I saw was CR 13.

Take City of Locusts, volume 6 of Wrath of the Righteous. Using search, I discovered that the lowest DC in the book is DC 25 (not counting the save DCs for some of the low-level spells of the weaker creatures), with most DCs far far higher than that (it looks like DC 40 is the number that occurs the most and appears to be the average for traps and hazards). The lowest rated challenge in the book is the challenge rating 17 trap on page 18. Most of the challenges are CR 20+ (imagine that, since the AP makes the contrived assumption that you are in the Worldwound or something, fighting demon lords and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times).

You can't point to a Paizo Adventure Path that doesn't use the same treadmill paradigm recommended by 4e. 5e on the other hand... well I've seen a couple of people criticize it doesn't follow this advice enough. For example, numerous low level "challenges" are assumed for a party of 13th to 15th level characters in Out of the Abyss - but 6 gnolls and a handful of hyenas or a couple of minotaurs are not a challenge at all that level. Luckily, they take like 2 minutes to resolve.


Insight wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."
Malk's got it; I am not saying higher level characters should not encounter higher level threats/DCs, or be in locales/situations that they couldn't handle at lower levels. 4th Ed does not present it that way, it makes the contrived assumption that at X level you will be on the outer planes or something, fighting gods and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times.
Just to verify that your criticism could also be leveled against PF1,

Absolutely, it is an aspect I do not like in 3rd/PF1 (AD&D was better about this sort of thing), but 4th Ed cranks it up an uncomfortable notch. I went with +1/2 level in 3rd/PF1, to replace BAB, Save bonuses, and spell DCs, which helps.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Brock Landers wrote:
Insight wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."
Malk's got it; I am not saying higher level characters should not encounter higher level threats/DCs, or be in locales/situations that they couldn't handle at lower levels. 4th Ed does not present it that way, it makes the contrived assumption that at X level you will be on the outer planes or something, fighting gods and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times.
Just to verify that your criticism could also be leveled against PF1,
Absolutely, it is an aspect I do not like in 3rd/PF1 (AD&D was better about this sort of thing), but 4th Ed cranks it up an uncomfortable notch. I went with +1/2 level in 3rd/PF1, to replace BAB, Save bonuses, and spell DCs, which helps.

But in the case of City of Locusts (as an example), your house rule wouldn't really change anything (assuming you also base the challenges on +1/2 level as well). All those DC 40 checks would now be smaller, but the party would still need the same number on the d20. All your change does is allow the inclusion of lower level challenges (which only helps in City of Locusts if you go out of your way to include lower level stuff, since the AP obviously doesn't assume it by default).

So the house rule you are proposing would make it more like the 5e adventures, which is cool, don't get me wrong, but be carfeul that you don't take it too far. One trivial encounter at level 13 is cool. A bunch of them is boring. And I'd also add that although PF and 4e rarely do it, there is nothing stopping the DM from adding a trivial encounter or two in each adventure just to demonstrate the power of the PCs. But Paizo obviously wouldn't wanted to have included wordcount in City of Locusts for a pack of dretch, for example, when they already had to apparently cut cool things as is to get within the page limits.


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Malk_Content wrote:
I mean all the locks on my house I could pick. Do I feel the need to upgrade them? No because I know most would be intruders aren't as capable as me at lock picking and if I lose my keys/lock myself out I want to be able to regain access to my property without calling a locksmith.

I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.


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Brock Landers wrote:
Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.

My group would probably be stealing these adamantine doors. "Woo, bulk adamantine!"


Nightwhisper wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
I mean all the locks on my house I could pick. Do I feel the need to upgrade them? No because I know most would be intruders aren't as capable as me at lock picking and if I lose my keys/lock myself out I want to be able to regain access to my property without calling a locksmith.
I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.

Picking locks is an interesting test case because without knowing how to do it (training) you really can't do it at all. Once you know the basics of lock mechanics, picking locks isn't really that hard for most locks, but if you have the skill it is more a matter of time than whether you will ever succeed or not. There are definitely different levels of locks that require more advanced training to pick, but once you learn how to identify them and how they work, it is again more of a matter of time than a question of whether success is a possibility. This system replicates that pretty well.

Edit: In other words Base DC is not always the best metric for determining whether someone could or could not do something. Giving the GM the ability to have two separate factors for determining whether a task is accomplishable is a good idea in my opinion.


Insight wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Insight wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Yeah if every lock is like that. If your PCs never seek out greater challenges though (like breaking into ancient vaults made by the fabled Undermountain Twins, finest dwarven craftsman of the second age) then I'm curious why you'd play to the level where those sorts of challenges are appropriate. There is nothing wrong in saying "this is a grounded campaign so we are playing at slow progression speed and expect to cap out at level 5."
Malk's got it; I am not saying higher level characters should not encounter higher level threats/DCs, or be in locales/situations that they couldn't handle at lower levels. 4th Ed does not present it that way, it makes the contrived assumption that at X level you will be on the outer planes or something, fighting gods and trying to bash down adamantine doors at all times.
Just to verify that your criticism could also be leveled against PF1,
Absolutely, it is an aspect I do not like in 3rd/PF1 (AD&D was better about this sort of thing), but 4th Ed cranks it up an uncomfortable notch. I went with +1/2 level in 3rd/PF1, to replace BAB, Save bonuses, and spell DCs, which helps.

But in the case of City of Locusts (as an example), your house rule wouldn't really change anything (assuming you also base the challenges on +1/2 level as well). All those DC 40 checks would now be smaller, but the party would still need the same number on the d20. All your change does is allow the inclusion of lower level challenges (which only helps in City of Locusts if you go out of your way to include lower level stuff, since the AP obviously doesn't assume it by default).

So the house rule you are proposing would make it more like the 5e adventures,

Exactly, it makes it less bounded than 5th Ed, but not as scaling/treadmill as standard 3rd Ed/PF2. I house-rule 3rd Ed/PF1 in a slightly 5th Ed direction, and I house-rule 5th Ed in a slightly 3rd Ed/PF1 direction (the secret sauce for 5th Ed is 3rd Ed/PF1), ha.


Doktor Weasel wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Yes, it often gives the feeling of the world conveniently levelling with you, the justification seems to be that things like doors are suddenly all made of adamantine or what-have-you once you encounter them past a certain level. Removing the +1/2 level from everything vastly improved my 4th Ed experience.
My group would probably be stealing these adamantine doors. "Woo, bulk adamantine!"

Ha, I got a visual of a party opening their portable hole to pull out all the adamantine doors they have collected along the way.


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Nightwhisper wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
I mean all the locks on my house I could pick. Do I feel the need to upgrade them? No because I know most would be intruders aren't as capable as me at lock picking and if I lose my keys/lock myself out I want to be able to regain access to my property without calling a locksmith.
I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.

That remark has been my takeaway from this thread too. :)


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Nightwhisper wrote:
I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.

I suspect you know people but they don't talk about it much.

I even have earrings that are lock picks. To most people, they're just shiny dangle earrings.


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Mats Öhrman wrote:
IconicCatparent wrote:


I am asking you! It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart, and I'm genuinely curious about what went so wrong in 4e's skill DC system.

The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Skill Challenges.

Once your skill roll was part of a skill challenge, the DC always ended up being the ”level appropriate” one no matter what you tried to do narratically.

We never got the narration to fit the mechanic either. Either we got trapped in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation: ”Ok, I rolled 39 on my stealth. Do I manage to sneak up on him?” - ”I’ll tell you after we’ve all rolled 13 more rolls.” or out-of-sync between mechanic and narration: ”What to you mean ’we’ failed to cross the gorge? Two of us managed all our climb rolls, and you said we succeeded in our climbs. Do we have a split party now?” - ”Um....” (Examples intended as quick few-sentence illustrations only)

Finally the GM wrote his own skill challenge system to fix mechanical issues, but we never got rid of the threadmill level appropriate skill DCs or the Schrödinger’s Cat problem.

(Played a full campaign in 4E, level 1-26, using a conversion of Rise of the Runelords)

Just as a warning, Starfinder uses this same kind of system. The skill challenges in Dead Suns use the rules from page 392 of the Starfinder Core Rulebook: "If a skill check does not have a predetermined DC, or if a player wants to attempt a task that is not covered in a skill’s description, use the following guidelines. A challenging DC for a skill check is equal to 15 + 1-1/2 × the CR of the encounter or the PCs’ Average Party Level (APL). For an easier check, you might reduce the DC by 5, while increasing the DC by 5 makes for a more difficult check. Changing the DC by 10 or more makes for either a trivial check with little chance of failure or a prohibitively high check with little chance of success."

Just checking, and without posting spoilers, the main skill challenge of Dead Suns 2 on page 16-18 uses this system (including explicitly requiring 12 successes for the party to end or escape from the skill challenge and DCs for improvised actions based upon the level of the party). The main skill challenge for Dead Suns volume 6 (pages 24-27) uses a very similar set-up.

Based on the Starfinder skill challenge design direction and the acknowledged presence of the "page 42" chart in PF2, I'd expect the PF2 skill challenge system to be very similar to 4e.


CrystalSeas wrote:
Nightwhisper wrote:
I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.

I suspect you know people but they don't talk about it much.

I even have earrings that are lock picks. To most people, they're just shiny dangle earrings.

"...I have acute 'earing..."

"I don't care about your jewellery!"


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Hello hello, I've been lurking about these blogs since the Playtest announcement, but I saw all the discourse on "Trivial" as a term and wanted to suggest "Intuitive"; it's a simple task, easy to grasp, and roughly as easy to perform, but there's still room for error.


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CrystalSeas wrote:
But forcing them through unnecessary hoops will help drive away many of them as well.

1) Bad GMs drive people away (and in 2008 drove them right into Pathfinder). 2) How many people have you known who refused to GM because they didn't have a DC by level chart?

Also you said yourself, people won't refuse to GM, they'll simply make up the DC.

IconicCatparent wrote:
It seems like your proposed solution and the actual 4e rules aren't too far apart....The argument that absolutely everything in 4e was bad just isn't enough for me. I need to know what about it was bad.

Just to be clear, I am not saying the table is bad because it was from 4e. I am saying it is bad, and 4e is an example of how it negatively contributed to the game. As for what happened: GMs used the DC by level table without going to the effort of explaining or justifying the higher DCs in the in game world. Rather than give players bigger pits to jump, they gave them the same sized pits and simply increased the DC.

Deadmanwalking wrote:

I like these rules/guidelines fine, and think comparing them to 4E is more than a bit off. 4E's problem in this regard is that climbing a tree often (depending on DM) got higher DC as you went up in level. That's explicitly made not the case here (as may well have been the intent in 4E, but not so much the reality).

I don't really have much else to say.

You don't need to say anything else. You have literally demonstrated exactly what I'm warning about without even meaning to. There is no difference in how the rules are being expressed in the playtest and how they were expressed in 4e. Page 178 in the 4e PHB has static DCs, exactly like we're going to get in the playtest. 4e also had a DC by level chart, exactly like we're going to get in the playtest. Based on your past experience, we know exactly how that chart is going to be used.


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DMW keeps giving this tree example. Climbing your standard multi-branched tree is DC 10 in 4th edition. It's DC 10 at 1st level. It's DC 10 at 30th level (when PCs can't even fail on a 1 due to the level bonus being added to all of their checks and defenses). It doesn't increase at the DM's whim any more than in does in PF.

If John Lynch's concern is that the very existence of the "page 42" in PF2 will cause some to argue that the chart will be used to scale what should otherwise be static DCs, he is undeniably right, since in this very thread there are people (like DMW) that are saying the exact same chart was inappropriately used in 4e despite 4e using the same explicit instructions that PF2 will apparently include.

However, as I know how to read the rules and have always used 4e's skill system properly, it is not a concern for me one way or the other.

I just get the feeling that people (such as Voss) want to mentally distance the PF2 mechanics from the 4e mechanics as much as possible, because otherwise, when PF2 inevitably is a major hit, it just provides further evidence that the 4e rules weren't the worst thing ever. Thus you get arguments like, "I don't see that they are that similar," even in cases where the rules are provably identical.


Unicore wrote:
Nightwhisper wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
I mean all the locks on my house I could pick. Do I feel the need to upgrade them? No because I know most would be intruders aren't as capable as me at lock picking and if I lose my keys/lock myself out I want to be able to regain access to my property without calling a locksmith.
I just can't get over this. I don't know anyone IRL who could pick any of the locks in their house, much less all of them.

Picking locks is an interesting test case because without knowing how to do it (training) you really can't do it at all.

This... isn't true. I had a small cabinet with a lock in my room as kid, at around 7 or 8. I learned how to open it with a paperclip over the course of screwing around with it in an afternoon.

Real locks are naturally harder, but it's pretty easy to deduce the basics from the shape of keys.

Insight wrote:


I just get the feeling that people (such as Voss) want to mentally distance the PF2 mechanics from the 4e mechanics as much as possible, because otherwise, when PF2 inevitably is a major hit, it just provides further evidence that the 4e rules weren't the worst thing ever. Thus you get arguments like, "I don't see that they are that similar," even in cases where the rules are provably identical.

Uh... what now? Why in the <expletive deleted> are you trying to psychoanalyze me and assign me motivations? And why are you doing it so badly? For one thing, it's really weird to include me when you're referring to PF2 as 'inevitably' a major hit, and even odder to think I have a positive impression of the 4e rules. Considering the 4e skill rules were re-written multiple times over the course of the edition, and were a major failure with every iteration, what you're saying doesn't even make sense.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

To be fair I do live in a fairly low security area so my locks aren't amazing. It would also take me quite a while to do so. But I can do it given basic tools.


I know someone who was able to break into my home with a trampoline spring. Doesn't mean I'd be able to do it even with a set of lockpicks. In PF2e my knowledge in IT would automatically make me better at picking locks though (as well as swimming despite the fact I don't know how to, running, climbing, knowledge of religion, botany and magic, etc, etc).


Insight wrote:
However, as I know how to read the rules and have always used 4e's skill system properly, it is not a concern for me one way or the other.

Ha, so only those who don't know how to read the rules and always use the skill system improperly (whatever that means) have a problem with it?


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Voss wrote:


Uh... what now? Why in the <expletive deleted> are you trying to psychoanalyze me and assign me motivations? And why are you doing it so badly? For one thing, it's really weird to include me when you're referring to PF2 as 'inevitably' a major hit, and even odder to think I have a positive impression of the 4e rules. Considering the 4e skill rules were re-written multiple times over the course of the edition, and were a major failure with every iteration, what you're saying doesn't even make sense.

First, let me apologize for any presumptions I've made. I'm obviously a very passionate fan of 4e (as I am with most versions of D&D to be honest). But to clarify, yes I know you have a very negative impression of 4e. But I got the sense that you were on the fence with PF2. My point was that the more PF2 turned out to be like 4e (if indeed it does as it seems too), then the less likely that you were to be receptive of PF2. But I also added the assumption that you (as many do) thought that 4e was a failure, and if it was, it was in part because of the 4e rules (neither of which I agree with, obviously). And if PF2 is a major hit (which it might not, I grant you), it would be a major hit even using a 4e-like rules system, which would presumably show any detractors of 4e that the D&D fanbase is highly receptive to 4e-isms.


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Brock Landers wrote:
Insight wrote:
However, as I know how to read the rules and have always used 4e's skill system properly, it is not a concern for me one way or the other.
Ha, so only those who don't know how to read the rules and always use the skill system improperly (whatever that means) have a problem with it?

No not at all. But I do believe that most people did not read and absorb the rules and their intent properly, either through a cursory read or overall disinterest in 4e. I'd argue that if more people had read and absorbed the rules, the 4e skill system would have been far better received. But I guess we'll see whether the same holds true for PF2. To be honest, based on this thread, it's not off to a good start.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
I know someone who was able to break into my home with a trampoline spring. Doesn't mean I'd be able to do it even with a set of lockpicks. In PF2e my knowledge in IT would automatically make me better at picking locks though (as well as swimming despite the fact I don't know how to, running, climbing, knowledge of religion, botany and magic, etc, etc).

How many times does it need to be said. You'd lack even the capability to do all but the basics in all those tasks.


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these last few posts... are we assuming the levels in the skill section is reffering to the players cause i thought it is referring to NPC who made the challenge. trees would be a level 0 always unless an intelligent being manipulated it to be harder (whomping willow from harry potter)

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