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

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Pathfinder Playtest
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I loathe the 4E system.
This system seems reasonable.
I'm kinda blow away by the fact that so many people don't see a difference.

Yes, the tables look very similar and can pretty much be equated. But the application has one huge fundamental difference.

Look at the example on 4E DMG pg 42. A rogue swings and kicks an ogre into a brazier. What details about the ogre inform the DC of this action? Answer: nothing, the ogre is not relevant. What details about the brazier inform the DC of this action? Answer: nothing, the brazier is not relevant. All that is needed to know is the level of the character trying to complete an unknown task.

Every example I've seen here indicates that the DCs are tied to the challenge and have no reference to the character. I realize that in both cases there is an implicit assumption that the challenge and the character will be aligned in the majority of cases. But that does not change the fundamental concept of whether the challenge is defined by the obstacle or the person making the attempt.

And, FWIW, I do remain leery of the overall +level approach and numerous other overtly gamist aspects of the mechanics as they are being presented. Frankly, while the difference here is clear to me, I can relate to how the tone of presentation of the overall design approach is putting some portion of the fanbase in a less than receptive mindset.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take the critical comments very seriously, even if they don't quite match the rules as stated or intended. Losing fans is a very real threat. And it is easy to lose four fans making a change that gains one.

Please look at this gamist approach to solving "known problems" and recognize that you may very well solve them and yet end up with a game that is joyful to far fewer people.

[as an aside, I completely acknowledge that a lot of 4E fans revised this interpretation, particularly late in the game as 4E was clearly dying. The text of the DMG still says exactly what it says and I argued with a lot of 4E fans who defended this system exactly as described, those who denied it not withstanding. I'm not interested in revisiting that argument with anyone who is upset because they swear now that they personally never did it that way. Your outlier anecdote isn't worth a 2018 debate.]


Insight wrote:
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.

Yeah, see, I don't like that attitude, classic edition warring rhetoric from 2008+.

Basically, it's saying anyone that has a problem with 4th Ed, simply did not understand it, read it, play it properly, and it only failed because of some ridiculous monetary goal Hasbro set...all so tired, old, and not true.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Igwilly wrote:

Not very exciting, but good articles nonetheless.

I just want to know the playtest's final boss, but I guess I'll have to wait :P
The downtime rules are going to get my attention. I've never thought much about using these kinds of rules in my games. I'll check that out.

Quadratic W wrote:

So it's the scaling DCs of 4e...but with a static DC table too. One based on a "how difficult is this?" back of the envelope question rather than a "let's add up all these modifiers and see what comes out" approach.

Honestly, that's so elegant I wonder why 4e never thought to use it.

WotC's 4e was worse than 4e :P

But enough talk about editions! Now we fight like men! And ladies, ladies who dress like men! For Gilgamesh, it's morphing time!

(I hope anyone gets it).

P.S.: Why this avatar image popped up here, it's a mystery.

We can all use more Final Fantasy 5 in our lives. :P I'm not sure about the avatar, but when you mention "smurf" your avatar becomes a smurf, although I don't really notice you saying that.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Testing avatar

s morph

That's the key combination


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Alright BryonD, how about the table from the Starfinder CRB that gives attacks, DCs, and damage for improvised hazards, with instructions to use the numbers for when the PCs try to improvise something. Per the text, all that is needed to be known is the level of the character trying to complete an unknown task.

Would you be okay with something similar to the above appearing in the PF2 CRB as well?

I'm not arguing that pg 42 doesn't work exactly as you describe. I'm saying, that based on recent Paizo design direction, PF2 will work substantially the same way (where the GM can use the level of the party to determine the appropriate DCs and damage for improvised actions, regardless of the statistics of the "ogre" or "brazier"). And that's OK. I'm simply arguing that those saying that the two or not the same (if they indeed are) are being disingenuous, especially if they praise PF2 for the very same thing for which they (presumably) derided 4e over.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Brock Landers wrote:
Insight wrote:
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.

Yeah, see, I don't like that attitude, classic edition warring rhetoric from 2008+.

Basically, it's saying anyone that has a problem with 4th Ed, simply did not understand it, read it, play it properly, and it only failed because of some ridiculous monetary goal Hasbro set...all so tired, old, and not true.

Either way, if the same is true of PF2, it's something to keep an eye out for.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

To be clear, while I like the core system as presented and feel that the maths on display is obvious enough that people can alter it all easily and globally with few ramifications, I also whole heartedly advocate them publishing sidebars detailing how to make those changes for people who want different feels in the final run. I want PF2E to be as easy as possibly for people to run in the style they like, and this means not having to look for DC conversion guides.

The GM chapter should have tables side by side for the Full level, Half level and No level to rolls variants for the DCs. The bestiary/monster creation rules should have tables to let you convert the same easily. The magic item chapter should have a discussion on different ways of handling Resonance.

They absolutely SHOULD pick a baseline, but the information to alter the game (and be clear that this is RAW and allow people looking for players to easily advertise these changes by saying something as simple as: Okay its a 1/2 Level, High Resonance with Fast XP Track) needs to be there from the get go and needs to be clearly RAW way of playing the game.

E.G I like the sound of Resonance as (apart from the wonky language in the items that use it) is. I would not care one bit if it was not the baseline way of doing things if a sidebar in the relevant sections said "Variant Rule: Low/Joint/Whatever Resonance and then described Resonance as we have it now.


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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.

You haven't met me then. Heck, I think I could manage with improvised 'tools'. ;)

IRL, locks are almost useless with the amount of windows in the average house. They keep the lazy, unskilled and unmotivated thief away at most.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Insight wrote:

Alright BryonD, how about the table from the Starfinder CRB that gives attacks, DCs, and damage for improvised hazards, with instructions to use the numbers for when the PCs try to improvise something. Per the text, all that is needed to be known is the level of the character trying to complete an unknown task.

Would you be okay with something similar to the above appearing in the PF2 CRB as well?

I'm not debating Starfinder. Bought it, was meh, don't play. I'm not aware of that table.

That said, taking your statement at face value, I would not play a game built that way, be it PF2E or other. So the answer to your hypothetical is that I would agree with you.

I don't see a single example from Paizo which suggest that.
the blog says "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. ", which is exactly the opposite. The Dc is tied to the task and the character can outpace that task by gaining levels.

Quote:
I'm not arguing that pg 42 doesn't work exactly as you describe. I'm saying, that based on recent Paizo design direction, PF2 will work substantially the same way (where the GM can use the level of the party to determine the appropriate DCs and damage for improvised actions, regardless of the statistics of the "ogre" or "brazier"). And that's OK. I'm simply arguing that those saying that the two or not the same (if they indeed are) are being disingenuous, especially if they praise PF2 for the very same thing for which they (presumably) derided 4e over.

Again, the difference between the rope climbing example in the blog here and the brazier example in the 4E DMG is night and day.

If you are arguing that there is precedent that trumps the examples in your mind, then so be it. Hell, I made it more than clear that overall I remain very concerned about the overall gamist tone. But when they flat out say this *this specific rule* works *this specific way* then that is going to carry vastly more weight with me than your reference to something in Starfinder.


Insight wrote:
Brock Landers wrote:
Insight wrote:
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.

Yeah, see, I don't like that attitude, classic edition warring rhetoric from 2008+.

Basically, it's saying anyone that has a problem with 4th Ed, simply did not understand it, read it, play it properly, and it only failed because of some ridiculous monetary goal Hasbro set...all so tired, old, and not true.

Either way, if the same is true of PF2, it's something to keep an eye out for.

Oh, absolutely, I will definitely be keeping an eye out, for everything.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
BryonD wrote:
That said, taking your statement at face value, I would not play a game built that way, be it PF2E or other. So the answer to your hypothetical is that I would agree with you.

I presumed that you would agree. The next question is whether or not a PF2E built that way would turn off a number of fans such as yourself (without also gaining a huge influx of new fans), that PF2 would be anything other than a major success. I don’t think its success would be harmed in the slightest.

And based on your post and quotes, I went back and reread the blog carefully, and now I’m more convinced than ever that it will work exactly as I described. Which is Ok, because PF2 will be fine regardless.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Mark Seifter wrote:
Aratrok wrote:
For example: I can't tell what Paizo thinks a task being "trivial" means, and it doesn't jive at all with my own personal definition.
The playtest rules thoroughly define each category. Trivial basically means if this is the DC and the whole party can try it and only one person needs to succeed, it would be incredibly unlikely that no one succeeds. For instance, even an untrained 1st-level character with 10 in the stat, likely the worst you have, is 50/50 at the level 1 trivial (a trivial task of a level is actually roughly defined as "Something a totally uninvested character of that level would be at about a coin flip to do"). Even if an entire party of four was built that way with no one invested at all, it's still only a 1 in 16 chance they don't have someone make it. Trivial DCs are relevant enough to be on the chart because someone probably will fail it if everybody has to roll it and all who fail experience some interesting result of failure.

Sorry if this is a necro'd point in this thread (haven't read 6 pages yet), but this kinda seems like it'll allow GM's who don't agree with min/maxing to let player's do so but at a larger risk of failure. I mean, if you take a dumpstat for a -2 penalty, there's the actual possibility that a character is going to fail something considered trivial.


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Malk_Content wrote:
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.

If they're so basic, why even bother granting a bonus? Why not just say everyone can do basics, no roll needed? Or does the idea of what is considered "basic" also autoscale?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
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.
If they're so basic, why even bother granting a bonus? Why not just say everyone can do basics, no roll needed? Or does the idea of what is considered "basic" also autoscale?

Everyone gets better at stealing without being seen, but only thieves and urchins can attempt to pickpocket a mark.

If PCs don't have to roll to steal, NPCs wouldn't have to either. All the PC's belongings would be disappearing left and right to the local thieves' guild.


Insight wrote:
BryonD wrote:
That said, taking your statement at face value, I would not play a game built that way, be it PF2E or other. So the answer to your hypothetical is that I would agree with you.
I presumed that you would agree. The next question is whether or not a PF2E built that way would turn off a number of fans such as yourself (without also gaining a huge influx of new fans), that PF2 would be anything other than a major success. I don’t think its success would be harmed in the slightest.

Time will tell, or maybe it won't. Maybe they make changes.

But, hey, I've received more absolute declarations that that.
I was told that Paizo's failure to support 4E was a locked promise that Paizo was doomed as a company.
Cavalier disregard for fans going out the door is a big red flag.

Quote:
And based on your post and quotes, I went back and reread the blog carefully, and now I’m more convinced than ever that it will work exactly as I described. Which is Ok, because PF2 will be fine regardless.

What words in the blog brought you to that conclusion?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

John Lynch’s specific concern was that GM’s would be encouraged to come up with their own DCs using the table rather than the recommended static DCs. How can the following sentence from the blog be interpreted in any other way (genuinely curious): “We give guidelines here for GMs crafting their own adventures, but it's ultimately up to them what level and DC tasks are.”

Also, for those saying that I’m accusing them of being wrong about 4e because they didn’t understand the rules (or, I guess, because 4e fans have morphed the intent in the rules over time), I’d have to say that it seems quite probable that those that like a system and those that do not care for a system obviously have different interpretations of the rules. And if they somehow do share the same interpretation, then obviously they have different tastes (though any arguments that the system must be “gamist” for me just because it is “gamist” for them seems innane). I’m not (nor would I ever) arguing that the system worked for you or that it could work for you. I’m refuting the contention that the system is somehow objectively “bad” (outside of opinion) for me and others like me (or that we somehow tolerate gamist or unrealistic or bland or unversimillistic or “disassociated” rules, when I don’t tolerate anything of the sort). How someone can argue that my interpretation of the rules I am using somehow still leads to these things for me or my groups is beyond me. I’m not arguing that your interpretation of the rules is incorrect. I’m just pointing out that my interpretation of the rules undeniably works for me, regardless of how you feel about them. Thus, my advocacy of their continued inclusion in PF2.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

I think that many people are getting hung up on the table when really all it is doing is making explicit what has already been there behind the scenes.

What I mean by this is that in P1 if I am designing a skill challenge for my level 5 PCs I need to put the DC at a level that will be challenging (so it's not so easy to be auto-succeed, thus boring) but not impossible (so hard even my specialist has to roll above a 15, and my other PCs have no chance). Now the main problem with P1, that has been mentioned explicitly multiple times in both blogs and posts by developers, is that there is a massive gap between the specialist and the untrained. My level 5 sorcerer has a bluff of +13 (5 ranks + 3 class skill + 5 cha), where as my Fighter has -2 ( 0 ranks -2 cha). How do I design this encounter to be challenging to the Sorcerer but passable by the Fighter? At DC 15, Sorcerer succeeds on anything but a 1 (95%), but Fighter has to roll a 17 or higher to succeed (15%).

There are several ways the developers have tried to fix this issue. First, everyone gets +lvl to all skill checks, this immediately shift the fighter up from -2 to +3. Now the Fighter succeeds in a 12 or better (45% success).
Secondly, stats are now more spread out, so you won't start with 20 in your main stat, but you are also unlikely to have a stat below 10. Now the Sorcerer comes down from +13 to +12 (Cha now +4). Now the Sorcerer needs a 3 or higher (90%), where as the fighter is now at least at a 0 Cha mod, putting him at a +5.
Third, with the new proficiency system the Sorcerer losses his class skill bonus, but could be an expert in bluff by lvl 5, making him net out to +10. The fighter, being untrained takes an additional -2, dropping again to a +3.

Extrapolating from the table a level 5 challenge has a trivial DC of 14 and easy of 16. So the Fighter needs an 11 or higher to succeed at trivial (50%) and a 13 for easy (40%), the Sorcerer needs a 4 (85%) and 6 (75%) respectively. Now this even is doable for the untrained but not a "don't roll a 1" situation for the specialist. (Stealth is a bit of an outlier b/c of armor check penalty topping out at -7 in P1).

All this table does is do all the math for you. Now I don't have to try to look up a DC in the book or pull a number at random and hope it's not too hard/easy due to the massive disparity within the same party. Now if my players try something that I didn't anticipate, I can just glance at this table, grab the easy or moderate difficulty and have lots of confidence that the Party actually has a chance to both succeed AND fail.


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Insight wrote:
John Lynch’s specific concern was that GM’s would be encouraged to come up with their own DCs using the table rather than the recommended static DCs. How can the following sentence from the blog be interpreted in any other way (genuinely curious): “We give guidelines here for GMs crafting their own adventures, but it's ultimately up to them what level and DC tasks are.”

I mean, aren't all rules which affect the GM best viewed as "guidelines" anyway" since the GM is the person at the table who is capable of changing or ignoring the rules per their judgement of what's best for the game.

Ad hoc DCs for things you didn't anticipate a player wanting to do are always going to be a thing, and having a chart that makes it easier to pull up a DC when that happens is only a good thing (which may generally be a more appropriate DC than "the 1st thing that pops into your head" which I have done before.)

Fundamentally I think the chart is just a glimpse into the behind the scenes math, which I appreciate.


Insight wrote:
Also, for those saying that I’m accusing them of being wrong about 4e because they didn’t understand the rules (or, I guess, because 4e fans have morphed the intent in the rules over time),

Combination of both.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
having a chart that makes it easier to pull up a DC when that happens is only a good thing

THis is 100% not true in all cases (the cases where it is not a good thing are unfortunately GM dependent rather than situation dependent).


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j b 200 wrote:

I think that many people are getting hung up on the table when really all it is doing is making explicit what has already been there behind the scenes.

What I mean by this is that in P1 if I am designing a skill challenge for my level 5 PCs I need to put the DC at a level that will be challenging (so it's not so easy to be auto-succeed, thus boring) but not impossible (so hard even my specialist has to roll above a 15, and my other PCs have no chance). Now the main problem with P1, that has been mentioned explicitly multiple times in both blogs and posts by developers, is that there is a massive gap between the specialist and the untrained. My level 5 sorcerer has a bluff of +13 (5 ranks + 3 class skill + 5 cha), where as my Fighter has -2 ( 0 ranks -2 cha). How do I design this encounter to be challenging to the Sorcerer but passable by the Fighter? At DC 15, Sorcerer succeeds on anything but a 1 (95%), but Fighter has to roll a 17 or higher to succeed (15%).

There are several ways the developers have tried to fix this issue. First, everyone gets +lvl to all skill checks, this immediately shift the fighter up from -2 to +3. Now the Fighter succeeds in a 12 or better (45% success).
Secondly, stats are now more spread out, so you won't start with 20 in your main stat, but you are also unlikely to have a stat below 10. Now the Sorcerer comes down from +13 to +12 (Cha now +4). Now the Sorcerer needs a 3 or higher (90%), where as the fighter is now at least at a 0 Cha mod, putting him at a +5.
Third, with the new proficiency system the Sorcerer losses his class skill bonus, but could be an expert in bluff by lvl 5, making him net out to +10. The fighter, being untrained takes an additional -2, dropping again to a +3.

Extrapolating from the table a level 5 challenge has a trivial DC of 14 and easy of 16. So the Fighter needs an 11 or higher to succeed at trivial (50%) and a 13 for easy (40%), the Sorcerer needs a 4 (85%) and 6 (75%) respectively. Now this even is doable for the...

This.... this is a perfect explanation. I love it. Though I didn’t understand my own feelings of the table to put into words, I knew it was a great idea, thank you for explaining this in a great way.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I think that ByronD and I both realize what the table allows. I agree that that is a needed and good thing. His point was that when 4e implemented the system, it wasn’t the same (and in fact was bad) because the level of the characters told you what line to look at for making ad hoc rulings about the level of challenge, rather than say the level of the environment or encounter (which to be fair will most often be the same as the level of the adventure/party). However he misses some things, mainly that 4e did have spots where the challenge line to be referenced was determined by the environment or opposition, and that this was not the impetus of complaint for most criticism of the 4e DC system. Even if the latter assumption about setting the challenge had explicitly always been the case, it wouldn’t have lessened people’s criticism of the system and to suggest otherwise is revisionist history. Finally, there is reason to believe that PF2 will also occasionally (or often) expect GMs to reference the average party level (APL) of the party when determining appropriate challenges by referencing the chart.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
having a chart that makes it easier to pull up a DC when that happens is only a good thing
THis is 100% not true in all cases (the cases where it is not a good thing are unfortunately GM dependent rather than situation dependent).

I disagree. So a player for reasons which are not yet clear to me want to break into a tailor's shop, which is fine but I absolutely don't want to write down the DC for every lock in the entire city during my prep, but PCs should be able to do things in the world that I didn't plan for so the calculus for "how hard is it to break into the tailor's shop?" is a series of questions like-

"Who are they trying to keep out?" (mostly low level criminals who live in the city)
"How hard are they trying to keep them out" (theft is less risky for tailors since things like "bolts of cloth" are not easily portable and hard to fence, but their reputation is everything and they are fairly successful, so they invest in protecting it.)

So I can summon "well, this lock would be a hard challenge for 6th level characters" (which will keep out most people in the city) pull up a DC, and have something pretty quick.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
having a chart that makes it easier to pull up a DC when that happens is only a good thing
THis is 100% not true in all cases (the cases where it is not a good thing are unfortunately GM dependent rather than situation dependent).

I disagree. So a player for reasons which are not yet clear to me want to break into a tailor's shop, which is fine but I absolutely don't want to write down the DC for every lock in the entire city during my prep, but PCs should be able to do things in the world that I didn't plan for so the calculus for "how hard is it to break into the tailor's shop?" is a series of questions like-

"Who are they trying to keep out?" (mostly low level criminals who live in the city)
"How hard are they trying to keep them out" (theft is less risky for tailors since things like "bolts of cloth" are not easily portable and hard to fence, but their reputation is everything and they are fairly successful, so they invest in protecting it.)

So I can summon "well, this lock would be a hard challenge for 6th level characters" (which will keep out most people in the city) pull up a DC, and have something pretty quick.

I agree completely.

However, the argument is that unless the system ensures that you come up with same level and degree of challenge as me or even that you come up with the same level and degree every time across campaigns in this scenario, the system is worthless.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I disagree.

You can disagree all you want. I have played 4th ed with mediocre GMs who used the table to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been.


As a sidenote: This isn't meant as an attack on these rules. But am I the only one who sometimes see's the title for this thread and for a moment thinks it's called "Paizo Blog: Ruining the Game"?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

For example, John Lynch or someone else might use the chart and their own assumptions (ie most low level guild thieves could pick a tailor shop lock without breaking a sweat and thus assign an easy level 5 DC rather than your hard level 6). Now it doesn’t bother me that two different campaigns have different DCs for the same scenario, but it undeniably bothers some people (hence the occasional 4e criticism).


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I disagree.
You can disagree all you want. I have played 4th ed with mediocre GMs who used the table to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been.

I too have played (edition) with mediocre GMs who used (game mechanic) to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been, so I feel your pain.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I disagree.
You can disagree all you want. I have played 4th ed with mediocre GMs who used the table to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been.

So your issue is "it's not bad-GM proof"?

Let me know when someone comes up with a system that is. I'm on the lookout for one that's bad-player proof too.


I played f'ing 'Rolemaster'!
I put quotes around the name because I read those books and that wasn't what we played. I swear he only used a 'system' at all to justify finding ways to punish players for rolling, even when they succeeded or critically succeeded. We were expected to roll the equivalent of a DC 20 check just to wipe our assets without using a dagger by mistake.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I disagree.
You can disagree all you want. I have played 4th ed with mediocre GMs who used the table to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been.

So your issue is "it's not bad-GM proof"?

Let me know when someone comes up with a system that is. I'm on the lookout for one that's bad-player proof too.

I've heard of this new thing called computer games...


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Honeybee wrote:
I too have played (edition) with mediocre GMs who used (game mechanic) to make the game less fun than it otherwise would have been, so I feel your pain.

The thing is. It wasn't just an isolated incident. It has been demonstrated through numerous testemonies across the internet for the past 10 years (some of them have unwittingly been made in this thread!). There's an easy way around it. Give GMs the in game universe description of what is easy, medium, hard, etc and then give them the DC for those challenges in a separate area. It removes the crutch from the GM and helps train them to think of what is happening within the universe the PCs are stomping around in.

PossibleCabbage wrote:
Let me know when someone comes up with a system that is. I'm on the lookout for one that's bad-player proof too.

I'm not asking for something that is terrible GM proof. I'm asking for something that helps mediocre GMs. Not everyone is a born a great GM. But they can improve with assistance and guidance. This table is a crutch that has a demonstrated history of not assisting mediocre GMs in becoming better GMs.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
having a chart that makes it easier to pull up a DC when that happens is only a good thing
THis is 100% not true in all cases (the cases where it is not a good thing are unfortunately GM dependent rather than situation dependent).

I disagree. So a player for reasons which are not yet clear to me want to break into a tailor's shop, which is fine but I absolutely don't want to write down the DC for every lock in the entire city during my prep, but PCs should be able to do things in the world that I didn't plan for so the calculus for "how hard is it to break into the tailor's shop?" is a series of questions like-

"Who are they trying to keep out?" (mostly low level criminals who live in the city)
"How hard are they trying to keep them out" (theft is less risky for tailors since things like "bolts of cloth" are not easily portable and hard to fence, but their reputation is everything and they are fairly successful, so they invest in protecting it.)

So I can summon "well, this lock would be a hard challenge for 6th level characters" (which will keep out most people in the city) pull up a DC, and have something pretty quick.

Wouldn't it be better to just go "Hm, the tailor probably has a Good Lock" and go look up that DC (30)? I mean the lock is just a lock, it would be a static DC unless you decided the person that crafted it was important.

Same with a pit. Jumping over a 10 foot pit would be a set DC, it doesnt matter if it was dug by Kobolds or a Xiomorn, it's still just jumping 10 feet.

Variable DCs generally come from abilities with their own formulas (Spells, Powers, etc.), so I don't see how the table would factor in that, except for pulling out on-the-spot traps (which had formulas for DCs and everything in PF1 but you needed to prep them beforehand).


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.


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Insight wrote:
If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.

THat's how it worked in PF1e. You know how many times I had a GM scale all DCs to a precise mathematical formula without bearing on what was occurring within the in game universe? Zero times.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Insight wrote:
If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.
THat's how it worked in PF1e. You know how many times I had a GM scale all DCs to a precise mathematical formula without bearing on what was occurring within the in game universe? Zero times.

Your incidental experiences are not universal.


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I really don't want to have to pause the game to look up the DC of specific locks, and I don't really like the idea that the locksmith's craft is insufficiently granular that locks don't come in all sorts of DCs (IMO locks should come in every DC, from "I guess that's technically a lock" to "the toughest lock on Abadar's Vault".)

A table I can glance at and think "yeah, that seems reasonable" is going to improve game flow, and "keep the game moving" is the thing I prioritize most as a GM.


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Insight wrote:
If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.

I mean....doesn't that kinda defeat the whole point of static DCs? Isn't this exactly what John Lynch is worried about? As in, GMs just making up numbers on the fly when the numbers already exist for the stuff they want to do?

If all you had was the chart, that's fine. But you don't, you also have static DCs. I'd assume the idea is to, y'know, use those? Otherwise why waste the space?


Gorbacz wrote:
Your incidental experiences are not universal.

No experiences are universal. But the chart was a common enough problem that it has been well documented to have occurred with 4e and is well known to have occurred with 4e. If you feel that it also commonly occurred in PF1e then please enlighten me. Because I haven't heard of such claims being levied against PF1e (and definitely not to the degree they were with 4e).


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Not everyone is a born a great GM. But they can improve with assistance and guidance. This table is a crutch that has a demonstrated history of not assisting mediocre GMs in becoming better GMs.

Not everyone wants to "improve". You keep insisting that other people need to GM the way you think is best.

Paizo has made a tool for 'lesser' GMs to use. And you want Paizo to take away that tool.

Calling it a 'crutch'; insisting that 'mediocre' GMs must be brought up to standards you approve of; on and on with this gatekeeping verbiage that insists that people you think are 'mediocre' can't possibly run tables that other people enjoy playing at.

Don't use the tool if you don't want it. When you are coaching and mentoring GMs who have asked for your advice, suggest ways they can improve their game. Include "not using this table" as part of your coaching.

But for goodness sake, drop the argument that everyone else has to play the way you approve of.


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CrystalSeas wrote:
But for goodness sake, drop the argument that everyone else has to play the way you approve of.

People can play however they want. I'm advocating for tools that I honestly believe will improve the game and advocating for things to not be included in the rules that will make the game worse. If you disagree: That's fine. But telling me to be quiet and go to the back of the classroom is not acceptable.

By the way: Many of the people who are supporting the existence of this table are saying it's existence in 4e was bad because it caused certain behaviour. I am also pointing out it is exactly the same as it was in 4e and that their support of it now is not going to result in the same behaviour they are saying is bad.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

So there may well be DCs listed for x,y,z. But this is a roleplaying game and players should be able to do (at least attempt) what they will. The list of DCs to cover every possible individual thing a player would to interact with would be longer than all the books in my local library. The game CANNOT cover everything and thus it needs to give GMs a way to quickly work out what the game doesn't cover. Locks were merely an example.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
TheFinish wrote:
Insight wrote:
If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.

I mean....doesn't that kinda defeat the whole point of static DCs? Isn't this exactly what John Lynch is worried about? As in, GMs just making up numbers on the fly when the numbers already exist for the stuff they want to do?

If all you had was the chart, that's fine. But you don't, you also have static DCs. I'd assume the idea is to, y'know, use those? Otherwise why waste the space?

Static DCs are for planning, the chart is to keep the game moving. But yes, this what John Lynch is worried about and is the entire point of the discussion. Just because I don’t agree with him doesn’t mean I don’t see the merits of his point.

Incidentally, although it is obviously not appropriate for PF2, one of the great things about 5e is that a hard DC is DC 20 whether you are level 1 or level 20, which means the static DCs (to the extent they have them) and the ad hoc chart which is trivial DC 5, Easy DC 10, etc. is the same at every level, which is pretty cool, immersive, and easy to use, at least for me.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
By the way: Many of the people who are supporting the existence of this table are saying it's existence in 4e was bad because it caused certain behaviour. I am also pointing out it is exactly the same as it was in 4e and that their support of it now is not going to result in the same behaviour they are saying is bad.

I'm curious who these people are. You appear to have identified specific people, given your positive identification of them as both supporters of the table previewed in this blog (which narrows it down to a small set of individuals) and opponents of the 4e system. "Many people" sounds, to be honest, rather vague and rhetorical, which in turn strains the believability of your argument. Could you provide some support for this argument, please? ^_^


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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)

Thank you, this is informative!

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, 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...

Yeah, the math treadmill's inherent to all RPGs where characters gain levels and easier to notice in games where the characters power up dramatically. I can't imagine a rule system that would change that.

GMs and adventure writers have the challenge of creating a real-feeling world that allows the players to forget that they're on a treadmill. The rules can offer advice, but ultimately it's more art than science, it's difficult as heck, and it varies by taste.


Malk_Content wrote:
Locks were merely an example.

I am learning, never make an example, everyone and their mother will jump onto you in a frenzied pedantic fury, that is outstanding.


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Personally I think static DCs and character-level specific DCs are sort of the same thing, it's just that the latter assumes the characters are in the sort of environment as befits their stature.

Like it's always the same DC to climb a specific tree (assuming nothing happens to the tree) but a tree which happens to be in the Abyss is going to be harder to climb than a tree in a park in Absalom. As players level up, they are liable to go to places where "demon trees" and their ilk are more commonplace than "nice trees."

But if PCs decide to relax after their foray to the abyss, then the nice climbing tree in the park in Absalom is just as easy to climb as it always was.

It is always going to be easier to break into the "vault" of the local goblin chieftan than it is to break into the vault of the richest Dwarf on Golarin and it's still going to be easier to break into said Dwarf vault than it is to break into Mammon's Vault. One just has to consider "these tasks are appropriate for different level ranges of characters". 3rd level characters trying to rob Mammon's vault have no more realistic shot at success than if they had decided to go fight a dragon. However, 18th level characters tend not to rob goblin chieftans since it's no longer interesting to people of that stature, but if they wanted to it wouldn't be remotely difficult.

I personally like the idea that there are places in the setting which are really only appropriate for high level characters, and things are sort of uniformly difficult there- all the fights are tough, but that also means the security is pretty good since they are expecting tough things to try to bypass it.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Now I want to run my mythic Wrath of the Righteous party through something like Crypt of the Everflame. Could be interesting for a night... but not more than once.


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Insight wrote:
TheFinish wrote:
Insight wrote:
If the reason you have the chart at hand during the game is so that you don’t have to go look up the actual static DC when your players do something you hadn’t expected during the game, I don’t think the solution they are looking for is to go look up the actual static DC.

I mean....doesn't that kinda defeat the whole point of static DCs? Isn't this exactly what John Lynch is worried about? As in, GMs just making up numbers on the fly when the numbers already exist for the stuff they want to do?

If all you had was the chart, that's fine. But you don't, you also have static DCs. I'd assume the idea is to, y'know, use those? Otherwise why waste the space?

Static DCs are for planning, the chart is to keep the game moving. But yes, this what John Lynch is worried about and is the entire point of the discussion. Just because I don’t agree with him doesn’t mean I don’t see the merits of his point.

Incidentally, although it is obviously not appropriate for PF2, one of the great things about 5e is that a hard DC is DC 20 whether you are level 1 or level 20, which means the static DCs (to the extent they have them) and the ad hoc chart which is trivial DC 5, Easy DC 10, etc. is the same at every level, which is pretty cool, immersive, and easy to use, at least for me.

I guess this is where we differ. If there's rules for static DCs, I'll use them. They're not for planning, they're for everything. If my PCs come across a 10 foot pit, and I know there's a set DC for that, I'll look it up. No reason to eyeball it if it's already there. Even if there's no exact DC, the set DCs give you a better base to build off of. Like, if a Good Lock is 30, then a Lock I consider better than Good would be higher. But I don't think it's an Amazing Lock, so it's less than 40. And you go from there.

As for the second point, I don't find it immersive. What is Hard to a level 1 character shouldn't be Hard to a level 20 character. Otherwise where have you advanced?

Not to mention it doesn't make much sense. 5th Edition is telling me that DC 20 is Hard for a dude with +11 to a roll (the 20th level guy) but also Hard for a guy with a +6 (1st level guy). So it's Hard for the guy with 60% chance to pass but also for the guy with 35%? Something here ain' right.

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