Core Principles: Embracing Chance in the Pathfinder ACG

Friday, May 3, 2019

To date in the Core Principles series, we've covered adding more story, varying the challenge, reducing complexity, encouraging teamwork, and rewarding heroism in the new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set. Now we're going to tackle another important design principle: injecting more drama into the game. One of our biggest tools to do that is embracing the vagaries of chance. The game comes with dice for a reason, and we wanted to change how we use them and give you even more ways to set yourself up for great payoff or greater disaster.

An early principle of Core design was establishing that uncertain outcomes are a lot more interesting than certain outcomes. We attempted to inject more chaos into the system in a few key ways. Core players have many ways to empower their characters and encounter exciting challenges, and there is almost always a chance that occasionally the dice will backstab them (or foot-stab them, in the case of the d4). We wanted more tools for managing chance, and fewer tools for removing it, extending the "lean into the fun" approach.

Now, that doesn't always mean increasing the number of dice. More dice isn't always more chance, because you can add certainty when you add more dice. One of the big lessons that we learned from the first several Adventure Paths is that, as characters grow over time, it's possible (in fact, pretty common) for players to choose feats and options that accumulate large bonuses to rolls. The more you can add a scaling bonus, like from a mythic path, marksman's bow, or cohort, the less the dice matter. Often, especially in large groups, players could find themselves attempting checks with a static bonus so high that they could not actually fail the roll. This was one of the reasons we removed the ability for all the characters to play blessings on a single check.

While there's a lot of fun to be had in coming together as a team to demolish a check, this is one of those cases where we as designers might be giving out "too much candy"—robbing those critical moments of tension and excitement. With this in mind, we've adjusted our design philosophy a bit, so that we're more often adding dice in areas where we might have previously added static +1s or +4s. We want Harsk, Lem, Seelah, and Valeros adding a d6 or d8 to your roll, not a d4+1 or d4+2. More variance leads to more suspense leads to more excitement leads to more fun.

Core avoids automatic success in most aspects of the game, especially against banes. Automatically succeeding on a combat check against the villain can be fun occasionally, but it's mostly bad for the game. Not needing to roll recovery checks for Seoni's spells? Sure, that's a pure quality of life improvement that sets Sorcerers apart from other casters like Ezren and Kyra.

If you like throwing dice, Sajan is a good pick.

Sajan loves throwing blessings on his checks, recharging any blessing he plays on himself. Or 2 or 3 blessings, if it's an Acrobatics check, combat check, or even an Acrobatics combat check. He also gets some interesting power feats for manipulating the dice he rolls, letting him really strive towards self-perfection. If he's not using a weapon, he can add a couple of extra dice. That said, Sajan also gets to add a card's level to his unarmed attacks. Many higher-level weapons grant static modifiers, and Sajan shouldn't fall behind there.

Harsk thinks Sajan should hold his beer.

When redesigning Harsk for Core, we really wanted to hew more closely to his RPG story. Harsk's origin story involves him getting revenge for his brother's death using crossbows and axes against Giants. So, bonus dice for axes and crossbows, and against Giants. And his Ranger assist power lets him assist anyone (including himself) anywhere for another die. That d4 becomes a d6 instead of becoming a d4+1, though.

Fewer ways to ignore the odds, more ways to control them.

The Frost Longspear shows why only some weapons grant static modifiers. Energy weapons, in general, are following the RPG's lead in adding extra dice, and also allowing you to choose to turn off that extra die when needed. For those of you worried that a focus on more dice instead of static bonuses will make the game too unpredictable for you (some of us try to avoid rolling important rolls if we don't have at least an 80% chance of success, and what do you mean you haven't calculated the odds?), there are plenty of ways to reroll in the system, like the new design for shields, or the previously mentioned hero points. And if you're unlucky enough to fail after rerolling (Hi, Gaby!), your friends might be able to avenge you.

Healing is also more "consistently random" (in game design, that's definitely a thing!). Time and time again, we've experienced regret due to targeted healing taking away the fun and uncertainty of what card is coming up (and also for sometimes breaking the game). Now, the new heal rule always heals random cards from your discards.

Okay, some story banes are just mean. Not all. But definitely some. Maybe most. Blame Chad.

Sometimes we want a story bane to cover variable options. Not all drakes breathe fire and not all elementals are immune to it. When we need them to be fixed for a scenario, we can declare that it is always a particular result.

Ruins are a very friendly place to encounter any of these 36 story banes. Honest.

Sometimes you need to encounter the danger, but there isn't just one and you don't know for sure what you're going to encounter. For example, a scenario might tell you the danger is a random Undead from the table. Maybe it's an Ancient Skeleton (yay!). Maybe it's a Vampire (boo!). And don't worry if you can't yet imagine fighting a Vampire. If the result you roll is higher than the adventure number, you just reroll.

That Story Bane Roster can also be used when you want to generate an entirely random story bane or story bane type for a random scenario. What's a random scenario, you probably ask? It's a new concept introduced in Core and expanded in Curse that lets you choose and/or randomly generate all of the requisite details for a scenario.

Something you hunt, not an open pit mine. They don't run very fast.

For example, Core's Random Scenario 4: Chase the Quarry steps you through a process wherein you select a location theme (Sacred, Underground, Urban, or Wild) then get a number of locations equal to twice the number of characters + 1 (and at least half of the locations have to have the trait for the theme you selected).

You then choose a story bane to be your quarry that you're chasing, a story bane to be your danger, and another stack of story banes equal to the number of characters + 1 to be not so friendly inhabitants of the locations you're chasing through.

Just select 3 wildcards to provide interesting scenario conditions and you're ready to start your chase.

Chase the Quarry is extra-random because as you're chasing your primary story bane from location to location, you are presented with a choice of two random locations to continue your pursuit. Your quarry is shuffled into the location chosen, as is another story bane that happens to be lurking in that location. Sometimes a little mix of surprise and choice is really excellent.

There are six random scenarios in Core and two more in Curse. We hope to introduce more over time. We haven't done out all the math to tell you exactly how many different scenarios you can create with these tools, but we feel comfortable stating that with the nearly limitless options available in these random scenarios, on top of the already healthy number of normal scenarios, you'll be able to play your hearts out with the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne.

Keith Richmond
Adventure Card Game Designer

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Silver Crusade

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Hey, Erasmus’s +21 static to combat checks was totally reasonable. ;-)

Looking forward to the new game.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

... and still not on my doorstep ?


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Blog said wrote:
We wanted more tools for managing chance, and fewer tools for removing it, extending the "lean into the fun" approach.

Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree on what constitutes "fun" then. A theme that's getting all too common for me with each blog, unfortunately.

In my group of working adults, ain't nobody got the time to be replaying scenarios because the "rules" cap our chances of success at an unacceptable % of chance, and we fail crucial checks in a row. If we were into that, we'd probably be out gambling in a casino.

Blog said wrote:
For those of you worried that a focus on more dice instead of static bonuses will make the game too unpredictable for you (some of us try to avoid rolling important rolls if we don't have at least an 80% chance of success, and what do you mean you haven't calculated the odds?), there are plenty of ways to reroll in the system, like the new design for shields, or the previously mentioned hero points.

This shows that you get the crux of the problem, but you're seeing it as a feature, not a bug. I'm sure this new approach will have many fans, but I'll just point out that a shield helps none a ranger or two-hander, the Hero Points are *extremely* limited, and that you've jacked up the banes to ridiculous Double Veterans (so, while I'm fooling around, upgrading a d6 to a d8, that Elemental up there will be gaining a solid flat +2. I guess "more random" equals "more fun" only when it's punishing the players). So don't mind me, I'll be around to give you an earful when the game actually hits my table, provided I don't get completely turned off.

I hope there's a lot more to "Chase the Quarry" in the book itself than the screenshot up there, because half the things Keith claimed about that scenario cannot be inferred by the text shown.


More random story elements, absolutely! But I can assure you nobody at any of the tables I've played at ever said, "Gee I wish I would fail more checks."


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Longshot11 wrote:


I hope there's a lot more to "Chase the Quarry" in the book itself than the screenshot up there, because half the things Keith claimed about that scenario cannot be inferred by the text shown.

I got most of it except choosing the theme for the locations part. But I guess there is going to be some kind of general "How to play random scenarios" rules before the scenarios in the rulebook?

Lone Shark Games

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Nobody says "Gee, I wish I would fail more checks" but people _do_ say that they want more illusion of danger, challenge, less sameness, and a vast variety of things that actually translate as "I wish I thought I might fail more checks, even if I don't actually."

Also, if something could give you +2 or +1d4, many would prefer the d4. It averages a higher number, but it often makes success more difficult to guarantee. So, boons that used to give +2, now give +d4.

Players optimize for success, sometimes actively to the detriment of their enjoyment. It's okay to win all the time (though many groups would object to that), but it's not particularly fun to win before you take the first turn. RPGs try to account for this with a GM who can cater challenges to the group. Core invites you to play the game your way, by altering the difficulty to suit your group, which does help.

Longshot11 wrote:
that you've jacked up the banes to ridiculous Double Veterans

Mathematically, from a pure proof standpoint, it's very much not ridiculous. Further, we've literally thousands of tables of play to show that it's the right direction for the game. If you want the game to be a lot easier and predictable for your group, though, go ahead and just treat them as single Veteran. That isn't the right approach for the game overall, but it might be for _your_ table.


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Yes, there is a fine line of balance on both Random and Definite style games. A game with a high random chance is fun and 'dangerous and exciting' but yeah, it really steals from the feeling of success when you build a character to do something well, and they fail because everything is a bit too random and you can sit there and see the obvious randomness that cause the failure. The other extreme, excitement goes away when every encounter is an AutoWin or "I'll only fail if I roll all 1s" type of deal. I mean, why not at that point just say I'm playing character X with build Y, so therefore I have a 98% chance of success. next game!

All that said, I'm still super excited about the game and can't wait for it to arrive at my door!


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Keith Richmond wrote:
Mathematically, from a pure proof standpoint, it's very much not ridiculous. Further, we've literally thousands of tables of play to show that it's the right direction for the game. If you want the game to be a lot easier and predictable for your group, though, go ahead and just treat them as single Veteran. That isn't the right approach for the game overall, but it might be for _your_ table.

The maths are with the Lone Sharks. And more important, the tests are with the Sharks. And even more important Longshot (with all do respect old pal) I sould suggest not to argue until you've tested the game a bunch of times. InMyHumble&RespectfulOpinion.

I'm 100% with Keith on this one.


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Keith Richmond wrote:
Nobody says "Gee, I wish I would fail more checks" but people _do_ say that they want more illusion of danger, challenge, less sameness, and a vast variety of things that actually translate as "I wish I thought I might fail more checks, even if I don't actually."

I'm curious of the sample size you used to reach the inference that this is what most players want. There's a notable difference between an illusion of danger that requires gambling with using bonuses to ensure passing one particular check at the risk of not having those bonuses on a possibly more important future check and an illusion of danger that relies on making checks more random.

Granted there is a sense of satisfaction at passing that last difficult to achieve check with only one turn left and the odds not quite in your favor, this should be an exceptional case not the norm and is quite simply achieved by increasing the difficulty of the final villain. It's something you already do to great effect. And you've already solved the problem of trivializing that final check by limiting the number of blessings that can be played on it.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Something I just noticed. Is there a reason characters have level indicators? Will there be characters that are lvl 1 or higher? What does that even mean?

Also, Axe man Harsk might be my first character.


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Finally, a few more not-all-bad changes for 2nd edition. My only concern is I hope the monster difficulties are lowered enough to compensate, because a character can only handle a couple losses against banes before the scenario is a wipe. I'm hoping they're pushing more away from Wrath than not.

(And no, heroic points don't count. They're permanent consumables. A string of bad luck and not only have you used your feats up, you're still dead and starting over.)

ANYWAY, could we PLEASE get the character sheets/checklists for the remaining class decks for 1e so I can get to playing? I won't be buying 2e for a while [waiting to read the full rule book, see some full scenarios out there] -- but it will NEVER happen if I don't get the 1e character sheets from you to play what I've already bought ages ago.


eddiephlash wrote:
What does (level) even mean?

The term Level replaces "The (card/scenario/whatever)'s Adventure Deck number, or 0 if it is a letter."


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Remember when everybody questioned the 30 card blessings deck in RotR? By the time we got to MM, nobody even questioned it anymore, as we all realized at some point along the way that the designers knew best. And they did. Every new base set introduced new concepts, and tried new things, but they each got better. Why don't we trust them and wait to play before criticizing design aspects before we've gotten a chance to play them ourselves and see how they work in context with the rest of the game?


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emky wrote:


ANYWAY, could we PLEASE get the character sheets/checklists for the remaining class decks for 1e so I can get to playing? I won't be buying 2e for a while [waiting to read the full rule book, see some full scenarios out there] -- but it will NEVER happen if I don't get the 1e character sheets from you to play what I've already bought ages ago.

You seem to have missed the last time you mentioned this and I responded with a link to community made character sheets


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emky wrote:
Finally, a few more not-all-bad changes for 2nd edition. My only concern is I hope the monster difficulties are lowered enough to compensate, because a character can only handle a couple losses against banes before the scenario is a wipe. I'm hoping they're pushing more away from Wrath than not.

I disagree with a few of the assertions you made, but I take particular issue with the bolded statement above. Unless you're playing solo, I find it difficult to envision a couple of failed checks against banes causing a scenario wipe, unless you're playing very poorly or in absolutely tiny parties with no armor (and huge hand sizes, I suppose).

Furthermore, Core is already implied to have much stronger armor - I imagine they'll be pulling from the design philosophy used in some of the Ultimate Add-On Decks, like the "Displayable" armor - and it has the Avenge mechanic atop of that. I feel that the mindset that "I lost a combat check, I may as well throw the scenario" is both an unhealthy mindset and a mindset that the developers should be actively trying to avoid - not by making it so players never fail, but for giving them tools to mitigate what failure does. Which is literally the point of the article, so saying "make banes easier" seems to be missing the point.


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As an aside, I like everything raised in this blog, but especially some of the character designs (Harsk being able to use a wide variety of weapons feels thematic and unique) and the Frost Longspear.

The new design path of saying "Elemental weapons get that elemental trait, which you can remove if necessary" (such as against a Cold-immune enemy) is so much better in my opinion. Traditionally, weapons almost exclusively added elemental traits if you were to discard (or, sometimes, recharge) them to combat, so it was extremely difficult to take any advantage of such traits.

"This Hell Hound is weak to Cold, and I've got a Frost Longbow +1, does this mean I get a bonus?"
"Only if you discard it."
"Oh, well I don't need to discard it for a combat check this low in difficulty, so I guess I'll just use my slightly stronger crossbow here instead and ignore my Frost Longbow."

Alternatively...

"Hey, my character Poog gets big advantages when he's using Fire - so this Flaming Heavy Pick +1 gives him a great combat check, right?"
"Only if you discard it, otherwise your check doesn't invoke fire."
"Oh, but if I'm discarding it I feel like I can pass almost any combat check without my bonus anyway. I usually use my spells for the big combat checks and keep a weapon to just reveal for the easier ones, since I have a higher Divine Skill."

Those above are situations I've literally seen or been in. Elemental weapons were rarely relevant to your strategy or 'character build' even if you had a character themed to elemental traits (Yoon, Mogmurch, Poog, Channa Ti, WotR Seoni, etc), except for the few weapons that inherently had traits in Mummy's Mask (and WotR). This completely changes that.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that with the new Proficiency rules that I'd love to see how this could allow for creative new character designs. I mentioned an example of Yoon having the Fire proficiency (largely solving the debate as to whether Yoon should or shouldn't be given spells in the ACG, as it varies with her two printings), and in this case a fire-proficient Yoon wouldn't need weapon proficiency to effective use a Flaming Longsword or something. This would hypothetically encourage her to pick and keep boons that are thematic to her, and give her unique advantages and synergies with cards that others in the party won't have, which would make her feel more special and fire-focused, rather than it just being a trait listed on one of her powers.

I love it!


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Yeah... I agree that these changes seems ro be good and I hope that the gema get harder. Now it has been roo easy, if not counting Wrath.
But more and more I am convinced this as a 2nd edition, even the all developers says Otherwise... And this is not a complain, but there Are so much changes that compability with older products seems to be more burden than boon. So real 2nd edition claim would be better choise IMHO and completely forget the 1st edition support.
So far I have liked this 2nd edition much more than the 1st edition and I have almost all stuff from the 1st not including some rare promos.


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Keith Richmond wrote:
Players optimize for success, sometimes actively to the detriment of their enjoyment.

See, if some rando on the street walked up to me with that statement, I'd laugh at the sheer “we know what you need better than you do” patronizing arrogance of it. However, I do actually believe y'all Lone Sharks must have the data to support this and, as Keith rightly points out, you're trying to do * what's best for your game overall*. That doesn't mean it's the best thing for * my* table and that I have to like it (respectfully, Frencois).

In 1E, if we got to the final roll with anything less than 90% chance, my group would see that as *our * failure , due to bad tactics and resource expenditure. (Barring any string of “snake eyes” or extremely unlucky Hench/Villain placement – which I always thought WAS the “balancing randomness” this article speaks about, and it was doing its job just fine.)

In 2E, if I extrapolate from Keith's statement in the blog, having less than 80% chance on “important rolls” is not only acceptable – it's * desirable * for the designers. In a 6-p game, you would have on average at least a dozen of important rolls (4 Hench, 1 Villain, 4 location closes, 3 temp closes). I'll let y'all do the the math, if you had <80% on each of those rolls, or heck, even on half of them.

For the math on Double Veterans, I'm willing to wait and see how all the boons and character powers work in concerts, but purely from a theory-crafting perspective: AT BEST, I can see banes and characters going head to head with +2/+2 flat boni advancement, for the first 4ADs (until the chars max their primary combat stat). From then on, chars will have to count on advancing die size or dice numbers VS the flat +2 of banes. Which is all in the spirit of the article-states goals, of course, but feeling that my characters are actually getting WEAKER as the AP advances is not something I'm looking forward to. I have to wonder what character powers and deck composition we've got to have so that Drake at AD6 is LESS dangerous than at AD1 (esp. if half my party is bunched up at its location, due to the new location-banish rules)

Jorsalheim wrote:
Longshot11 wrote:


I hope there's a lot more to "Chase the Quarry" in the book itself than the screenshot up there, because half the things Keith claimed about that scenario cannot be inferred by the text shown.
I got most of it except choosing the theme for the locations part.

There's the whole bit about the “quarry bane” - determining it, shuffling it in the first location, what happens when you encounter and defeat it / when you defeat a closing Henchman and close location – those things are missing in the screenshot, unless I'm missing something


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Longshot11 wrote:
Keith Richmond wrote:
Players optimize for success, sometimes actively to the detriment of their enjoyment.

See, if some rando on the street walked up to me with that statement, I'd laugh at the sheer “we know what you need better than you do” patronizing arrogance of it. However, I do actually believe y'all Lone Sharks must have the data to support this and, as Keith rightly points out, you're trying to do * what's best for your game overall*. That doesn't mean it's the best thing for * my* table and that I have to like it (respectfully, Frencois).

As a rando off the street I've personally seen that happen at some point in almost every co-op game I've ever played in for a significant period of time. In PACG we've gotten bored before the end of most scenarios because we already know we are guaranteed to win. In roleplaying games player optimization has made other characters feel totally unnecessary or forced the GM to radically change written material for the characters to feel a modicum of risk. Stuff like Pandemic might as well be played with one player and a flow chart because there is absolutely 1 best option in every circumstance etc.

Contra to that the most exciting moments we've had for a long time is when Shardra faces up against a villain AND has to punch it. Everyone gets invested in helping with what they can and we all lean in as the dice gets rolled. My current fav Spirit Island is our fav because it is so hard.


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Quote:
Time and time again, we've experienced regret due to targeted healing taking away the fun and uncertainty of what card is coming up (and also for sometimes breaking the game).

This is the first I've heard of this problem. Gronk (druid deck) has non-random healing, and Cauterize from Goblins Burn! also has non-random healing. But I've not heard of either causing any particular trouble. People aren't exactly flocking to these character decks. :)

Where's the non-random healing abuse coming from? Just curious.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

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wkover wrote:


Where's the non-random healing abuse coming from? Just curious.

I think they're referring to "healing" in a broad sense, of "any effect that gets things out of discard." There are several examples of people breaking the game or finding unlimited combos involving retrieving specific cards from discard over and over.


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It's not just about increasing the randomness, it's about injecting more tools to manage the randomness. That 80% success rate becomes a 96% success rate if granted a reroll. Heck, with a reroll and an avenge (also at 80%) it becomes 99.2%.

And from the looks of this preview blog, we'll be given lots of tools with which to reroll some or all of the dice.

Scarab Sages

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wkover wrote:
Where's the non-random healing abuse coming from? Just curious.

But if we told you, then you could go and abuse it...and so could everyone else.

On everything else: these changes do seem to work, having tested them. "Avenge" in particular takes some of the sting out of defeat - there are fewer instances where it's a "this roll must succeed or else" scenario, because someone else can also try. Because the only time you need to throw everything at a roll is because of "this roll must succeed or else" cases.

As long as we don't have the d20s coming back, it'll be fine.


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Personally, I think this is a shift in the right direction. I've played over a dozen adventure paths/seasons and one of my biggest complaints is that the game, by default, isn't hard enough. My second playthrough ever I actually started adding locations to make the game harder. Perhaps what I've been anticipating most about Core is built in ways to vary the difficulty. That is really neat. For a table like mine, I can now make the game really hard because I like to min-max and still have a challenge all the way through the end. Whereas someone new, could also use the default settings or even easier settings.

Eliandra mentioned getting Erasmus up to +21 static bonus to combat and I had a similar instance with Talitha where I got her up to +13 to all checks and in one scenario, +18 (at which point combat adds another +6 from arcane or +5-7 from melee). There are very little challenges in the game even when you have +7 to all checks. Finding ways to minimize characters getting such high static bonuses, and then providing ways to add that "chaos" seems to be a move in the right direction.

I currently am running a play-by-post of Season of the Righteous and the group of 4 has had relatively little challenge up until AD6, and even then I don't think they've ever had a point in time where they thought "hey, we might lose this." I'd love to see them have some more challenge because I worry a game you steamroll isn't fun or fulfilling.

OTOH, Most of us active on these forums are going to be more experienced than that "random person off the street" so I understand that these moves may not be a one-size fits all. It seems, though, that the developers have already anticipated this somewhat by giving ways to vary the challenge.

It makes me think of playing Pandemic, You can make the game really easy and still have a chance to lose, or you can make the game really hard and have a smaller chance win. Part of that chaos is being able to lose on turn 2, which has happened to my group before. Pandemic has been one of my most played games if I don't count all my solo-plays of PACG. Conversely I used to own a copy of Atlantis Rising and, despite playing on the hardest difficulty setting, my group of 4 never lost a single game. We swore we were doing something wrong and reread the rulebook multiple times. In fact we started playing on the hardest setting, cosmic difficulty, and we added another difficult power component (one of the win conditions) and still won those games. In the end, I traded the game because my group was bored with it and the game was OOP so I figured I should let someone else enjoy it. Atalntis Rising is also having a second edition come out soon and I'm hoping some of the mechanic changes help with the difficulty issue my group saw.

All that is to say, that I have personally seen my groups get burnt out on games that were too easy, and I have seen my groups go back to games that make it feel like you've accomplished something by winning. Having ways to customize the difficulty and "insert" the chaos seems to be a move in the right direction.


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I’m really interested in the concept of those random scenarios in Society play. PFS/SFS both have adventures that are replayable that take advantage of random generation to keep replaying them from growing stale. Can we expect the same from Card Society now?

I’m also curious about the balancing of difficulty in Society. The devs have been claiming to be offering a lot more rules for tweaking the difficulty of the game, but at the end of the day I am sure those are still house rules, and can’t be used in Society. So how do they make sure that Society scenarios are the right difficulty for most groups?

And on the note of Society, I’m also wondering what is going to happen with class decks. Will character creation be changing at all? Will we get updated versions of old class decks, a la “Unchained” decks? Will we have enough class decks out already when the new season starts to actually even play with only second edition cards?


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Malk_Content wrote:
Longshot11 wrote:
Keith Richmond wrote:
Players optimize for success, sometimes actively to the detriment of their enjoyment.

See, if some rando on the street walked up to me with that statement, I'd laugh at the sheer “we know what you need better than you do” patronizing arrogance of it. However, I do actually believe y'all Lone Sharks must have the data to support this and, as Keith rightly points out, you're trying to do * what's best for your game overall*. That doesn't mean it's the best thing for * my* table and that I have to like it (respectfully, Frencois).

As a rando off the street I've personally seen that happen at some point in almost every co-op game I've ever played in for a significant period of time.

To be clear, I'm NOT saying that doesn't happen. Quite the contrary, to reiterate, I'm * sure* that Lone Sharks are doing what they think will suit best the majority of players. I'm just saying that's not the case for everybody.

I also like a challenge, but on my table “challenge” is about: OK, so how do we “solve” this particular combination of tricky scenario, location selection, villain powers through our available decks, tactics, character placement and resource expenditure; it is NOT about making all the “right” decisions and still hoping for less than 20% failure chance.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Ceetee wrote:
I’m also curious about the balancing of difficulty in Society. The devs have been claiming to be offering a lot more rules for tweaking the difficulty of the game, but at the end of the day I am sure those are still house rules, and can’t be used in Society. So how do they make sure that Society scenarios are the right difficulty for most groups?

We mentioned in a previous blog that Core provides a bunch of individual controls for varying the challenge level, but there are also two particular configurations that we call Heroic and Legendary. In Adventure Card Society play, if everyone at the table is willing to play at Heroic or Legendary difficulty, you may do so.

Ceetee wrote:
And on the note of Society, I’m also wondering what is going to happen with class decks. Will character creation be changing at all? Will we get updated versions of old class decks, a la “Unchained” decks? Will we have enough class decks out already when the new season starts to actually even play with only second edition cards?

Again, this is not a new edition. Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.


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redeux wrote:
...

It sounds like you want the game WAY too hard. (And yeah, your comparing to Pandemic isn't a very good comparison. Quite a contemptible game, for exactly everything you describe.) Another Wrath of the Righteous would probably kill PACG for good. It's ALWAYS possible for groups that want to make the game harder to do so, but it's not rational to expect groups that expect an actual fun difficulty to make the game easier for themselves.

Lone Shark Games

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Generally speaking, the base difficulty of PACG is tuned to be similar to that of the RPG. In most groups playing the RPG, TPKs and outright campaign failures happen only a tiny percentage of the time.

Heroic is actually probably the right difficulty for a majority of groups, but only if they actually want more challenge than the base level.

Legendary is probably appropriate for those who want a more Pandemic-like level of difficulty.

The game now has the options to appeal to a broader audience that includes those who come from a more RPG-like winning preference (where perhaps you fail a scenario once every 50 or so scenarios) and those who come from cooperative boardgames that are less friendly like Pandemic and Mansions of Madness (where perhaps you fail a scenario 50% of the time).


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
emky wrote:
redeux wrote:
...
It sounds like you want the game WAY too hard. (And yeah, your comparing to Pandemic isn't a very good comparison. Quite a contemptible game, for exactly everything you describe.) Another Wrath of the Righteous would probably kill PACG for good. It's ALWAYS possible for groups that want to make the game harder to do so, but it's not rational to expect groups that expect an actual fun difficulty to make the game easier for themselves.

I don't want the game to be WAY too hard, but instead I want it to feel like an accomplishment to win. Currently, it doesn't. And what I really want, which is coming, is ways to vary the difficulty so i can play my way and someone else can play their way. Everyone is satisfied.

Sorry you don't like my comparison to Pandemic, but considering 4 variations of Pandemic are in the BGG top 100 then perhaps you'll see you're a minority here in considering it contemptible.

Default difficulty should be the middle road, and anyone wanting to have an easier or harder game should be expected to utilize the difficulty options to cater to their needs. This goes both ways and I don't think it's irrational to expect someone to adjust the game to their taste, especially when such adjustments have been laid out by the developers.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

As a quick anecdote; in Play By Post alone (so you can even dig through my alias characters to first-hand see the evidence of my games, if so desired) I have played or am in the process of playing through 8 adventure paths - if you discount Specials (which aren't really APs) then I've played or am in the process of playing through 6.

I believe a table I've actively been a player in has lost a scenario... once. At least, we had to replay a scenario. Nor have I ever seen a player experience character death, and this is in a total of something like 90 scenarios. This is why I - like Redeux above me - don't feel like it's an accomplishment when I win a scenario. I still have fun, but that's not the same as feeling like I've accomplished something, which would make victory all the sweeter.

The last time I truly felt accomplished in PACG tended to be back when it was new and I didn't really know the strategy yet, or when I knowingly played with 'bad' teams on the digital version, or tried to go through the AP without any healing, or stuff like that.


The changes all look very good to me, and I'm especially happy to see permadeath no longer as a default rule (I will keep one "hero point" at all times....) so I can want to win and hate to lose, without thinking that I must throw away 1+ year of gaming if I get really unlucky. I can stop using my custom "death" cards that go on top of my characters card piles with a big skull and crossbones once this comes out... And the changeable difficulty looks great. Heck, basically every rule change and option looks good to me.

On this subject, will the updated rule book be backwards compatible with the old AP's? If it is not a new game, can we use the new rules with the old box sets? The existing seasons?

On the subject of scaling the game to personal preference, it has always seemed to me that the biggest difference between game difficulty happens when we all chose which characters to play, not how we play or the game settings:

If the game seems too easy, take a bunch of characters who do not compliment each other. If the game seems too hard, take a bunch of characters who do. It seems to me that this changes the difficulty more than anything in game.

I like a challenge but don't want to beat myself up, so I play 2 groups of 2 through each AP: one is a "dream team" optimized for the AP and one is my "special" group that I play for a challenge. The "dream team" breezes through and helps me learn the scenario, the "special" team takes longer to get through.


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More anecdotes: in my home campaign of S&S, we gave up at the start of Adventure 2 after my roommate (Alahazra; I was Jirelle) died for the third time and didn't feel like playing any more.

In two full Guild APs and scattered other Guild games I've seen two deaths, a number of failed/aborted Scenarios (five in our Plundered Tombs campaign, IIRC) and a lot of hiding at a closed Location due to not being able to draw safely.

I'm happy when we succeed and get to continue on in the story. That's all the "accomplishment" I need out of this type of game. :)


IronGiant wrote:
On this subject, will the updated rule book be backwards compatible with the old AP's? If it is not a new game, can we use the new rules with the old box sets? The existing seasons?

They've said multiple times that you will (with adjustments) be able to play the old sets with the new rules. Given what we've seen so far I'd hedge my bets on that one and recommend playing the old sets with the old rules, but we'll see.

As far as Society play goes, they haven't said how it will work.

FWIW, my group started Tapestry's Tides not too long ago. We talked about the upcoming rules changes at our last session and aren't sure (assuming the requirement is to start using the new rules in all Seasons) whether we'll switch to the new ruleset or keep with the old one and stop reporting. ::shrug::


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Keith Richmond wrote:
The game now has the options to appeal to a broader audience that includes those who come from a more RPG-like winning preference (where perhaps you fail a scenario once every 50 or so scenarios) and those who come from cooperative boardgames that are less friendly like Pandemic and Mansions of Madness (where perhaps you fail a scenario 50% of the time).

Very good summary Keith and that's exactly what we want.

Can't help remember how we got multiple TPK (remember the Kraken?) during the RPG Playtest of Pathfinder 2 and we kept on thinking: "that is not good for an RPG, hope they'll fix that, but that could be cool if we could adapt the PACG new look up to that level."

The only issue is that in both the RPG and card game, you somehow mitigated the REALLY GOOD idea to add uncertainty by adding Hero Points.
We are not convinced by the Deus Ex Machina solution/vision, and would have preferred a in-story solution (like a consumable artifact item) but I won't comment until we actually have played it a bunch of times both in RPG and cards.

I would add for the always-complaining-emky that complaining about difficulty in a game where you set the difficulty yourself (like any GM) is somehow complaining about your own capability of being a good GM (which is good, you can always improve: you go girl!) IMHumble&RespectfulO.


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Yewstance wrote:
I believe a table I've actively been a player in has lost a scenario... once. At least, we had to replay a scenario. Nor have I ever seen a player experience character death, and this is in a total of something like 90 scenarios. This is why I - like Redeux above me - don't feel like it's an accomplishment when I win a scenario.

@ Yewstance & Redeux: I've stated my *personal opinion* and I'm not trying to convince anyone it's the right decision for *them*, but I'm really struggling to understand what's the type of game *you* would be satisfied with. From my reading, it seems like you need to *actively be losing games*, in order to feel an ""achievement" when you actually win, is that it? That's a sincere question.

My table has about the same failure ratio as Yewstance but almost always it DOES feel like an achievement - winning by the skin of our teeth, either in terms of timer or remaining deck ("life"). Of course, none of us has Yewstance's crazy game-breaking skills, so could that account for the gigantic differences in perception?! We DO optimize our characters but no one is actively looking for infinity engines or obscure overpowered combos (funny story: way back in RotR, it boggled our mind when Orbis,iirc, reported the Restoration exploit, and we literally couldn't comprehend how someone could -or why would- think about the game and its cards in such way). It's been a 1+ year, but to my recollection, MM (the last printed campaign) had a bunch of scenarios that where anything but "easy", unless someone is running MtG-level engine shenanigans.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Longshot11 wrote:
Yewstance wrote:
I believe a table I've actively been a player in has lost a scenario... once. At least, we had to replay a scenario. Nor have I ever seen a player experience character death, and this is in a total of something like 90 scenarios. This is why I - like Redeux above me - don't feel like it's an accomplishment when I win a scenario.
@ Yewstance & Redeux: I've stated my *personal opinion* and I'm not trying to convince anyone it's the right decision for *them*, but I'm really struggling to understand what's the type of game *you* would be satisfied with. From my reading, it seems like you need to *actively be losing games*, in order to feel an ""achievement" when you actually win, is that it? That's a sincere question.

It was kind of in-between the lines in one of my posts, but Pandemic is the second most played game in my collection, and most played if we don't count my solo plays of PACG. Playing that on normal feels like an accomplishment when you have a 15-25% chance to lose or on the hardest difficulty a ~40-50% chance to lose. With PACG, I think if it were closer to 10-20% chance of losing, that would be ok too. With that you'd maybe lose 1 or 2 scenarios in 2 adventure decks which seems reasonable. From what Keith has said it sounds like Heroic or Legendary might be right up my alley, at least for my solo sessions. So I truly am excited about the varied difficulty levels so I can play on whatever difficulty I want in my solo sessions and then I won't mind as much if we win every scenario in OP.

As far as this blog goes though, I am still excited about the "chaos" because as I mentioned, having characters with such high static boosts that it invalidates a large majority of challenges is not really exciting.


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Vic Wertz wrote:
Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.

I'm really looking forward to the new edition, but I find this statement a bit... optimistic? :)

There have already been posts outlining how some class deck characters (and/or specific cards) will be significantly affected by the new rules. An example:

https://paizo.com/campaigns/PFSACGFlaxseedOnDeckAdventureCardGuildLodge/rec ruiting&page=4#177

But it sounds like there will be no revisions/errata issued for the old class decks once the new Core is released? Minimally, I was under the impression that specific cards might be errataed:

https://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo6sgja?Core-Principles-Rethinking-C omplexity-in-the#13

I figured this would include class deck cards, but maybe not?


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Longshot11 wrote:
Yewstance wrote:
I believe a table I've actively been a player in has lost a scenario... once. At least, we had to replay a scenario. Nor have I ever seen a player experience character death, and this is in a total of something like 90 scenarios. This is why I - like Redeux above me - don't feel like it's an accomplishment when I win a scenario.
@ Yewstance & Redeux: I've stated my *personal opinion* and I'm not trying to convince anyone it's the right decision for *them*, but I'm really struggling to understand what's the type of game *you* would be satisfied with. From my reading, it seems like you need to *actively be losing games*, in order to feel an ""achievement" when you actually win, is that it? That's a sincere question.

No longer having 15+ blessings left in the blessings deck for almost every AD4, AD5 and AD6 scenario would be enough for me, honestly. I don't think we almost ever dipped below 15 in my Season 2 or Season 4 tables. Or if at least one of the two Season 4 Capstones required a second attempt for my Season 4 table, as both were breezed through easily, despite being set up as the 'optional hard challenge'.

I like to have to work to win - that's not to say I want to be losing games, but I want there to be a challenge in winning. In video game design there's an interesting (and usually hidden) idea of Dynamic Difficulty or falsified difficulty - in a lot of big-name FPS games (take DOOM 2016, for example) the last "10hp" of your 100hp (for example) healthbar actually is equivalent to more like 20-30hp, so it makes you seem like you're just scraping by and surviving fights you were actually fairly safe in; it builds player experience by giving you the illusion of challenge or 'near-misses'.

PACG hasn't had any experience like that for me for a long time, in general. Once again; I certainly still have fun - I love the card interactions, the bane variety, the location strategy, the characterfulness, the deckbuilding... but 'challenging' is not something that enters the vocabulary for me or my physical tables. Though, note, we're all MTG or ex-MTG players, so card interaction and deckbuilding is a pre-existing skillset.


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The game should have a fair chance of success (well above 50%) for players who DON'T maximally optimize and teams that DON'T have perfect cohesion. Let players enjoy playing the game with a team composition of their choice (just like in RPGs, where any good GM will make sure of it!).

Mega-success for optimization-heavy players/teams is its own reward. And you can always intentionally hamper yourselves. I'm glad someone brought up Mansions of Madness. The base game, core box, of the first edition of that game was fun. Everything thereafter was awful because it was all balanced around the forum-posting super-optimizers.

As for those invoking Pandemic: that's a very different beast. That's a pure abstract game, devoid of any theater-of-the-mind/light-RPable-moments with quick setup/teardown and rapid play. The game itself almost just puzzle as much as a game [which lend itself HEAVILY to table-jockeying...].

PACG is, and should remain, very different. Playing through ROTR (twice), S&S, and Wrath [eugh], I can say I almost never felt like there was ever an "optimal choice" except very late in scenarios when the villain location was known and it was down to just closing and killing. And even then it was a good exercise in balancing out team aids. [Which is another thing: apparently people seem to think PACG 1e was all but devoid of team aids except piling on blessings, which is a feeling I never experienced...]


Yewstance wrote:
Though, note, we're all MTG or ex-MTG players, so card interaction and deckbuilding is a pre-existing skillset.

Heh. I'm an ex-MTG player too...but the last set I played heavily was Ice Age. :)

(IE: it's more about how you like to play/approach a game than specific experience, though the types of games you like reflect those preferences.)


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
emky wrote:
[Which is another thing: apparently people seem to think PACG 1e was all but devoid of team aids except piling on blessings, which is a feeling I never experienced...]

I mean they existed its just that next to Blessings they were unreliable (they had conditions for use) and not all that much stronger (a non blessing boon was often not as powerful as adding another dice if the blessed character was already good at that dice and definitely not as powerful as when the blessings let you add 2 dice to something.)

Everyone being able to play blessings on everything meant I rarely advanced non-blessing card feats until I'd max out on blessing options. Sure I could get another spell on Seoni, but a blessing lets me help everyone or myself all the time so I'll just get that again.

Besides you are ignoring the strong evidence that they have increased the amount of teamwork via raw card design whilst "cutting it back" in ruleset. Almost all the boons shown have had ways to help each other, which wasn't true in preCore for a huge swathe of them.


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Vic Wertz wrote:
Again, this is not a new edition. Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.

While I agree with you that old character decks will "work" with the new rules, the card designs in the old class decks don't really mesh with the new design philosophies, especially the ones with regards to helping others (very few boons, especially old ones, in the old class decks do this), this one about chances, etc. If the class decks had no errata attached to them (for Society play) and no new class decks came out, I'd be somewhat disappointed. (And I realize you probably won't be able to make any new product announcements until Paizocon)

Not to mention Yewstance's continual exploits of certain mechanics, which if they trivialize the scenario, can contribute to negative play experiences.


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There are a lot of changes that I really like. The frost spear giving +1d4 and cold automatically, but you can turn those off, instead of all the elemental weapons that required a discard to invoke the trait. Harsk being able to support anyone anywhere or himself (I remember some RotRL scenarios where we ended up clustered in one spot and Harsk couldn't help- though I was Valeros in a party of 6, so that was one of the few times where I could help out). I'm hoping the many Display this Armor cards from the Ultimate sets were a preview.

It can be fun to crush an encounter. I remember when support from my group let me roll more dice against Black Fang than it's difficulty. Playing Zova in Skull & Shackles, she's crushing Survival checks. Lini was such a powerful character in Runelords because she could add 1d4+4 to all of her checks. But it also takes away some of the tension (Not completely- we've had a few times where "I can only fail on all 1s" and 3 dice come back as 1).

So, I'm looking forward to trying out the new core set. Might be we lose a bit more often, but it looks like there are ways to adjust difficulty if we need it.


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wkover wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:
Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.
I'm really looking forward to the new edition, but I find this statement a bit... optimistic?

+1.

We need a basic translation from old terminology to new terminology, as well as (I think) some general errata. The one that comes immediately to mind is that all discard-this-weapon-to-add-x-to-distant-combat-check cards should be understood to have the term 'freely'. (Shouldn't they? Or should such cards only aid casters and unarmed martials?)


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
elcoderdude wrote:
wkover wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:
Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.
I'm really looking forward to the new edition, but I find this statement a bit... optimistic?

+1.

We need a basic translation from old terminology to new terminology, as well as (I think) some general errata. The one that comes immediately to mind is that all discard-this-weapon-to-add-x-to-distant-combat-check cards should be understood to have the term 'freely'. (Shouldn't they? Or should such cards only aid casters and unarmed martials?)

I'm thinking if you are taking a pre core character into post core the recommendation would be to build them with core and set cards when possible. Which isn't a big departure from how it was before, as I think that was the official recommendation for taking characters between sets, so they would have cards more appropriate to that sets challenges.


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Malk_Content wrote:
elcoderdude wrote:
wkover wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:
Existing class decks work just fine. You don’t have to make changes to existing characters’ decks, or adjust their feats; all you have to do is replace any die bumps they currently have with the same number of hero points.
I'm really looking forward to the new edition, but I find this statement a bit... optimistic?

+1.

We need a basic translation from old terminology to new terminology, as well as (I think) some general errata. The one that comes immediately to mind is that all discard-this-weapon-to-add-x-to-distant-combat-check cards should be understood to have the term 'freely'. (Shouldn't they? Or should such cards only aid casters and unarmed martials?)

I'm thinking if you are taking a pre core character into post core the recommendation would be to build them with core and set cards when possible. Which isn't a big departure from how it was before, as I think that was the official recommendation for taking characters between sets, so they would have cards more appropriate to that sets challenges.

To clarify: I am speaking primarily about Class Decks (as I think wkover was as well). If they are not to become completely obsolete, we need to know how to use them in the new world.

Silver Crusade

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I am very interested to re-learn the game, it is always interesting to see what designers can improve after a couple of years.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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elcoderdude wrote:
We need a basic translation from old terminology to new terminology, as well as (I think) some general errata. The one that comes immediately to mind is that all discard-this-weapon-to-add-x-to-distant-combat-check cards should be understood to have the term 'freely'. (Shouldn't they? Or should such cards only aid casters and unarmed martials?)

You can easily use the new rules with previous APs. A single page of the Core Rulebook gives you an overview of what’s new in Core as well as the “basic translation” rules you’re looking for. We will also be posting a document shortly before PaizoCon that covers the handful of cards that need adjustment beyond that. (This includes cards from both APs and Class Decks.)

Adventure Card Society requires that you use the new rules including the adjustments above. (We will have to issue adjustments for a few older scenarios; that probably won’t happen before PaizoCon.)


Keith Richmond wrote:
Longshot11 wrote:
that you've jacked up the banes to ridiculous Double Veterans
Mathematically, from a pure proof standpoint, it's very much not ridiculous. Further, we've literally thousands of tables of play to show that it's the right direction for the game. If you want the game to be a lot easier and predictable for your group, though, go ahead and just treat them as single Veteran. That isn't the right approach for the game overall, but it might be for _your_ table.

Im extremely excited about varying difficulty in the new season. This should be an option both ways for groups. Some can drop all vets to single bonus and other groups could have the option to increase bonus.

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