The Play's the Thing

Monday, July 8, 2019

Last week, we built a character together, so now let's talk about how the game plays!

Digital artwork: Lush forest, night time. Aged vines and moss wrap around thick tree branches. In the foreground, Harsk, a gruff gnome ranger with long hair and an almost equally long beard, is peering out from behind large, leafy plants. Behind him, Lini - an excited-looking gnome druid, uses her right hand to brush back overgrown greenery from a stone column twice her height and half as wide. She holds a torch in her left hand, which lights the image in dark red. She has partially revealed square-shaped carvings in the side of the column. Behind her - to the right - her snow leopard companion Droogami, looks  to see what she's discovered.

Illustration by Will O'Brien

Exploring

Most of the time when you're adventuring, you're exploring. Whether you're examining a dusty tomb, blazing trails through a dense jungle, or disguising your way into an enemy fortress, exploration is all about discovery. It takes place on a fluid time scale, ranging from roughly 10 minutes to hours, or even days for a long overland expedition. It's dangerous to go alone, especially when you don't know if you'll have an important skill you need to brave the perils of a dungeon, but fortunately you'll be part of a team. If you're an expert or better in a skill, you'll be able to help your allies with that skill while exploring, by coaching your less athletic teammates up the cliffside and spotting the worst of the climb, using hand gestures to sneak your louder allies past the guards at the best moment, and more!

In addition to a handful of exploration actions characters can take while in this game mode, the book also presents a number of skills that can be used while exploring.

Text inset: SKILL EXPLORATION ACTIVITIES. Chapter 4: Skills include numerous additional exploration activities, which are summarized here.  
Borrow an Arcane Spell: You use Arcana to prepare a spell from someone else's spellbook (page 241).
Coerce: You use Intimidation to threaten a creature so it does what you want (page 247).
Cover Tracks: You use Survival to obscure your passing (page 252).
Decipher Writing: You use a suitable skill to understand archaic, esoteric, or obscure texts (page 234).
Gather Information: You use Diplomacy to canvass the area to learn about a specific individual or topic (page 246).
Identify Alchemy: You use Craft and alchemist's tools to identify an alchemical item (page 245).
Identify Magic: Using a variety of skills, you can learn about a magic item, location, or ongoing effect (page 238). 
Impersonate: You use Deception and usually a disguise kit to create a disguise (page 245).
Learn a Spell: You use the skill corresponding to the spell’s tradition to gan access to a new spell (page 238).
Make an Impression: You use Diplomacy to make a good impression on someone (page 246). 
Repair: With a repair kit and the Crafting skill, you fix a damaged item (page 243).
Sense Direction: You use Survival to get a sense of where you are or determine the cardinal directions (page 252).
Squeeze: Using Acrobatics, you squeeze through very tight spaces (page 241).
Track: You use Survival to find and follow creatures’ tracks (page 252).
Treat Wounds: You use Medicine to treat a living creature’s wounds (page 249).

Encounter

When every action matters, your characters enter an encounter, proceeding turn by turn, action by action. These crop up in the middle of exploration, putting your travels on hold so you can deal with an immediate danger or opportunity. Combat encounters are the most typical encounters, taking place on a scale of mere seconds between life and death, but all encounters share a common structure: you roll initiative to determine turn order, then you take turns, performing your actions and determining what happens. In a combat encounter, each turn you get one reaction and three actions you can spend however you want. For instance, on her turn in combat, a sorcerer might spend all three actions to unleash a deadly barrage of magic missiles while a fighter might raise his shield and then use a Sudden Charge to rush an enemy and attack.

It's during encounters that most player characters will bestow conditions upon their foes, or gain a condition as the result of the conflict. To make the wide range of conditions that can come into play easier for new players to learn, we provide a full-page list of them without any of the associated rules. This allows someone to quickly reference what it means to be stunned or stupefied, and tell the difference between being undetected, invisible, or concealed.

Text Inset: CONDITIONS. These conditions appear often in the game and are defined in detail in the Conditions Appendix on pages 618-623. Here’s a brief summary of each.
Blinded: You’re unable to see.
Broken: This item can’t be used for its normal function until repaired.
Clumsy: You can’t move as easily or gracefully as usual.
Concealed: Fog or similar obscuration makes you difficult to see and target. 
Confused: You attack indiscriminately.
Controlled: Another creature determines your actions.
Dazzled: Everything is concealed to you.
Deafened: You’re unable to hear.
Doomed: With your soul in peril, you are now closer to death.
Drained: Blood loss or something similar has leached your vitality.
Dying: You’re slipping closer to death.
Encumbered: You’re carrying more weight than you can manage.
Enfeebled: Your strength has been sapped away.
Fascinated: You are compelled to focus your attention on something.
Fatigued: Your defenses are lower and you can’t focus while exploring.
Flat-Footed: You’re unable to defend yourself to your full capability.
Fleeing: You must run away.
Friendly: An NPC with this condition has a good attitude toward you.
Frightened: Fear makes you less capable of attacking and defending.
Grabbed:  A creature, object, or magic holds you in place.
Helpful: An NPC with this condition wants to assistantships you.
Hidden: A creature you’re hiding from knows your location but can’t see you.
Hostile: An NPC with this condition wants to harm you.
Immobilized: You can’t move.
Indifferent: An NPC with this condition doesn’t have a strong opinion about you.
Invisible: Creatures can’t see you.
Observed: You’re in plain view.
Paralyzed: Your body is frozen in place.
Persistent Damage: You keep taking damage every round.
Petrified: You’ve been turned to stone.
Prone: You’re lying on the ground and easier to attack.
Quickened: You get an extra action each turn.
Restrained: You’re tied up and can’t move, or a grappling creature has you pinned.
Sickened: You’re sick to your stomach.
Slowed: You lose actions each turn.
Stunned: You can’t use actions.
Stupefied: You can’t access your full mental faculties, and you have trouble casting spells.
Unconscious: You’re asleep or knocked out.
Undetected: A creature you are undetected by doesn’t know where you are.
Unfriendly: An NPC with this condition doesn’t like you.
Unnoticed: A creature is entirely unaware you’re present.
Wounded: You’ve been brought back from the brink of death but haven’t fully recovered.

Downtime

Even heroes sometimes need a break from the incredible stress of an adventuring life! During downtime, you can earn money, craft items, swap out old character choices for different options, or just take a rest and carouse with the locals. You take your downtime when you return to the safety of a town or home base, usually after completing an adventure. While downtime in general flows quickly through days or weeks at a time, depending on the choices you make, new options might open themselves up to you as the GM sprinkles special downtime events into your chosen downtime activity, zooming in temporarily to highlight interesting or unusual occurrences when you're not out on an adventure.

Downtime gets the least amount of space of the three game modes, but it's an incredibly rich design space built into the core of the game that may lead to new innovations over the lifespan of Second Edition (some of which we're already working on). As in Exploration Mode, players can utilize some of their skills for downtime activities.

Text inset: SKILL DOWNTIME ACTIVITIES.
Chapter 4: Skills includes several downtime activities, which are summarized here.
Craft: Using the Crafting skill, you can create items from raw materials (page 244).
Create Forgery: You forge a document (page 251).
Earn Income: You earn money, typically using Crafting, Lore, or Performance (page 236).
Subsist: You find food and shelter in the wilderness or within a settlement (page 240).
Treat Disease: You spend time caring for a diseased creature in the hope of curing that creature (page 248).

Treasure

While many adventurers risk their lives due to heroism or a sense of duty, treasure is a major motivator for others. And let's be honest, even when playing an altruistic PC, it's still a lot of fun to find a cool magic item for your character. In Pathfinder, your characters will find a fairly steady stream of magic items, ranging from simple healing potions to the mighty skyhammer. Some of the more inexpensive items are consumable, meaning they can be used once, like alchemical elixirs you drink, scrolls you read, and special talismans you can attach to your other items. Others, like magic weapons or enchanted clothing and tools, serve you again and again as you adventure. You could wield a storm flash rapier arcing with electricity and wear a dread blindfold to strike fear into your foes! You can also find magic runes you can etch onto weapons and armor to build all kinds of powerful combinations!

Text inset: Storm Flash. Item 14+. Electricity. Evocation. Magical. 
Usage: held in 1 hand; bulk 1.
Description: This +2 greater striking shock rapier has a golden blade, and miniature electric arcs flash across its guard while it’s wielded. When out of its sheath under an open sky, the blade causes storm clouds to gather slowly above.
Activate  command, envision;
Frequency: once per day;
Effect: You cast a 60th level lightning bolt (DC 33).
Activate reaction command; Frequency: once per 10 minutes; Trigger: An electricity effect targets you or a creature within 10 feet of you, or has you or a creature within 10 feet of you in its area; Effect: You try to divert the electricity off course, to be absorbed by storm flash. Choose one eligible creature to protect and roll a melee attack roll against the DC of the electricity effect. If you succeed, the chosen creature takes no electricity damage from the triggering effect.
Type: storm flash; Level 14; Price 4000 gp.
Type: greater storm flash; Level 18. Price: 21,000gp.
This is a +3 greater striking shock rapier. When activating the sword to cast lightning bolt, the spell is 8th level. Text inset: Dread Blindfold. Item 17.
Emotion. Enchantment. Fear. Invested. Magical. Mental.
Price: 15,000 gp.
Usage: worn eyepiece.
Bulk: none.
When tied over your eyes, this ragged strip of black linen gives you a +3 item bonus to Intimidation checks and darkvision. You can see through the blindfold, but only using darkvision. 
The first time a particular creatures sees you in a day, it must succeed at a DC 37 Will save or be frightened 1. This is an emotion, fear, and mental effect, and your allies become immune to it after about a week.

Activate command; Frequency: once per minute; 
Trigger: You damage a creature with a Strike; Effect: Your target is gripped by intense fear. This has the effect of a DC 37 phantasmal killer spell, but it is an enchantment instead of an illusion. The creature is then temporarily immune for 24 hours.

Experience Points and Levels

In Pathfinder, you learn from your adventures, both your triumphs and your failures, growing more powerful and gaining fantastic new abilities. We measure that progress with Experience Points (XP), and typically the more impressive and insurmountable the challenge for your character, the more XP you gain for overcoming it. Once you earn a total of 1,000 XP, you reach a new level, opening up new options for your character. Next week we'll go into detail about leveling up!

Three characters sitting on the grass in the shade under an old, very leafy tree. The weather is partially cloudy. Kneeling on the left is Kyra, a cleric, is holding up a glowing idol in both hands and looking at it intently. She is wearing long flowing blue and white garments with gold dotted circular designs.  She is facing away from the group, to the left of the picture. In the center and further back, Lem, a halfling bard, is sitting barefoot, wrapped in a short-sleeved cloak or jacket. He is playing the flute with his eyes closed. On the far right, Ezren the wizard, a human male with long white hair, is studying from two open books floating in front of him. He has one hand on the pages of each book, and his hands are glowing. The book on the left has a glowing circle of glyphs surrounding his hands

Illustration by Matteo Spirito

Mark Seifter
Designer

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition
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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Steve Geddes wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
RicoTheBold wrote:
Some people just are more comfortable with Schrodinger's market, where the presence or absence of an item is only resolved when the market is observed. That's okay, too, and it's fair to characterize the mechanical operation as the skill check producing the item, even if the lore layered on top doesn't match.
That's not how PF1e worked. I personally think PF1e was correct in that they placed the responsibility of deciding whether or not something was there on the shoulders of the GM. They provided the GM with tools to determine whether it was there independent of the PCs. The PC would then need to find the item, perhaps even through a skill check. But the PC rolling a good diplomacy didn't suddenly make the item appear.

Whats the functional difference between a DM placing items and the PCs rolling skillchecks to find them versus a PC rolling a skillcheck to determine if there's an item available and then the DM determining what they are?

My agenda here is that I don't care about what mechanics/system we use at all, but I have players who do. I wouldn't have thought it would matter which of these two methodologies was used but am curious why it does. (Presuming I've understood your distinction correctly - if not could you clarify whats okay and what isnt in that mechanical way?)

I think I understand his position enough to take a crack at it, because it's not that different from mine.

Things I think John would say are okay:
- Predefined treasure tables - this is exactly what the town/shop/whatever has, no more and no less.
- Randomized treasure - treasure is potentially available, based on factors external to the players (like the 75% chance an item value "can be found with little effort" under a community's base item value in the PF1 core rulebook under purchasing magic items).
- Skill-gated treasure access - Take either a predefined treasure list or a randomized one, and have some items designated as not normally available for purchase. Add a skill check to see whether the character can get those items (by scrounging, convincing someone to part with an heirloom, talking the king into providing access to items from an armory, whatever). This is presumably implied by the previous rule as the items to be available with more than "little effort."

Things I think John would say are not okay:
- Only using a player skill to determine whether an item exists/is available - this absolutely brings with it the mechanic that a town might only have an item because a great wizard is shopping, which breaks verisimilitude.
- Describing the player's skill-gated roll as "creating" the item - The item was always there, and should have been considered that way beforehand. The GM shouldn't suddenly add it just because the players really wanted it.

Some quick thoughts on the distinction
And that's a perfectly valid and consistent position to have. Players only "create" items by crafting, whether doing it themselves or ordering something specific. I don't stick to the terminology quite so fervently, because mechanically, if a player asks for a ring of protection +2, which costs 4000 gold and therefore is potentially available in a small city, and I roll it up as available, then it's very much the Schrodinger's market I mentioned earlier.

This is partly because I'm lazy, and don't want to settle inventories in advance. I do the same thing for innkeepers and other miscellaneous NPCs that have no details until they're needed. If a character rolled a critical success on some check to learn about the market, I might very well add some extra layer to the market (maybe an eccentric collector or something) that I didn't plan to have in there. It sounds like John wouldn't necessarily do this, but it's a fine line that will vary by table. Some GMs just add a percentage chance and roll, as if to take the final decision out of their hands. To me, it's okay shorthand to say that the player request and skill check is ultimately responsible for the item being there, because it's literally true that the request triggered the resolution process, even if that's not the case from a lore perspective.

PF2 and access by rarity, downtime activities, and skill uses
One thing I like a lot about PF2's rarity system is that it conveniently provides the terminology and mechanics to describe some items as consistently available or consistently hard to find, even when the money is there. The playtest didn't have enough items, and many items were uncommon without a clear way to gain access, which was kind of a problematic combo at higher levels. I understand why, though, and actually appreciate that many of those items were rarity-gated based on how much hassle they could cause to an adventure - it seemed like a lot of those items gave flying, teleportation, alignment-based effects, ancestry-based effects, or added some potentially unbalancing effects like increasing spell slots. This makes it a lot easier to define those lines of availability, and say something like "uncommon items aren't generally available, and specifically items with flying are rare and not generally going to be available at all."

And it's a super elegant way to gate off some of those items by skill check. Gather information, lore skills, etc. Or through role-play; just build connections, get "a guy who knows a guy" and maybe you can find that lovely cloak of the bat, or one of those neat gnome flickmaces. There's probably a side-argument we could have here about what skills could potentially be used to appraise something...but let's not.

I'm also interested in how the crafting downtime rules actually shake out. The playtest adventures weren't necessarily well-suited toward them, and no one crafted anything in my games (not counting the one alchemist attempt before the update removing resonance).

Additional context on how I run magic item markets - not to everyone's taste
Although personally, I tend to adjust the PF1 market rules from baseline, where "must-have" items should be easily accessible because the demand is so regularly there for adventurers, and the only rational way to interpret the PF1 economy past low levels is through the lens of magic items, because they're easier to trade than castles or money. (A staff of charming, the cheapest staff in the game, weighs 5 lbs. and is worth 35.2 lbs. of platinum). I figure the built-in assumption of half sell value for party members already represents the disparity between the risk of a merchant buying an item that won't resell (and/or having to sell it to a richer merchant in a larger city) and the player's more specific requirements. If you hit a metropolis in one of my games, you're likely to have way more than 4d4 medium magic items available for purchase, and the baseline for the 75% is probably going to be higher than 16,000 gp, which doesn't even cover a ring of protection +3.

Basically, I try to make it feel more like an active, trade-driven economy. It's a lot like the used car market, except the players are much less likely to find a really good deal (great price on exactly what they want) or a really bad one (cursed item). Gather information or using identify magic checks or something all seem like valid ways to get a better chance at finding what you're looking for, if it exists.

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Removed some posts. Edition warring is not okay and ironic edition warring is also not okay.


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Sara Marie wrote:
Removed some posts. Edition warring is not okay and ironic edition warring is also not okay.

I didn't think mentioning my personal dislike for an edition would be considered "Edition warring" but that's cool. Lesson learned I guess.


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IT's weird how it's never the posts I think is going to be that gets taken down.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
RicoTheBold wrote:
Some people just are more comfortable with Schrodinger's market, where the presence or absence of an item is only resolved when the market is observed. That's okay, too, and it's fair to characterize the mechanical operation as the skill check producing the item, even if the lore layered on top doesn't match.
That's not how PF1e worked. I personally think PF1e was correct in that they placed the responsibility of deciding whether or not something was there on the shoulders of the GM. They provided the GM with tools to determine whether it was there independent of the PCs. The PC would then need to find the item, perhaps even through a skill check. But the PC rolling a good diplomacy didn't suddenly make the item appear.

Technically, that IS how PF1 worked; I'm surprised no one has pointed this out.

Quote:
Base Value: The base value of a settlement is used to determine what magic items may easily be purchased there. There is a 75% chance that any item of that value or lower can be found for sale in the settlement with little effort.

Unless the GM plans to roll for every possible item in existence beforehand, the only logical way to adjudicate this rule is to make the 75% roll when the player asks if they can find the specific item - meaning whether or not the item exists is not determined until the player tries to find it.


Whether the GM plans it ahead of time or generates it during play, the PC’s dimplomacy modifier (whether it is +23 or -1) has zero impact on whether the item is available. Therefore it’s existence is independent of the PCs.

So technically it isn’t how PF1e works.

I think the argument for either side is pretty clear now so I don’t intend to continue pursue this conversation. If you really want a response from me, PM me.

I’m doing this as an effort to avoid getting bogged down in arguments for days on end.


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That's not possible. It wouldn't even exist unless a PC was there looking for it, by those rules and the logical extension thereof. Unless the GM is literally rolling for every single possible item ahead of time, regardless of whether any PC ever even visits that shop, its existence remains in a state of flux even by PF1 rules until looked for by a PC.


Jesikah Morning's Dew wrote:
That's not possible. It wouldn't even exist unless a PC was there looking for it, by those rules and the logical extension thereof. Unless the GM is literally rolling for every single possible item ahead of time, regardless of whether any PC ever even visits that shop, its existence remains in a state of flux even by PF1 rules until looked for by a PC.

I understand your point and I cannot make my point any clearer. So I suggest we simply agree to disagree.


That disconnect is in how much work the GM has to do for what's effectively the same result.

For example: Let's say there are 3 stores. At any given point they all sell A, two have a 75% chance to sell B, and 1 has a 50% chance to sell C. Without searching for the item you decide to buy C on day X, can you buy it? If you notice, there is no way to know if the item is available without searching.

Same thing happens with Shrodinger's cat, you know there is a chance the cat will die, but you dont know if it did until you check.

Same thing happens in PF1e. Until a player decides to look for an item, the GM doesn't have to worry about whether its available, just wether it can be.

**************
More philosophical version. If a tree falls in the forest what sound does it make?

**************
Again just to make sure, people can only know as much as they have search for, anything else is a mystery; and might aswell not exist, unless it has an immidiate effect on your surroundings.

No one cares or knows what items are being sold in the next town over unless they live in that town.


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Personally, I never loved the 75% rule, but that's because most of my players don't inherently enjoy shopping. Finding out that you went through the chore of digging through all the magic items to see if any interest you only to find out that item isn't there and you need to reevaluate your purchase plan feels frustrating.

But I've also seen players who build stock market mechanics inside campaigns. For some folks, having a realistic market is more immersive than avoiding excessive book keeping.


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Basing this on a real-market based economy, you should be able to hire someone to find your magic item for you.


Well, once you fail that 75% the players might want to hire a merchant that visits/has contacts in a bigger/different town to make sure the item arrives in a couple weeks/months. And they'd probably roll Diplomacy for that.


RussianAlly wrote:
Well, once you fail that 75% the players might want to hire a merchant that visits/has contacts in a bigger/different town to make sure the item arrives in a couple weeks/months. And they'd probably roll Diplomacy for that.

Why roll diplomacy? If they're hiring a merchant to do the work, presumably they're going to pay that merchant.


To negotiate his fee? Maybe even not to pay him at all if they're able to convince him that helping them out is in his best interests? Maybe even just to convince him to work for a group of ragtag mercenaries that're probably gonna be dead or long gone in a few weeks and leave him stranded with an item he's got no other buyers for? I dunno, that's why the 'probably' is there.


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

Which skill is the hired merchant using to perform his contracted task to find this item? That’s right Diplomacy, probably using the Gather Information activity, but also potentially other uses of Diplomacy as well.

Shadow Lodge

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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Why roll diplomacy? If they're hiring a merchant to do the work, presumably they're going to pay that merchant.

You’re really invested in this “Diplomacy has nothing to do with finding magic items” stance.


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RussianAlly wrote:
To negotiate his fee? Maybe even not to pay him at all if they're able to convince him that helping them out is in his best interests? Maybe even just to convince him to work for a group of ragtag mercenaries that're probably gonna be dead or long gone in a few weeks and leave him stranded with an item he's got no other buyers for? I dunno, that's why the 'probably' is there.

Eh. I always expect the PCs to haggle (and adjust appropriately). I've just never enjoyed it as a player myself. Although I've seen enough players do it to assume lots of people must enjoy that sort of RP.


I think that we can avoid this sort of ambiguity altogether by using a table to randomly generate items (based on rarity) every in-game month. The GM can still decide to not make this list available to players if they want, or make them roll to search for more rare items. Otherwise, the items are just there and players need only haggle.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have to say, John, I'm glad we had that discussion in the F>F thread. It's a lot easier to understand where you are coming from and avoid getting into pointless arguments with you now that I know you are simply way farther over on the "narrativist vs simulationist" spectrum than I am. :)


I see it as a DM tool:

"Is this item available?"
(dice are rolled with character skill being a factor in outcome)
Result obtained.

In our game, if the result is "no" that stands for that session. You can try again next session. We use our imaginations to conjure the story that explains the outcomes of the dice.


A bit of a nonsequitor but... Just saw a Know Direction podcast wil Bulhman on ot. Mentions that they reworked conditions to be more intuitive and he explicitly stated they significantly reduced nested conditions. Super cool. I feel much more optimistic about PF2 now. Went ahead and preordered the rulebook as soon as I saw that video.

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