Mastering Pathfinder

Monday, July 22, 2019

This week, we’re going to take a look at the tools the new edition provides the GM to tell awesome stories full of interesting foes and hazards as well as plenty of opportunity to shine the spotlight on the PCs and show off how incredible the PCs are!

Digital artwork: Desert, under a sky filled with blood-red clouds. Amiri battles an axe-wielding gnoll, while beside her Linni strikes another gnoll with a crackling web of lightning, causing him to drop his scimitar. In the foreground, Linni's snow leopard Droogami faces off against a snarling hyena.

Illustration by Igor Grechanyi

But before I get too mired into details of the rules, I want to talk about the high-quality overall GM advice in the book. For instance, my favorite bit of GM advice is this section in Gamemastering on adjudicating the rules, where we flat out tell you the underlying principles so you can design improvised rules on the fly!

Text inset: If you don’t know how long a quick task takes, go with 1 action, or 2 actions if a character shouldn’t be able to perform it three times per round.  
					If you’re not sure what action a task uses, look for the most similar basic action. If you don’t find one, make up an action adding any necessary traits (usually attack, concentrate, manipulate, or move).
					When two sides are opposed, have one roll against the other’s DC. Don’t have both sides roll (initiative is the exception to this rule). The character who rolls is usually the one acting (except in the case of saving throws).
					If an effect raises or lowers chances of success, grant a +1 circumstance bonus or a –1 circumstance penalty.
					If you’re not sure how difficult a significant challenge should be, use the DC for the party’s level.
					If you’re making up an effect, creatures should be incapacitated or killed on only a critical success (or for a saving throw, on a critical failure).
					If you don’t know what check to use, pick the most appropriate skill. If no other skill applies to a check to Recall Knowledge, use an appropriate Lore skill (usually at an untrained proficiency rank).
					Use the characters’ daily preparations as the time to reset anything that lasts roughly a day.
					When a character accomplishes something noteworthy that doesn’t have rules for XP, award them XP for an accomplishment (10 to 30 XP, as described on page 507).
					When the PCs fail at a task, look for a way they might fail forward, meaning the story moves forward with a negative consequence rather than the failure halting progress entirely.

There’re tips on encounter, session, adventure, and campaign management as well! One useful new tool we added was the Pathfinder baseline, which essentially explains a baseline assumption for edgy content. Whether you want to follow it or not is totally up to your group. It’s a conversation starter; the baseline determines what you should expect from our published adventures, and we’ll tell you if there’s an exception. Similarly, for a home game, if you read the baseline and want to add or remove restrictions (or scrap it entirely!) you now know that you should talk to the rest of your group first. Lack of communication often arises when everyone has their own baselines and assumes everyone shares theirs.

But you want some hard rules, right? We have rules for encounters, exploration, and downtime, as well as rules for all sorts of environmental effects, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, and hazards like haunts and traps. For a quick taste of these before we move on, take a look at these temperature effects. Unlike First Edition, they aren’t based on the legacy Pacific Northwest sensibilities where a day of summer back home on the East Coast would kill me from nonlethal damage!

Text inset: TABLE 10-13: TEMPERATURE EFFECTS.
				Category: Temperature: Fatigue: Damage.
				Incredible cold: -80 degrees F or colder: 2 hours: Moderate cold every minute.
				Extreme cold: -79 degrees F to -20 degrees F: 4 hours: Minor cold every 10 minutes.
				Severe cold: -21 degrees F to 12 degrees F: 4 hours: Minor cold every hour.
				Mild cold: 13 degrees F to 32 degrees F: 4 hours: None.
				Normal: 33 degrees F to 94 degrees F: 8 hours: None.
				Mild heat: 95 degrees F to 104 degrees F: 4 hours: None.
				Severe heat: 105 degrees F to 114 degrees F: 4 hours: Minor fire every hour.
				Extreme heat: 115 degrees F to 139 degrees F: 4 hours: Minor fire every 10 minutes.
				Incredible heat: 140 degrees F or warmer: 2 hours: Moderate fire every minute.
				*Adjust temperatures down by 15 degrees in areas of high humidity.

For our in-depth look, let’s start with guidelines for skill DCs! You might’ve seen the simple DCs before from Jason’s spoilers, but we have those, as well as a level by level DC table for tasks against something of that level, which you can adjust by 2, 5, or 10 if it’s particularly easy or hard. For instance, learning a 6th level spell or identifying level 11 monster is DC 28, but uncommon spells or monsters are DC 30, and rare spells or monsters are DC 33. You’ll also notice these DCs are much easier to make than before, thanks to playtest guidance through a series of other numbers, we’ve alighted on a strong set that can help show off how amazing your PCs are!

Text inset: TABLE 10-4: SIMPLE DCs. 
				Proficiency rank: DC.
				Untrained: 10.
				Trained: 15.
				Expert: 20.
				Master: 30.
				Legendary: 40. Text inset: TABLE 10-5: DCs BY LEVEL. Text inset: TABLE 10-6: DC ADJUSTMENTS. 
				Difficulty: Adjustment: Rarity.
				Incredibly easy: -10.
				Very easy: -5.
				Easy: -2.
				Hard: +2: Uncommon.
				Very hard: +5: Rare.
				Incredibly hard: +10: Unique.

Also, by popular playtester demand, we can a table of typical skills to identify monsters.

Text inset: TABLE 10-7: CREATURE IDENTIFICATION SKILLS.
				Creature trait: Skills.
				Aberration: Occultism.
				Animal: Nature.
				Astral: Occultism.
				Beast: Arcana, Nature.
				Celestial: Religion.
				Construct: Arcana, Crafting.
				Dragon: Arcana.
				Elemental: Arcana, Nature.
				Ethereal: Occultism.
				Fey: Nature.
				Fiend: Religion.
				Fungus: Nature.
				Humanoid: Society.
				Monitor: Religion.
				Ooze: Occultism.
				Plant: Nature.
				Spirit: Occultism.
				Undead: Religion.

Speaking of monsters! The Bestiary contains friends and foes of all sorts, from the classic to the brand new. Take a look at the skeleton for a moment.

Pathfinder Bestiary Entries for various types of Skeletons, including the Skeleton Guard, Skeletal Champion, Skeletal Horse, Skeletal Giant and Skeletal Hulk. Featuring illustrations of the Skeletal Champion and Skeletal Horse.

Illustration by Johnny Marrow

You can build any skeleton you need at lightning speed, and add fun special abilities like exploding bones, throwing heads, or collapsing into piles of bones! Plus check out the lore sidebar about vital essence; playtesters demanded to see more of the four magical essences in the foreground, so they’re coming out to play everything once in a while!

What about a newcomer? The gogiteth is a gross skittery critter with a lot of fun movement and grapple abilities. Can you still have an interesting encounter against a purely melee 12th-level foe when the PCs have so many special options at their fingertips? The gogiteth wants to say “yes” but it has you in its mouth and is currently skittering around, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Pathfinder Bestiary Entry for the Gogiteth, featuring an illustration of the Gogiteth tearing apart its prey.

Illustration by Mark Molnar

To close out our monster review, let’s take a look at some friendly creatures…

Pathfinder Bestiary Entries for various types of Gremlins, including the Mitflit, Pugwampi, and Jinkin. Featuring illustrations of the Pugwampi and Jinkin.

Illustration by Yasen Stoilov

Whoops, some gremlins in the gears! Those aren’t friendly at all. Each gremlin has a special way that they make life miserable for those around them, except perhaps the incomplete mitflits, who are just themselves miserable little guys. Maybe you can help give them a social order and teach them that self-loathing isn’t the answer? If you think like that, you might like these actually friendly allies.

Pathfinder Bestiary Entries for various types of Archons, including the Legion Archon and Shield Archon. Featuring illustrations of the Legion Archon and Shield Archon.

Illustrations by Bryan Sola and Firat Solhan

Each archon represents a particular virtue, with justice and courage shown here. The legion archon takes justice into its own hands (literally) with some powerful offense, while the shield archon explores courage as the virtue of bravery to sacrifice yourself for others and stand in the thick of things. And if you’re sharp-eyed, you now know one of the other archons in the book as well! Meanwhile, on the chaotic side…

Pathfinder Bestiary Entries for various types of Azatas, including the Lillend (Muse Azata) and Ghaele (Crusader Azata). Featuring illustrations of the Lillend and Ghaele.

Illustration by Raph Lomotan

Azatas each represent a freedom. Ghaeles stand for the freedom to bear arms against oppression, and they’re energy form and energy focus have a revamp to fit their concept and be a bit more interesting; take a look! Lillends are the embodiment of freedom of expression and a great summon for a party looking for a quick bard. Plus, they are a great choice for your bard’s muse. The other great option? Take a look at the nymph!

Pathfinder Bestiary Entries for various types of Nymphs, including the Naiad Queen and Dryad Queen. Featuring an illustrations of the Dryad Queen.

Illustrations by Emile Denis

The nymph entry gives you not only low-level nymph allies like the naiad or dryad, but also tools to build powerful nymph queens like Myriana or Svevanka from Rise of the Runelords or Nyrissa from Kingmaker, with special rules for being a bard’s muse! This should make the entries for classic nymphs like the lampad much more interesting—note the intriguing and new-to-Pathfinder hesperides mentioned in the sidebar as well!

To close off, a personal note: I’m most of the way through book five of the War for the Crown Adventure Path, which I’m running in Second Edition. GMing it has been a joy; preparing and running have been much easier than when I ran Jade Regent or Rise of the Runelords in First Edition, even including the effort of converting the adventure. Other Paizo community members running in the playtest have noted this as well, including community member Ediwir, who is running War for the Crown in both First Edition and the playtest at the same time to compare. If you’ve ever wanted to GM Pathfinder before but it just looked daunting, Second Edition is the perfect time to give it a shot! You’ll have all these tools at your fingertips to make life easier, and everyone’s starting out too, so there will be tons of community support and goodwill, as well as more than a little patience for mistakes. I hope you’ll join me and give running a game a shot. If you do, what are you most excited to run first? The Age of Ashes Adventure Path? The Fall of Plaguestone? Pathfinder Society adventures? Something special you’re brewing up at home? Let me know in the comments below!

Mark Seifter
Designer

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition
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Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I fully support moving away from Designated Target being a monster niche.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I fully support moving away from Designated Target being a monster niche.

I don't think you're the only one. As long as it leads to interesting stories, I'm all for it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The Great Gogiteth sounds amazing, is that the Cloverfield monster? I can get behind that. I can imagine a high level adventure where one emerges and starts eating Magnimar...


2 people marked this as a favorite.

As a shameless Classical mythology nerd who's always been bothered by nymphs being treated as their own species and a separate thing from dryads, naiads and so on, I am very happy about "nymph" being retooled as a general category for nymph types. If I'm reading this right, the nymph queens here would take the place of 1st edition's nymphs? If so, that seems like a very nice way of retconning the potential canon conflicts that would arise from nymph characters grandfathered in from 1st ed material.

I'm very curious to see what, if anything, is planned about oreads... and of course this opens the door to creating more subtypes based on different sorts of mythological nymphs -- nereids, lampads, alseids and all the rest. There's certainly no shortage.

(Honestly, the nymph-as-its-own-distinct-species thing always seemed to me to be like saying that, well, you've got chromatic dragons, and then you've got red dragons, and that these are distinct and separate, if somewhat similar, species.)

Silver Crusade

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Reckless wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Reckless wrote:
Zaister wrote:
scary harpy wrote:


I hope Mitflits/Mites have options so they can become less pathetic.

If not now, then I hope for options later.

I think the whole point of their existence is to be the pathetic little buggers they are.
Some people aren't happy with that kind of marginalization. This is part of the path that led to us having goblin as a core ancestry.
Hmm, how so?

Goblins were the pathetic, monstrous, "naturally evil" foes for 1st level people to earn their steel against.

Paizo made them more interesting in PF1 but not less evil or pathetic. Crazy, easily distracted, weak, small, and cruel. These were among the defining traits of goblins.

Somewhere along the line, people who did not want goblins forced into these traits began to speak out. The interesting parts of goblins were emphasized and these characteristics de-emphasized.

When people wanted to start playing goblins, they wanted goblins to be on par with the core races instead of pathetic and weak.

In 3.5 they were -2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Charisma, in PF1 they mutated to +4 Dexterity, –2 Strength, –2 Charisma, and in PF2 they move to a net bonus instead of net penalty.

Over time, they moved from being things you stomp at first level to champions in their own rights. The story of that transformation is quite remarkably well demonstrated here..

Understandable. It wasn’t clicking for me for me at first since Mites are Fey rather than Humanoids.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Theriocephalus wrote:
Honestly, the nymph-as-its-own-distinct-species thing always seemed to me to be like saying that, well, you've got chromatic dragons, and then you've got red dragons, and that these are distinct and separate, if somewhat similar, species.

Elves are a distinct species that can reproduce with humans and have fertile offspring with them. It's probably best not to think too hard about such things in fantasy settings.


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Fumarole wrote:
Theriocephalus wrote:
Honestly, the nymph-as-its-own-distinct-species thing always seemed to me to be like saying that, well, you've got chromatic dragons, and then you've got red dragons, and that these are distinct and separate, if somewhat similar, species.
Elves are a distinct species that can reproduce with humans and have fertile offspring with them. It's probably best not to think too hard about such things in fantasy settings.

What you're describing really isn't the same thing that Theriocephalus is talking about...

(Elves were never just another type of human in mythology or folklore. Dryads are another type of nymph in mythology, just as red dragons are just another type of chromatic dragon in the game. 'Species' wasn't really the topic/focus of the post. However, it was perhaps not the best term to use -- as you yourself have pointed out.)

Liberty's Edge

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ClanPsi wrote:
Fahrenheit? Fack, really? How is 99% of the world supposed to understand what any of those numbers mean. I don't want to play with a calculator sitting beside me. I specifically recall starting a thread during the playtest asking you to put metric values in brackets, and there were a LOT of replies agreeing with the idea. Why didn't you do it? Or at the very least adopt a standardised fantasy measuring scale for simple application. Come on. Really. Come on.

It's not that bad. Halve it, take away 15 and it's close enough for RPG purposes. I can't imagine someone who can handle Pathfinder can't deal with that. Yes, it's an extra step, but really?

And I say that as someone used to Celsius.


Rysky wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
Zaister wrote:
scary harpy wrote:


I hope Mitflits/Mites have options so they can become less pathetic.

If not now, then I hope for options later.

I think the whole point of their existence is to be the pathetic little buggers they are.
Exactly! They're supposed to be pathetic, vengeful little miscreants, and IMO that 2E Bestiary entry nails them perfectly!

There is no need for any race to be pathetic just so low-level PCs can have an easy victory.

All threats should be able to be scaled up and down.

I think Asg was referring to how they are, not to their mechanical stats or combat effectiveness.

I mean how they are and their mechanical stats.

Many may have disliked the Advanced Race Guide, but I liked how I could easily customize by the numbers.

What... does that have to do with the conversation?

I'll assume the question was answered.

I'm grateful that Reckless could explain better than I can.

Silver Crusade

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

My comment was in reference to the ARG.


Rysky wrote:
My comment was in reference to the ARG.

I found the numerical system in the ARG to make customization easy.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As an American who moved to Europe and had to start using Celsius, I am so entertained at everyone who is mad at Fahrenheit. It's such a small thing to get mad about when neither of them make any sense haha


Rysky wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
My comment was in reference to the ARG.
I found the numerical system in the ARG to make customization easy.

Cool, not sure what that had to do with the conversation.

(unless when I used Asg as short for Asgetrion and that was mistaken for ARG)

If I'm unhappy with a creature' statistics, I find it easier to customize them with a numerical system.

I'm unhappy with mites...so I would like a numerical system to adjust their stats.


scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
My comment was in reference to the ARG.
I found the numerical system in the ARG to make customization easy.

Cool, not sure what that had to do with the conversation.

(unless when I used Asg as short for Asgetrion and that was mistaken for ARG)

If I'm unhappy with a creature' statistics, I find it easier to customize them with a numerical system.

I'm unhappy with mites...so I would like a numerical system to adjust their stats.

There's a "numerical system" in the bestiary for raising or lowering a creature's level (its CR as it used to be called), so you can make a level 20 mite if you want. Otherwise, the GMG will have detailed rules for creating monsters from scratch if you want to redo the mite completely.


Bardic Dave wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
scary harpy wrote:
Rysky wrote:
My comment was in reference to the ARG.
I found the numerical system in the ARG to make customization easy.

Cool, not sure what that had to do with the conversation.

(unless when I used Asg as short for Asgetrion and that was mistaken for ARG)

If I'm unhappy with a creature' statistics, I find it easier to customize them with a numerical system.

I'm unhappy with mites...so I would like a numerical system to adjust their stats.

There's a "numerical system" in the bestiary for raising or lowering a creature's level (its CR as it used to be called), so you can make a level 20 mite if you want. Otherwise, the GMG will have detailed rules for creating monsters from scratch if you want to redo the mite completely.

I'm looking forward to the GMG.

In January, isn't it?


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Really what Paizo should have done was invent their own temperature scale just for Golarion.

Maybe even have competing temperature scales, so people could argue over whether Dwarven Units (DU) are better or worse than the Taldane Standard.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
swoosh wrote:
Really what Paizo should have done was invent their own temperature scale just for Golarion.

I think that just like "length of years, months, weeks, days" being the same on Golarion as earth it's helpful to have the basic stuff be whatever the people writing the material is most conversant in.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
swoosh wrote:

Really what Paizo should have done was invent their own temperature scale just for Golarion.

Maybe even have competing temperature scales, so people could argue over whether Dwarven Units (DU) are better or worse than the Taldane Standard.

DUs are the only unit of temperature that actually makes sense! 782 DU = the temperature at which stone melts. It's easy peasy! TS is just so silly and arbitrary!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

It's a pity the temperature discussion didn't stop at 273, it would have been so poetic.


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How many Planck lengths per day can I travel during exploration mode? How many Planck times per day can I travel?

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

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Take the debate about Celsius vs Fahrenheit elsewhere.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Huh—the person who illustrated the Skeleton spread is Johnny Marrow. Seems like a good choice....


The worst part of divergence to F/C debate is F/C are not game units. The game units are the Temperature Effect Categories... Although there is defacto one more than overtly presented, with upper 15*(F) of Normal having distinct effect in high Humidity... a schema which would have been much more clearly conveyed, as I already discussed, not to mention the asterisk (*) question of whether Humidity only affects one category, leaving 'void' above it's modified boundaries.

Really, it's debatable whether "feet" is legitimate game unit, with sub-5' distinctions lacking specific relevance AFAIK, only 5' units i.e. squares being ultimately relevant. "Feet" might be seen as particular "phrasing" of real game unit (5') "square". I cringed at (official Italian translator) Umberto's metric conversion examples, phrasing 20'/30' spell ranges in meters, always in increments of 1.5 meters, yet that is only indirectly acknowledged rather than directly referencing 'square' game units (= 1.5m). Which to be fair, was simply direct translation from Paizo's references to "feet" even when "squares" could have been used... and Paizo does use "squares" sometimes, just not 100% consistently AFAIK.

Problems with Temperature Categories aside, I think that is better model for distance, to "define"/describe the unit in reference to real-world unit ONCE, and then only directly reference the game unit in mechanical text. "Feet" is obviously appropriate for "fluff" descriptors like specific length of "short sword" ...As are specific temperatures to describe different pools of a thermal spa which might only be of 1 or 2 distinct Categories, mechanically. Longer distances can be defined in parallel (e.g. long range spell equals X*100 ft or Y*10 squares) ...Although that brings up the detail that even "native" Farenheight users are quite often horrible at intra-Imperial unit conversions, i.e. foot/mile conversions can't be assumed as trivial/obvious, so conversely square/mile conversions also can't be.


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I really like the baseline concept. As I understand it, it works like "We here at Paizo are not going to do the following in our printed adventures or sourcebooks. If we're going to cross any of those lines, we will give a clear warning in advance. Since your players presumably have read the core rulebook, their expectations are set by our baseline so if you are going to cross any of those lines, you should also give advance warning."

It seems like a way to cultivate responsible and ethical GMing that will result in many fewer troll threads on the forums.


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What about proteans, aeons and LN outsider creature types?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Dalzak wrote:
What about proteans, aeons and LN outsider creature types?

Those (Aeons are LN now, LN are Aeons now... it's confusing) and Psychopomps are Monitors.

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