So for informational purposes (it's both higher level and needs a book not on your list) I'll share the best version of the original Assassin's Creed I've been able to make in Pathfinder.
First you need to have Snapping Turtle Style for Snapping Turtle Clutch. This lets you, when an opponent misses you in combat, make an immediate action grapple (at a -2). Then you use Greater Grapple (move action) to pin them on your turn and Throat Slicer (standard action) to coup de grace them. Basically, if they swing and miss you grab them, pin them, and (probably) kill them. It's fairly involved for basically just one cool trick and it's very campaign dependent (doesn't work on oozes, elementals, constructs, or undead) but it very much recreates the iconic counter-stab kill.
Also, hilariously, the best weapon to do it with is a Pick (heavy or light) for that x4 crit.
As for a mundane version of the Hidden Blade, you're probably never going to find it. Pathfinder has a real problem with quick sheathing for reasons I never really understood (something with shields?). With some magic however, this would seem to work (not in a book available to you). Swift action to draw, move action to sheath. The upgrade is Gloves of Storing, a free action for both. If you're willing to burn money and just want the surprise weapon factor Liquid Blade lets you create weapons out of nothing to stab a dude (it's a shortsword but I can't see a GM refusing to downgrade it to a dagger).
But there's always going to be a fundamental problem with the concept. Anything "mundane assassin" not based around actual Save or Die abilities is going to have to be based on high spike damage. Spike damage, by its very nature, cannot be repeated that often. If it is then it's just baseline damage. And unless you're playing something wildly unbalanced spike damage is generally balanced by per-day resources or poor hit chance. Basically, if you're trying to play Altair or Ezio you're going to be disappointed by either running out of juice or only hitting 40% of the time (and only the new games are that buggy). Sneak attack is a patch to using a tiny weapon with low strength, Fighter with a Greatsword is probably more damage and does it all day. This is more of an expectations thing though so I can't really suggest anything to fix it. You basically have to resolve yourself to just being "sneaky guy who stabs people who can't see them", not "unstoppable killing machine if they can't see you".
So while the first post says the character "tortures because they must" (with no caveats) the other two posts with information are quite explicit in that the character is not torturing for information. Specifically:
It was less about the torture for information but the actual tools I see many uses for for example thumbscrews remove a caster from casting unless they have a still spell, the Trephine can actually heal mental ability damage (or cause it if the heal check fails by 5 or more).
The torture he learned was less about interrogation more for stopping “evil magic users” from casting their spells when imprisoned. The why I only gave him the tools that prevent casting (Screws to remove somatic, Fork to prevent a good night sleep and the Trephine to not only help non magic heal mental ability damage of allies heal dc 25 but to potential lower a caster ability to cast)
It's not about interrogation, it's about preventing a captive from escaping. Which isn't inherently Evil (unless you think all prisons are).
Now, as I said in my other post, I think the methods they are suggesting (the torture implements) are absolutely torture. Thumbscrews might get a pass (in that you don't have to inflict pain with them) but the other two can only be used for their torture use and are almost textbook Evil.
But the main reason I qualified it based on individual acts is I don't think it's going to come up that often. I rarely see players take prisoners, the specific implements only work on certain types (SLAs don't have somatic components), and it really only matters for long-term containment. It doesn't matter if the player is built for it if they never actually do it. You'll notice Cook People, arguably the easiest example of Evil, still only says "Using this hex or knowingly eating its food is an evil act." Not taking the hex but actually using it. Not sure who would take it if they didn't intend to use it but merely having it doesn't count as Evil.
I'll preface this with the simple answer. Torture is an Evil act, one Evil act does not change your alignment. Torturing for some Good might balance to Neutral but that's a GM call.
As for using the torture devices, the text is very clear.
Torture Implements wrote:
Each act of torture shifts the torturer’s alignment one step toward evil, and it counts as a willful evil act for the purpose of effects like atonement.
You can potentially argue that using the thumbscrews to restrain but not harm is not torture (however, as someone who sprained their thumb recently, #@$% yes it's still torture to hurt them if they use their thumbs). The Fork though? You have to stab it into them to put it on, then it stabs them again if they try to relax. There is no use of that (without consent) that's not just torture. Then there's the Trephine. Your friend telling you to use it to reduce mental ability score damage (but only from physical trauma to the head) is fine, they consent. Spending 10 minutes drilling into someone's skull to intentionally damage their brain (mental ability scores) is monstrous and evil and there is no use for the Trephine to restrain someone I can see that isn't EVIL.
Bill Dunn wrote:
Why would the GM fudging a die roll every once in a while make player decisions meaningless?
"If I'm going to win no matter what I do then what's the point of even rolling the dice?" or "If he was just going to get away then why'd you even go through the motions? Just have him get away". Basically, if fudging looks like fiat then making the player roll dice looks like a cruel joke where you force them to spend time and energy doing something before telling them it was all worthless.
My concern is the same thing it's always been. CR is a not a good rule. Anything that refers to opponents just by their CR is basically worthless. You mentioned the inquisitor always being able to hit a CR 20. That statement is wrong. Published monster statistics for the AC of a CR 20 monster range from 25 to 42 (according to the spreadsheet). NPCs could easily be much lower if they're made poorly. The AC 42 could actually be higher (spellcaster with Quicken Spell and Shield). The inquisitor can hit specific CR 20s all of the time (well, 95% of the time). Not all of them. And, again, not getting into all the abilities monsters might have (miss chance, DR, auras) that would stop the inquisitor from hitting or doing damage.
If you go from Ogre to Cyclops to Hill Giant to Frost Giant to Fire Giant to Cloud Giant and so on it seems to be fairly reasonable, no (excluding the Cyclops ability potentially)? It's obviously not perfect.
And yet you just refered to generic "CR 20s" like there's not a huge difference between monsters in each CR.
17 gold worth of item falls within the spirit of no gear mentioned there.No it doesn't. The rules are quite explicit.
Core Rulebook pg 399 wrote:
A classed NPC encountered with no gear should have his CR reduced by 1 (provided that loss of gear actually hampers the NPC)
Not less gear, not worse gear, no gear. A Fighter who trades in their magic weapon for their backup weapon is not hampered.
Again, while I have problems with CR (and ways to fix them myself) my issue in this thread is that you refer to monsters by CR alone. That's not useful information. That's like saying you had a "beverage" with dinner. A milkshake? A soda? Threw a hotdog in a blender with some raw eggs? Metal shavings in hydrocloric acid? Liquid iron? You already said you made a CR 10 creature with 36 AC, surely the CR 20 version would have more?
Matthew Downie wrote:
Or Nazis. A more relevant example for us would be "As the length of an alignment thread approaches infinity the probability of someone saying the paladin should have fallen approaches 1". Certain things are inevitable, basically. And if you're not going to stop doing it at least be more mindful about it, in the case of Godwin's law.
So I've covered this before, the short answer is "depends on the GM". One guy I'd trust to do whatever he feels like (even diceless). The other I double-check all the rules. However, there's one comment I felt I had to call out.
What my players don't know can't hurt them.
They know. I haven't met a GM yet who's actually managed to keep it hidden. Some may take longer but it's basically Godwin's law. The longer you fudge the more likely you get caught. Tense moments actually increase the chance of getting caught, I think, as players are more attuned to the little stuff then. And once they suspect something every action is going under the microscope. Heck, if you're unlucky they might start attributing bad/good luck to fudging. Personally I roll in the open for that very reason. Keeps everything honest. Has led to some disappointing fights (and dramatic character deaths) but I haven't had any complaints yet. Both times were axes and lucky x3 crits from melee brutes.
I recognize this. What they actually meant was "my Han Solo knockoff should have 18 Cha but I don't want to spend any points on it". Rolling doesn't really lead to diversity. It mostly leads to casters (because you only got one good stat) or reckless disregard for life (since your Dex and Con sucked).
If you don't want the dice to be the final arbiter then don't roll dice. You can make all the fiddly modifications you want, there's always going to be disparity. That's what dice do.
Honestly, the best way I've seen to do diverse characters is simple. Let them pick their stats. Anything between 8 and 18. Lower if they really want it. Just pick a number you think fits the character. I think you'd be surprised what people make (except for the all 18 person, nobody is surprised by them).
For a one-shot it's moderate fun. Need a lot of system mastery to do anything useful with some rolls but there's always the old standby of Fighter (named "Bait"). It works much better with a campaign you can easily replace characters in. Skull and Shackles maybe? I don't know how often you put into port (get downtime in town) and how much fancy gear is given out (that you might want continuity for). You could also roll up multiple characters and let the party pick who to recruit for the ship (at low levels anyway).
The one time I did it for a full campaign was for Way of the Wicked, which gives you an 18, an 8, and 1d10+8 straight down. Some people got great rolls (average of 16, one was the Wizard, the other the Fighter). The Cleric didn't get above a 12... but was already planning to be a summoner. The last person got mediocre rolls, died, got better rolls, died, and is currently alive (but with worse rolls than the dead ones, weirdly enough).
Every other time someone says 3d6 or rolls in place and then one player gets somewhere between 12 and 14 for everything, another's best roll is a 6, and one guy is rocking two 16s and a 15. So we reroll, or the bad ones point buy, or some other change. I just rolled, got 9/8/10/12/8/6. Second round, 10/7/10/9/9/9. Sweet, finally got positive Str and Con! 13/9/14/8/12/11. Try it yourself.
Basicallly, most people don't actually want to roll dice for stats. They want to get good stats and don't know how math works. Or they do and think they're lucky/have lucky dice/have loaded dice/are just optimistic. Gamblers love to roll... rarely like keeping the rolls though.
Alright, detective time!
Level 14 UMonk with a Monk's Robe, Boots of Haste, Jabbing Style, Medusa's Wrath, Flying Kick, Elbow Strike. Maybe Power Attack/Piranha Strike. Some kind of ranged Flurry (Blood Crow Strike?). The sticking point is "can easily do 400+ dpr".
Here's where we hit the first problem. Flying Kick and Elbow Smash (what I assume they meant) can't be used together until level 15. So that's one attack off.
Medusa's Wrath has similar activation problems. They do imply the Monk wins initiative (which would let the player use it) but don't really say how the player wins initiative reliably. I really honestly doubt they do. There is a ki power but it takes two points and only lets you roll twice. This also doesn't address what happens after the first round, at which point the Monk (or their party members) has to actually get a condition on the enemies for it to work. We'll still count it for the alpha strike, it's iffy after that. Stunning Fist's save is the issue.
Alright, so with no other information we're looking at 3 attacks from flurry, 1 from Haste, 1 from a ki point, 2 from Medusa's Wrath, 1 at -5, 1 at -10. 2d8+Str+Enh+8+0/2d6/4d6 (on first, second, and third+ hits). Ignoring attack bonuses (which is not how you calculate DPR and a great way to inflate numbers) we get 18d8+9*Str+9*Enh+72+30d6. Maximum is 396+9*Str+9*Enh. Average (and with ~50 dice, way more likely) is 186+9*Str+9*Enh. So assuming +5 handwraps gives us a required Strength mod of... 19? 48 Strength? ...if we assume all the elemental enhancements then we can get that down to 20 Str but then the level 14 Monk has a +9 (equivalent) weapon.
And that's still assuming a punching bag with 0 AC the Monk cannot miss. In reality while the first attacks have a good (but not guaranteed) chance to hit that last attack is bad. d20+4+Str+Enh-4+1 versus AC ~26 (on level) or AC ~22 (minions) (flat-footed is about a -3 AC) is more likely to miss than hit (unless they do have 48 Str). Also handwraps wouldn't work on the flying kick (it requires a kick), Amulet of Mighty Fists is more expensive and caps at +5, and the Body Wrap would only be usable 3 times.
Am I missing some huge attack/damage bonus here? Because it looks like an alpha strike would get you ~350 damage (assuming the stars align and everything hits, also +5 weapon/20 Str) but every missed attack (probably 1-2 on that alpha strike, a few more on any subsequent attacks) would cost you ~41 damage. 300 dpr, maybe. 400 seems a little much.
So level 20 may be the edge of the cases (in that classes don't go beyond that) but it's not an edge case. The problem is also true at 19, 18, 17, and a whole bunch of levels below that. It is where the problem is worst, obviously, and if I was trying to argue about the severity of the disparity it would be an edge case. But all I'm trying to say is that CR is not a very accurate measure of power, which is true at most levels of "naked Fighter vs some monster".
I honestly only picked Fighter because it's always been the classic martial but you're right, it might lose the most with no gear (I would say Gunslinger is the worst off though). That being said, I'm pretty sure naked Gunslinger, Rogue, Barbarian, Slayer, Swashbuckler, Alchemist, and Paladin compare (un)favorably to the Fighter as examples. Most have actual class abilities but most still need a weapon and armor to function (outside specific builds). Alchemist is special in that its class features require items to function. And giving them weapons and armor completely misses the point. Without "no gear" they just go back to their normal CR, at which point you might as well give them full NPC gear, at which point I would have to argue the relative merits of one class versus another. There's already like a million threads fighting on that (and little agreement), I'm not going to do that. But hopefully everyone can agree a naked Fighter is not worth -1 CR over a full kitted Fighter.
...how is the Tiger stronger than the Hound Archon? Or the Schir Demon? Or the Barghest? It does have a slightly higher attack than it's CR... and a much worse AC. And no DR, regeneration, auras, spells, or anything else that would mitigate that. And using the Grizzly is problematic because it has lower attack and AC than the table. Dire Boar is less AC than the table as well. You can't discount Tiger for being too strong and then cherry-pick the weaker monsters to compare. Even with that, I'd still fight a naked Fighter over a Grizzly or Dire Boar. +9/10 attack for 1d3+3/4 nonlethal? Sad. Also you complain about the Tiger but not the Hydra? More AC, more HP, fast healing, greater reach, and it also has pounce.
Those are now both CR30 creatures that are more powerful than most demon lords, so I would think it's definitely an example of an edge case. And clearly they tried to do that rule since a CR30 creature with level 10 Cleric spellcasting would be massively underwhelming -- it just so happens to "break" the game if the GM tries to use it to maximize creature melee power (also I don't think they envisioned most high CR creatures getting more than a handful of levels).
My first example was a Cave Giant. At every step between Cave Giant and Balor a big beefy bruiser gets more attack and saves from Cleric than Fighter. Again, Balor is almost the edge of the cases (there are higher CR monsters) but it's not an edge case. I'm not arguing how severe the problem is, just that the problem exists. And the problem exists at CR 6, 7, etc. up to at least 20. That's not an edge, that's 75% of the list.
One AP does not an entire game make. Low intelligence and no ranged attack describes the entire Animal type and low speed isn't actually a requirement. Entangle drops their speed by half. The standard 40/50 feet of an animal drops to 20/25, enough for most characters to get away.
As for the sources of entangle, nobody ever bought a tanglefoot bag? Net? Lasso (okay, I admit this one is a little out there)? Bomb, shot, or arrow? The spell of the same name? And that's honestly just my specific circumstances. Difficult terrain does the same thing (just usually not as long). And then there's the stuff that actually immobilizes them. Paralysis, grapple, stuff like that. And Slow turns everyone into a zombie (along with a few other abilities).
And honestly, that doesn't really matter. What's important is that it is entirely possible for certain builds to completely shut down certain enemies. Monsters with a single attack (T-rex). Monsters with no ranged attacks or way to ground flyers (also T-rex). Monsters with some specific weakness (Golems and Glitterdust). A level 1 Strix can solo a T-rex but it's not because the Strix is too powerful.
It was 10 CR6 typical archers, 20 CR6 run of the mill soldiers with greatswords, one elite CR10 archer, one CR10 elite soldier, and one CR10 cleric as I recall. Can give more info if you want.I don't actually care what the fight is. My point, as I said last time, was:
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
You list your combats as "CR 10". That tells me almost nothing useful about the combat. The AC is a little more information but I could still find or make a dozen enemies that match those criteria, all of whom vary wildly in power from each other. Even the ones who might come in at the same overall power level might fare wildly differently against different builds (bad saves, no ranged weapons, etc.).
I'm not here to analyze the fight. I'm here to say that calling a fight "a CR 12" and asking what went wrong is like saying you had a sandwich for lunch and had a bad reaction. Unless you start telling us what was in the sandwich there's absolutely no way we're going to be able to help.
...that being said, you pitted a horde of minions against a well built martial character. Of course the player tore through them like tissue paper. 6 CR lower is about -10 AB/AC on the table. 2 CR lower is about -3 AB/AC. If your minions are just meatshields (only good for attacking with weapons) then they're just bags of free EXP.
Honestly, that battle really seems to prove my point. Those CR 6s were worthless. They were not a threat, they were punching bags of free EXP. But the system told you that they weren't.
Not enough to be relied upon, more than none. For the Wizard, anyway. Other classes have different requirements. Spontaneous casters should be responsible for nothing, they have enough of their own problems. Clerics probably lean towards more buffs (in that they can always cherry-pick what they want for the day).
Basically, character choices should always be personal. How many buffs you expect from a spellcaster should be directly related to how little it impacts their own personal character choices (generally in the realm of spell selection though spells per day is also important). Nobody expects the sorcerer to learn a spell just for them (unless they're a jerk). Nobody expects the Bloodrager to be the party buffer. But if you're going to the Red Dragon's Lair in the Lave Caves of Fire Mountain, maybe the Cleric could cast a Communal Resist Energy?
Wizards have a fairly easy learning mechanic and a large spells per day selection. If you want a spell from them you can throw money at the problem to solve it. I mean, you can do this with scrolls for every caster, but with Wizards they can learn and recast a spell using only gold so you can ask for regular daily buffs from them. So more than none, less than a lot. Some.
If the goal is to be immune to Snowball blocking line of sight isn't going to cut it. It's not a targeted spell (it has no Target line, it uses Effect instead). Enemies can happily blind-fire it and hope for the best.
That being said, you're missing smoke, darkness, fog, and any other environment or effect that grants total concealment. That's all invisibility does too. And I'm not sure why you think that doesn't do what you want since the first line in the definition of Total Concealment is "If you have line of effect to a target but not line of sight, he is considered to have total concealment from you." By definition Total Concealment means they don't have line of sight.
Just pointing out that you used three specific edge cases there and I'm not sure how any of the cases I've presented are edge cases.
So you're not using that term correctly. Edge cases are where the problem only exists at specific spots (usually the extremes). The level 20 naked Fighter is an extreme case but lower levels aren't better. We can use a naked level 6 Fighter versus a Tiger or Hydra for the same "are these really the same difficulty fight" comparison. Honestly, I'm probably always going to choose "naked guy who needs gear to fight" over "fully kitted and ready to murder monster".
The monster I'm adding levels to is only CR 6 and the problem just gets worse at higher CRs. A Balor Fighter 10 versus a Balor Cleric 20 is a more extreme example but still not an edge case (as everything inbetween has the same "a bunch of Cleric levels gives better BAB, saves, and spellcasting"). I even said "The higher level the monster the worse it gets.", which is almost literally the opposite of an edge case.
As for the last example, what? Like, seriously, what? Zombies (or something staggered) don't come up in games? The ability to cause the entangled condition never comes up in games? What exactly is the rare situation that only occured in my game that you're saying is happening here?
As for the cases you've presented, this thread has a lot of information about your player's capabilities. Your contribution to your game, however, consists of:
That's... well, not very helpful. Did any of them have other defenses? Miss chances? Damage reduction? Flying? Burrowing? Even if I'm not including the special abilities (and you definitely should be) there are other defensive things that need to be included (and they affect different builds different ways).
This is why I posted what I did. You list your combats as "CR 10". That tells me almost nothing useful about the combat. The AC is a little more information but I could still find or make a dozen enemies that match those criteria, all of whom vary wildly in power from each other. Even the ones who might come in at the same overall power level might fare wildly differently against different builds (bad saves, no ranged weapons, etc.).
The spell is pretty clear on this.
Greater Create Demiplane wrote:
You can use this spell to expand a demiplane you created with lesser create demiplane or create demiplane (you do not need to create an entirely new plane using this spell), in which case it has a duration of 1 day/level. Alternatively, when cast within your demiplane, you may add to your demiplane (or remove from it) one of the following features (or any of the features described in create demiplane) with each casting of the spell, in which case it has an instantaneous duration.
If you're expanding the area of the demiplane it has a duration of 1 day/level. It does not care what the duration of the base demiplane is. If you're adding features it has a duration of instantaneous (which means permanent and undispellable).
So every time I see CR cited as if it was gospel I cringe. CR is a helpful guide. Used as a rule it's terrible.
For instance, did you know that a completely naked Fighter is only one lower CR than if they had gear? Not "if they focused on improvised/unarmed", just "-1 CR for no gear". So a level 20 Fighter with absolutely no gear is supposed to be just as tough a fight as several varieties of Ancient dragon. Dragons are overtuned? Sure, let's go with the Kraken. Fighting the Kraken at sea or a high level naked Fighter, which do you pick?
Similarly, adding class levels to monsters is a mess. The higher level the monster the worse it gets. The problem is that "non-key" classes count for half but might add far more. A Cave Giant who wants to be stronger can either take three levels of Fighter (for +3 CR) or 6 levels of Cleric (also +3 CR) and get more BAB and higher saves. The Cleric is better even without the spellcasting and that should never be true.
Then there's the in-game stuff. I had a character who could Entangle. The GM made themselves a big beefy (not fast) zombie. It was kited to death literally unable to fight back.
CR can point you in the right direction but that's all. Blindly following it can easily lead to steamrolls (in either direction) if either side has some special ability the other side can't deal with. A party of Strix can fight a hundred T-Rexs.
So there's a couple thematic things you'd need to change and a whole host of little problems with actually running it but it's a decent twist on an old classic. The way I've seen it done (including an ancient module) is essentially starting with one-shot characters who die at the villain's birth/rebirth and then bring in new characters to stop them. This honestly sounds like a better version in that the players don't have to work on a character who is just going to disappear soon (though the old module avoided that by having them play pregens).
So on to the thematic stuff. First, souls aren't judged in mortal timeframes. If someone is revived then their soul never left the Boneyard. I think it can't, otherwise they couldn't be revived. So your players would land in Hell... 10,000 years later. Second, whatever acid wash they dump souls through to make petitioners would normally remove the player's levels. You'd need some explanation for that too. Likely the two would be solved by the same handwave. Hellfire Ray bypasses the line but leaves their abilities intact, or something similar. Might even let them find/fight the paladin later, depending on how they were killed.
Then all the little fiddly bits. If you're taking all their equipment then certain classes (alchemist, gunslinger) will need new stuff specific to them immediately. Others (wizard, fighter) will need new stuff specific to them very quickly. It's simpler to warn them ahead of time but if for some reason you don't want to you need to replace their gear quickly or allow them to retrain to use the new stuff for free. Similarly, certain classes (gunslinger and alchemist again) need the ability to resupply regularly. Some abilities are much stronger (anything that counts as silver), some much weaker (anything fire based). Oh, and because of your other thread, no environmental challenges will survive more than a level or two because there's usually a spell or feat they can take (or throw some points in survival) to deal with it. You're better off having the challenges scale by what part/layer of Hell they're in.
Short answer, players don't like spending time doing stuff only to have it fiated away. Either let them know what's going to happen or let them know circumstances might rapidly change and you should be fine. Tell them nothing and you might end up with some pissed off players whose time and effort was just made worthless.
...okay, so I understand (somewhat) the desire to have poison, disease, and curses continue to matter. But food and water? There's literally a cantrip for water and has been since they made cantrips, I think (it was 1st level before that). Food is 3rd level (was higher before, but definitely still existed). Then there's the Handy Haversacks and Bags of Holding and the most magical item of all, Rations. Write them on your sheet once and forget about them until the GM tries to suddenly run survival mode, at which point you totally still have them and they're still good. If you wanted hardcore survival mode, this is definitely not the game. They include a whole bunch of stuff to specifically ruin that.
As for afflictions, your issue appears to be that they have hard levels and never scale with the players. To which I say, good. If the DC of the common cold changed based on who caught it then high level adventurers need to live in a quarantine zone lest one of their colds gets out and kills the rest of the world. Afflictions have to be localized (in terms of numbers) based on who is exposed to them. A virulent disease that wipes out half the town means half of the commoners live. And if a bunch of commoners can live, physical demigods definitely can. Just like exposure to lava is a grave threat to a first level party but the morning bath of a high level Barbarian. At some point Fort/Will/HP scale to the point that lower level threats don't matter anymore. That's the basis of the game. You get bigger numbers as you level. Anything that threatens lower numbers isn't a threat to those higher numbers. Anything that can threaten higher numbers destroys lower numbers with almost no chance to resist. And, honestly, if you want to threaten a high level party with an affliction you just use a stronger affliction. You just don't put it in the sewers of the city unless you want to explain how the rest of the city isn't already dead.
Also, as an aside, some afflictions are just poorly designed. Arsenic isn't fatal, even if you fail every save, unless you take it multiple times or have 6 Con (or bad luck). Leprosy literally does nothing unless you never sleep (max of 2 Cha damage, you heal 1 every night of sleep).
So I've written and erased a much longer post pointing out some of the detailed problems I have with this. Things like the unwritten assumptions (kineticist banned, outsiders rare), the need for GM fiat (monsters don't chase, setting up ambushes is easy), and that it seems to lift spellcasters and crush fighters (melee combat more brutal, new special effects favor big hits).
After typing it all up I realized my problem is much simpler than that. You cannot mix "magic is complicated but powerful" with "melee combat sucks" as long as players can choose to play magicians and disposable minions exist (and those minions might be other players). If your Fighter regularly has to spend a few days healing the Druid definitely has time to get a new animal companion. And the Summoner laughs at both from behind their shield of monsters, all of whom are wildly overpowered for their level because they are "fantastical" creatures. You might be able to fix this with bans of some kind but until magic is dangerous and/or banned from player hands then magic will always be the best choice for players. Which is sort of the opposite of what I'd expect from a Conan game, personally.
Oh, and that Cloud Giant thing? It can break the Web with a Combat Manuever check, which it makes on a -3. It then either runs them down (50 feet a move) or blasts them with Chain Lightning (from 1000 feet away, 15d8 damage DC 27). Running is rarely an option in Pathfinder if something really wants to kill you.
Universal Monster Rules wrote:
So every time it hits with a chain it does damage normally and can choose to spend a free action to make a trip attempt against the target it hits.
In most circumstances this means that it gets a free trip against everything it hits with a chain. The only time it doesn't is if it's prevented from taking a free action for some reason.
I don't think anybody claimed that the Wizard is indestructable. Several people have agreed if the Rogue can get in stabbing range and have a turn they can probably instagib the Wizard (with the right build, of course). The problem is everything else. Finding the Wizard (assuming they don't want to be found), reaching the Wizard (assuming they don't want to be reached), making sure they stay dead (...I think everyone wants to keep living?), things like that. We're not saying the Wizard is invincible. We're saying they're the leader of a country. Yes, you can kill them if you can get next to them with a gun. First you need to find them (this is usually easy), then all the security, then getting away. And then it turns out that was a body double and now you need to do it all over again, only now with quintuple security and a whole country hunting for you. And they're in their secret bunker.
And as for the rest, it's irrelevant. This isn't a generic situation. The OP is planning on playing this. Against a GM who said that the Rogue couldn't beat their Wizard. It's arena combat, basically, except by default the Wizard wins. The Rogue has to actually get the kill and make it stick. The Wizard just has to do anything else. I agree with you that pretty much any other high level caster could do this too (though not as well, the good hermit spells are on the Wizard list). I don't agree that just because a way to do it isn't printed doesn't mean one exists. That's called GM fiat. If the Rogue only wins by the GM (their opponent, last I saw) giving them a freebie than I don't think it counts.
Honestly, the whole thing suffers from how easily available demiplanes are and how little rules there are actually covering how they interact with the world at large. Mostly they're treated like home computers. They're all connected to the network but the only way to access them is if the owner gives out the IP or you're sitting in front of the keyboard. And we're looking for the Wizard's shameful stuff, so it's not even connected to the network most times and it's password protected. And that's assuming we can find the IP in the first place.
Uh, adventurers don't destroy Vecna. As of last writing he's a god. His first defeat was being betrayed by his lieutenant (came back demigod), his second to adventurers (banished to Ravenloft), ascended to godhood, third defeat (adventurers again) dropped him down to lesser god. As of 5e he's a greater god again, I think.
Acererak is also a terrible example in that it basically proves the opposite of your point. The Tomb of Horrors killed way more characters than successfully passed it. The players who beat it frequently did so with foreknowledge of the module (in-character or out). And Acererak both wasn't a wizard (no spell list) and wasn't active (didn't react if the adventurers retreated). If we're just talking Rogue vs dungeon the Wizard built, yeah, the Rogue can probably do that. Survived death to become an immortal quasi-diety (Vestige), so again, not destroyed.
As for Baba Yaga, what? I know she's got a stat block and is technically killable but the adventure she appears in has the party ending at level 16. She's level 20/ML 10. First you have to complete a bunch of story quests for her literal immunity to death. Then you need an artifact to coup de grace her with to deal with her mythic immortality. Then you better pray she doesn't have a Clone somewhere, as she "knows all witch spells, as well as all sorcerer/wizard spells. Baba Yaga also has knowledge of many other spells that she has researched. Many of these are arcane versions of divine spells." Oh, and a pet house that is also immortal and can teleport/plane shift. I think there's also a sanctum effect? At the very least it has some high number of demiplanes (the floor layouts) only accessible by plane shift. Anyway, my point is that I haven't seen anything where you're actually meant to kill her and stand a chance. Maybe a custom adventure but then that's anything but "routine". And without mythic (itself somewhat out there) I don't see it happening at all.
Of course, the short version is don't cite bosses the party is meant to fight as proof that it's easy to find Wizards. You find them because the adventure says you find them. If they wanted to hide I'm pretty sure they could. Baba Yaga literally has a dimension hopping house that can travel somewhere else with a full-round action. If she really wants to stay safe she can use Antimagic Field (the hut is immune). If Baba Yaga decides she wants to run I don't think anything can catch her.
I've been over this a few times but I'll do the quick version again. A listed spell to reach a demiplane is Etherealness. Etherealness is just Ethereal Jaunt, Ethereal Jaunt only brings you to the Ethereal plane. Not adjoining planes, not subplanes, just the Ethereal plane. If you can reach a demiplane with Etherealness then it must be part of the Ethereal plane. So you can use Find the Path if it's made on the Ethereal plane. And there's no information to indicate the Astral plane is any different.
What this actually looks like, who knows? I mean, demiplanes can terminate in an endless expanse of nothing. What does that look like from the outside? Can you enter it by crossing the border? Are you trapped forever if you can't plane shift back out? All of these questions are basically left to the GM. As I've also said before, it's not how I'd run things, but the way I'd run things would leave no way I've seen for the Rogue to succeed. This one's a bit of a long shot but at least it's not impossible. And it's supported by what little text we have (and also sort of opposed but the text is contradictory).
Now, it still takes forever (literally) as the plane is infinite but again, some chance of doing it on your own is better than "hope the Wizard's an idiot and you can lure them into shanking range".
Find the Path is by far the fastest of those choices to find the demiplane. Contact Other Plane/Commune is basically yes/no only, the only way you're finding a place with it is with a binary search. Legend Lore and Discern Location are Divination magic, foiled by Mind Blank. Discern Location even calls it out by name. And if you aim for the Wizard's private demiplane with Legend Lore, I'm pretty sure it doesn't count as "important". That would seem in direct contradiction to "private demiplane they never told anyone about".
As for the Wizard interacting with the rest of the world... why? Demiplanes let you basically recreate the whole world. They grow food and make water. Simulacrum can do all the farming you need (and basically anything else). If you can name a need a Wizard can't satisfy with magic somehow I'd be very surprised.
They have mentioned in another post somewhere Hinyasi Brawler. Still, I'm not seeing the power here. 3d8+30 is minimum 33. 4d6+9 is maximum 33. And that's not even getting into the fact that the more dice you roll (unless they're loaded) the more likely you are to get closer to average. With Brawler it'd get +3 from PA for higher BAB but that's still needing the absolute max on the dice to compete with a Cavalier throwing ones.
And 6d6+14 gets to compete with the Cavalier's 6th level 3d8+54 (made a mistake here). Comparing again, max is 50, min of the Cavalier is 57. The extra dice are nice but the Cavalier is adding +9 every four levels (PA), +3 every level (Challenge), and +3/+6 for every Strength boost. An extra 2d6 is a max of 14 (average of 7). The Cavalier is adding +21 every four levels, to (on average) compete the improvised weapon user will need three size increases every four levels. To compete with loaded dice they'd still need three size increases every eight levels. More doable, but I'd never base a plan on loaded dice.
This however? This is just wrong. An "improvised weapon" in the size and shape and function of a Butchering Axe being used exactly like a Butchering Axe is a Butchering Axe. If it's being used as an improvised weapon (the flat side, usually) then the GM gets to set the damage. And I can almost promise it won't be 3d6. Similarly, there is no such thing as an "improvised lance" (yet, I suppose they might make one later). It's either an improvised weapon or a Lance. If it's a Lance it gets triple damage. If it's an improvised weapon it doesn't.
But sure, I'm always down for more math. Let's go back to the first build with 4d6+12. With Spirited Charge and a horse (somehow) we're looking at 8d6+24. Which looks real impressive but averages 52 damage (and you better believe you're going to get that most times) in comparison to the Cavalier's average of 42. With six feats sunk and a horse (hopefully one that won't die to Auras and AoOs). And some skill points, gold, ability scores, etc. Lots of extra costs there. With just one of those feats the Cavalier could take Power Attack for +18 damage, making them once again the king!
And what I feel like most pointing out here, this is a very naive build. Order of the Sword pumps the damage further. There's probably archetypes or other classes that could push this further. Heck, using Fighter and Power Attack instead increases the level 4 damage. There's a reason I called it the baseline build. It's what a newbie who wanted to do a a lot of damage might make. All you need to do is see Spirited Charge (in the Core rulebook) to understand how to do it. Cavalier is similarly billed as "the guy riding a horse" class. This isn't a complicated build. Literally just Core and APG. Has been around almost a decade. If you're not beating it you're not doing "too much damage". You might be doing "too much damage for your group" but that's a very different issue.
Basically you're not wrong about what an improvised weapon is. Anything that's not meant to be a weapon is an improvised weapon. Everything Jackie Chan does probably counts. So does a guy who only fights with a rubber chicken (or similar ridiculous weapon). "Everything and the kitchen sink" and "something ridiculous" are both "improvised weapon" concepts.
Where you're going wrong is that this isn't a game that rewards random character choices. If I take Catch Off Guard you better believe my character is always going to have an improvised weapon on hand to beat someone with. Preferably always in-hand. If I then take another trait or feat or whatever to even further specialize in improvised weapons then I'm only going to use them unless I really have to use something else (bow, usually). This character, at level 4, with a grand total of two feats granted by leveling, has spent two feats on Catch Off Guard/Throw Anything and Shikigami style. They could have picked them up with certain race/class choices instead but for a generic character of any class, this has potentially cost them all of their feats. In return for what, 2d6 damage? That's a greatsword, available from level 1. It can be made better (I'm not sure more than the build I'm about to post) but it does so at the expense of gold, feats, class abilities, etc. If a player is spending resources on being better at something they should be good at it. If they do all that and still end up worse they're gonna be disappointed.
Now what I like to call the baseline build. It's basically a one big hit build. Big beefy Cavalier with Spirited Charge (doable by 4th). 18 Str, Challenges, two-hands their lance for 3d8+30 on a mounted charge. I think there's a build that can squeeze in Power Attack with maybe Furious Focus as well (Fighter, probably) for an extra +6 damage (+18 PA instead of +12 Challenge). At 6th level (when the Cavalier can get Power Attack as well) it's 3d8+54. I don't think your player's build can beat that. But since you mention crits we can look at the extreme (Barbarian with a scythe) of 8d4+60 damage or the more likely (Barbarian with a greataxe/earthbreaker) of 3d12/6d6+45 damage. Both likely beat your player's damage as well. I haven't found anything that gives an improvised weapon a higher crit multiplier.
As for the "surprise" factor, it's not a surprise unless they're unarmed. From Catch Off Guard: "Unarmed opponents are flat-footed against any attacks you make with an improvised melee weapon." If they're armed they're not surprised. Well, maybe surprised the enemy can actually use that as a weapon but not surprised in game terms (flat-footed). And that makes perfect sense. An unarmed person would rather not believe you're going to murder them with pinking shears. Someone who can fight back is going to assume the person jumping them in an alley and pulling out pinking shears is about to try to do something unspeakable to them and keep their guard up.
Why use your enemy's weapon when you can use your enemy as a weapon? Unfortunately still requires level 10 though, so not happening soon. I think I got it down to a single round with Greater Grapple and Snapping Turtle Clutch, though it does require the opponent to attack and miss you before you can do it that fast. Also probably some kind of Enlarge or Polymorph so you can use bigger things as weapons.
Honestly, if I was running things demiplanes would absolutely be little pockets of subreality separate from the larger plane. I would say more like asteroids in space than bubbles (you know something is there but have no idea what's inside). That being said, under that method there's literally no way you're getting to a wizard's private demiplane aside from somehow luring them out and hitching a ride with them when they return. Which I don't know if there's a spell or feat for, honestly. Maybe? Either way, the answer to the OP's question is then no, it's just impossible. I suppose I should say that technically you could check every single demiplane on the Astral and hope for the best but I think they're probably created faster than you could find them.
Now the version I proposed (again, which I wouldn't use personally) is supported by the text (and contradicted, but the important part is that it's at least partly supported) and would allow the Rogue to reach the demiplane without needing GM intervention of some form. Maybe, eventually, as "infinite" and "10 minutes a level" mean the Rogue probably needs to pick up Find the Path in a per day use, maybe with a side of immortality to actually finish the job.
Formatting at the bottom should show you how to do a link. It's basically the url tag with the url, the text, and the closing tag.
Basically the reason I say that the demiplane has to exist on the same plane as it's created within is because Etherealness doesn't give you unrestricted planar travel. It only takes you to the Ethereal plane. It doesn't have any special clause allowing you to jump to further planes. No subplanes, no adjacent planes, just the Ethereal plane. And yet Lesser Create Demiplane clearly says you can use Etherealness to reach the demiplane. So any demiplane created within the Ethereal plane must exist as a subset of the Ethereal plane not something separate or distinct from the plane itself. Otherwise you can't reach it with Etherealness.
It's entirely possible that this was a mistake and demiplanes are meant to be separate from the planes they're created within but as written the only way Etherealness would be able to reach a demiplane is if that demiplane was part of the Ethereal plane. Honestly, I suspect Paizo just wasn't careful with what they wrote.
I don't know, sieging the demiplane might be another important step to consider. There's just so many configurations that could stop or stall the Rogue long enough to be a problem. Especially with clones, especially because the first failed attempt will likely be the last. A Wizard who is aware someone is hunting them is a very different beast.
But that being said, I'll address the first post. So there's two possibilities. Either the plane is on the Ethereal or the Astral. The potential spells used to access it are Astral Projection, Plane Shift, and the one we care about, Etherealness. Etherealness literally just brings you to the Ethereal Plane. So if Etherealness can access a demiplane, that demiplane must just exist as part of the Ethereal plane, not a seperate plane of existence. Ditto if it was on the Astral. That means Find the Path would find it, provided it was prominent enough. Now we get into other problems (the Astral is uncountably infinite) but for just finding it Find the Path should work. Eventually. If it's "prominent" enough.
Now I suppose is the time for the obligatory "if you need a favorable reading from the GM to make something work it's probably not going to work against the GM".
Read the rest of the spell.
Detect Evil wrote:
The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.
The DCs in Mirrored Moon are absolutely not appropriate. Those hexes are 12 miles across, on a flat plane the average person sees something like 3 miles away. So like a quarter of the hex. Extra height (climb a tree, trivial DC) can easily extend that a mile or two. And we might as well treat it as a flat plane because two of the features are so obvious that you really can't miss them. The longhouse is both large and smoke is coming out of the chimney from the cooking fire. The village is explicitly intentionally very visible. Also, honestly, probably a lot of smoke from cooking fires there as well. So unless the grass is 30 feet tall it shouldn't be that hard to locate them.
For some the DC seems appropriate. To avoid spoilers, K in particular seems like it'd be difficult to find. The rest are more of a mixed bag but you can certainly fluff them one way or another. But unless the longhouse is buried in the ground it should be super obvious. Ditto the village. Anyone who can fly should literally be able to fly straight up at the middle of their hex and see either of them. From a quick calculation (no clue how accurate) you only need to be 25 feet off the ground to see six miles away. So not even flying, a monk with a good jump could do it.
Which is what I said before. Different things need different difficulty levels. The plains hexes should be much easier to search than either the mountain or forest. You can just see so much farther. Additionally, the longhouse and village should be even easier to find than other stuff in the plains because they're so large and glaringly obvious. Ditto the Moonmere, which explicitly says it's so obvious the players will see it well ahead of time. Yet, somehow, is just as hard to find as all the rest of the stuff.
I mean, video games do this very well (ish). Fallout 4 and Skyrim (if I'm remembering the system right) had difficulty floors (so X area will always have at least level Y monsters) but would otherwise generate a difficulty level for the area when you first explored it. This did lead to some weirdness (area right next to the starter area has level 50 monsters if you skipped it) but otherwise lead to a map that would grow in challenge with you but still allow backtracking. And areas that were out of your league you could leave until you leveled up some and then be able to do them. I think Skyrim later introduced some kind of forget mechanic so stuff would scale back up with you but it's been released so many times I can't keep up.
So divide the world into zones, assign each zone a level (maybe some variation within zones, unique monsters way over level, certain caves much higher level, areas around cities much lower level) and then make up reasons for why. Maybe all the trees in that zone are cacti and have spines. The cliffs are sandstone instead of granite. Stuff like that. If you want to get real fine-grained you can even assign specific levels just to the foliage, rocks, whatever to set the DCs. It lends itself real well to in-world exposition as well. "Stay away from the valley, nobody who goes there comes back alive" (some much higher level threat). "Stick to the roads, lots of wild animals around here" (lower level roads, higher level wilderness). "If you're confident in your climbing you can try to steal dragon scales, just don't try to fight them" (low climb difficulty, high level monsters).
Basically a giant heat map for difficulty. Some hot/cold spots for harder/easier ares within an area. Way more work than I'm willing to put in though. Might work well for a West Marches campaign, come to think of it.
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
You may have been right on the TPK but the GM did screw up the Shadows badly with that "surprise round." That no longer exists as a mechanic. The instant a character or creature decides to initiate an action that would be considered hostile to one another, combat begins.
So in this case they might have just been paraphrasing poorly.
From the module:
When this event begins, six zombies emerge from Lantern Lake, clamber up the trellis to the second- floor balconies, and begin smashing into areas D15–D17. One round after the PCs notice the zombies, however, the true threat emerges: two greater shadows that come screaming over the second floor and down onto the PCs.
Depending on where your players first spot the zombies (mine waited downstairs), the shadows may spend their entire first turn moving and still not be visible to the players (especially with one of their abilities). Several parts of the adventure path are written with odd instructions like that, where monsters don't spawn or start combat until certain conditions are met.
That's a rather extreme interpretation of "at once". If I tell my daughter to go to bed "at once" I expect it to take her more than a picosecond to get there. So the SS has to a) crawl out, exactly as per the description, and then work out what PCs there are to attack and begin to do so. Unless they're within range when it emerges, it must use that 3rd action to move. And as it's no idiot (int +6) it probably won't just spend its last action sailing into melee range where the enemy can full-attack it.
If my parents had told me to go to bed "at once" and I'd just stood around for a while doing nothing, I would have caught an earful. I did just for dragging my feet even. Monster spawns and admires the flowers for a round sure doesn't sound like "at once".
Chess Pwn wrote:
While I understand this is a liiiitle sarcastic, at the same time you're not wrong. The spell is a huge advantage against bosses because it ignores the extra AC. The range (120 feet) means you can basically hit whatever you can see. Against the boss of Lost Star an all bard party can win in one round. Even Pale Mountain, which is probably the worst time for our traveling band (no heighten), they can win in three rounds against the hardiest TPKer (two rounds for the rest).
Given the 5 minute workday people are seeing... yes, Magic Missile is probably OP. All hail our new Arcane/Occult overlords, I guess. Pew pew pew.
Ed Reppert wrote:
How is PF2 less superhero than PF1? I associate "everyone is good at everything" (the Ostog the Untenured problem) with superheroes, not fantasy. The Wizard doesn't suddenly become an Olympic long jumper because they're high level... except in PF2 they do.
PF2 characters (on average) have more HP and more AC than PF1, as far as I can tell. The specialists could beat PF2 but people who didn't focus would be way behind PF2. The Barbarian skinny dipping in lava is easily possible in both. The Wizard doing the same thing in PF1 without magic, not so much (possible with enough Con, just difficult). In PF2 a level 20 Wizard with 10 Con has 120 HP and with 24d6 max for taking a dip in lava has a 99.99% chance of surviving (I think there's a few more 9s, actually). In PF1 with 10 Con it's basically the reverse (a 99.99% chance of dying). The naked frail Wizard taking a dip in lava without magic just screams superhero to me.
Also, a naked Fighter had an AC of 10+Dex in PF1 and could be killed in an ambush by peasants. In PF2 they have 10+level+Dex and whoever is ambushing them better be within a few levels of them if they want to hit at all. If I had to call one fantasy and one superhero it'd be first and second, respectively. The second one could also be fantasy but less "realistic" and more "demigod" (which isn't much of a stretch from superhero).
Seriously, why is PF1 the more superhero of the two? Because you can pile on a bunch of magic armor and doodads to make yourself super powerful? That's high fantasy. Superheros are about your innate powers. Or in this case, "proficiency".
Barnabas Eckleworth III wrote:
The TPK in chief of Lost Star can get their attack bonus up to +12 for 8-22 damage on a crit, average 15. Shortbows are similar player killers at this level with a potential 3-22 damage on a crit but at least they crit less.
Then there's Pale Mountain and three encounters with +13 on their standard attack (to be fair, one isn't really meant to be fought) and one who can reach +15. Only instead of use that +15 attack it's meant to use its +12 attack.
In both adventures it appears the adventure designer's solution to these things that can one-shot players is "don't use them". That's... well, not great design.
As for overall, my experience so far says that it's not the old system causing these TPKs. It's the new system and inflated monster numbers (usually bosses). Strike/Stride/Strike instead of full attacks. Monster abilities that let them make two attacks with one action (and don't increase their MAP). I mean, this is basically the orc with an axe problem from PF1, just spread out to everything. Basically, a CR 1/3 creature (so send a few!) that deals 3d12+12 damage on a crit. If it rolls normally then no big deal, if it gets lucky someone's getting splatted. Oh, and no more confirm roll as a safety check.
Colette Brunel wrote:
Ah, missed a qualifier on my post. Sorry. You've mentioned a couple times that a player had less than optimal Dex scores for their armor. Specifically: "I think they made some poor defensive choices; they should have gone with Dexterity 16 and Constitution 12 instead of balancing the two scores, and they should have used a breastplate." and "I think that this character should have used hide armor rather than studded leather though.". Well, and any Monk period (always slightly behind a maximized armor user).
And yes, these are from the early runs. I would assume that after the multiple TPKs the party put a much heavier focus on defense. I would be interested in raw numbers if you have them but only out of curiosity. The ACs for my party for Pale Mountain ranged from 19-21 but they avoided three of the worst offenders (with some insanely lucky rolls on the relevant parts).
So I can't speak for the OP but they've mentioned a couple times that the players had less than optimal Dex scores for their armor and/or weren't willing to go with a heavier armor for some reason (ACP, speed).
Also if you're going to list them for Pale Mountain, list them for Lost Star. +7, +6 (and easy flat-footed), +6 (and so very very many), +7 (again, easy flat-footed), +6 (again, whole bunch of them), and +10 (up to +12). +7 against 15 AC is an 18-20 crit range. Set up flanking or use Stealth and those +6s are more like +8s, now a possible 17-20 crit range. That's a 20% crit chance. Drops to 19-20 for the better ACs but mostly we're looking at every enemy packing a scimitar. Especially since they seem designed to get flat-footed on the players so easily.
Similarly for Pale Mountain, the OP mentions a Monk (so slightly lower AC even if you focus on it). The problematic encounters are +12/+15, +13, +13, and +13. Crit against AC 20 on an 18 for the worst one. Most crit on a 17, the best one crits on a 15. Some form of debuff (and a couple are designed to do that) and the weaker (hah) ones can also crit on a 15. So keen scimitars all around. No confirm either.
It also doesn't help that most monsters don't have anything else to do. The first one for Pale Mountain has four attacks in its stat block and nothing else. One of the +13s literally only has that attack and nothing else. The other has a lovely flavor ability and a reaction... neither of which are going to change its behavior from Stride/Strike/Strike. The last one at least has options. All the rest just spam attacks.
For Doomsday Dawn you just have to read carefully (or they need to get better about capitalization). From that section: "is 4 miles of difficult terrain". So the entire 4 miles is just treated as Difficult Terrain (doubled movement costs so half overland speed). It goes on to specify it's a combination of climbing, difficult terrain, and flat sections so presumably the designation of Difficult Terrain is just the average.
As for the generic answer, I'm pretty sure there isn't one. Exploration mode is an abstraction, I think you just make something up. Probably 5 feet a round, more than that would be fatiguing.
I'll quote my partner's description of our upcoming game as it seems to sum up the issue best. "Another four hours of yelling at the dice". Basically, feats, spells, weapons, and all other player choices are utterly irrelevant compared to how much the dice gods love you that day.
For full disclosure I'm running a party of six through Doomsday Dawn. We've completed Lost Star and are partway through Pale Mountain. This issue might disappear at higher levels but nothing I've seen indicates the party is ever going to catch up to monsters. In fact, it looks like monsters are always ahead (especially if they have +3 higher skills than they should). I'll try to scrub details from the encounters but apologies in advance if you're spoiled.
The problem started with the first encounter. It lined everyone up for its AoE and all but one saved. Then it attacked and almost downed someone with a crit (rolling high on both the attack and damage).
Then the next encounter, where the party ended it in a round with sneak attack criticals. The monsters whiffed almost every Strike (except a crit against the animal companion).
The party skipped the encounter room but did choose the investigation room. Nobody made the roll, period. I suggested the animal companion try (mostly because I thought it was amusing), it passed with flying colors.
Almost the entire party made the check for the hazard, the Cleric decided to try destroying it. Not happy to learn it had an actual TAC, rolled... a 3. Annoyed, decided to try one more time... rolled a 3 again.
The next parts were less swingy, then they got to the boss. The boss tried, it really did, but all the bonuses in the world can't help when you roll a 1. This was even against the animal companion, where a 2 would have hit. It was otherwise a decent fight and then the Fighter got a Greataxe crit and carved off like 3/4th of the boss' HP instantly.
Then we started Pale Mountain. I'm not going to cover all the skill check problems (suffice to say, I don't think a single "expert" ever got the highest result), just the combats. And actually, just the one combat. The one that led to the frustrated quote at the top. I have to spoiler it though, as I can't scrub out the important parts.
It's the Manticore, the most important part of which is that its tactics say it stays at range and uses its ranged attacks as long as it can. The party was mostly melee (which didn't help) but the only ones we're going to focus on here are the Sorceror, Ranger, and Monk. The fight took four rounds.
The Sorceror primarily used Acid Arrow (as it was the only thing with a long enough range to hit the Manticore) and couldn't get a hit. They were close several times but close doesn't do anything. Instead they kept blowing their highest level spell hoping the dice gods would favor them.
The Ranger was a dedicated longbow Ranger. They opened with Hunt, Recall, Strike and then then Strike, Strike, Strike. They didn't get more than a hit a round until they got a crit to finish it. I don't think they ever hit with their first attack (again, until the last round).
Then the Monk, dice MVP and beloved of luck. They had a crossbow (untrained) and a middling Dex. They rolled below a 16 once. They hit every round, even needing to spend one action to reload.
So my issue is that a hot dice hand appears to matter more than anything else in the game. The Ranger from the spoiler fight was built perfectly for that fight... didn't matter because they couldn't roll high enough. The Monk was literally the worst possible setup for it. Never rolled low enough for that to matter (well, once, on a second attack that would have needed a 20 to hit).
Read a little farther and you get:
Cone, Cylinder, Line, or Sphere wrote:
A cone-shaped spell shoots away from you in a quarter-circle in the direction you designate. It starts from any corner of your square and widens out as it goes. Most cones are either bursts or emanations (see above), and thus won't go around corners.
All that's required to target a cone is that they can pick a corner of their square and designate a direction. None of that requires sight.
So I'm not the player or GM, but I think I can answer this one. They're level 2. They only have two things to spend burn on (infusion and defense). They only need to spend one point on defense and gather power can negate any cost from the infusion. So they're not dealing with burn. Not yet anyway.