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* Starfinder Society GM. 1,104 posts (17,127 including aliases). 39 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 12 Organized Play characters. 30 aliases.


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OceanshieldwolPF 2.5 wrote:
Cellion wrote:
Based on my experience with 2E, I very much agree with the big single enemy encounters don't feel all that fun to play….Basically, I feel like the encounter building guidance we have right now leads to fights that are technically "balanced" but are rarely a good time. The more I GM 2E, the more I find myself leaning back on the encounter building principles I learned back in PF1E.
[snipped for clarity] Any chance you could list or comment on those PF1 encounter building principles?

I don't really have a good source to point at (though the GM's Guide to Challenging Encounters from Alexander Augunas is always good reading), or an organized list of everything, but broadly and in no particular order:

- CR is a starting point. After a few encounters you know better how much your PCs can handle, as well as what kinds of encounters are easy and hard for them. If a particular kind of threat is harder for your PCs, then consider it higher CR. The same is true in the inverse (for example, you can throw any number of mundane archers at the PCs if they're always packing wind wall).
- Players are always more stressed about the difficulty than it seems on your side of the table.
- Action economy is king. A foe with fewer actions only wins if it can control the PCs action economy. (Generally less true in 2E, though still valuable to keep an eye on)
- Complicated monsters are best used as bosses, mini-bosses or solo threats. Especially if they have auras, things that trigger very frequently, and action economy advantages. (In PF1E terms, you should sparingly use encounters with things like 4x mummies, or 4x enemy casters with slow or confusion, or 4x high level dragons)
- Simple monsters serve as better minions. Feel free to cut abilities off a monster to make it more minion-like.
- Variety in creatures, objective and terrain is mandatory.
- You can throw any amount of very weak foes into an encounter without adjusting the encounter difficulty. PCs will find a way to AOE them down, bypass them, or ignore them. They'll still provide "texture" and serve as body blockers. You can even treat them as having a damage threshold for KO rather than HP, to reduce bookkeeping.
- Unfair encounters are A-OK and strongly contribute to both narrative and game feel, so long as they are A) telegraphed both ahead of time and within the encounter itself and B) able to be escaped from in a way that is clearly shown.

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Based on my experience with 2E, I very much agree with the big single enemy encounters don't feel all that fun to play. Far too often it just feels like rather than these difficult encounters being difficult due to some capability unique to the foe, they're difficult solely because you're being ground down by the implacable weight of the creature's numbers. On the flip side, low level foes are squished again solely through the weight of your better numbers. The consistency in numerical capabilities between creatures and PCs of similar level means that any fight against a single foe feels surprisingly similar - getting pasted by enemy crits while you eke out small advantages (debuffs, buffs, etc) until you can even things out.

Despite how PF2E's encounter building promises balance and easy GMing, there are plenty of traps. Many monsters are just boring when solo. Others are too complicated to be a minion. Others have cool auras that introduce challenges for the players to tackle when a higher level than the party, but which only challenge the GM with relentless busywork and bookkeeping while having minimal impact when used as a minion. Basically, I feel like the encounter building guidance we have right now leads to fights that are technically "balanced" but are rarely a good time. The more I GM 2E, the more I find myself leaning back on the encounter building principles I learned back in PF1E.

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Take a look at Dawn of Flame, that's the sun-based AP. Lots of interesting intra-stellar locations.

Ooh, quite interested in this one, particularly as a P2E adaptation. I've heard the original had some very cool themes and story, but was bogged down with excessively grueling encounters. Seems like what you're planning to do in terms of adapting the AP would be just what it needs.

I'll look to put together a character shortly.

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I've seen only one death as a GM, and that was during a famously unbalanced season 1 scenario. The group was unsuited to fight the creature that served as the boss, leading to an absolutely overlong slugfest that left most of the party on their last legs in HP, sp, and rp. In an act of heroic sacrifice, one party member led the boss back to a trap the group had bypassed earlier, triggering the trap and killing them both.

As far as deaths go, it was pretty cinematic.

The scenario in question:

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Awesome! I feel like grenades have always been on the verge of being good as a control and support tool, especially for the grenadier-focused mechanic alternate class feature. Maybe this will push them over the hump.

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Requiring an action to "swap arm focus" is probably the single worst part of what has been revealed so far on SF2 for me. It feels deeply unreasonable in my mind to require a full action for a creature that has lived with multiple limbs all it's life to switch from using one limb to another limb. It tears me right out of the illusion that we're trying to model "fantasy reality" in a fair but realistic way. Instead, it's a transparent mechanical ball and chain.

Given the wild variety of species in Starfinder with different physical capabilities, I think the game would be far healthier if it didn't balance its weapon and defense options around the number of hands they take to use.

Packing a punch in spellpower is exactly what I was thinking. It's been a while since I got to play a technomancer and there's been quite the assortment of fun blasty options printed since. On top of some great utility spells.

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@thom: 16k sounds a little low for 7th, but I can make it work.

@everyone else: I'm leaning toward Technomancer. Does that sound OK for you all?

Sounds good. I'll put a character together over the next few days then. Looks like the party could use either another melee or someone solid at INT skills.

Are boon-restricted species OK?

Hi all! Guiness reached out to me about joining in on this game. I'd be happy to jump in and do some more SFS scenarios, especially since it looks like this isn't for credit, so I don't need to have a character in the right bracket.

I *have* however played the Scoured Stars Invasion before (though not any of its followups), so I'll leave it up to you Thom on whether that's a dealbreaker. If not, let me know what rules I need to follow for a character build.

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The really wild array of augmentations and armor upgrades would be fun. They occupy a similar place to magic items, but they're far more science-fictiony and have some really awesome effects.

Definitely excited about this one. Love the name. I really hope this is a proper "amalgam" deity, representing the reconciliation of Zon Kuthon and Shelyn and the twisting of both their portfolios into something really weird. Lots of ways you can intersect art/beauty and pain/secrets.

Also, I'd be very happy to see a visual/personality design somewhere in the realm of Testament from Guilty Gear.

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Those watercolor illustrations are just wonderful!

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I love magic having "in-world" fundamental mechanics, having a sciency feel to it. However, I've felt for a long time that the existing spell schools were poorly defined and really should have been overhauled into a much more robust set of categories based on what spells fundamentally are affecting. These changes instead go the entirely opposite direction to what I'd prefer - quite frustrating! In-world schools that teach buckets of spells just does nothing for me thematically (all wizards I've played in the past were either self-taught or studied under an individual mentor).

I'm particularly concerned that the new schools will significantly limit your "school" slot. Since the school lists can't be easily expanded as future books come out, you can be stuck with unimpressive or disliked options for your school slot. Sorcerer already has this problem with their bloodlines, where bad spells are taking up space in your repertoire. It'd be worse with wizards if your school slot is locked in to accept one of these spells.

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Sounds exciting! A clean up of the presentation of the game is definitely a good idea, and there has been a lot of good errata that'll be nice to fold into a complete product.

Looking forward to seeing what other small changes and tweaks make it in.

Xenocrat wrote:
You also get extra bonus slots, equivalent to your normal bonus slots (from attribute), that can only be spent on free use of Infinite Worlds.

Ah. Not nearly as many as it sounded like in the interview. Still nice, but not as freeing as I was imagining.

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Agreed. I'm a little disappointed that Thursty seemed to be playing down the similarities between this and Pathfinder Unchained. Makes me think that none of the four classes will get true overhauls, just minor tweaks compatible with their existing mechanics.

Whoa, the witchwarper change is big. Did I understand right that they get twice the spell slots, but their bonus spell slots can be only used on infinite worlds? That frees them up massively.

Sounds like envoys are getting a freed up on action economy somehow so they can spend more actions attacking at low levels.

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Sanityfaerie wrote:
I'll also say that those of you out there saying that 5e has no virtues are fooling yourselves. 5e is built of a different kind of player than PF2 is, and its virtues are likewise different.

Exactly this. I've met plenty of people whose preferred edition is 5e and who have bounced off other systems.

On several different axes - complexity, simulationism, difficulty, and so on - 5E is a middle-of-the-road option and therefore very appealing. There's a comment up thread by Angwa about how 5e fails to capture the good points of several other systems, but I'd flip that statement around:
- It lacks the frequency of character death from early d&d and the focus on treasure hauls, enabling a more narrative focused game.
- It lacks the overwhelming crunch of 3e, PF1 and even Pf2, making it more accessible.
- It takes a looser approach to balance than pf2, enabling players to "win via character build", which a quite a few people actually *like*, based on my experience.
- It's more simulationist than 4e, making gameplay feel more natural and less like a fancy boardgame.

Of course, it's less narrative focused than a rules-light storytelling game, its crunchier than a PbtA game, it's more balanced than things like 3.5e, and less simulationist than something like Harnmaster.

SuperBidi wrote:
Cellion wrote:
I generally agree that it doesn't break the game, but based on some sims of the fighter's double slice dual picks build, it's a fairly significant buff for very little cost. Based on simulator calcs, I'm seeing 15-20% higher damage at 5th level, declining to 10% higher at 10th, and 5% higher at 20th. Nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider the potential it has to easily trigger weaknesses in addition to those covered by your property runes.

I don't have the same numbers. It's 11% at level 6, 5.6% at level 10 and 3% at level 20 on a Double Slice with the Weapon Siphon on the Pick. Roughly, past level 7 it starts to become low. And before that it's not that cheap at all.

To get your numbers, I need to put a Weapon Siphon on both weapons, and as such reduce the Agile weapon MAPed attacks which has an impact when making a third attack. On top of it, the Weapon Siphon counterbalances the effects of the Agile property of the secondary weapon as it now as the same MAP than a non Agile weapon, so I could see a GM applying the -2 like with non Agile weapons (it's not RAW, but there's clearly an RAI call to make).

Yep, I'm assuming a siphon on the offhand light pick as well. Weapon siphon definitely doesn't take away the agile property, so there's no impact to the offhand attack when double slicing (though obviously there would be if you make a third attack. I assumed two actions worth of attacking, because movement and other actions usually result in the third action not being a strike anyway). I think any GM house rule to penalize double slice on siphoned off hands would not be common.

The cost per encounter is definitely not trivial at 5th level, but by 8th it should basically be negligible (6gp per encounter is less than 1% of the character's expected total wealth and will only go down from there).

Again, it's not breaking anything, but it's power creep for sure.

Mechanics have a lot of cool tricks (Hacking at range, turning looted weapons into grenades, and overcharging weapons for themselves and allies, just from the CRB), but the part I see most complained about is just that their engineering and computers are not as high as an equivalent operative or technomancer because they often can't afford to max INT and still be good at their combat role. Honestly, it seems like a few additional Mechanic Tricks and a tone-down of the operator would be enough to make mechanics shine.

Envoys on the other hand are just dull. All their abilities are at will, so you naturally fall into a cycle of using the strongest ones every round. At the various tables I've played at, the players controlling the envoys are generally having some of the least fun. I've had more envoy players slow-post or ghost the table than any other class. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Paizo does with them! Ideally a pretty big overhaul of their core abilities/playstyle.

The damage is *definitely* there when you leverage focus spells and top level slots. My favorite example of nova-ing as a blaster is the elemental sorc using sudden bolt + their elemental toss focus spell. Even accounting for their poor hit rate, the expected damage is more than twice any ranged martial (at least up to level 10-ish). You're just out of juice very quickly.

Flaming sphere has been very underwhelming for me. The lack of damage on a successful save means it mostly just sucks up actions without much effect. The math on it is also pretty unfavorable (you need at least three rounds of sustaining before it breaks even with other blasts). Would much rather throw out bon mot or demoralize or 1-action spells.

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One thing I've observed in 2e that may be contributing is that caster resources are very different for damage focused spellcasters vs control or support focused ones. As you gain levels, controllers generally get stronger spells, but many of their earlier spells remain just as good. An 11th level caster has a dozen powerful control spells per day, because Fear3 is just as good as when they first got it when compared to the foes they now face, and you get slow6 and chain lightning on top of that. Dedicated blasting spellcasters can only rely on their two highest spell levels. Everything below that starts gradually having less and less of an effect in relation to enemy hp pools. This leads blasting focused casters to diversify by necessity, to use their lower level slots for non-blasting, which on one hand is a great result for adding variety to the game round-to-round, but significantly dilutes the character concept. It's a system that seems to strongly favor control and support over damage dealing.

From my own experience, casters seem quite good at the table once you get past a certain level. But I won't deny that they feel very pigeonholed into a particular broad multi-purpose role that doesn't always match my imagination for a character.

I don't want to be a martial that throws magic equivalent to arrows. There should be enough gameplay and design space to make a spellcaster that plays qualitatively differently from a martial while having a strong damage contribution across a long adventuring day. Right now, good focus spell selection (to pick up aoe focus spells), picking up dangerous sorcery, and smart debuffing gets you pretty close to this. But it definitely feels like you're always underutilizing the kit you have available to you, and it feels like it lacks the character building and tactical richness available to many other character concepts in P2E.

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SuperBidi wrote:

I agree it's a straight buff. But it is really small outside the very first levels. Less than 10% after level 6, less than 5% after level 9, and you end up at less than 3% damage increase. Sure, it exists and it's not really needed, but I don't think the game will suffer from it.

On the other side, the low level Alchemist grabs a good 25% extra damage thanks to it. It really helps the class when it needs it most. At high level you remove it from your weapon, but mid to high level Alchemists have much more to offer to a party.

I don't expect much non-Alchemist to use it, but I may be wrong.

I generally agree that it doesn't break the game, but based on some sims of the fighter's double slice dual picks build, it's a fairly significant buff for very little cost. Based on simulator calcs, I'm seeing 15-20% higher damage at 5th level, declining to 10% higher at 10th, and 5% higher at 20th. Nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider the potential it has to easily trigger weaknesses in addition to those covered by your property runes.

Weapon Siphon seems like a straight buff to double slice builds. By mid levels, the ongoing cost of weapon siphons is trivial for non-alchemists to afford. Meanwhile the balancing factor of making your MAP worse is completely ignored by people using double slice. In fact I'd argue that weapon siphons help dual-pick fighters much more than they help alchemists, who have no in class method to ignore MAP on subsequent strikes.

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Flamethrower seems absolutely dreadful. It's the same actions as electric arc for equal or worse damage until you get to 11th level, it costs two of your best available bomb, it's once per fight, and its DC is initially low and doesn't scale except for levels 3, 11 and 17.

What am I missing?

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Hype! Looking forward to so much of that!

Replacing few skill checks with more skill checks doesn't seem any more fun to me. There doesn't appear to be any decision making or gameplay - just roll dice four times instead of once. Certainly more challenging (or rather, with a greater chance of failure), but I don't see how it's more rewarding.

A good question.

Unarmed Strikes are certainly listed as a type of weapon, but it's less clear when they count as wielded or not. This has been previously debated, and I don't think it ever got clarified by the devs.

Ultimately, as a GM I'd allow it, as you're not getting anything that weapons couldn't accomplish.

Nope, these are to the ritual induction chamber Conna was mentioning.

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I think the best disarm feat by a massive margin is disarming block, because of two major benefits:

  • Your disarm is at your 0 MAP accuracy.
  • There is almost no action economy cost (You have to raise your shield and shield block, but you still get the normal benefits of those abilities, so the disarm attempt is "free")

    Although it doesn't increase your raw chances, being able to fish for disarm crits without spending actions is nice. The penalties from a disarm success also apply to any further attacks that creature makes on the same turn, since the debuff doesn't drop off until the start of their next turn.

    A swashbuckler that archetypes into Bastion for disarming block seems particularly nice, because you now have reaction coverage for both foes critically missing you and hitting you (between shield block and opportune riposte), and you eventually get derring-do. If you have reflexive riposte, you can shield block the first attack against you, succeed on a disarm attempt, then have a massively enhanced chance the foe will crit miss you if they attempt a follow up attack, letting you riposte them. Just seems like a nice synergy.

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    Interstellar Species came with a few spells, scattered among the various species entries. I figured I'd highlight the new options and give some commentary, as I've done for several past books. Would love to hear what other people think of these new spells too!

    Overall, there's some fantastic flavor and neat effects. For effectiveness, Change of Seasons and Crystal Mine seem like standouts.
    Artificial Geyser (Technomancer 2) There's already something weird going on with this spell, as its a 20-ft line, but has a range of 60 ft. There's no word on if the line is intended to work like the flexible line weapon property (you can start it from any point in range), so as it stands right now its a bit ambiguous. The damage is nothing special (rocket dash at the same level deals 5d6 in a line, vs. 3d8+1d6 burn for this spell), but its very odd that it deals slashing rather than bludgeoning dmg.

    Biomechanical Symbiosis (Technomancer 2,4,6) This is an odd raxalite-related spell, granting a fairly unimpressive amount of fast healing and some electricity resistance. It performs a little better when cast on plants. Its key functionality is granting technomancers very narrow access to the remove condition line of effects (only when cast on plants). The situation where all these effects are needed at once seems like it should be pretty rare.

    Change of Seasons (Precog, Witchwarper 2) Huge spell! Inflicts vulnerability to cold or fire, which equals +50% damage from that damage type. With a little coordination from your team, this can effectively amplify your team's entire damage output against solo targets by 50%. Particularly good because even if the creature saves, they're affected for 1 round. Can also be used to turn an immunity into a resistance temporarily, but I expect the biggest value will come from creating vulnerabilities. I can see this as a good filler spell at higher levels, performing really well damage wise in a lower level slot since it scales with the damage output done by your allies.

    Change of Seasons, Greater (Precog, Witchwarper 4) Just amps the effect if the target had resistance or immunity. A fairly modest upgrade on a good spell.

    Crystal Eruption (Mystic 2, Witchwarper 2) Some minor initial damage, but the key role here is to make a cone into punishing difficult terrain. At the end of the day the 1d4 damage from moving into an affected square is pretty forgettable, but if well positioned this can stack up. A cone shape is pretty good for jamming up wider corridors.

    Crystal Mine (Technomancer 4, Witchwarper 4) While the mines are individually unimpressive, it seems fairly easy to place them such that an opposing melee combatant has to trigger all three on the way in to reach your allies. These are hidden too, and the DC to spot them is not a gimme, so it seems quite likely most creatures will just cause them to go off. 12d8 total damage across 3 10-ft bursts is quite good for this level. Heat Leech is a level higher and only does 13d8. The ultimate payoff is casting this spell when you want to entrench a position. The mines remain for minutes/lvl, so you can precast them if you are expecting foes to arrive at your defended location.

    Memory Prism (Mystic 4, Precog 4) More a narrative spell than a practical one, but the 24 hour duration makes it difficult to ferry a particular memory to someone on the other end of a Drift trip. Very surprising that this is a 4th level spell when Share Memory is 1st. Am I missing something?

    Mental Muscle (Everyone 2) Seems like it should be really broken, since it lets you use your mental stats in place of physical stats, but a combination of very short duration (1 round) and the way starfinder allows you to bump up several stats as you level means that builds that want this typically also aren't gaining that much from it (basically, if you're a technomancer wading regularly into melee, you probably have a decent STR score already to land those touch spells).

    Mental Muscle, Greater (Everyone 4) Lasts somewhat longer, but costs a standard action and a resolve point. Duration really isn't long enough that you can precast it, and the benefits don't seem to be big enough to be worth the in-combat cast.

    Phantasmal Maze (Mystic 3, Witchwarper 3) A solid and super thematic area control illusion. Even successfully saving against it you'll take a minor debuff, while failing will give a round or two of the victim slowly wading its way through with guarded steps. The only downside is that a cleverly described holographic image that foes fail their saves against will probably do just as well, without costing a 3rd level slot.

    Preserved Path (Mystic 1, Precog 1) A minor spell, probably too niche to be of use in 99% of adventures.

    Psychic Sonar (Mystic 1-6) For a "sonar", this deals considerable damage. Against enemy groups, this is a one-two punch over sequential turns (though it'll probably feel terrible if every foe saves successfully). Nowhere near as much damage overall in comparison to the premiere aoe blasts at lower levels, but at high levels its pretty potent. The utility of tracking the creatures hit by it seems pretty minor when all spellcasters can buff up with see invisibility.

    Spell Redirection (Precog 1-5, Witchwarper 1-5) Does what it says on the tin, more or less, but can only redirect spells to yourself. Unfortunately, the precog and (especially) witchwarper tend to have mediocre fort and will saves, so its difficult to use this to consistently reduce the danger to your party as whole. May be good as a niche option to cover allies that are temporarily vulnerable.

    Storm-deflecting Sphere (Mystic 3, Technomancer 3) Similar thematically to the spell Harness Lightning from galactic magic, but this provides only personal protection in the form of electricity resistance. It's "discharge" option is quite weak for a 3rd level spell, but it takes only a reaction. Resistant Armor at this level only grants Resist 5, but it applies to multiple energy types and is selectable. Given how narrow this is, I think I'd rather rely on resistant armor unless I absolutely knew a campaign would be lousy with electricity.

    Volcanic Wrath (Mystic, Witchwarper 1-6) A nice, modest, scaling fireball. Damage is a touch lower, but it leaves behind difficult terrain. Polar Vortex is a good bit stronger (dealing 9d6 vs 7d6 damage for the 3rd level version) while also leaving difficult terrain, but it doesn't scale all the way up and down. Splitting damage between bludgeoning and fire might prove problematic if foes have both resistances and get to double dip.

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    I'm still making my way through it myself.

    The mechanical content will eventually all be on aonsrd, so I wouldn't judge it on that basis (though I've already noticed that the book is very spotty on its mechanical aspects, with things that don't really work at all, right next to extremely powerful options).

    There is an excellent amount of very varied art between the species entries themselves and the NPC gallery in the last section of the book. Each species entry generally has two full-body pieces of art for each species, plus some of the species have extra pieces elsewhere. Big fan of the new art for many of the species - my favorites, the quorlu, have three great new arts I spotted.

    The species creation rules feel a bit loose - more like the book is guiding you through some brainstorming exercises than giving you some strong rails with which to build new aliens. There are a few tables that offer mechanical abilities to randomly select, but its mostly stuff we've seen before on other creatures. I actually quite like this approach to species creation as a way of sparking your creativity, but it's not going to bring you much more if you're already comfy with homebrewing new species.

    To add to Kishmo's response - if you're just playing at home with the family, you can safely ignore all the chronicle and credit stuff.

    As a beginner adventure, if your players like Star Wars, I always recommend The Reach of Empire, which is the first part of a larger story, but also works great as a medium-length standalone adventure. It'll last you a handful of sessions and give your players a chance to fight against what are effectively stormtroopers and liberate an occupied colony. It's more substantial than something like Into the Unknown, and personally I think it's a much more compelling story.

    I'll also second the Skitter adventures, especially for kids that like a bit of silliness with their serious adventuring. I've played a couple and they're quite excellent.

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    The real answer to these questions is that Paizo has not written all the racial traits with full consideration on how they interact with polymorph, nor with much attention to how balanced they are against other racial traits when taken in isolation. As a result, I'd consider it up to the player (and GM if needed) to avoid exploiting the myriad holes in the system (like the absurd grab-bag of immunities in the SRO Robotic trait, or the Stellifera Hydrobody).

    So personally as a player and GM, I'd say no to A), not let you mitigate the tradeoffs you describe in B), and for C), deny you from taking cultural traits like a dwarf's "traditional enemies", which is clearly not related to the dwarf's physical body.

    As you've pointed out, the rules aren't clear cut. I'd rule:

    You make your save at the end of your move action to move your speed, or at the end of a full round action that caused you to move. This requires the player or foe to judge how much of the laser net they want to risk, but doesn't bog you down in evaluating every 5ft increment. So basically this is pretty close to your option A.

    Larger creatures should not take more damage from laser net, as the damage should be based on feet of movement, not squares occupied during that movement. Otherwise you end up with the spell being vastly more powerful against large or larger creatures, to the extent that it massively overperforms vs other spells of it's level.

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    I've noticed a trend toward set pieces instead of dungeons, especially in organized play scenarios where you have a limited number of encounters to play with and need to get the most out of them.

    I think prewritten set piece encounters have their place, but I'd prefer fewer rather than more. In my experience, adventures written with set pieces offer painfully linear, restrictive experiences, as set pieces are harder to rework if the party takes a different approach than the adventure expects. For example, a set piece where you and the bad guys are sledding down a mountain on magical icebergs while you fight each other is a super cool encounter, but the PC group that casts fly or melts the icebergs beforehand or decides they're going to take a slower route down the mountain are all going to make it hard to reuse/adapt the set piece. More often than not, I've seen GMs put their cards on the table and say "Hey, I know you want to do X, but there's a sweet set piece if you do Y." and player agency gets set aside for the fun and flashy movie scene.

    IMO, a set piece should naturally evolve out of the players deciding to do crazy stuff, not come out of a contrived alignment of assumed events in the written AP. This necessitates more adaptation and on-the-fly creativity from both GM and players, but the joy of player driven set pieces is just way higher. To facilitate this, scene and dungeon design that incorporates a lot of interesting "toys" for players to interact can naturally lead to events that feel like set pieces without being written as one.

    With regard to dungeons, I think the comments upthread are looking at paizo's recent designs and taking a narrow view. I'd like to point to Iron Gods, book 5. This book features one massive, four story palace that is designed a lot like an old school dungeon. Some rooms have fixed occupants, potential encounters, while others are intentionally empty, to be flexibly filled with palace denizens depending on the circumstances. Many of the palace's residents initially allow the PCs to come through without issue, but turn hostile depending on PC actions. Other rooms contain monsters that will fight immediately, but which can be avoided, or even used as a roleplay opportunity with nearby NPCs. There are several important NPCs with specific goals and loyalties, which may end up fighting the PCs or other palace denizens.

    It's a dungeon sandbox and it's so very interesting to play or GM, because there's enough moving parts that it naturally and organically turns into a big, exciting mess at some point through.

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    For my group, the defensive ground embankments were a perfectly good reason to not try to fly about in their starship too much inside Kahlannal. Though it isn't stated explicitly, Khaim's legion probably brought a bunch of ground to air weapons along to deal with the Anassanoi Chariots, as the most significant source of resistance.

    One part that puzzled me was the data center mission. Zar is a solo foe good at ranged combat, spellcasting, and utility in a small room. Unless he has warning that the PCs are entering (and the Computers/Engineering DCs are easy enough that that's unlikely), he will be turned to paste in short order. Later on, Ferys the Hacker Devil also doesn't seem like a coherent challenge. Breaking Ferys down:

  • He hides in the mainframe. The PCs can take all the time in the world to make Computers checks to track him down and eject him. As far as I can tell, he can't do anything in response except to leave the mainframe, which is very disappointing for a "hacker" devil.
  • Once he emerges, he's a solo spellcaster. His tactics say to use synaptic pulse (which might stun half the party for a whole single round, only delaying but not actually improving Ferys' position), followed by summoning two CR2 imps with a 60% chance of success. Rewiring flesh will possibly impair one PC, but otherwise Ferys has few reasonable offensive options and no coherent plan to win or even survive.
  • There's no information on what, if anything, Ferys has control over from the mainframe that might harry the PCs before they get to him. I assume that means that he doesn't have any tricks he can pull.

    The proposed encounter turns Ferys into a total punching bag that will barely scratch the party, as far as I can tell. As a result, when I ran this, I let him use his spell-like abilities from inside the mainframe (and therefore having total cover), requiring the PCs to hack the system while under fire to eject him and get him into a fair fight.

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    Leon Aquilla wrote:

    The main criticism that seems to come up from certain people incessantly is that it's a "railroad". Which, quite frankly, I don't even understand what that means in this context. You are playing an adventure path. That's what the GM has prepared. If you don't want to play an AP, then let your GM know that you're not interested in that and give him time to improvise something not AP related. You want a real railroad? Try the beginning of Devastation Ark part #3.

    "There was only one solution proffered in Book 6!"

    So? Frodo had to throw the ring into Mt. Doom. It could not be destroyed (Gimli, son of Gloin) by any craft that they there possessed. The Fellowship had to pass through Moria. They tried the mountains, and found they weren't equipped to pass through them! As written, you are a single ship that can not hope to prevent the enemy from taking possession of the macguffin. The AP even generously lends me the stats for Barrow Reapers, Cenotaphs, and Eulogies I can punish any overly ambitious party that thinks they're all-powerful Gods with. If this ruins your power fantasy, then sorry.

    To quote Matt Colville -- "The existence of a plot does not mean you are being railroaded."

    I'm sorry but the main critiques of Book 6 being "We wanted to go to the Stellar Degenerator" just rings hollow for me. You wanted Disneyland but got Six Flags. Next time, read the marketing material before you buy.

    You can have a perfectly good plot in an AP without it feeling like a railroad, but it requires that the actions the AP assumes the party will take match decently close to a course of action that feels logical for the party. Dead Suns book 6 suffers because the party has very little information with which to evaluate different courses of action. And the book itself does very little to inform and equip the GM to address alternate approaches. Worse, 3/3 groups I've played with or GMd for first want to head for the Degenerator, suggesting that the material prior to that point make a direct push for the superweapon the most logical course of action. Taking over the Corpse Fleet flagship, then ramming the Degenerator, is so far down the list of sensible approaches - nothing in the AP thus far has suggested that it is either feasible or might work.

    When I GM'd it, I provided a mix of guidance from friendly NPCs and some reframing of the situation in order to provide more justification and info for the players. It basically works, but you have to know to make that change. The AP as written isn't set up that way.

    So yes, when the AP is written to force a course of action that doesn't feel logical or natural, and which the players don't feel like they would have considered themselves, that feels 100% like a railroad.

    Squiggit wrote:
    Cellion wrote:

    It seems the problems seem to stem from having both a good attack bonus progression and a good save DC progression and being able to mix and match blasts and saving throw abilities on the same turn. This evades MAP and forces either mediocre damage for both blasts and aoe impulses, OR action economy hamster wheels to prevent constant strike+spell optimized rounds.

    A crude way to free up their action economy is to disallow strikes on the same turn as big aoe abilities. That way your power budget can give you satisfying strikes and satisfying saving throw abilities separately, rather than underwhelming versions of both.

    That sounds really unfun and just makes action economy issues worse.

    I'm not sure how you're seeing it making the action economy worse. You'd be able to cast your 2 or 3 action spell equivalent without it being weaker (by adding additional action cost or lowering it's power level) to account for making a MAP-0 strike on the same turn. Instead they can balance the "spells" with the assurance that your third action will be a move, demoralize, etc. You get rid of the gather action entirely because you don't need it anymore to bottleneck the kineticist's action economy.

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    It seems the problems seem to stem from having both a good attack bonus progression and a good save DC progression and being able to mix and match blasts and saving throw abilities on the same turn. This evades MAP and forces either mediocre damage for both blasts and aoe impulses, OR action economy hamster wheels to prevent constant strike+spell optimized rounds.

    A crude way to free up their action economy is to disallow strikes on the same turn as big aoe abilities. That way your power budget can give you satisfying strikes and satisfying saving throw abilities separately, rather than underwhelming versions of both.

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    The magic sense feat is uniquely useful because it is constant - you don't have to spend actions to detect the presence or absence of magic. This is important in combat, where spending actions to cast detect magic would be a waste, as well as in exploration (where you become fatigued if you repeat spellcasting for long enough). Furthermore, constant detect magic can alert you to things being magical even if you don't think to cast detect magic manually, and magic sense also allows you to be detecting magic in circumstances where spellcasting would be gauche (in the middle of a tense diplomatic standoff).

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    Last post for Book 4 and a bit of a retrospective:

    One thing I really didn't like in book 4 was the ending. Ilvatri's motivations and actions (as either an agent of the Eshtayiv or as a free agent) didn't make much sense to me, and the forced "grows impatient" combat encounter was not my idea of a good end to the book. Plus the idea that the PCs would voluntarily break the Eshtayiv's prison seemed very far fetched. And also the whole of Ezorod was in dire need of some roleplay situations to break up all the combat. So I decided to significantly change up the end of the book.

    The innermost chambers of the Illuminant Heart are blocked off by special magic to prevent pyric creatures from entering. Inside these chambers are not only the black bubble generator, but also an ancient immortal creature - the last of Ezorod's monk-guardians, now transformed into a cloaked, multi-armed figure seemingly formed of starlight itself. This being, the Watcher, has been actively maintaining the magic and machinery of Ezorod alone for countless years and has kept the Eshtayiv at bay. Recent incursions by the Eshtayiv's agents, pyric and otherwise, have upset that balance. Although the Watcher is exceedingly magically adept, it has its hands full dealing with keeping Ezorod stable and needs help.

    I played the Watcher as a kindly figure, serving the PCs tea and answering their questions about Ezorod. The Watcher's sanctum contains countless eldritch tomes that have recorded everything that has ever happened within the bounds of Ezorod (except for the Gap), including records of the various psychic cries for help that reached Ezorod from Khalannal. The Watcher offers to share the knowledge within the tomes in exchange for the party's help in dealing with the Heliacus, the last and greatest of the Eshtayiv's pyric minions.

    Here, the Heliacus was also once one of the monks that guarded and maintained Ezorod, but he was twisted to the Eshtayiv's purpose. The Watcher can fill the PCs in on the familial bond it once had with the other monks to amp up the conflict.

    Upon defeating the Heliacus, the PCs are given access to the tomes where they learn of the cries for help from Khalannal, as well as the coordinates of their next destination. Unlike the book as-written, the bubble generator isn't required to make the trip, so the PCs can choose to leave it alone and to leave Ezorod intact.

    Ultimately, I think this approach gives some more positive resolution to the whole Book, places coming across the hook to the next book in the hands of the PCs, and let you amp up the eldritch weirdness levels some more. It worked pretty well for my group!

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    That Drift Crashers key art up above is amazing! As is the incredible construct (?) art on page 2. Also love the idea that your ship is carrying a big NPC crew - it really gives the PCs some extra drive when they're directly responsible for the continued survival of characters from their own background.

    Lots of good ideas.

    I thought about ranger, and while it does get additional snares, it doesn't have much else going for it that the snare master archetype doesn't offer (other than snare hopping). I plan to dig into ranger archetype if snare quantity is a problem. Kobold is of course a no brainer, thanks not only to getting more free snares, but also more riders when your snares go off.

    Any particular reason why you feel dex is better for snares?

    Spellcaster feats are less important, so dumping them toward snare optimization is pretty doable. I really like the idea of using command, hydraulic push and gravitational pull. Gravitational pull being 1 action is particularly nice because you can use it as a 3rd action at higher levels. Plus, if you play a Cha spellcaster, you can really leverage the 9th level kobold feat that gives you intimidation attempts as a reaction.

    One other thing that's in the fighter's favor is the crit specialization effects - several of them push or move goes around.

    Leading Dance seems quite good for this - you want to do it anyway to gain panache, you have control over the direction, and it's at least somewhat reliable (though not as much as other options). The GM interpretation is the big hurdle .

    Unfortunately I'm already locked into ancestry feats, so boulder roll won't fit.

    gesalt wrote:
    If your goal is simply to move the enemy into your snares, you can also consider wrestler dedication on the fighter for whirling throw at 8 or running monk for the same at 6.

    I like that it lets you throw right into the correct square, but it seems very unreliable - you have to have the creature grabbed first, and then you have to succeed at an athletics check, with no effect on failure.

    I'm currently brainstorming a snare-based character build, and while I hope to have opportunities to successfully set up snares in choke points, I expect that there'll be plenty of times where that doesn't end up being possible. Foes will end up intentionally or unintentionally bypassing snares, and that means falling back on fighting them the old fashioned way. Or, alternatively, it means finding ways to push foes into snares mid-fight! That brings me to my question.

    What is the most effective and reliable class for pushing foes around? (Either based on theorycrafting or experience). What's important to me is that it is relatively action-efficient, reliable, doesn't cost more than a couple feats at most, and starts working at a reasonably low level (<7). Here's what I've seen so far:

    My initial impression is that the fighter with aggressive block has the most reliable (and lowest action-cost) shoving possible, especially after you get the two follow-up feats. However, this is a very reactive approach, and not only do you have little recourse if foes don't attack you, but it also requires you to get in melee. Brutish shove is a lot less reliable, but a lot more proactive.

    Outside of the fighter, some clerics have pushing gust, which pushes even on a successful save, but it doesn't do anything other than that and therefore isn't a very efficient use of a turn. Arcane and primal get hydraulic push, which is a lot nicer of a one-two punch, but its far from reliable.

    Any more ideas?

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    SuperBidi wrote:
    Cellion wrote:
    In my experience, you really do feel weak in PF2E.

    It's funny because from your post I wonder if the issue would be the system feeling not punitive enough.

    If at 0hp a character had real chances to die, combats would need to be entirely rebalanced: The difficulty would have to be toned down to take that into account, characters would drop far less often but the tension would still be there as a downed character would be a real issue.

    I wouldn't call the problem the system not being punitive enough, though it depends on your definition of punitive.

    I think better statistics/success rates accompanied by less HP and less forgiving dying rules (and probably no hero points) would go a long way to addressing the weird punching-bag feel. But those changes don't necessarily play nice with the crit system. It's not an easy or straightforward change.

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