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Porridge wrote:

Rarity also offers a nice way to implement errata.

Instead of radically revamping items that are arguably unbalanced, and angering those who were fine with them, they can just make the errata “this item is now uncommon/rare”, and let DMs make the decision about whether to make them available or not.

If an item or a spell is too powerful for its level, then it should be made a higher level. I do not see the point in going, "Eh, just leave it to the GM to rebalance."

Rune giants deal enough damage on critical hits that it would be better to just destroy the wall outright.

Only one rune giant would have their cone impeded; the other three rune giants would take their turns more intelligently.

I am skeptical on reorienting wall of force and wall of stone because they specifically stipulate how "high" the wall is. It does not seem to me that you could freely redefine the axis where "high" belongs to.

Maze is probably a decent spell to use.

If someone is waiting for the rune giants to get closer to the party before throwing up a wall spell, then that spellcaster is going to be due for several Attacks of Opportunity.

I am not seeing where it says that if someone escapes a [I]maze/I] spell, they lose their remaining actions and reactions.

I spaced the rune giants apart in such a way that a single wall could not impede all of them.

Generally, this fight is heavily dependent on whether or not certain uncommon actions allowed, whether or not the GM allows pre-battle buffing, whether or not the GM has the rune giants begin in midair, the precise starting positions of the party and the rune giants, and so on and so forth. The premade adventure gives very few stipulations on these important parameters.

Rune giants actually have Survival +26, not +20. They would succeed on escaping a maze on a natural 8+ against spell DC 34. Casting the maze costs the spellcaster two actions.

I do not see why you keep saying "suicidally charge" in reference to the fighter and the monk here. Melee combatants doing anything other than proactively trying to kill the rune giants would have been the wrong choice, if anything. Delaying would have let the rune giants blast the party with electricity more easily, and given the rune giants' air walk, Attack of Opportunity, and 20-foot-reach, it is not as though the rune giants had any difficult at all restricting PC movement and gaining freedom in target selection.

Where does it say that line of sight or line of effect is based on corner-to-corner tracing?

A major complication is that the fighter and the monk start off on the ground, distinctly not flying. Conversely, in this scenario, the rune giants are, in fact, 20 feet into the air.

Consider the scenario wherein the rune giants win initiative (something that happened multiple times), surround the close-together party aerially, and blast down with cones of electricity. The entire party is now within all four rune giants' reach. Even if the party places flight methods upon the fighter and the monk, flying up to reach the rune giants will be a painful process that provokes from all four.

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Edge93, the apology is accepted. You handle your playtesting your way, and I handle my playtesting my way.

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I will take an unusual approach to this.

One of my favorite things about Pathfinder 2e is that dragons in human form retain all of their statistics, even their reach, which is how you get Gargantuan dragons who linger around in Small or Medium form and fight like anime dragonpeople.

How does Gray Maiden plate armor fit into the rarity system? Is it common, uncommon, or rare? Can a non-Gray-Maiden starting at a higher level opt to declare Gray Maiden plate armor (possibly a magical set) as one of their items?

I was remembering the -2 penalty, yes. I do not think I forgot it a single time. Sheer volume matters for those Attacks of Opportunity, especially when taking even one of them punctures a non-negligible hole in hit points due to the flaming rune. This is not like Pathfinder 1e wherein an attack of opportunity from a monster at 17th level is a slap on the wrist.

Remember that my first group dissolved due to a lack of players. If I could round them up for the Resonance Test, part #6, and part #7, I would, because those are the only three parts that I have not GMed for a second time.

Here is another example of how the rarity system can be quite strange: Gray Maiden plate armor. How exactly does it fit into the rarity system as it currently stand?

The rune giants move "only" 35 feet with each action, but they still have reach 20 feet, and they have a considerable ability to restrict their enemies' movement via Attack of Opportunity to begin with. They also have their one-action, 30-foot-cone blasts of electricity. You are greatly underestimating just how much freedom of targeting this gives the rune giants, and how much it restricts their enemies' ability to move around.

PCs delaying would have, again, been suicidal. That simply lets the rune giants air walk over and blast the party with electricity, something that was happening multiple times.

I fail to see how sending in both melee PCs would have helped at all. There were situations wherein both melee PCs were attacking the same rune giant. Rune giants have reach 20 feet, so they are free to attack whom they please in melee.

I am not sure why the wizard's player kept three fire spells in their spellbook; I did relay a statement from the wizard's player above. During battle, they did generally try to focus on haste, automatic 9th-level magic missile castings, and the like.

I am thinking that the players were simply too demoralized to try anything differently.

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I never said that the monk used two actions to get to the rune giants to make a single flurry. The monk used one action to establish adjacency (easy enough with monk movement speed increases), then used a Flurry and a regular Strike. Of course, monks have accuracy issues.

Delaying turns to let the rune giants come closer is suicidal. That is what lets rune giants air walk up to the party and blast them vertically downwards with 30-foot-cones. Invoke Rune takes only a single action; it simultaneously deals area damage and buffs the rune giant, making it a perfect combat opener. Flashing Runes is a free action; it is optional, and a rune giant can opt against using it, perhaps to avoid blinding or dazzling allies.

The party actually did focus their fire. I never said they did not. That was how they took down one rune giant in attempt #1; Certain Strike was helpful there. Magic missile also helped. Automatic damage in general was useful.

During attempt #1, the monk took an Attack of Opportunity on approach, and then got electricity-blasted by some good positioning from the rune giants (Tangled Forest Stance helped against only one of the rune giants here) and beaten up with flaming swords. The monk's mobility was heavily restricted by all the Attacks of Opportunity. The monk did suffer two critical hits during the onslaught.

During attempt #3, it did take until the third round for the rune giants to knock out the fighter, and it did take some well-positioned electricity blasts to supplement the effort. I did not actually mean to knock out the fighter; I was simply trying to force enough Fortitude saving throws to eliminate the armor (the fighter had blown a Lucky Halfling earlier to make a Trick Magic Item work), and it looks like the plan worked. I realized that this was a poor tactic only later, but I lucked out this time regardless.

During attempts #4 through #7, I was going for the fighter first because their low Reflex meant that they were always the most damaged party member from the opening electricity blasts. Thus, mowing down the fighter did not take that much luck.

PossibleCabbage wrote:
I feel like it makes diagetic sense for things which are too narratively or mechanically powerful to be rare.

Why, then, are the options not simply higher-level?

Look at the rarity system for monsters. Mu spores are incredibly rare, but they are still common-tagged, because they are common by the standards of 21st-level creatures.

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DM Blake, what would you have had the fighter and the monk do here? They were very clearly built for melee and nothing else, because really, investing in actually meaningful backup weapons is costly by 17th level. Plinking away with a +3 composite shortbow for 4d6+2 damage at 17th level is hardly appealing, and I wanted to try out a Gray Maiden with the Dexterity modifier +0 that Gray Maiden plate seems to be trying to enable.

The rune giants, with their 20-foot reach, air walk, and Attack of Opportunities, had the freedom to focus their fire upon anyone they pleased. If the monk, for example, decided to hang back for whatever reason, then the rune giants would have gone for the cleric instead.

There are very few ways to meaningfully impede the target selection of enemies with 20-foot reach, air walk, and Attack of Opportunities.

Also, note that I have been running two separate groups of players throughout these adventures. The first group had to be disbanded after Heroes of Undarin, but they still played through that adventure, The Lost Star, In Pale Mountain's Shadow, The Rose Street Revenge, Raiders of Shrieking Peak (non-Resonance-Test version), Arclord's Envy, Affair at Sombrefell Hall, and The Mirrored Moon and still TPKed (twice, in fact, during In Pale Mountain's Shadow).

Also, spells like power word blind are uncommon, and it sends a poor message if it was only through allowing an uncommon option that a party managed to pull a victory.

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Jason Bulmahn wrote:

I think there might be an issue floating around in how we used it internally that was not consistent. In this case, it seems to me that we used it in some places as a proxy for "you cannot buy this" or "you cannot just decide to learn this" in the case of some spells and items due to their impact on the game play (not that they are necessarily over powerful, just that they distort the play environment). That is a real judgement call on our part that could use a more concrete set of guidelines for us to use.

Again, this is a thing on our large task list to tackle before the game is done. We will take another look at it, find a way to get it to be a clearer and more consistent.

I do not think "too mechanically powerful" or "too narratively powerful" (after all, many noncombat utility spells are narrative power) should ever figure into rarity assignments.

If something is too strong for its level, then its level should be increased.

I strongly, strongly worry that later down the line, writers for Pathfinder 2e supplements will be less diligent about properly balancing uncommon and rare options under the logic of, "Eh, if it causes game balance problems, then it is the GM's fault for allowing it anyway." That is the sort of logic that gets bandied about with, for example, Drop Dead Studios's advanced talents for Spheres of Power, and it does not make sense there either.

Similarly, I do not want to see GMs banning uncommon/rare items on principle under the assumption that the options are too strong for their level.

It would be a great help if the books plainly and explicitly stated that rarity assignments have nothing at all do to with how strong a given option is.

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Hydras have rules for attacking their heads. Ropers have rules for attacking their strands. Krakens have no rules for attacking their tentacles.

I do not think it is particularly metagaming to have four rune giants make the most of their abilities: air walk, reach 20 feet, Attack of Opportunity, cone-shaped electricity blasts that deal large damage. Is it really that egregious to have rune giants focus their fire upon damaged targets?

In any case, I would think that middling tactics should still result in a victory over the course of 6/7 out of 6/7 attempts, not what is effectively a 100% loss rate.

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I would really rather wait for a good Pathfinder 2e in 2020 rather than settle for a mediocre one in 2019. Another round of playtesting would be really, really quite helpful, especially for the new monster math, the spellcasting, and the complete revision to powers and magic items.

I did not tell them directly. That was more of a group concern under the knowledge that they would have to slog through even more encounters.

Should I have been allowing creatures to move through walls and attack through walls in this playtest to operate in a more RAW fashion? One of my players agrees that, yes, I should have been doing just that if I wanted to be more RAW.

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People are constantly telling me that I should have been allowing people to attack the kraken's tentacles in my run of Red Flags.

My logic here is that hydras have a rule for attacking their heads, and ropers have a rule for attacking their tentacles, but krakens lack such a rule.

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The extra +1d6 damage should scale automatically. It is useful at 1st level, much less so at 16th level.

Compare this to the attack penalty reduction, which, mathematically, is just as useful at 1st as it is as 16th.

It occurs to me only now that all this time, the player surveys have had no option to list down taking Rogue Dedication. Other multiclass archetypes are represented, but not Rogue Dedication.

Should this not be corrected? And does this not mean that Paizo has faulty data on the number of people who multiclassed into rogue?

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If "middling tactics, somewhat-optimized-but-not-really-that-optimized" leads to a TPK 6/7 out of 6/7 times against an encounter best described as "The party is in proper formation and has their equipment out, but has no buffs, and suddenly gets into a scuffle with airborne enemies 60 feet away. Encounter level + 3, only battle of the day, but Hero Points must be conserved," then that is already a good sign that the difficulty is overtuned. It is even more worrying that the best tactics possible absolutely require the use of uncommon-rarity options, a sure sign that rarity might not be working as intended.

Do I need to recruit a new set of players and run them through a few adventures before running part #7 again to prove some sort of point here?

Regarding the time limit, that is a matter of adventure design, as opposed to mechanics. I do not think it is unreasonable to infer from the adventure design that some sort of time limit is in place; that is not a matter of RAW or mechanics.

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The wizard's player understandably did not want to screw around too much with the Arcana rolls necessary to add new spells to their spellbook. My general game plan was that if the wizard started to make a serious contribution to the fight (much to my surprise), then I would make the wizard a priority target. Unfortunately, the wizard was not.

Enlarge would have imposed sluggish, which is not desirable when fighting such dangerous enemies. It actually worked out very poorly when that player was playing Heroes of Undarin, which is perhaps why the wizard player avoided enlarge. It would have been another buff to lay down at the start of combat though; the wizard was already prioritizing haste.

Power word blind is probably the single best of the uncommon-rarity-gated power word line. It would have been nice for the wizard to have it, but unfortunately, it looks like they prioritized being a buffer and blaster instead.

It was the wizard player's mistake to assume that things would go well. Maybe the wizard player should have gone out to town to scribe some spells. That would have helped. It did not seem to have crossed the wizard's mind. Maybe they were just trying to get the ordeal over with.

The wizard's player has been with me since The Rose Street Revenge. When I asked the wizard player why it never occured to them to go through the spell list and start scribing spells, their response was, "I was up for 30 hours prior, rushed it, and was writing off the session as not being worth the effort considering how little of an impact it would have in regards to future sessions. In short, I was playing for closure at that point."

Of course, had the wizard been, say, a bard or a sorcerer instead? Then they would have been hosed and stuck with their spell list for the most part. Hence my point: why should a party have to go through this much effort and prepwork to defeat an encounter with plausible parameters of "The party is in proper formation and has their equipment out, but has no buffs, and suddenly gets into a scuffle with airborne enemies 60 feet away. Encounter level + 3, only battle of the day, but Hero Points must be conserved"?

As for the time limit, the book says that the "Doomsday Dawn" is but one week away, and that after being defeated by the malignant theorems, the PCs must wait 24 hours before making a new attempt. Therefore, it seemed logical that the party would have seven attempts.

PsychicPixel, flanking traces from center to center, as per page 313. That is why I am confused: if two Huge creatures are standing on the ground, sandwiching a Medium creature, then the three-dimensional center of the Huge creatures' spaces never even touches the Medium creature's cube.

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PsychicPixel, flanking traces from center to center, as per page 313. That is why I am confused: if two Huge creatures are standing on the ground, sandwiching a Medium creature, then the three-dimensional center of the Huge creatures' spaces never even touches the Medium creature's cube.

Dire Ursus wrote:
You might be running the wounded rules wrong? Wounded only ever goes up by 1 every time you come back from dying. Also did the 30 or so TPKs not make the monk realize that maybe rushing into 4 rune giants alone to only do a single flurry may not have been a good idea? lol. Why did they think they were safe? Was this a newer player or had they been in your previous games?

You know what, you are right; I was under the impression that dying 2 being healed up would go to wounded 1.

So the critical hit would have placed the monk at wounded 3... but it would not have made much of a difference in this case, because the malignant theorem who took down the monk with a critical hit was just the first out of three rune giants acting in the round, and the other two were in a very decent position to execute the unconscious monk who had just been shown to have a healer friend nearby, possibly with an AoE electricity blast from a rune so as to catch another PC or two with damage. I would still call that a loss.

As for what else the monk could have done... what could the monk have done? If they waited for the malignant theorems to approach the party, that would have resulted in the malignant theorems ganging up on someone anyway. The monk's player had played under me for a few sessions, for what it is worth.

As I mention here, all throughout this playtest, I have consistently heard groaning from my players about how boring it is to pick skill feats, because they all do such tiny things.

I have had to create GMPCs very often, and picking out skill feats has been even tougher for me, because I know what the content of the upcoming adventure is, and it is depressing to see that the vast majority of skill feats are more or less irrelevant to the playtest adventures. There are exceptions, like Kip Up, which should come as no surprise, because Kip Up actually applies to a common combat situation.

During the first attempt, the monk's player presumably thought themselves reasonably safe, between AC 41 and a foresight from the cleric. They suffered only one attack of opportunity en route to a malignant theorem, but then inflicted very little damage with their flurry. The rune giants then wreaked havoc upon the monk.

A critical hit dropped the monk to dying 2. Later, upon being healed by the cleric, the monk went to wounded 2. The monk earned another critical hit, which would have placed them at dying 4. Rather than spend a Hero Point, the monk opted to take a loss for the first attempt.

Just like in Pathfinder 1e, the rules for vertical flanking are vague. Does flanking care about verticality and "center of cubes" at all? If two Huge creatures are on opposite sides of a Medium creature, do they fail to flank just because the centers of their cubes fail to cross the Medium creature's cube?

Jason Bulmahn wrote:
2. A rage that lasted a variable or shorter amount of time but was more powerful.

#2 would be interesting as a sort of "finisher mode." If a barbarian does not time it right and finish the enemy right then and there, then the barbarian is due for backlash of some kind.

Scythia wrote:

It looks like from 1st through 8th level or so, if you really want to heal, your best bet is to invest in both Wisdom and Charisma, since the ability modifier is especially relevant for the three-action healing.

Besides, what we have seen from the Resonance Test's fire ray suggests that Sarenite pure caster clerics are not going to be wanting for damage on the spot.

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To clarify, the rune giants were 60 feet away, true. It is just that that 60 feet included being 4 cubes above the ground square via air walk. I did not want to change variables apart from my combat strategies all that much, so I did not tinker with starting positioning beyond the first fight. And yes, I was bearing in mind the costs for descents and ascents; they were, in part, precisely why the malignant theorems got to control so wide a swath with their reach and Attacks of Opportunity.

Speaking of which, just like in Pathfinder 1e, the rules for vertical flanking are vague. Does flanking care about verticality and "center of cubes" at all? If two Huge creatures are on opposite sides of a Medium creature, do they fail to flank just because the centers of their cubes fail to cross the Medium creature's cube?

Do channeled heal spells no longer call for Wisdom for the base healing? Did I miss something in an update? I apologize if I did.

I may as well post this here, since this is my thread.

First post.
Second post, posted just minutes before this message.

These two posts thoughts contain my thoughts on 2e shortly before and immediately after I ran my 21st and presumably final playthrough of 2e, tackling part #7 of Doomsday Dawn, a process that saw no less than 6 or 7 TPKs. I urge people to read through these, even though my points may not be as cogent or otherwise well-formed as those of the more prominent posters of the 2e playtest forum. I am not claiming to have any great amount of importance here. I am just letting my thoughts be known as someone who ran 2e for a grand total of 21 playthroughs.

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This post is a continuation of this previous post, which is necessary for context. Suggested BGM.

Let us get this out of the way: I wholeheartedly believe that in its current, unpolished, pre-release state, Pathfinder 2e is leagues and leagues superior to Pathfinder 1e. It is more mechanically robust in just about every respect, and I am sure that it will be a smash success come GenCon 2019. However, I am deeply critical of Pathfinder 2e because I have very high standards, and I want to see this game iron out all of its kinks so that Pathfinder 2e can be the best system it can be.

Earlier, I had run my 21st HARDCORE playthrough of a premade playtest adventure. My run of Doomsday Dawn: Part #7: When the Stars Go Dark: End of 2evangelion: You Can (Not) Advance contained no less than six or seven TPKs, depending on how you count things, which is an amazing thing. One player ragequit after the first TPK, so I had to take over their character afterwards.

Now, you may be wondering, why do I have so many TPKs compared to other GMs? I play ruthlessly, and I have monsters coordinatedly focus fire, for the most part. Furthermore, since Paizo never bothered to give charts for starting positioning for adventures aside from Raiders of Shrieking Peak and Arclord's Envy, and never bothered inquiring about starting positioning in the surveys, I had the freedom to dictate starting positioning myself.

Whenever I GM, even outside of playtests, I generally generally give enemies a favorable starting position that still remains plausible in-universe and in-narrative for the circumstances at hand. During the playtest, it was never so much as to stretch plausibility or prompt questions like "How did the enemies start off so close?" Indeed, I can recall no moments when a player questioned me on starting positioning, and one player even mentioned that my version of the roc encounter in The Mirrored Moon had more PC-favorable positioning (including sleeping rocs!) than what their other GM for The Mirrored Moon gave the other party, and the red dragon and fire giant encounter simply had those two hanging out at the mouth of a cave. My starting positions were always plausible in-universe and in-narrative, and it certainly did not include things like starting PCs inside mummy paralysis auras.

As a simple example, in this latest encounter with the rune giants in the final adventure, the adventure simply specifies that they start 60 feet away from the party in a flat and featureless plain. So I did exactly that, placing the rune giants 60 feet north of the party. However, that was including the rune giants starting off 4 cubes above the ground cube, because the rune giants had constant air walk, and they may as well start with that advantage. Is it unbelievable that the constantly-air walking rune giants would start airborne? I doubt it. This is simply my style whenever I GM, even outside of playtests; I generally give the enemy side the edge in starting positioning while keeping it plausible in-universe and in-narrative.

If starting positioning can spell life or death for a party due to Pathfinder 2e's three-action system, then perhaps adventures should be more careful about spelling out starting positioning.

Aside from that, I do not give easy outs like several other GMs. The playtest adventures have a hard time deciding whether they want to be math and systems tests, or simply fun and enjoyable adventures, and I get the feeling that several other GMs were trying to prioritize fun and enjoyment. Aside from that, there are those GMs who were not that familiar with the rules and let their players (perhaps accidentally?) get away with impossible actions, GMs who ruled in favor of their players, and GMs who leniently settled on suboptimal tactics.
Here, we have an example of a GM letting the players do something "clever" and leniently allowing them to bypass rolls against the kraken.
Here, we have a GM breaking RAW in order to let the PCs do something that makes sense in-universe, but simply would not be RAW against the kraken.
Here, we have a GM quite possibly mixing up the two- and three-action versions of Double Shot and Triple Shot, which could perhaps explain the cleric/fighter's unusually miraculous accuracy against the weak kraken.
Here, we have a GM ruling an ambiguity (confusion on a monster with multitarget attacks) in favor of the PCs. This one is not actually egregious; it is a perfectly valid call, simply one that pushes the party away from a TPK.
Here, we have a GM using rune giants not quite to their full combat potential, such as by actually tossing out charms and dominates rather than going for the kill with flaming greatswords.
Do you see the issues here? It is the instinct of the average playtester to be lenient, give the players easy ways out, and actively try to prevent a TPK, as typical GMs would in non-playtest games. However, with the exception of ruling things in favor of players (mostly a matter of personal preference there), that mindset is poor for actually playtesting the game's mechanics. Playtests call for different mindsets than home games wherein everyone is trying to have fun. Is it really any surprise, then, that a hardcore-RAW, no-"rule of cool"-allowed GM like me would run the playtest in a more clinical fashion prone to giving the parties utter defeat at the hands of RAW?

Now, the 2e playtest is drawing to a close.

• We will never get to playtest the new monster math, which Paizo appears to have known to be a problem early on, but which Paizo never bothered to fix during the playtest period, because stopping for a month to revise the bestiary would would have pushed Paizo off-schedule.
• We will never get to playtest the new debuffing spells; at the moment, any spell that calls for a saving throw and is not a straight-up raw damage blast is quite underpowered, because the monster math gives enemies bloated saving throws, and thus only a scant few debuff spells like blindness are actually useful. And do not even bother with raw damage blasts that do not occupy your highest-level spell slots either, exactly like in D&D 5e.
• Although we got to playtest a few powers and magic items in the Resonance Test, we will never get to playtest the vast majority of the game's revised powers and revised magic items, because Paizo will be playtesting all of them internally.

The game's core mechanic is ambiguous. On top of that, Jason Bulmahn seems to think that it is a stretch that someone might roll a natural 20 yet still fail to meet a target's AC or a skill check DC in a game with -10 multiple attack penalties and -4 untrained skill check penalties. And I still do not know what the RAI for the core mechanic actually is, especially on critical hits for attack rolls specifically.
There are no rules for line of sight as they currently stand. There are no rules that define blocking terrain; characters can seemingly walk through walls. In fact, in page 314, Kyra appears to be shooting straight through a wall. I have had to manually bar this from my playtests, and the players know it. Paizo 1e bothered to spell out blocking terrain preventing movement, and other RPGs have some fairly clear-cut line of sight rules, so why can Pathfinder 2e not codify such things for ease of reference? When the fate of the world rests on whether or not a character has line of sight to an enemy given some awkward positioning around corners, some actual rules would be nice.
Exploration mode, exploration tactics, and social tactics are still all an unplayable mess. No fun gameplay has ever arisen as a result of exploration mode in any of the 21 playthroughs I have run. It has caused nothing but woe and confusion.
There is still very little rhyme or reason to the rarity system.
Erroneous knowledge rolls and secret knowledge rolls remain as clunky as ever. I have been trying to avoid secret rolls as much as possible by using the rule in page 293 to make them public instead, because it is such a pain for the GM to make so many secret checks on the players' behalf. Erroneous knowledge has likewise been fun for nobody at the table thus far, across 21 playthroughs, and I have always disliked being put on the spot to come up with some sort of lie when the players could probably suss it out anyway.
The rules for resting and daily preparations still have a gaping loophole in them.
Paizo is still handing out Quick Preparation to wizards for free at 1st level.
Heavy armor is still very bad, and the fighter and the paladin still have to bribe players into wearing it with higher-level class features.
Monster knowledge is still ambiguous, and also bad, given the paltry information it hands out.
Skill feats are still boring at 4th level and above. All throughout this playtest, I have consistently heard groaning from my players about how boring it is to pick skill feats, because they all do such tiny things. I have had to create GMPCs very often, and picking out skill feats has been even tougher for me, because I know what the content of the upcoming adventure is, and it is depressing to see that the vast majority of skill feats are more or less irrelevant to the playtest adventures. There are exceptions, like Kip Up, which should come as no surprise, because Kip Up actually applies to a common combat situation.
Channel Life is still arguably the strongest feat in the entire game, and people are pushed to multiclass into paladin just to grab it.

All of this is just off the top of my metaphorical head. This is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. The game still has far more problems than just these, which I and many, many hours have toiled away pointing out across myriad forum posts and survey entries. Maybe, just maybe, Paizo will fix some of these issues, but we will never get to playtest any of Paizo's fixes before the game is released. There is no second round of playtesting. Paizo has the GenCon deadline to meet, and all playtesting from here is internal, so we will have no opportunity to point out any kinks in the system as it evolves.

It is disappointing.

So then, what was the party in this 21st playthrough?
Generic Certain Strike fighter.. Unsurprisingly, even against lower-level enemies, Certain Strike provides amazing DPR simply by sheer dint of generating considerable damage even on misses (though not critical misses). Some builds might be able to out-DPR it, but Certain Strike offers great DPR at a relatively low opportunity cost. This build uses a necksplitter for the sake of Dueling Dance at 16th level, and spams Desperate Finisher to keep on pressing with Certain Strike. Determination can save the character from some nasty effects. Mountain's Stoutness and Unbreakable confer huge hit points. I kept Dexterity at 10, because Gray Maiden plate has maximum Dexterity modifier +0 and clumsy, so the prestige archetype nudges characters into keeping Dexterity at 10. The Greater Flaming Rune was useless against the rune giants; I was saving it for the weak star-spawn of Cthulhu.
Generic monk multiclassed into rogue.. You know the drill. Tangled Forest Stance, start spamming Ki Strike and Flurry of Blows, ideally against a flat-footed enemy. That is about it, really. The character is supposed to have Elf Step as their 17th-level ancestry feat, and their items are a little funky because they borrowed leftover gold from the cleric and the wizard. This character's player had ragequit after the first TPK of the session. The player made the mistake of prioritizing defense with expensive bracers of armor rather than going for property runes, hence their character's low damage.
Generic cleric.. The character heals, and heals, and tosses out other spells as necessary.
Generic wizard.. This character was built in a rush, and I think that this was the weakest character in the party by far. The others advised the player to avoid save-or-lose spells, so the player instead primarily settled on damage-dealing spells, because they wanted to be a blaster. Unfortunately, they did not get the memo that damage spells in anything but max-level spell slots are a waste of time. I realized this only after the fact, because I was in a rush as I reviewed this character's sheet.
This party was not quite at the peak of optimization, but I would not call them "badly optimized" or even "middlingly optimized." They were reasonably well-optimized overall, just with some flaws. And they were close to the classic party composition, too: fighter, monk multiclassed into rogue, cleric, wizard. As usual, each had 2 Hero Points to spare.

The opposition, of course, was four rune giants, or rather, "malignant theorems." Played properly (they have Intelligence modifier +2 and Wisdom modifier +6), these are nasty enemies.
• They can open combat with a one-action 30-foot-cone of Reflex DC 34 (critical success no damage, success 3d12 electricity, failure or critical failure 6d12 electricity). As a note, a 30-foot cone fired vertically downwards can easily blast a whole party on the ground.
• Their sword swings attack at +29. They deal 4d12+9 (average 35) damage plus 2d6 (average 7) fire, or failing that, 4d12+9 (average 35) damage with deadly 3d12 (average 19.5) and an armor-breaking/destroyed effect at Fortitude DC 32. While broken armor is somewhat manageable, at a high level, destroyed armor is a death sentence due to how it eliminates a huge amount of AC and saving throw bonuses.
• They have speed 35 feet and constant air walk. Melee PCs will have to gain flight if they want to properly engage the rune giants.
• They have reach 20 feet and Attack of Opportunity. They can easily set up a gauntlet of Attacks of Opportunity that a PC will have to brave if they want to fly up and engage the rune giants. Do not underestimate the zone control of Attack of Opportunity with 20-foot reach and flight or air walk!
• They have immunity to fire, so fireball and meteor swarm are a no-go against them.
• They have a formidable AC 38, TAC 35, and HP 330, a leviathanic amount of hit points to chew through.

I resolved to minimize my reshuffling of the rune giants' starting positionings. I also laid out the following parameters for the challenge, because the book was unwilling to go into detail on precise parameters.
• Attuning to the White Axiom and the Last Theorem would take a long string of minutes, at the end of which, the party would be unceremoniously dumped into the mindscape.
• The party could have their gear already in hand, but they could not start with any buffs. I thought that this would be fair for the challenge, and it was narratively plausible, given that it is purely a struggle in the mind. Even if I did allow buffs, I would have followed the rule in page 330, limiting pre-battle buffs to one per character.
• The party would have to start relatively clustered together, but they could be in proper formation against an enemy approaching from the north. The adventure stipulated that the "malignant theorems" started 60 feet away, and so I followed that. The rune giants would be 60 feet north of the party, such that two rune giants were 60 feet north and away from the frontline fighter, and another two rune giants were 60 feet north and away from the frontline monk. The rune giants would start airborne, 4 cubes above the ground cube.
• The players were aware that this was merely the first of many encounters they would have to slog through, so they had to be conservative with Hero Points.
• Given the in-game countdown to apocalypse, if the party could not succeed over the course of seven attempts, Golarion would be doomed.
Essentially, the parameters were, "The party is in proper formation and has their equipment out, but has no buffs, and suddenly gets into a scuffle with airborne enemies 60 feet away. Encounter level + 3, only battle of the day, but Hero Points must be conserved." That should a be a dangerous battle, surely, but certainly not "6/7 out of 6/7 attempts result in TPK" dangerous.

The subsequent seven attempts were... rough. For context, the players were weary and demoralized and just wanted to get the session over with. I know this because they said as much to me.

Attempt #1: Initiative order cleric, fighter, monk, rune giants, wizard. The most embarrassing of them all. By chance, the cleric's spell loadout was so completely unsuited for the battle (not shown in the sheet, because the player had changed it up) that they spent their second round unable to do anything of note given their positioning, and their player remarked just how bad the cleric's divine spell list is, a kick to the shin after having positive energy channels lopped off. During the first round, the cleric put up foresight on the monk, and the fighter used Trick Magic Item to give the monk fly. The monk flew up, ate an Attack of Opportunity, and flurried, leaving the monk as the most viable target.

My strategy here was to try to take out the monk first with focused fire from Attacks of Opportunity and Strikes. The rune giants did exactly that, taking out the monk with a critical hit by the second round. At the start of the third round, the cleric healed the monk back to wounded 2, and the fighter used their Certain Strike routine to take down a rune giant, because Certain Strike was incredibly strong even though the Greater Fire Rune was useless. Alas, also during the third round, the malignant theorems killed the monk with a critical hit to push the monk from wounded 2 to dying 4; the cleric did not have breath of life at the time, and even if they did, the flying monk was more than 60 feet away. The party opted to save the Hero Point and lose this battle, and the monk's player ragequit right then and there, not wishing to participate in constant repeats of the battle. I took control of both the fighter and the monk from there.

Intermission: I took this time to review the monk's character sheet while the cleric and wizard players strategized and rearranged their prepared spells.

Attempt #2: Purely a scouting attempt wherein everyone used Recall Knowledge to try to figure out the malignant theorems' statistics. Since we could not figure out how monster knowledge was supposed to work, I offered to turn this into a loss, in exchange for assuming that the party would eventually build the malignant theorems' statistics block. The remaining two players agreed, and thus I referred the players to the rune giant statistics.

Attempt #3: Initiative order cleric, fighter, malignant theorems, wizard, monk. Despite having Lucky Halfling, the fighter had trouble succeeding with Trick Magic Item with which to actually fly. My strategy this time around was to throw on the armor-breaking runes, focus on the fighter, and try to destroy their Gray Maiden plate armor, because that would completely doom the fighter. Simply by having the rune giants focus on the fighter with Attacks of Opportunity and Strikes, I successfully destroyed the fighter's armor by the third round (that many Fortitude saves were bound to have some come up as failures), while simultaneously knocking the fighter out. Given that all four malignant theorems were still alive, the two players gave this one up.

Attempt #4: Initiative order malignant theorems first. I had a new, even better strategy. Since the malignant theorems were going ahead of everyone, I had them each spend two actions Striding into a good position with which to one-action blast the party from above with electricity damage. 4 × 4 = 16 Reflex saves later, and the entire party was so badly damaged beyond the cleric's ability to reasonably heal the PCs that the remaining players gave this one up as well.

Attempt #5: Initiative order cleric first, then malignant theorems, then the rest of the party. The cleric placed an air walk on the monk and broke off from the party, but again did the malignant theorems blast the remaining party members with electricity. Due to some unfortunate saving throws all around, the party was left so badly damaged that the cleric did not think they could adequately heal the PCs, so the players gave up this battle as well.

Intermission: Since I was not allowing buffs, I suggested to the party that they sell magic items at half price (or effectively 0.5 × 0.9 = 45% price for any sold runes) to afford greater rings of energy resistance for resist 15 electricity. The party did just that, selling any unnecessary magic items.

Attempt #6: Initiative order malignant theorems first. They once again opened up by blasting the party. The cleric planted air walk on the monk, and the wizard gave out a haste to the monk. The PCs were still moderately damaged (the fighter most of all due to low Reflex), but they could actually put up a fight. Unfortunately, I had the malignant theorems swing their rune-augmented swords and intelligently position themselves for Attacks of Opportunity. I successfully knocked out the fighter by the end of the second round, with the malignant theorems barely scratched, and the other PCs banged-up. The players lost hope, and opted to forfeit this one as well.

Attempt #7: Initiative order malignant theorems first, yet again. As before, the rune giants blasted the party, moderately damaging the party even despite the electricity resistance. Again, the fighter's low Reflex caused them to be the most damaged of the group. The cleric planted air walk on the monk, and the wizard gave out a haste to the monk, as before. I once again had the malignant theorems take up good positions and batter down the fighter with Attacks of Opportunity and Strikes. As the fighter, I simply could not figure out a way to avoid the gauntlet of Attacks of Opportunity that the rune giants were presenting; there was really very little way to actually engage the rune giants without earning plenty of pain. And so, by the end of the second round, again did the rune giants successfully knock out the fighter, having sustained barely any damage themselves while the other three PCs were moderately damaged. The players' morale was totally crushed, so they gave up on saving the world.

Aucturn, meet Golarion in Third Impact.

Were the conditions in favor of the rune giants? Yes. At the heart of it, however, the setup was, again, "The party is in proper formation and has their equipment out, but has no buffs, and suddenly gets into a scuffle with airborne enemies 60 feet away. Encounter level + 3, only battle of the day, but Hero Points must be conserved." Difficult, yes. But should that really have been so difficult as to warrant such a reliable TPK rate? And what of all of the other encounters in the adventure?

And you know what? All of these TPKs ultimately do not matter in the end. Paizo already knows that the monster math is overtuned, and so they will be toning down the monster math.

I have no idea what we meaningfully learned from this final playthrough. Certain Strike is indeed very strong? Lacking property runes means that a character's damage will be paltry? Clerics' divine spell list is very narrow and limited? Spellcasters have no business tossing out save-or-lose spells? Spellcasters similarly have no business hurling out non-max-level raw damage blasts? Starting positioning is oh so very important and can make or break an encounter, due to the way the three-action mechanic works? Attack of Opportunity with 20-foot-reach will seriously lock down opponents? One-action blasts with a reasonably wide area can devastate a group of PCs or monsters? I really do not know by this point. I just do not know.

And... that is that, I suppose. It has been a wild ride. I love Pathfinder 2e, I really do. I know that it is currently miles ahead of Pathfinder 1e in terms of game design, and I know that it will sell very well. But please, developers, try to work out its kinks... and kindly consider letting us actually playtest them before the game goes to print. It would be very nice. Thank you in advance, and I am sorry for the woe I have caused. I hope you have it in you to forgive me.

To all who have been my players, whether you stuck around for only one session or played much more than that, thank you. I appreciate it. Your patience and, if I may, masochism means much to me.

I apologize for letting people down. Many must have been expecting some epic saga wherein I would bring twice-a-week tales and blow-by-blow reports of each session. Unfortunately, given my schedule, my surgery recovery, and my dwindling motivation, it just was not feasible given my frame of mind. That is my fault. I could, in theory, go back and write reports after the fact, but the points would be moot given all of the updates to the game so far, and given how repetitive the TPK stories would be.

Thank you, and I am sorry.

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I am really not sure what the GMPCs were supposed to do given that they had no ranged weapons at hand (and even if they did, they would effectively deal scratch damage due to having outdated weapon potency runes and no ability modifier to damage), they could escape only on a natural 20, and they were not in reach to attack the kraken.

The bard was attempting an everything-or-nothing play with possession, and the wizard was simply tossing out what they could.

I really do not think it is surprising that a noncombat-optimized party would flounder to a sudden encounter with a level + 3 monster with 60-foot-reach and high-escape-DC grabs, especially given the overpowered monster math.

Could the party have attempted something similar to this?

Maybe, but given the necessary string of very lucky rolls, even such a noncombat solution would have been shut down by even one failed roll.

Edge93, I have my playtesting style, and you have yours. Once again, I am not your enemy. We are on the same side, and we can offer the developers different and diverse viewpoints. Let us continue to do that.

TheFinish wrote:
And this is why getting rid of the Total Cover rules was a bad idea; as well as getting rid of the clause that stated that when you Grapple someone from far away, they get pulled to an adjacent space. You get absolute shenanigans.

I really hope I am not the only one going crazy over the lack of rules on line of sight, preventing walking through blocking terrain, and preventing attacking through walls.

Here, let us make the ability clearer with a line break.


After suffering the effects of the attack, Grab, or Grapple, the ally can attempt to break free of effects entangling, grabbing, immobilizing, or restraining them. They can either attempt a new saving throw against any one such effect that had a saving throw, or as a free action they can attempt to Break Free or Escape from any one effect that allows such attempts.

Finally, if the ally can move, they can Step as a free action, even if the ally didn’t have any hindrance to escape from.

There. That is all it needs for clarity.

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EberronHoward is correct. Paizo seems to be going about this in the wrong way. It is perfectly fine for a class to be a niche option, so long as it is reasonably balanced alongside other classes. There are many players who avoid druids for thematic reasons, but that is no reason to supercharge the druid's mechanics.

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They can either attempt a new saving throw against any one such effect that had a saving throw, or as a free action they can attempt to Break Free or Escape from any one effect that allows such attempts. Finally, if the ally can move, they can Step as a free action, even if the ally didn’t have any hindrance to escape from.

The way it is worded suggests that the Step can happen only if a Break Free or Escape is involved.

This can be rectified immediately simply by inserting a line break in between "attempts" and "Finally."

If there is an ambiguity in the grab/restrain rules, then that should be clarified.

If there is an ambiguity in the resilient sphere and wall of force rules, then that should be clarified.

This is a playtest, and one of the goals is to identify ambiguities. I think that that job has been done.

Once again, I am not your enemy. I am on the same side as you, trying to help polish up the game.

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As I was running Affair at Sombrefell Hall and The Mirrored Moon, twice, in fact, I could not help but notice that the enervated condition was significantly more in favor of enemies than PCs. If an enemy is enervated, it takes a global penalty, and that is it. If a PC is enervated, then the PC loses actual abilities.

Perhaps there could be more of a debuff to enemies who are enervated?

I would also like to add that not only is monster knowledge ambiguous; it is also very bad, since a regular success provides only the most dead-obvious traits of a monster. That is not very useful.

Edge93 wrote:
There is mechanics for the surface of the wall being broken: If there is a creature or object in the area covered by the wall then it's broken

Says what rule?

I do not see the point in arguing that there is no ambiguity here, because there is.

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