I notice that the 1st level impulses have a lot of cool utility to them (whispering on the wind, creating rock ladders, etc.), and they are the only levels to have 4 impulses. It feels like the higher-level impulses (which are 2 choices instead of 4) are missing the flavourful choices because Paizo wants us to focus on the meat-and-potato combat options that will define the class. Hopefully, Paizo is only withholding the cool higher-level utilities from the playtest.
Brew Bird wrote:
The AoO triggering does check out, which is not great.
The playtest does seem to be pre-guarded against this obvious combo... but this wouldn't be the first time 2 classes synergize well. I agree that the better choice is to accept that the Monk and Kineticist will be multi-class buddies, but keep the power level to a tolerable level.
My thoughts on Summoner's HP is that they need to have higher HP to encourage them to use their eidolons.
From my limited experience with the PF2 Summoner, the Eidolons aren't excessively superior bodies to the actual Summoner, or at least, they aren't compared to a Wizard who could buff themselves up. A Wizard with some combat spells could be as useful as a Summoner sending their Eidolon to the frontline. Giving your Eidolon the ability to move fast or swim could be replicated by spells or by talented Martial PCs. The Summoner cannot outpace anyone else just by using their Eidolon, but like a bard, they can be excellent at filling in any missing roles or backing up an expert. So because other Magic-Users have more flexibility in their choices, the Summoner should be able to do its niche more often.
Wizards are limited by their spell-slots on how long they can have summoned creatures in-game each day; Summoners are limited by their HP on how long their Eidolons can be active each day. A Healer can heal the Summoner and essentially give them another encounter's worth of Eidolon use, but then they're down a spell slot that could have been used to heal a frontline PC (or just be used as a Summon Monster spell instead of giving the Summoner another chance to use their Eidolon). Remember that a Summoner is not going to be sitting on their HP like a dragon on gold, but will actively be using it in combat or in exploration, paying the HP as the price for doing its niche role. And because they don't have the AC to prevent damage loss, they need their base HP to be higher, so that they can use their Eidolon for longer, and not become a cantripper after the 3rd encounter of the day.
Imagine an AP where you can start at any level.
The PCs are legendary heroes who are stuck in a repeating time-loop where they nearly save the world, but they fail. However, the timestream repeats itself, and the heroes must try and save the world again. Each adventure module has one critical point that the PCs must do *something* the correct way in order for the time-loop to break.
The standard play-start would be that the PCs realize they are in a loop at level 1, and have to break the loop from the beginning. HOWEVER, the point in which the heroes realize they are in a loop could be at any point: at level 4, at level 10, or even at the beginning of the last adventure module! They have to correct their mistakes going forward, but then they have to loop back to the lower levels and make the corrections back then. As soon as they correct the 6 mistakes, the rest of the timeline plays out 'correctly', and the adventure path finishes. A party could start the campaign at level 8, go up to level 20, start again at level 1, and then finish at level 7!
This would also be a great AP to use Relics for: having them as touchstones for the PCs, watching them grow and regress with the PCs, and maybe even changing in-between time loops.
I'd like to see an environmental themed AP. Base it in the Mana Wastes, where the PCs are part of an international organization brought in by Alkenstar to clean up the devastation amidst a flimsy ceasefire between Geb and Nix. Throw in some sidequests to other parts of the world to find rare florae and faunae to bring back.
This definitely looks like a good Christmas present.
Arnim Thayer wrote:
My thought is "So that motivated buyers don't take this product away from potential buyers". Looking over the contents, I can say that there is nothing that I (an established buyer) already own, so I'm not going to buy it, and there is enough adjacent product in the market for me to buy.
If this were released closer to release, it would have been bought up by people who didn't need a beginner's box, but just wanted as much PF product as possible. A year later, it's going to get into the hands of new players and people who will be mentoring new players.
I mean, the Wizard has more of a limit on spell choice than, say, the Cleric or Druid. It has more versatility in changing the spells available to them during the day, but the classes that get to change their entire spell output each day feel like they have much higher differences between 'optimal play' and 'suboptimal play'.
For the purpose of 'avoiding complexity', it feels absolutely possible to play a limited option Wizard with the right Arcane Thesis.
I agree, and add on that. The original Magic-Users were problem-solvers. Like how the Thief would step forward to handle traps and then fade back, so too did the Magic-User handle situations brute strength and clever improvisation couldn't handle. It wasn't an even split of the spotlight, but then, combat wasn't supposed to be the point of every encounter. It was about exploration: sometimes fighting to get by, sometimes sneaking around, and sometimes talking your way past. The Wizard had tools to solve these problems (Burning Hands, Charm, Knock), but couldn't do it all the time.
Nowadays, people want to be a part of each encounter, so the Wizard's playstyle of being the IT support goes away. Also, the Wizard's use of damage spells is no longer viewed as a tool to solve certain problems. So spellcasters get cantrips all day long, and their problem-solving spells aren't as overpowered as they used to be, because players expect them to be available more often than in Gygax's time.
Neither is better or worse, but if you want to have the tools from one era in another, the play will either be very overpowered or very underpowered.
FWIW, the Wizard is my favourite PF2 class, because of the spell-preparing playstyle. I don't find it boring at all, but enjoy the strategy of planning spell selections. Naturally, I prefer the Universalist approach, but like you said, specialization isn't that big of a commitment. The theme of an intelligent book-bound caster meticulously planning their daily load feels very on-theme. If I wanted a spellcaster that goes all-in on blasting, I've got the Sorcerer, which already does it better.
It's also an issue in player expectation of what a class 'means'. If this were OD&D, and the only option for using Magic was being a Magic-User, then yeah, that one class with access to arcane magic should allow you to build every possible archetype for Magic User you'd like.
But it's 2020, and we have several different Magic-User classes now, and each should have a reason to exist. If one class does what you want for a Magic User but it doesn't have the name you associate with (IE. A sorcerer is mechanically closer, but you want to call yourself a Wizard), then you just call yourself something different. Unlike Earthdawn, the class on your character sheet isn't the name you call yourself in game.
When the argument for allowing a class to super-specialize at one thing while remaining able to super-specialize at other things is "But *I* won't abuse that!"... that's fine for a homebrew or an agreement with your GM. But it's not something that should be in the Core Book.
A lot of specific things, but in the big picture, two things.
1) I like the even balance between empowering the GM to make their campaign their own, and guiding the GM on how to be collaborative and caring about the players' fun. I feel there are good points to GM empowerment and GMs sharing responsibilities with the players, but most people usually sit on one side of the spectrum or the other: Viking Hat GMs or Waiter at Chili's GM. This book got it right in the centre.
2) It's not the best GM advice book ever, but it's the perfect one to help understand Paizo's PF2 system and their supplementary material. The mechanical advice is perfect for the system, and the kind of adventure/campaign advice is perfect for the world and adventures Paizo makes. This book will help you run a game congruent with the crunch and fluff you'll get with other Paizo product.
Squiggit re: Witches
Something like this happened to the Warlock class during the transition from 3ed to 4ed D&D. The 3ed Warlock class was well-received because of its non-Vancian, at-will magic chassis. It was so popular, it inspired the 4ed designers to give every spellcaster at-will spells. So the class couldn't depend on its mechanical uniqueness anymore, because every other class had stolen its unique feature! To compensate, the 4ed Warlock leaned in heavily to its thematic sources (Fey, Infernal, and Lovecraft Warlock), and it was well-received, despite being a mechanically-inferior option. Perhaps the PF2 Witch should lean on its thematic hooks (patrons or familiars) to make it different from a Wizard.
I think that's why the Investigator's combat mechanic was so much less well received than the Swashbuckler's, even though fundamentally they're actually kind of similar (spend an action, roll a skill check, get a buff that you unleash with one big attack, that kinda thing). The Investigator just doesn't really get to interact with or play around with their feature at all, so the end result is a mechanic that feels restrictive and safe rather than dynamic and fresh.
To be fair, when the Swashbuckler spends an action to make a skill check, they're still doing something in-game that can benefit other people: demoralizing, distracting, or tripping a foe. It's something you can visually roleplay in a variety of ways. Study Suspect is entirely internal RP, which is hard to portray in-game and be different each time.
PCs for Level 3
Shulkuru the Rainbow-Collared (Swashbuckler) upgrades:
Seldon Calendar (Witch) upgrades:
Brother Green (Investigator) upgrades:
Janus Thane (Oracle)
- Canny Acumen (Reflex)
The players were very happy to use their new powers. The Witch's player wanted to spam Augury, but I reminded him that Augury only works for events 30 minutes in the future. The party then started planning a scam to act like a travelling circus, with a forged invitation made with Brother Green's Lore (Scribing) skill. Janus would perform stories, Shulkuru would perform acrobatics, Brother Green would use Recall Knowledge to tell stories, and when the BBEG showed up, Seldon would hit her with a Charm Spell.
I warned them that the make-up of the fort (both in lay-out and the deadliness of the monsters) meant that gathering all the monsters together meant that it could quickly be a TPK if something wrong happened. I think they picked up on the cue that I wanted to playtest the class mechanics (unlike last level), so they decided to play it straight and try to sneak in and take them out in smaller groups.
Maybe if the Witch sent his familiar over the palisade to scout it out, they might have realized how difficult it is to sneak in to the fort. Like, there is a lookout watching the palisade every couple of minutes, and there are two guards in the general area who would be in visual range to see PCs slipping over the top. And because they're orcs, there's no benefit to sneaking in at night-time (the module even suggests that the place is better patrolled at night). The Swashbuckler did climb over sneakily, and only got caught when she kept failing the Athletics check to lift the final bar across the palisade. But realistically, unless the entire party were ninjas and slipped over the top, there's no way the orcs wouldn't notice the door was opened. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had encouraged them to play the 'Circus' routine.
So the PCs had to roll initiative at the doors of the palisade. Seldon beat Graytusk on Initiative, and attempted to use Charm to make her not ring the alarm. Unfortunately, she made her saving throw, and pulled the alarm. Seldon, having to move into the fort in order to get close enough to Graytusk to use his spell, quickly got swarmed by the orcs, and quickly had to use his Hero Point to not die. Shulkuru decided to rush the watchtower and take out the archer. When I explained to her that she wasn't good enough at Athletics to straight-up leap into it, she decided to run up the stairs and open the hatch to the watchtower. For her efforts, Graytusk's orc partner came down the ladder and critically hit her with a dagger. Janus spent her first turn casting Shield and Magic Weapon. Brother Green, having his Healer's Tools in hand and readying it to use Battle Medicine, delayed his turn to start after the orcs. When Seldon went down, he rushed over to the Witch, and amazingly failed to beat a DC 15 Medicine check with a +10 bonus! He sheepishly used his 3rd action to go back outside the palisade.
By the time Lord Nar and the rest of the orcs came out, things were quickly going pear-shaped. Lord Nar burned through Janus' Hero Point and dropped her twice, leaving her dying in the Guarded Yard. Seldon used Invisibility to join Shulkuru in the watchtower. Brother Green decided to rush past the orcs and sneak into the building: his player gave out a groan when the Reception Hall's doors turned out to be locked! Once Graytusk jumped out onto the stairs, Shulkuru closed the hatch and moved the bed on top of it.
I had half of the orcs chase Brother Green to the other palisade and stab him to death while he failed to climb away. The other orcs tried to open the hatch of the watchtower, while I had Lord Nar and Graytusk walk around to the Reception Hall (unlocking it in front of Brother Green). Seldon (still Invisible) snuck into the Reception Hall, and was able to see and identify the elementals there without being seen. When Lord Nar opened the door, he saw the Lizardfolk Swashbuckler rush past him out the door, and the door to the study open.
The named orcs followed the invisible witch deeper into the building, while the rabble orc chased the Swashbuckler. Using her panache, Shulkuru rushed out of the fort and ran far away. Seldon kept running deeper into the building, until he entered the room with the brine sharks. I told him that the orcs froze in fear, refusing to cross the threshold, and that a rush of water swept on him with vicious teeth. The Brine Sharks managed to detect him and beat the Invisibility roll to kill the Witch.
To throw the party a bone, when the Swashbuckler announced she was going to go back to town, I let her come across the Alchemical Drudge Vilree sent to Etran's Folly to kill the town. Still badly wounded, Shulkuru wanted to confront the Drudge (since she could tell I was reading from the module, so this was a legit part of the adventure). Sadly, despite winning Initiative and getting off two Finishers against the Drudge, it easily beat Shulkuru to death.
Thoughts: I am a little miffed on how difficult this module has been, but it has been a good ordeal to stress-test the PCs. The Investigator was absolutely useless in the big battle. The Witch had a lot of options when he was deep in combat (Charm, Invisibility), which were different from his regular spells used while he was in the back rank. The Battle Oracle was holding her own against the Orc Drudges until Lord Nar came in. The Swashbuckler got to be very mobile and act like a swashbuckler. When she Demoralized the weaker orc while hiding in the watchtower in order to gain her panache, I could really envision that like a scene in a movie: a brawler trying to keep her ego afloat while in a losing battle.
I think this particular level would have been better without the APG classes. Particularly, a spellcaster with lots of Area damage spells. The Battle Oracle was fine, but the attack bonuses of the named orcs was high enough to hit on 7: something with greater AC and HP would have been better. A Ranger with long-range attacks would have been much better than the Investigator. The Swashbuckler did fine, but a Barbarian would probably have been better. My feeling is that the APG classes aren't great for combat-heavy scenarios. They would need some Core Book classes to shore up their combat weaknesses.
The players quickly got into the groove of using their spells and feats. All of the 2nd-level spells made them forget about simpler stuff like using the Witch's familiar for scouting. I didn't really think their 'travelling circus plan' would work well: even if the orcs believed in it, I don't know how interested they would be in it, or if they'd let their guards down.
Magic-Users still have a lot of paradigm-shifting spells (trap a dead person's soul or travel to another plane), but a lot of the incapacitation spells only removes someone from an encounter on a critical failure. Magic is much less effective as a means of combat, but is very useful in solving problems that can't be solved by dealing damage.
PCs for Level Two:
Shulkuru the Rainbow-Collared
Seldon Calendar (Witch) upgrades:
Brother Green (Investigator) upgrades:
Janus Thane (Oracle) upgrades:
- I talked to the Swashbuckler's player and she was okay with being introduced as Noala's companion. It helped corroborate the Ranger's story, because I front-loaded her with the backstory, so a PC was able to verify it was true. That helped move the group into following her out into the woods, and when Noala said she wouldn't go into combat with the PCs, Shulkuru joining the group made the situation feel more natural.
- Once again, 'On the Scene' proved to be useful because of all the ambush monsters in this level. Both times the PCs drew close to the plants, I let the Investigator know something was suspicious. He rolled well on Perception and Nature each time to find and identify where and what they were.
I let the PCs inch around the Bloodlash Bushes because I honestly didn't think they were ambulatory. It wasn't until the Witch's flying familiar unintentionally triggered the Vine Lasher with a hanging rope strand later on that I realized both monsters could move around. I didn't retcon the previous encounter, but I had to quickly whip out a battlemat when I thought I wouldn't need it.
With the Vine Lashers, I gave the PCs a lot of space before triggering 'On the Scene'. It made sense to me that the PCs walking on an open field meant that 'On the Scene' would only trigger if they could see the plants. It meant that the PCs were not surrounded by the Lasher, and were not near the poison blooms, so the encounter was much easier.
- The combat was very close-quarters. The wolf encounter bottlenecked the PCs so hard, the Investigator couldn't get into melee until Round 3. The Oracle and Swashbuckler took a lot of damage in that encounter, so they were wary of leaping into combat.
When Brother Green suspected there was danger before the Hedge, the Braggart Swashbuckler attempted to Coerce whomever was hiding out there to reveal themselves. (Only the Lashers were nearby, but all that yelling alerted the orcs in H2). Still suspicious, Seldon sent his flying familiar up in the air with a strand of rope with Light cast on it, as a source of illumination. I had to spend a few minutes determining what was the encumbrance of a tiny familiar with manual dexterity: I ruled that the Everburning Torch would be too unwieldly to hold, but something small enough to hold on to that could give off light would be fine.
After the Leshy triggered the encounter with the Lashers, Seldon later sent his familiar over the hedge to investigate. Lacking darkvision, Seldon gave the familiar another Light spell. This helped the Leshy see the orcs and monsters, but it also gave away its position. Seldon tried to pull off an aerial assault with the Leshy carrying over fire to ignite the wood, but one toss of a javelin by the orc made him back off.
The group began to resign themselves to walk into an ambush, when the Witch's player (squinting at his character sheet, looking for options) suddenly got very excited and pointed out something on his sheet to the other players. The Wortwitch Feat (with its bonuses to attacking through foilage) made him realize that they could create 'murderholes' in the hedge and pepper the monsters with arrows and spells. Since the orcs and animals had no range or reach weapons, they had the ambushers in a shooting gallery!
- I had the orcs run into the cave, which made the players groan. They had already faced one ambush, and now they felt that the rest of the adventure would be one ambush after another. The party abandoned any sense of fairplay and descended into old-school D&D tactics. They tore down the hedge to cover up the fumes blowing off of the toxic pool. Then they start taking apart the wooden cages and start piling up the scraps over the cave entrance. The idea was to start a fire in front of the cave to smoke the orcs out.
Seldon summoned a Sprite to trigger the poison bloom's gas, in order for Shulkuru and Janus to root out the plants and throw them on the fire to add some poison to the fumes. He also noted that the Sprite could deal fire damage with its weapon, so he sent the Sprite to add its fire to the pile. I couldn't find a skill to roll for making and sustaining fire, but I let the PCs roll Survival to maintain a smoky fire.
- Everything else was rolled behind the GM screen. I had the Sculptor give two of his followers a moderate Frost's Vial to extinguish the fire, but when the PCs continued to pile on more flammables, the Sculptor sent the Blood Ooze to bust down the door. He succeeded in sending the ooze against the flaming pile once, pushing it enough for the PCs to see the red tendrils peeking out of the cave, but then the Sculptor rolled a critical failure to command the Ooze. The burnt Ooze turned on the orcs and finished them off.
When the PCs entered the cave the next day, they found a wounded Blood Ooze and everyone else dead. The PCs got the information and valuable treasure they needed, and left.
- The players felt more confident and aware of their abilities. The Oracle used her Heal spell more effectively, and the Witch was much more proactive in using his spells cunningly. The Swashbuckler's player was as reckless with her current PC as she was with the last one, but better knew when to use Hero Points, and to keep closer to healers. After finding his combat ability to be lacking, the Investigator started planning to go into combat with his Healer's Tools, so he could use Ready Action to use Battle Medicine on someone who got hurt.
- I missed out on playtesting a lot of the PCs' mechanics because the players felt they shouldn't 'play fair' anymore. The module assumed that the party would walk into each encounter, even if it was an ambush, and would punish them if they took the careful way in. The players' ability to see ambushes coming with 'On the Scene' and the Witch's scouting familiar made it much more blatant, and made them less willing to follow the module's assumed plans for the PCs.
They were very creative in solving problems, but most of them worked because the module didn't assume players would be that canny. Both caves had only one entrance, which made them dangerous to enter for players who came in looking for a fight, but were dangerous for the NPCs when the PCs realized they had trapped their enemies inside. In planning their trap, the PCs often relied more on their mundane equipment than their special feats: Janus' Trident was very useful in handling dangerous materials in H2.
I've asked them to avoid operating outside of the module's assumptions for level 3, so that we can better gauge what PCs are capable of doing. Still, I want to encourage creative thinking, especially since the class being playtest rely on learning things, having access to interesting spells, and doing daring actions.
- The Witch's player decided to go Ancient Elf and pick up a Wizard dedication at level 1. He picked up two combat cantrips (Ray of Frost and Electric Arc), and used the rest of his cantrips for utility. Combined with his decision to lean heavily on Summon Fey in his prepared spells, he had a lot of options each turn.
- Haven taken the Nimble Ancestral feat, the Witch was constantly on the corner of the battlemap, usually spamming Ray of Frost and its 120 ft. range. This lessened the party's need to protect the squishy 12 HP magic-user from enemies, especially when he could summon a Mitflit to protect himself.
- The Witch's player went with Lesson of Fate because he felt it had the best spells available. Being Occult, Primal or Arcane didn't mean much to him. He thought he was able to cast Augury at level 1, but I told him that the spells learned from lessons still needed a spell slot of the appropriate level to be used (IE. can't be used until level 3). He also didn't use 'Nudge Fate' in level 1, because the Investigator was doing so well in skill checks. As we levelled up, I reminded him that he could also do 'misfortune' on enemies to curse their skill checks.
- He wasn't too interested in the 1st-level class feats for the Witch. He took the Wortwitch feat because it had the most possible application in a rural setting. I wanted to tell him that there would be lots of animals in the adventure (making Familiar's Tongue possibly useful), but when asked neturally about it, he didn't seem interested.
- The Witch's player happily made his Leshy familiar to be as active as possible: manual dexterity, flying, and speaking Common. He sent his familiar deep into Hallod's lair, and thanks to a string of very lucky rolls, got his familiar back out alive. After that scene, when I reminded him what losing the familiar for the Witch meant, he couldn't believe that the penalty was that high. He said he read the section, but didn't remember it being so steep.
- In Roleplaying, the Witch's player took a backseat to the other players. That was partially because 'Fall of Plaguestone' has a backstory of a Witch being blamed for a plague, but also because the first level of the adventure is very much in-town. Nothing too magically or fantastic going on, so he followed the lead of the Investigator and Oracle.
(BTW, I do plan on making an official survey. I just want to run as much of FoP as possible beforehand.)
It's not that I wouldn't want to play it. It's that I wouldn't want to DM for it. I don't want to try and manage a campaign where one PC wants to actively knock themselves out every day. Like I said, risky playstyles like barbarians are fine, but there's got to be some kind of reward for that risk. If the point of the Oracle class isn't to be comparable to the Cleric or Divine Sorcerer, but to facilitate self-sabotage, then I won't consider it to be a class for PCs.
Lukas Stariha wrote:
Your punishment for your familiar getting killed is that you can no longer use your familiar that day and maybe you get a scolding from your patron. It doesn’t need to be any more than that.
And the more non-spellcasting class features that go into a familiar, the more painful it would be for a spellcaster to lose it, without losing their ability to cast spells. Give out familiar abilities like candy, and people will feel the sting of losing it while still being able to participate.
I don't mind a class that requires special handling to work well, or is a risky playstyle. But if the Oracle is just a Divine Sorcerer with options to punish yourself, I'd have to ban it from my table. Either the player who wants it doesn't realize what it's trying to do and is going to be disappointed by it; or wants what it's going to give, and I am going to be disappointed that I'll have to GM for them.
- The Oracle's player chose Battle Mystery, and is enjoying herself very much. Her character concept of a warrior who found religion during war worked much better with the Oracle flavour, as opposed to a Warpriest. She felt a Cleric would be more of a deliberate choice to choose Gorum and the Divine path, and go into war for Gorum. Her concept of her PC starting mundane and gaining power through her prowess fit the Oracle class much better. She was surprised how combat-ready the Battle Oracle is, as her impression from the other mysteries was that it was a squishy class. The armour, healing, and the Shield cantrip really made a good build for her.
- The Battle Oracle's player ran her character very much like a Fighter, focusing on casting Magic Weapon on her own weapon rather than using Heal during combat. Another PC died because she used her actions to get next to an enemy and the dying PC, and choose to attack instead of healing. That's a player issue, and would be an issue with the Warpriest as well. However, she said she wanted to use Weapon Surge in order to avoid using the 2-action cost of casting Magic Weapon, but thought the cost of the curse was too high. If the dying PC didn't critically fail a recovery check, the Battle Oracle was going to Heal her instead of making a 3rd attack with her Magic Weaponed Trident. Being wary of using her Revelation Spells was an on-going issue.
- In terms of roleplaying, she was very tough and menacing with oppositional and uncertain company, but genuinely caring with NPCs that elicited concern (Lawren Krent). She said she wanted to be more versatile with her Charisma checks (Diplomacy or Deception), but she had a 10 INT, so she barely had enough skill trainings to cover her character's concept as a war veteran.
- As the player's GM, I had trouble visualizing how the Oracle was different from a Warpriest Cleric. I was actually surprised when I checked on the differences on paper between the two sub-classes at level 1 (Battle Mystery gave out Heavy Armour Proficiency, while Warpriest only got Medium Armour; and Battle Oracles could choose any weapon group for their martial weapon as opposed to the Warpriest getting only the Deific Favoured Weapon). As a first-level PC, the player's Oracle PC only had one weapon and couldn't afford to buy Splint Mail with her starting gold. Mysteries vs. Domains should have been another differentiation, but as I said, the player wasn't eager to use her Revelation spells. I like the subtle differences, but for actual game play, I didn't see it come forth and matter.
- Using the Versatile Human ancestry and the Natural Ambition ancestral feat, the Oracle's player managed to get a combo with Glean Lore and Student of the Canon. She told me that Glean Lore allowed her to use Religion to roll for any Recall Knowledge check, and said Student of the Canon would help her with that roll. I told her that SotC would help her avoid critical failures on Recall Knowledge checks involving tenets of faith, and boost rolls about her own faith.
We negotiated how much 'tenets of faith' included in a world where every facet of life had a religion with holy texts and philosophers commenting on it. Could she reference the teachings of Nethys to get the benefit when doing a Recall Knowledge on magic? Could the Church of Desna's focus on exploration allow her to use Glean Lore + Student of the Canon in any situation where she was exploring, provided it was inspired by an in-campaign quote from Desna?
I ruled that what she would get if she tried that would be the most universally accepted general practise of the faith. She would get an answer that would be coloured by the religion's philosophy (Abadar's LN nature would favour Recall Knowledge checks that disapprove of risky investment), and wouldn't account for outlier events that the religion's holy texts may say little of (using Sarenrae as the source of Recall Knowledge for rooting out traitorous allies might instead focus on redeeming them when they reveal themselves to be traitors).
So far, she hasn't used that feature yet, because the Investigator is doing most of the rolls anyways.
- I really liked having the Investigator in the game. I enjoy those crunch options that helped facilitate mystery solving. As such, I was a big fan of the PC, and was fair to him when he wanted to use his class features and feats. However, I think the efficacy of the class will vary on how willing the GM is to let feats like 'On the Scene' work as is. From my experience, some GMs think withholding information makes the game better, even if a PC is built to find information.
If I wanted to play an Investigator, I would talk to the GM to gauge how okay they are with the class making mystery-solving easier, because I feel a miscommunication of how the GM runs their game might make the class useless. Having a section in the class write-up talking directly to GMs about running a game with them would help the Investigator be GMed more fairly.
- The Investigator started with 12 INT and 16 WIS. He was very pleased in having a large Perception bonus, and didn't mind having a lower INT, since he was still able to have all the necessary skills for Recall Knowledge.
- Study Suspect was very annoying. Sometimes it didn't work, and it really discouraged the Investigator from attacking that round. I get the possible thrill of critically succeeding and getting all of your attacks get the bonus, but it felt far worse to not get access to the extra damage at all. Even limiting it to one attempt per turn was frustrating: the Investigator said multiple times that he would've tried a second time after failing, because getting a damage bonus with 1 attack was a better proposition than 2 attacks with middling damage.
- I was okay with Take the Case, and was flexible in what the Investigator could target. I allowed the Oracle to get a bonus to pushing the wagon out of the ditch from the Investigator's Clue In, in the logic that the 'case' was 'how to get the wagon out' and part of the investigation was 'trying to push it'. I also allowed the Investigator to give the 'Clue In' bonus after the ally already failed, which I think is not how it is supposed to work. However, it felt like it was much more relevant to give it to an ally who failed and needed that +1.
- I'm not entirely sure why the Investigator has both 'Take the Case' and 'Study Suspect'. They feel very similar to each other. Perhaps the reason that they are separate is that the designers wanted 'Take the Case' to take 1 minute to resolve, and wanted 'Study Suspect' to resolve in one action. I wouldn't mind having these two features rolled into one feature. Maybe make its activation take 1 minute out of combat, and 1 action in combat.
- The Forensic Investigator was an excellent party healer. The Oracle got critically hit by the Lightning Serpent and the Swashbucker critically failed against that monster's lightning attack, but the Investigator's use of Battle Medicine brought them both back to full HP.
- On the Scene felt like it should be a Class feature. The Investigator's player quickly started using it as a 'Spider-sense' for ambush encounters (relevant in 'Fall of Plaguestone'), and was useful in speeding up when the party should look closer in a particular area or not. I imagine that many PCs multi-classing into Investigator, especially those with low Perception, will take that feat.
- The Investigator player was very creative using Flexible Studies. He started the module off with 'Caravan Lore' (to help with the caravan and to better know his situation). When he started the investigation in Etran's Folly, he took 'Etran's Folly Lore' to have a better understanding of the town. I imagine that if the Investigator has a particular person he wants to investigate, he'll choose '(That person's name) Lore'.
- Watching the Investigator do its thing, I felt that the class would be a great DM NPC. A NPC investigator could recall knowledge of any sort (especially with Flexible Studies), use Battle Medicine to heal the PCs, and hand out skill bonuses freely. And their lack of combat power means that they'll rarely take the spotlight during combat: my experience is that they're far better in assisting allies and performing in-game skill checks.
What's more, the Investigator's abilities didn't automatically solve the mystery, and remove the fun of mystery solving for the players. In the game, the party still got some wrong assumptions based on the Investigator's clues, despite the facts learnt all being true. It still required the players asking the right questions.
I don't see why the Witch's Familiar has to take damage at all. Like, it's a conduit for otherworldly magic. It comes back to life each day. It can eat scrolls and let you cast it as a spell. A Witch's familiar is already way past believable or realistic, so why not embrace its mystical nature?
Let it work like the Spiritual Guardian spell: "The guardian usually doesn't take damage except when protecting an ally... The guardian takes up space and allies can use it when flanking, but it doesn't have any other attributes a creature would normally have aside from Hit Points, and creatures can move through its space without hindrance."
Or just be inspired by the 4th edition D&D Shaman class, which is an excellent expression of a mystical spellcaster with an otherworldly 'familiar'.
PCs for level one:
The first encounter with the wolves went very well as a tutorial scene for the new classes. Seldon got to practise how to use his Summon Fey spell, Brother Green got to critically hit one of the lesser wolves, Janus tested her combat skills against the wolves (killed a lesser wolf, survived a critical hit by the Caustic Wolf), and Esmerelda got to do a lot of panache-inducing activities (balancing on top of a startled horse while getting her ankle nipped by a wolf). The Swashbuckler and Oracle both helped the teamsters get the wagon out of the mudhole. The Investigator made the wagon the subject of his Open Case ability, and I allowed him to use 'Clue In' to help the Oracle succeed at her Athletics check (after she missed the DC by 1).
Coming into town, the Investigator made a Recall Knowledge check and I told him the town's poor history with killing Witches, so that put Seldon on high alert. He and the rest of the party didn't interact with many people in the tavern, so I sent Lawren Krent over to the table, as per the side-quest. Janus immediately took to talking to a fellow soldier, and eventually got out of him his problem with his dead friend. The party left the tavern with Krent before most of the people showed up, thinking they had found the main plot.
They went to the hut and peered inside. I was still a little unclear on what exactly 'On the Scene' did, so I pointed out to Brother Green that the silver shine in the backpack looked like a holy symbol. When the ghost manifested, the Investigator knew they had to retrieve it. While Seldon fired cantrips from a distance and Janus tried to Disrupt Undead, Esmerelda leapt into the hut, picked up the holy symbol, and raced out. Brother Green (succeeding on a Religion check) helped Lawren put the ghost to rest.
Not wanting to disrupt the *actual* story, I just moved back the events to when the PCs returned. However, when the brawl broke out and Lawren left, the party went with him, and waited until Rolth came in and settled things down. I finally got them to sit down with Bort and watch him get poisoned. The PCs acquitted themselves under examination by the sheriff, though Seldon failed to hide his sketchy power source, and Janus used Intimidating Glare and a Natural 20 to coerce Rolth to quit questioning her.
The first place they looked for clues was in the kitchen, where they smelt the odd smell in Bort's dish. This got them on Amora as the main suspect early, and visiting her home only made her more suspicious: living outside of town, near a creepy grove, managing a hive of large bees (which produce poison), and being indifferent to the actual death. The PCs only stumbled upon Hallod as someone to talk to after searching Bort's records and finding records of Bort secretly delivering things to him.
Even as they delved through Hallod's house, the PCs genuinely didn't think he was the killer. The party was making theories that Bort had a special relationship with Amora (because he loved her meals), and Amora was trying to get in on his deal with Hallod, with Farmer Eallom as an accomplice. Brother Green's player thought he was a Walter White side-character, Janus' player thought he was a doomsday prepper, and Esmeralda's player thought he was a 'The Sixth Sense' ghost. Given that no-one saw Hallod until the final encounter, it was certainly open to interpretation. However, by the time the party fought a Lightning Serpent, they were willing to take down Hallod, whether he was guilty or not!
I ruled that Seldon's Tiny Leshy Familiar didn't trigger the tunnel trap, and its good reflex save and initiative roll allowed it to trigger the dog ambush and escape unharmed. The Swashbuckler saw the trap (with help from the Investigator's Clue In ability) and used her javelin to trigger the trap. I decided that the dogs would still be yapping, so the spellcasters used their cantrips to harass the dogs until they retreated back into their cage. The PCs were in a rush to find Hallod, so they just made a quick sweep of his living quarters to look for traps or secret doors. Brother Green found the chest and the trap within, but left it behind to study later.
The final encounter ended with Esmerelda bleeding out on the rock, thanks to Hallod. She ran up to Hallod on the first turn and managed to whip him in the face, but got downed on his first attack (using a Hero Point to get to 0) and brought to Dying on his second attack. She missed her first recovery check by 1, and rolled a critical failure on the second one to go straight to Dying 4. Janus, properly enraged, got a critical hit with her Magic Weaponed Trident and killed Hallod. She then went back to the chest and smashed it open, to find the clues within.
Thoughts: I think this module was very useful for the classes being tested. The Investigator has a mystery to solve, the Swashbuckler had many things to stunt on, and the spellcasters had flavourful ties into the story.
The Investigator was very useful in beating skill checks, and helping others. I was very lenient in how the Investigator used 'Take the Case' and 'Clue In': he used it on a wagon and a tunnel, and I let him give the +1 bonus after another PC failed at the skill check.
The Witch didn't engage much, a bit because of Etran's Folly history with Witch-killing, but also because of his weak AC and HP. He built a PC with long-distance cantrips and a 35-ft. speed, so he was often far away from combat. He was also the quietest at the table, except for when he was specifically needed. He volunteered his familiar to explore the tunnel, but when I told him later how much he would lose if his familiar died, he said he wouldn't have sent his familiar down so far.
The Oracle was happy with her character. She felt it performed far better than she expected, and that it reminded her of a Champion. She didn't feel that 'Call to Arms' was worth invoking a curse for, but Weapon Surge was.
The Swashbuckler died in the end, but she did very well in other sticky situations. Maybe it was just high rolls, but it felt like she could do so many wacky and death-defying stunts. I didn't allow Esmerelda to use Athletics for Initiative every time, but if she knew trouble was afoot and she was ready to fight, I allowed it. She didn't try to metagame the Panache-triggering, but I was open enough for it and she was daring enough that she triggered Panache almost every round.
The Swashbuckler's player will either come back with a level 2 Swashbuckler or an Oracle, we're not sure yet.
Technically, a 100 foot tall cliff never rolls an Intimidation check to Coerce people not to climb it, but many people avoid climbing it nevertheless. Likewise, if a Grizzly Bear runs into three fools and eviscerates the first fool, the other two fools are going to run away, no matter how poorly the Grizzly Bear's Intimidation roll would be. You don't need to roll for Intimidation if people know how scary you are.
Before the playtest, one of my players made a Wizard that acted a lot like an Investigator from an Agatha Christie novel. It's okay if you can take a concept and do it with several different classes, because classes can do more than one thing. It feels like the Investigator class is based on modern day CSI investigators, based on their subclass builds. You can make a Sherlock Holmes with them, but it definitely leans closer into what you see on Primetime crime shows.
Personally, I'd like the Investigator to be unique by doubling-down on effects like On The Scene, where you get clues w/o rolling for it. Basically, take the Gumshoe RPG and steal liberally. I wouldn't mind if the class was really only good in a mystery-based system (but was excellent for that), since it's an optional class for the game, and it would be one way of slowing down the feeling of splat fatigue.
No, that's *exactly* what happened here. The people who spent months of their lives playtesting the numbers and gameplay were ignored for the people who never wanted to try it because 'the feel' was wrong. Look at the time on the posts: critical at the beginning by the people who always come to the playtest forums, and later it's positive, from the people who only came back when they got what they wanted.
I'm profoundly disappointed in Paizo. I actually thought you wanted a playtest, that you wanted people to stress-test your unfinished ideas, instead of just being a teaser trailer for the final release. I thought the things you SAID you wanted, you actually wanted. But it turns out you were just trying to tell us what you thought we wanted to hear, and the only thing you want from a RPG is 'selling the most books'.
I mean, "Wizard who has Hvy Armour Proficiency with the trade-off of a limited access to spells" already exists. It's The Cleric.
There's certainly a lot of class concepts that should be viable at level 1, because they're cool ideas. But once you get into specific mechanics and powers like teleporting, that feels expendable. I'd be happy with power/spells that encouraged mobility at low levels that moved up to teleportation at mid-levels.
Agreed. Some of my favourite 'flawed' characters are ones that could actually do a task and succeed at it, but chose not to do it or sabotaged themselves. To me, THAT's roleplaying, in that the roleplaying itself was what made the problem, not the game's mechanical limitations the player choose to inflict on the PC.
There are people, such as myself, who enjoy being the big burly in the group who can take a hit and stand toe-to-toe with the biggest monster in the dungeon. That's a playstyle that I think should be facilitated. I'm open to hearing how a Fighter's damage could be boosted slightly without stepping on what the Barbarian is good at (High DPS Fighter w/good armour vs. High DPS Barbarian w/poor armour).
Right from the top, the adventure was very good at pointing out possible inconsistencies. Why the Society didn't know where the safehouse was, why the Pathfinders were working behind the backs of the Church of Iomedae, and why higher-level Pathfinders weren't being sent on the mission. Explaining the quest and explaining why the PCs were the people right for the job felt natural. My group is fairly good at suspending disbelief, but I liked not having to lean in on that. Allowing for PCs to "bluff" during the challenge at the minotaur camp is a good sign that the module author understands common responses from players.
The Cleric, while not a Cleric of Iomedae, was opposed to lying to another church, and told her other Pathfinders that if she had a chance, she would return the MacGuffin directly to the Church of Iomedae. The other players assured Ambrus that she was also opposed to stealing, so there was nothing to worry about. "I'm more worried the goblin will melt it down with his acid" I quipped back as Ambrus, to which Fumbus responded "I don't even know how to make acid!"
The structure of this section was very different from the other playtest adventures, and everyone got to do something useful. Seoni and Fumbus found the likely direction of the caravan their missing Pathfinder was on, and Valeros and Kyra chatted up the locals to learn about the minotaur and harpy threats they could find out in the wild. Everyone got to use different skills, and the adventure not blocking things from happening allowed the players to be more 'playful' in their roleplaying.
Not wanting to wander around in the dark in an unfamiliar area, the PCs rested and set out the next day for the safehouse. When they got there, they were told the message the minotaur victim told his healer, and left. None of the players thought to heal the wounded NPCs, but not out of a lack of caring (I think). Maybe I just didn't point out how badly hurt they were, or they just thought everyone in the world healed as well as allies of a Cleric do.
The adventure introduced a new rule, that being awake for 16 hours would make the PCs fatigued. AFAIK that's not something in the rules, so I just assumed that it was a module-specific ruling that didn't have to apply to other adventures. I like it, but I like my personal interpretation that you need only have to rest every 24 hours.
Exploration mode for the adventure:
- Valeros: Defending
When the group got to the ambush, Kyra and Fumbus CSIed the scene with Perception (which I used for their Initiative) and in recreating where the minotaurs must have sprung their ambush from, caught sight of two minotaurs hiding in the same ambush site! The PCs who beat the minotaurs on initiative decided to delay their turns until they engaged with them, not wanting to split the party across the stream. Fumbus and Kyra took a solid hit each, but managed to respond well. Fumbus critically hit one with his dogslicer, giving it flat-footed, which allowed Kyra to get another critical hit on it! Seoni was dogged by the other minotaur, but without AoO, she was able to regroup next to Valeros, who quickly finished off the flat-footed Minotaur and held off the second minotaur.
When the surviving minotaur surrendered, Seoni wanted to intimidate the minotaur to get out of here. I explained that it doesn't speak common, so she just pointed to the woods and grunted. I had the Minotaur run away (not back to the camp, as I felt it had been shamed too badly to return). Examining the dead minotaur, Seoni critically failed her Religion check on the evidence of Baphomet, and I told her that these minotaurs are dumb and prone to pointless violence.
Party manages to follow tracks of minotaurs back to their camp, but because an extra day had passed, they found Inisa bound before the assembled minotaurs. Seoni, believing she was performing the correct greeting, rushed in staff raised in a threatening fashion towards the priestess. I rolled a Perception check for Mildora to understand this was a misunderstanding of etiquette, not a typical adventurer introduction. Everyone at the table understood the absurdity of the situation, and I allowed it to play out for fun and laughs.
Seoni: "Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this staff? This... is my BOOMSTICK!"
Mildora: "We don't do that here."
The party is surprisingly chill with parleying with the minotaurs, especially when they are told of the troubles Ryolle is causing. Kyra even suggested they could all become Pathfinders, just like how goblins like Fumbus did. All the friendliness was fortunate. It suggests that if the minotaurs are provoked to attack, they will stand down if (2) minotaurs are killed, but doesn't specify how many minotaurs would be attacking the PCs each round. The PCs take the combat challenge: Kyra and Valeros were quickly eliminated, but Seoni and Fumbus unleashed their toughest spells and won the game for their side. But since Mildora offered to let them sleep the night there, the lost HP and spells were really inconsequential. Even the night rest was very forgiving, and helped the party breeze through the rest of the module. I guess the module assumed that players would have some qualms about sleeping amongst minotaurs?
The next day, the party marched towards Ryolle in their standard manner. (In the rush to adventure, no-one actually asked Mildora to release Inisa). Rolling for their checks, I gave them cryptic clues to the ghasts' presence: clawmarks across trees, and a lack of birds and wildlife in the area. The Ghasts beat everyone with their Stealth initiative, so I decided to have them strike after Valeros passed them. I placed their miniatures where each ghast could get a handle on a PC, and each attacked PC got sick from the Ghast's aura. (Seoni and Kyra contracted Ghast Fever, but I didn't bother resolving that, since the adventure didn't last that long).
Fumbus got the worst of it: being paralyzed, he couldn't even retch up to overcome the sickness! He just made some Lore checks that told him information about ghasts they were already demonstrating to him! Kyra unleashed a 3-action Heal, which worked perfectly given that she was in the center of the march. We checked the rules for auras, and were unsure if she could heal herself with an aura based on the wording on Page 299. I ruled that it did not, since there were some harmful auras that would needlessly hurt the caster if it included them in it. Seoni and Valeros worked on focusing fire on one ghast at a time, to lessen the sickness and chance of paralysis. When Valeros rushed in to fight his first ghoul, he had forgotten about the stench aura. Fortunately, the Fighter made the Fortitude save. On the second round, Valeros dealt exactly enough damage to kill off the ghast on Fumbus, then Sudden Charged to the one on Kyra and critically hit it! Once the last Ghast was dropped, the still-sick adventurers took a moment to retch the sickness out of them. Not a pleasant visual.
Given there was one encounter left and no PC had used a magic item yet in this adventure designed to test the Resonance rules, I asked the players to try and use some of the magic items. I explained to Kyra's player how to use "Treat Wounds" with Medicine, which she used to top off Seoni and Fumbus for their remaining damage. Unfortunately, that meant they didn't need their newly found healing potions. Still, Kyra retrieved her scroll of Heroism, ready to cast it on Valeros. Seoni retrieved her Scroll of Acid Arrow. Valeros leads the way with his Viper Arrow notched into his bow. Without a shield ready, he tries to Sneak into Ryolle's lair, obvious failing of course.
The PCs saw and were seen by the enchanted guards, but still tried to get the jump on them when they closed in. The Guard rolled a natural 1 for Perception, but Seoni rolled a 13 for Stealth, matching their Perception! We had a discussion on who was beating who here: did the guards reach the DC for Seoni's Stealth, or did Seoni meet the DC for the guard's Perception? We never had any problem before resolving a skill roll with Stealth and Perception, but for some reason rolling initiative with these skills (being opposed as they are) really threw us. Eventually, we realized that Initiative works different from skill checks: Initiative is ranked, whereas skills are compared to a Difficult Class. And since PCs lose ties to enemies, I had Seoni lose initiative to someone who rolled a natural one.
Not wanting to play Ryolle too dumb, I decided he would end his turn in the air, flying down to strike and then come back. When Fumbus finally got free, he threw two Alchemist's Fire Flasks at Ryolle. He missed both times, but still got him with the splash damage. As Ryolle was directly above them all, they asked me if the splash damage would rain down on them as well. I couldn't think of a precedence for how splash damage would work if it fell straight down. So I ruled that the splash would no longer be damage after it travelled 5 feet, landing as harmless cinders.
Ryolle got into "retreat mode" on his turn from Valeros' Attack of Opportunity, so he began to fly away. I made sure to make that point clear to the party, so they wouldn't wait on the ground with readied actions if it was clear he was bolting. Valeros dropped his melee weapon, jumped towards his bow, and took a shot with the Viper Arrow at the retreating Harpy. Even with a penalty, he managed to hit! But when we looked up at what Viper Arrow did, and how it wouldn't affect Ryolle at all, we were all underwhelmed. Fortunately, Seoni managed to finish the Harpy with a Lightning Bolt, even though he made his saving throw.
The ending was a happy one. Kyra was pleased that the Pathfinders decided to work with the Church of Iomedae, and that the minotaur tribe was willing to parley with the Pathfinders. And I think someone (maybe Mildora) returned Inisa to safety.
Thoughts: This has been my favourite module for the playtest so far. The skill DCs have been reasonable, and more importantly, the difficulty of the adventure was just average. My players were expecting another meatgrinder, and were surprised at how easy it was. For sure, they felt threatened at several parts, but unlike other modules, they weren't having their HP and spells being widdled away by tough encounter after tough encounter. It definitely felt like a more average RPG game, with more joking and roleplaying going on. Unfortunately, the lowered difficult meant that the PCs didn't need to use the magic items as much as they did in other adventures. The magic items were okay, but I honestly didn't need to reference the new rules, because each PC maybe used one magic item in the entire adventure.
Also, every PC seemed balanced against each other. It was a lot like "In Pale Mountain's Shadow", where the casters didn't feel brittle or the martials too limited. Casters generally ran out of their non-cantrips around the same time the martials ran out of HP. It may be the case that PF2 has its sweet spot around Level 4-7. In any case, every PC did well, and the players were satisfied with what they did in the adventure.
- Seoni had the most spotlight on her, but she was also the Charisma PC as well. She never needed to use Ancestral Surge, as there was always something else more important (like moving away from a foe she was in melee with).
- Kyra managed to keep everyone healed without exhausting her Channel Energy reserves; she never needed to cast Fire Ray once, since she was always in melee.
- Valeros dealt a surprising amount of damage and his AC helped him avoid a lot of hits, even without a shield raised.
- Fumbus' player was pleased that he could play the Alchemist like a Rogue, leading with his dogslicer and falling back on his Alchemy if he needed it.
Anathema: I like a lot of the Cleric, Druid, and Barbarian ones. But the Paladin ones... need work. They "feel" right for an abstract concept of a Paladin, but I felt that for a Paladin who works as an adventurer, it needs to be suited to the PF playstyle. First off, the term 'murder' needs to be differentiated from what a Paladin does with her big sharp sword, because I'm assuming that the average dungeoncrawl of slaying orcs and owlbears isn't going to make the Paladin fall. Second, the whole "ignore lower tenets in pursuit of higher tenets" is a good thing which makes the class more flexible, but it also makes the Paladin important in adventure design or choice. A LG Paladin could lie to avoid torturing someone or letting an innocent die, but couldn't if the party was trying to take a shortcut through the bad part of town.
It feels like the Paladin Code should either be ignored altogether by the group, or it should be made flexible enough to allow Paladins to play in an average adventure module, one not designed to provoke them, without falling.
Strength is a bit better when Bulk is being strictly checked. It becomes like Charisma and Resonance, in that it determines how many 'tools' you can have on you, and how much treasure your party can remove from dungeons.
INT could be improved by being more generous with languages (1 language per +1 to INT) and making Lore explicit in its usefulness. Take the Rogue's Battle Assessment class feat and make that possible for any Lore check. It also helps out WIS, but all the background Lores can come in as well ("Roll a Circus Lore check to determine the Killer Clown's weakness.")
But as I also said, having pregen characters that people choose from would have helped speed things along nicely as well.
This. I see the benefit of experiencing PF2 how it would be played naturally, with one PC levelling up through many different adventures. That would give a lot of good feedback for the 'feel' of the game. But having built a dozen different pre-gens for my players, I feel like I have a better understanding of the breadth of play, of how different classes and builds affect gameplay (The LG Paladin is a better 'bodyguard', standing next to their ally and waiting for enemies to come to them; while the Fighter is a better 'beachhead', moving into the fray to clear a path and hold a foe in place). Knowing how my Elf Monk or Half-Elf Paladin played over several levels would allow me give good emotional feedback, but a wide swath of PCs allows me to give a better empirical feedback.
I'm not sure how important it was to have people make their own PCs, however. I feel like one person in the office could have spent a week pumping out pre-gens: one for each class, with one version for each level of play. Their hard work could have made the playtest more accessible.
The party managed to reach Area K without encountering the Rocs. The PCs eventually found the abandoned treasure and I explained to them that they earned a Research Point. RAW, a "research point" only lasts a week, as I assume that the info becomes out-of-date over turn. However, this specific situation didn't seem right to put a week's timeline on it. You'd have to find the research one week before the attack, and based on how they died, the Rocs would have had to have killed them one week before, and the PCs find it between then and the attack. That seemed far too limited, so I ignored the time limits for this Research.
Travelling back to the Roc's area, the PCs plan to wait for the Rocs to leave in the morning, and wait for them in their aerie and attack them as they returned. They didn't rush into it. They spent a day searching for the aerie, rested in the Rope Trick, spent a day while the Rocs were out scouting the area for hiding places, retreat locations, and best way to climb to the aerie. This was supplemented by the Wizard's Locate spell. The PCs marked the general time the Rocs left and returned to their aerie.
The next day, the PCs used Fly and Air Walk to get up on the Aerie and waited for the Rocs. They were somewhat disappointed that the pair didn't have any young or eggs. As an extra precaution, the Wizard cast Rope Trick up there as a fall-back. I rolled to see if the Rocs returned near sunset, which might affect the PCs' ability to see the Rocs returning from the west (they returned before that). The Wizard, having held the same reaction for hours, unleashed his first 5th level Fireball.
I kept the Rocs coming (more motivated to protect their own home), and the Wizard kept unleashing Fireballs, using Arcane Drain to keep the best Fireballs coming. While he was doing that, the Cleric cast Air Walk on the Martials, and they moved forward to slow them down. Then the Cleric got her Flame Strike ready to hit the injured Roc, but the Fireball damage was so high, I had the injured Roc break-off to hide while its mate kept flying towards the PC. Not having a giant map of the area, I rolled to see if there was an area where the Roc could get total cover from the PCs in the aerie, and I got a positive response. The Roc they've been working over had escaped, and the other one was still coming!
The Cleric climbed up the Rope Trick, the Wizard cast Invisibility on himself and Feather-Falled to the ground, and the Martials went after the wounded Roc. In the heat of play, I played a lot looser with the Air Walk spell, allowing the Fighter to move directly down to reach the Roc, and the Rogue using Catfall to freefall the remaining distance needed to get into melee with it. The two of them finished off the Roc thanks to a successful attack of opportunity. Meanwhile, the healthy Roc tried to claw at the rope on the Rope Trick, but decided it wouldn't understand how Rope Trick worked, and would have it chase after the Martials. Using the fall-back plans they prepared for, the PCs disappeared into caves and hiding holes to avoid the seeking Roc.
The PCs eventually regrouped, but had to wait a few days to confirm they were successful. I rolled a d4 to see how many days the Roc would mourn before leaving this region. The Wizard sent a Sending spell to the Mayor of Korlabablin to let them know they were successful. They returned to the Gnomes to great applause. During the celebration, the Wizard and Rogue performed a re-telling of the great history of Ancient Osirion (although the Goblin added a bit more slapstick to the epic tales). The Fighter was sad that the gnomes weren't as enthusiastic about her tales of Magnimar.
To Be Continued
Level 10 Paladin vs. Level 4 Rogue?
Rogue: +4 Proficiency, +4 from DEX, Expert in Stealth (+1) = +9
Paladin: +10 Proficiency, +0 to +1 from DEX, untrained in Stealth (-4), Armour Check Penalty from +2 Full-Plate (-3) = +4.
I think you need a lvl 15 Paladin to beat a lvl 4 Rogue (assuming it obtains a +3 Full-Plate).
I've lost my favourite game, or at least, I've had the company stop making supplements for it, and the masses moving to the newer system. It's not a good feeling, but I've found my favourite RPGs once I got off the supplement treadmill, and my best ever campaign happened once the system stopped releasing new crunch material for players.
It's no fun not being one of the cool kids, but in a few years, something new will come along that will be your thing. PF2 has been that for me, and 2018 has been a nice surprise for me. :)
- Unburdened Dwarf Fighter (Two-Hand Weapon) Cavalier Archetype, Pathfinder Hopeful
- Razortooth Goblin Rogue (Finesse) Goblin Renegade
- Cave Elf Wizard (Universalist) Osirionologist
- Versatile Human Cleric of Shelyn, Esoteric Order Scion
After updating their PC to the then-current Rules Update (1.4), the players dove straight into the adventure. The set-up worked well: everyone knew everyone, Keleri, and the stakes. I was able to read the boxed text, answer PC questions about the logistics of the adventure, and we were off.
The spellcasters were very key to getting the group where they had to go quickly. The Wizard cross-referenced the rules for overland travel, and told everyone that his Phantom Steed spell, if cast for everyone, could get the party the most mileage. The Fighter was upset, since she had specifically chosen the Cavalier Archetype to have a steed to move her faster than her base speed could go. However, with the countdown for the adventure and being unsure if her mount's slower land speed would be the difference between victory and defeat, she left her steed at the base camp.
The Cleric had a combo she wanted to try: Cast "Augury" to ascertain if it would be 'weal' or 'woe' to ask a certain question with "Read Omens". Since Augury could only look 30 minutes in the future, and Read Omens takes 10 minutes to cast, I ruled that this could be done. She then proceeded to do this five times: Augury a question, then ask it to Read Omens. I secretly rolled for Augury, but only one of them was 'Nothing'. They showed an interest in finding the gnomes, and with some intelligent guesses, were able to ascertain exactly which hex they could be found in, starting with the assumption they were in the forest, and eventually narrowing it down to their home hex.
(If you're thinking I was too lenient on the spellcasters... you may be right. The Wizard had Quick Preparation, so not-preparing-the-right-spells-today wasn't a big issue. And I could have been deliberately unhelpful when answering Read Omens. But I did veto them on other things. I told the Wizard that Locate RAW can only go as far as 500 feet, which is useless in a hexmap unless you're right ontop of it. Also, the Cleric wanted to use Read Omens to discern things about the release of the Mu Spore, but I explained to her that it also RAW can't be used for events further than a week away. And before she went full Diviner, I told her she had to wait a day at camp to change her spells. A GM who wasn't as on their game as I was might have let the spellcasters be OP by just assuming a spell does something it doesn't actually do.)
Using Phantom Steeds, they left the next day party managed to reach the gnomes' hex in one day's travel, and spent the night in a Rope Trick protected by an Alarm spell. The next day, the Rogue found the village with a lucky Perception check. They were told the threat posed to the Gnomes, and agreed to stop the Rocs for them. Spending the day there, the Wizard sent a "Sending" spell back to camp to inform Kelevri how the mission was going, and where they would be going. (Before going to bed, he burned through some Locate spells to see if there were any random valuables or monsters in the village).
Because I hadn't mentioned anything about Random Encounters, the Cleric had prepared a suite of combat spells that morning (in case Saruman and Wormwood were oppressing the Hobbits), but planned to prepare another suite of Augury + Read Omens since (she reasoned) the party wouldn't get caught on the road. Using those divinations, they ascertained the Rocs were in the northern mountains, but not exactly which hex they were in. The party camped at the base of the mountain (Rope Tricking, of course), and used spells to find where the Roc Aerie would be. They rolled a Nature check to see if they could tame the Rocs, and I told them "Maybe."
At the start of the day, the spellcasters prepped spells they felt would work well against fliers: Feather Fall, Fireball, Flame Strike, Fly, and Air Walk. Reasoning that the Rocs would likely not be in their Aerie if the PCs were to go there, I had the Rocs spot the party (which was easy to do) and attack them as they neared their home. The Rocs won initiative and the pair swooped in and picked up the two casters off of their steeds, flying away with them.
The Wizard asked for a clarification about Feather Fall, if he could use it twice in a round. I explained that it used a Reaction, which meant that if both PCs were dropped at the same time, only one could be Feather-Falled, and the falling rules as written resolve a fall immediately (no round where you start your turn in free-fall). The two spellcasters reasoned that they needed to spread their escapes out between two rounds. The Cleric tried to escape from the Roc's clutches, failing the first time, and critically failing the second time. She then tried to grapple the Roc, reasoning that she could hold on to it if it let go of her, but I told her that RAW she couldn't grapple a creature that large, and the Roc would be a good enough flier to shake her off if it wanted to. I let her take back that action (since it wouldn't make sense) and when she asked me if she could cast Air Walk (which she just remembered she had), I let her take back the second escape check, since her first check failed so badly, it would be reasonable for her PC to have not tried again. The Rocs spent their next 3 actions flying higher, and then released the PCs. The Cleric walked on air, and the Wizard Feather-Falled down to the ground.
Meanwhile on the ground, the Fighter made a Recall Lore check with Nature to determine that the two Rocs were a mating pair, and that they might have young in their aerie. The Martials tried looking for it, but I told them it was A) Probably not close to them and B) Probably very high up from the ground. The Wizard (who I ruled would have landed near the Martials since the Rocs ascended straight up) moved up to them to cast Fly on them. The Air Walk spell was definitely helping the Cleric avoid falling damage, but per the 45 degree ascension/descension rule, I told her that she couldn't just "jump off" her spot to get away from the Rocs.
Me: "There's nothing actually there, but your feet are creating a consistent reality of a slope you and you alone can walk on."
Cleric: "What am I, a mime?"
The Cleric attempted to heal herself up, but the Rocs tag-teamed her and dropped her to 0 HP. And as amusing as it would have been to portray her unconscious body rolling down an imaginary slope, I ruled that being unconscious allowed her body to fall straight down, since she didn't have control over it. (Looking back, I probably could have let her rolled down the 45 degree slope while conscious, although her landing would have been messy and out of Feather Fall Range. Alternatively, the spell does say you *can* walk on air, not that you can't fall. The specificity of the angle of walking might allow a PC to fall, but that opens up another can of worms of tripping someone who is Air Walking.)
- The Wizard reasoned he could use long-range spells like Fireball and Acid Arrow to strike the Rocs before they can reach them.
Eventually, the Wizard convinced the party that beating the Rocs using his and the Cleric's long-range spells to take out one of the Rocs, with support from the Martials given flight to provide a barrier for the "artillery". He showed a number spread of expected damage from Fireballs and Flame Strikes, starting with a readied 5th level Fireball to hit the Rocs as soon as they enter range. Using Nature to ascertain a general range of expected HP, he was able to determine that the average roll of that many dice should kill one Roc, even if they non-critically succeed each save.
The Cleric asked them to give her a day to prepare some Divination spells to determine what was best to do. The next day, she asked about the best thing to do, including not fighting the Roc. As I was unsure that they could actually beat the Rocs with this plan, I hinted heavily that not facing the Rocs, and hinted strongly about magical treasure elsewhere in the mountains (Area K). The Cleric was able to convince the party to take a break from the Rocs, which no-one else was *that* eager to jump back into. I told them that attacking the Rocs wasn't time-sensitive (they wouldn't change their behaviours or gather allies to protect them), but the party may run into them if they stay in this area.
The party decided to travel through the mountains towards the mouth of the next river, and I secretly rolled if the Rocs would find them on their daily hunts.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
Honestly, I'm happy beyond measure that the "Monsters NPC aren't built from the same Lego bricks as PCs" direction took hold. Having just emerged from an adventure path finale where I spent 6 hours building i.a. 3 PF1 high-level classed enemies statblocks using HeroLab only to have one of them die in an instant (heal + Reach Spell vs. undead can be brutal) and the whole final fight taking LESS THAN THE TIME USED TO BUILD THE STATBLOCKS I'll sell my kidney for a system which will make coming up with high level opponents more time-effective.
Yeah, I'm definitely part of the "PCs and NPCs should have different rules" camp, but not out of any philosophical outlook of which one is "more right". I started out with 3ed D&D, and I had to soldier through a lot of wasted time with that system because it put aesthetics above results. My experience with other systems that did it the other way was much better.
If I could find a system that made "PC=NPC" work, I'd happily play it. I think too many designers of those kinds of game just give up on balance when they create PC/NPC equity, trusting in some 'invisible hand' to lead games like this to success. It also doesn't help that "PC=NPC" games are given patches like feats meant only for monsters to shore up weaknesses, which IMO violate the spirt of PC/NPC equity if they're only meant to be taken by monsters.