I think the Kineticist *feels* really good. I look at the flavour of the class and the actions it can do, and it makes me happy. Paizo nailed that. But for every win in the flavour column, there's a failure in the mechanics department. My group is having second thoughts about playtesting the class because the mechanical problems are so glaring. It feels like the playtest package needs an update to get the obvious-problems out of the way, so that we can comment on the non-obvious ones.
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.
I, too, choose the elemental combos around the availability of finesse. One PC's combo is Earth/Water because of the blasts, and another Dual Gate PC (Air/Fire) is using the finesse from Orc Tusks to compensate in melee.
The Developers should think about what combinations of gates are rewarded by the system, and which ones are being taxed.
One reason our group is doing all-Kineticist is to see how all the different gates work. We'll have 1 Dedicated, 1 Universal, and 2 Dual Gates (Air/Fire & Earth/Water). We're also juggling some of the stat make-ups:
Looking at their general wishlists, it does feel like they'll be settling into certain roles. The STR Kineticist is taking the Sentinel archetype for medium armour, another will be specializing in healing impulses, and another is built around utility impulses instead of attacks. If I can make their INT / WIS / CHA different enough without wrecking their PCs, I might do that as well to see if Kineticists can be good at those things as well.
This won't look like a normal party (pretty much everyone wants to have access to flight!), so I hope to hear from other groups who are doing things differently.
That being said I'd likely throw in some other traps and non-creature hazards. I think it might also be instructive to place challenges that deliberately play to a kineticist's weaknesses, like fire immune enemies for a pyrokineticist, to see how well the class can work around those difficulties.
Good point on traps and hazards. I think the elemental utilities will make traditional traps easier to overcome (if they find them!).
We decided in our group that the players would run an all-Kineticist party, and that I would run a series of challenges tailored for them. One scenario would be an average dungeoncrawl with a lot of easy encounters, a scenario which involves roleplaying and investigation, and a straight-up severe encounter for stress-testing. I'm building the PCs with input from the players (one wants to be a healer, another wants to have a lot of utility tricks, etc.), as well as the encounters (no demons, angels, or dragons).
What are your plans for playtesting? Are you going to run a module or adventure for the players? Are you going to have a mixed party of other classes; and if so, will you look for synergetic classes? Are you going to include things like Victory Points and exploration roles?
Something can be 'depletable' and 'renewable'. Because Eidolons will have weaker ACs than other front-line/scouting classes, the Summoner will be the 'HP leak' of the party's ship, requiring more healing and defense than other classes.
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.
It definitely felt like "6 regional adventures tied together", but that's not a bad thing for the first AP of a new edition. I fully plan to remove 1 or 2 modules I don't like, and it shouldn't affect the progress of the AP much.
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.
I don't know if most APs really stop and think about their morality. It's usually 'the protagonists fight the antagonists' as is typical in D&D games, with all the justifications built into the world flavour why the PCs are good and the monsters are bad. I imagine that APs that sprung more out of a moral question would be significantly different than what we've had before: less pirate and horror themes, and more ethical dilemma themes.
I like a scope that is a series of ever-expanding bubbles: the PCs start in one small bubble, pop it, and discover themselves in a larger bubble. 1st level PCs don't have to swear to destroy the Nine Hells, but can swear to bring down the imp who has corrupted the gnome village, and it can eventually build.
I have no problem with them, but for some people, it's an insurmountable obstacle to get them to even try the game. Same with Dungeon Crawl Classics' zocchi dice. FWIW, I think non-RPGers would find any non-D6 die to be an odd object, whether it has numbers or symbols on it. We RPGers have sort of internalized that the Pythagorean solids are perfectly normal dice shapes.
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.
Why can't an intelligent bookish type want to maximise their damage and be a blaster? Why should they be forced into the sorcerer magic is in my blood trope rather than I have spent years dedicating and researching myself to doing damage. If anything wizard to me screams it should allow the nerd that wants to make the bigger nuke, or make their nuke more powerful. To use the IT guy comparison, many IT goes spend a lot of time learning how to optimise their system components and then overclock their machines to get more out of it than normal users. Wizards should be able to be that.
I don't think it's wrong to like that, but that kind of intelligence is an one-and-done process. You build your PC to do something away from the game, and hope your options will work at the table. Damage is a good universal solution for violent opposition, but it lacks the options that other spells afford. Casting Summon Construct at level 1 instead of Burning Hands gives you the choice of an Animated Broom or a Homonculus. Creating a flying spy with a poison sting, or a creature with hardness that can deny enemies actions, allows the Wizard to be more creative in how they solve a problem.
Meticulously planning their daily load is actually less studious than meticulously preparing what spells I am going to be able access for the rest of my adventuring career that spontaneous casters deal with. Sorcerers choices matter for longer than a day and need to be better, wizards can fix yesterday's mistakes today. That is far less of a risk requiring less meticulous study as it were.
I think we might be using different terms to describe the same thing. Yes, the Wizard can change things up more than Spontaneous Casters, but there's also the chance of making the wrong choices and hobbling themselves for a whole day (IE. Going to a banquet loaded up with social spells and being useless when bandits crash the party).
For me meticulously working out ways I can be better at some kind of magic than those who stumble on magic feels far more on theme for a wizard. Their studies should allow them to exceed what others can do with specialisation.
I mean, it depends on what you mean by 'better'. The ability to change their prepared spells during the day can be considered 'better' than anyone else. If the Wizard needs to be straight-up a better full spellcaster than the other full spellcasters, then those other spellcasters shouldn't be PC classes.
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.
The ShadowShackleton wrote:
I wonder how much having fewer but deadlier encounters is also an issue of space in the physical book. A severe encounter takes up as much space as a moderate encounter, but getting the party to the next level's worth of XP requires less encounter write-ups if they're all worth more XP.
That's a good change but if you Study Suspect as a free action you can't capitalize on a critical success and move unless you're giving the investigator extra actions?
Yeah, it's only going to be used to its maximum potential when it's able to attack its Case Subject when it starts its turn. As I understand it, you can use Studied Strike with ranged weapons, so the Investigator does not need to linger in melee reach of the Case Subject, waiting to crit their Study Suspect.
Watery Soup wrote:
I'd like the system to handle crafting in a satisfying way, but if push came to shove, I'd rather the game leaned towards finding and buying magic items than needing to make them yourself. I think if Crafting Magical Items was necessary or so good that it was practically necessary, it would change how the game is played.
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.
Like others, I'm not a fan of the Study Suspect mechanic for Investigators, and I've been thinking of a homebrew change for it. It keeps the need for Perception checks, and keeps the variability of the Study Suspect roll, but it assures that the Investigator always gets some form of damage bonus.
- Once a round, an Investigator can make a DC 22 Perception check against one target (not against the target's Will DC). The numbers below are based on the assumption that the Investigator's starting Perception bonus will be +7 (+2 to Wisdom, expert in Perception, +1 for level) and a 20th level Investigator can have a +30 (+20 for level, +8 for legendary, +2 for Wisdom). Using the four stages, the Investigator gets:
Critical Success: The Investigator can make 3 Studied Strikes this round, each at +4d6 damage.
I realize that it's very spikey, but that can be a good feature to differentiate the class from the Rogue. It also negates the need to state that the Investigator's damage goes up at certain levels, because the Perception bonus increase will push them up to those levels more naturally. At 1st level, the Investigator will most often 'fail' and still get decent DPR; by level 20, the Investigator will get critical success on anything but a 1. It's not perfect, but I thought I should throw it out there for people to see.
- 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.
Maybe Investigators shouldn't gain and lose Panache during combat, but like rolling Deception for Initiative, Investigators can enter their next combat with Panache (and not lose it) if they:
- Decipher Writing to discover something connected to your 'Take the Case' subject
Edit: Also Sense Motive.
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 assume the reason to go Braggart is to make the best use of the Demoralize action. The loss of damage from devoting point builds to CHA instead of STR is supposed to be made up from the penalty to checks and DCs. Another benefit is that it is safe: you don't have to be next to the target (like the Gymnast and Fencer) or risk taking falling damage if you fail (like the general panache maneuvers). And unlike Create a Diversion, you can keep spamming it w/o penalty.
My group just got a Braggart Swashbuckler, so I'll have more to say later.
I was the GM. Investigator had 12 INT, 16 WIS, 16 DEX.
And I was generous with the Investigator taking 11 minutes to switch it up when time wasn't a concern (which really wasn't an issue in the adventure so far). I didn't put a value on what constituted a 'real' case other than it fit the RAW. If a check might help 'solve' the case, I allowed it. I didn't want them to start asking me for what were 'the right skills' to use, because I felt that would result in me telling them what the mystery is.
- 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'.
- This class loves Hero Points. Using a Hero Point to re-roll a skill check to gain Panache, or using your Hero Points to avoid Dying after getting into a tight situation. I think that a GM running a game for a Swashbuckler needs to be generous giving out Hero Points, especially considering how often Swashbucklers do things that should trigger gaining them. I'd love to see the Swashbuckler have a Class Feature or Class Feat do something that interacts with Hero Points (maybe turning the cost for avoiding death to spending 1 Hero Point instead of all Hero Points).
- The Swashbuckler found an interesting way to trigger her Panache even on a failure. Using Athletics to leap across a narrow or slippery surface, landing on it triggers an Acrobatics check (as I understand the rules), which can trigger Panache on a success.
- Braggart and Fencer feels too similar before level 9. Gymnast is sufficiently different from the two in playstyle. A Swashbuckler build based around Thievery or Performance would feel more different.
- The Swashbuckler's player appreciated how durable the class is. She was surprised that the Battle Oracle had lower AC and HP than her. I approve of this, since the Swashbuckler is a very risky playstyle.
- The damage bonus from having Panache is slightly confusing. For a regular attack, deal +2 damage; for a Finisher, you deal +2d6 on a hit and (2d6/2) damage on a miss. The math feels fine, but also a little convoluted.
- It didn't come up too often, but I like the flavour of Shield Block on the Swashbuckler.