Undead Painting

Mary Yamato's page

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. Organized Play Member. 894 posts. 9 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character. 1 alias.


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James Jacobs wrote:
SO yeah... my suggestion for folks like Mary who are frustrated with the lack of support for how to build NPCs and monsters is to please be patient and check out the Gamemastery Guide when it comes out. I'm hoping we'll have these monster/NPC rules up for free at some point before then, so keep an eye on the blog as well.

Lack of support for NPCs and monsters is a definite problem, but there is also a question of attitude and tone. Neither episode 1 nor episode 2 sold me in any way on the gameworld being a real place. This reaches its nadir in the encounter in #2 where, if the PCs inconveniently kill an NPC, the GM is told to have their identical twin brother show up so that nothing will change. But that's far from the only example. In #1 I find it incredible that the young Hellknight would not react to desecration of his parents' graves; in #2, the PCs are asked to intervene in a very private situation for no apparent reason, just because they are PCs; in #2, the ritual capabilities of the villain are shockingly out of proportion with anything PCs might expect to do at that level; and it goes on.

Maybe this will change over time. I'll check back in after a year and see. But reading the two Age of Ashes modules so far, they do not feel like they are set anywhere real or solid. The tone strongly pushes treating the NPCs as disposable (and interchangable!) props. Maybe this wasn't the intent, but it's what the material, and your commentary here, communicate to me.

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James Jacobs wrote:

That's 1st edition thinking. In 2nd edition, NPCs aren't the same as PCs. In this case, none of the Order figured the portals out—either because that was beyond their skill, not really of interest to them, or the like. One of the biggest attractions to me (and in time, I suspect, to any GM who writes an adventure) is this fact—that PCs can do things NPCs cannot.

I know that being in the dumps about the new edition is not much fun for everyone who's enthusiastic, so I will bow out of the discussion after this, but I just had to say...

Not everyone feels this way. Despite not enjoying the playtest, I had hopes that I would enjoy Second. But this thread plus reading the first two modules has destroyed all of my hopes. It's very heavily slanted to a highly cinematic, world-as-stage-set style in which I have no interest. The lack of coherent rules for what NPCs can do makes the kinds of games I like to run impossible.

My goal is to "have fun" too, but the fun for me is in the sense of the setting as a real thing, opposing the PCs (and sometimes the GM as well, that's part of the bargain). This gives us the joy of figuring stuff out, of finding plans that actually work--not because the GM decides by fiat that they work, but because we understand what's going on well enough to *see* that they work.

I am a GM who writes adventures; not for publication, but I've been writing adventures since the Blue Book (first release of D&D) sometime in the 1970's. It's just not a universal truth that all of us have been yearning to run a gameworld where the NPCs are basically props and their abilities change at whim to support storytelling.

I wish you the best of luck, but this is somewhere I just don't want to go. I'm really, really sad right now.

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James Jacobs wrote:

We use different cartographers for different Adventure Paths, and they all have their own artistic style. This does mean that now and then, a cartographer's style won't be one someone likes. All feedback is welcome, in any event; just keep it civil.

A really good thing: the map on p. 32 middle left column has brown doors and gray windows, so that you can immediately see which is which. Also, every map that is supposed to have doors appears to have them. (A small thing, but so annoying in play if it's missed!)

A not so good thing: There is no key to the map on the inside front cover (the elven city) which leaves it feeling pretty useless. I can't tell what the little boxes are supposed to mean, and anyway they are so tiny I can barely see them. In past modules the city maps have had marked locations, which I would much prefer. Also, the three main trees could be three separate maps--still on one page, but at a much bigger scale. The space between the trees doesn't convey much information and I would lose it in favor of a larger scale on the key areas.

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CorvusMask wrote:

My problem with automatic bonus progression was mostly that it actually broke the APs and bestiary monsters at high levels :p

RotR for example doesn't expect that everyone at level 17 has +5 resistance cloak +5 deflection and +6 to all stats <_<; Enemy dcs were too low for pcs to not automatically succeed and other shenanigans.

I agree, especially for the earlier APs; there has been substantial power creep over the life of the edition (just compare Bestiary 1 with Bestiary 6). But even in the later APs (I am running Azlant now) it is easy to get PCs whose numbers just don't work with the book DCs.

We made a custom automatic bonus progression, loosely based on the one in Iron Heroes, and I have been very happy with it. The one thing we did not include was weapon bonuses. My jury is still out on whether we'd add that in a revision. But we give modest amounts of deflection AC, natural AC, some stat bonuses, and save bonuses, spread out across the levels starting at around level 4. And correspondingly we remove rings of protection, stat backing items, etc. from the game. (I missed stat-backing ioun stones, and I regret it.)

My only beef is that Big Six items are a substantial fraction of all treasure in the AP modules, and coming up with substitutions on the fly makes my brain hurt. I resort to cash pretty often, which doesn't seem quite right, but it's easier. I also use a GMing shortcut where I generally do not give pre-generated NPCs the automatic progresson bonuses, but I do allow them to keep any bonus they got from stat backers, rings of protection, etc. even though I delete the items themselves (substituting something else, or cash). This works okay and saves a ton of effort.

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I have now run all of Tower of the Drowned Dead and have a few comments:

(1) DCs are, as Roysler noted, surprisingly low almost everywhere. The only hard non-combat rolls are the Symbols, where the DC is set by the system.

(2) It felt very sparse in play. Auberon is supposed to be a great necromancer but there are maybe a dozen undead in total. My player says it's an EXP issue. Groups which don't use EXP, like mine, may want to add a lot more critters. It plays very fast and doesn't feel like a full sized dungeon. I'd recommend doubling or tripling the creature count, using the multitude of empty rooms to contain them.

(3) My group walked all over it. They started at the recommended 13th level and did not level up, so they were still 13th at the end; also we play a spellcasting variant so that they only had 6th level spells, not 7th. I had the creatures clump up much more than the module indicates--I put all of the litanus, juju zombies, and the head torturer together, for example. I added more undead and another pelagic child. Didn't matter. The only things that did the PCs any damage were the nautiloids. Most of the enemies had a lot of trouble hitting the PCs (whose ACs ranged from 31 to 36, which I think is normal enough at 13th level) and they evaporated really fast. I had high hopes for Uluuthan, but that was the one place where the PCs got lucky--critical hit disintegrate. Disclaimer: I did not run the fight with Xochitl as I had already established that it was off on a mission when the PCs hit the tower.

This was a stark contrast with City in the Deeps, which was very hard, perhaps too hard for my group, throughout. (The immunity of deep merfolk to sneak attack really hurt our PCs, who rely on sneak attack quite a bit.)

My player chose a novel approach to Auberon, which was to force him to surrender and cart him off in chains--they had planned this in great detail, and for non-module reasons had a good place to stick him. But it says something about how unstressed they were that they could beat Auberon without using any of their big stuff. They simply delegated their wizard (who is some archetype that is good at dispel magic) to counterspell everything Auberon cast. Only failed once, which got the wizard feebleminded, but by then the fight was essentially over.

If I had it to do over again, I would pack stuff in there and try to make it feel like a challenge. More clockworks of all kinds, more undead, and one or two more serious henchmen like the torturer.

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I can't speak for 2nd Edition but I run the 1st Edition APs using just the AP and online resources plus exactly one book (the Monstrous Codex) that d20pfsrd does not cover. It is very, very rare for this to be a problem. The online version is better for errata, too.

My husband has a complete mirror of the SRD (using httrack's website copier) on his laptop, just in case of connection loss. My own approach is more focused on pulling stack blocks into my working notes when I prep the module, then running mainly from the working notes. (But of course I benefit from his SRD copy in a pinch!)

I will say, we do *own* almost all the books we use. But they are heavy and it is slow to find things in them; the SRD is what gets used.

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I pretty much wiped a party with the undead archers in Armag's Tomb. I don't know if it's too hard in general but it was too hard for our particular party--they were melee heavy and could not get at the archers in time.

#5 was, in our hands, both very easy and very boring. I strongly recommend NOT having a huge castle map with nothing in it. If there are only going to be a few fun encounters, just abstract the rest of the map. Also, the final fight of #5 was disappointing, because the King of Pitax wasn't powerful enough, did not have enough guards, and was crammed into a small space with little terrain to work with.

The King's technological mind-control doodad needs a better writeup.

Earlier encounters in #5 were also pretty much too easy across the board: I was doubling numbers for almost every fight.

This isn't a combat issue, but the end of #4 implies that #5 will contain a kingdom rules writeup of Pitax, and, well, it doesn't. (I am not sure it should--the kingdom rules do not work for adding a large kingdom to yours--but be sure not to promise if you can't deliver.)

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Underwater combat with swimming is super confusing. Either simplify it, or read up on it and get comfortable with the rules. You'll also want to think about how you're going to represent 3D combat on a 2D map board, if you use figures or tokens....

Module 1 will run much smoother if you read through it carefully and make notes on what happened, because if your players are like mine, they will treat it like a detective mystery and you'll need to be in command of your clues.

I am currently running #5 and we have had a ton of fun with this AP (though we changed it a lot). My warning for later is that #4 is MUCH harder than the others; look carefully at the encounters before running them!

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I doubt my group will be playing PF2, though of course we don't know what the final product will be like. But in the interests of balancing out my commentary, much of which has been negative (I did not enjoy the playtest) here are three bits of the playtest PF2 that I am likely to incorporate into my home games, which are a heavily houseruled PF1:

(1) Four kinds of magic, each with a governing skill. I *really* like this. It is flavorful, and allows different characters to be expert on their own kinds of magic without stepping on each others' toes. I need to sort out which PF1 classes use which kind of magic, and then I'm good to go with this one.

(2) Weapon runes that can be placed on a weapon. One of my continuing struggles as a PF1 GM is PCs who specialize in a strange weapon. Putting that exact strange weapon into treasure can really strain verisimilitude. Not doing so can be devastating to the PC's effectiveness. There's a huge pressure to just use longswords, it's safer...but this is sad. Being able to seize the Sahuagin King's trident and convert it into something the Tian PC can actually use is very appealing to me, though I haven't settled on the exact mechanics yet.

(3) Reduced skill list. I say I'll swipe it, but actually I pre-swiped it: the shortened skill list we use in the home games is strikingly similar (we even picked some of the same names, notably Culture). The game is more fun when a party can cover a reasonable fraction of the skills, and when skills are general enough that if you take it, you'll have ample chances to use it. Narrow skills, in our hands, frustrate the players--you take a skill because you hope it will flesh out your character, then it never comes up and that feels pointless. Or the GM ties herself in knots making it come up.

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I am definitely feeling dread, because in my opinion the APs are the best adventures on the market by FAR. I don't have time to do homebrew adventures all the time, and I rely heavily on APs. If the new system is something we don't want to play, at the very best I have to convert everything--and hope it *can* be converted with a bearable amount of work.

I am not the conversion guru my spouse is. (He once ran _Masks of Nyarlathotep_ in _Feng Shui_, which worked way better than you'd think.) I struggle to get the difficulty right, especially at the higher levels. I don't think PF1 and PF2 are likely to scale at all similarly and this will make conversion tough.

But that's the best case. It is easy to imagine scenarios in which there just aren't any more APs, or they aren't good anymore. We have picked over most of the published APs already (and run at least half of them) and within two years or so we'd be in a situation where there's just nothing reliably good on the market. Maybe some other company would step forward to fill the niche, but APs are a huge amount of work, and third-party APs have not really been a thing. Modules, yes, but my group likes long adventures, and our success with stringing together unrelated modules has been...mixed, at best.

My spouse isn't interested in playing less than weekly. I'm not able to homebrew an adventure every week. There's a real chance I just wouldn't be running anymore, and I'd miss it a lot.

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Ultrace wrote:

I would instead ask what are your examples of situations where it is highly detrimental that a person can wear only two rings, one pair of boots, a single necklace, and the like.

Speaking only for myself:

Around when my Council of Thieves party hit 12th level, the GM pointed out that the PCs were struggling badly with regard to AC and saves and I should fix things up.

Two hours later I was literally in tears. The characters had a few magic items that were personally meaningful to them, but this conflicted with the slots needed to get things to work out. I was shuffling items around among the six PCs, trying to hit the AC and save levels the GM had indicated were necessary for 12th level PCs, but I just couldn't do it without substantial losses to roleplaying. I needed combo items that were over the buy limit for where the PCs were, or slotless items (double cost, also often out of reach). I kept thinking that if I just gave Rose's belt to Chalico, and Chalico's amulet to Lily, and...and, and, it couldn't be done. I had enough gold for the needed bonuses,in theory, but not given the slot constraints. Or I could do it by abandoning stuff that was genuinely meaningful and replacing it all with boring stat-backers.

That, for me, was highly detrimental. Of course it is a collision between the Big Six and the slot system, and you could tackle it in many ways. I just want to say that for me the PF1 status quo has a very big downside at the higher levels.

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(1) The PCs picked up the clockwork spy and ended up building a player for its video crystal. They showed the recording to their townsfolk, who were fascinated. Later they found some crystals in various ruins and also showed those. This was so popular that they rebuilt a clockwork spy into a self-driving video camera. Now they film all of their adventures and show the films back in town.

Unfortunately, they got hit with an informational bombshell (the Mayor of Ancorato is someone racially vulnerable to aboleth magic!) and accidentally filmed the resulting Difficult Party Discussion. Now they need to invent film editing, or try to explain why they need to suppress that particular film....

I definitely did not know that one of the buildings needed in the revision of the Kingmaker building rules would be "movie theater."

(2) The AP plunks down the Mutation Engine in module 3 and then never refers to it again. The PCs wanted to take it home, but it's not easy to move and their kingdom budget was tight. Eventually the local sahuagin heard about it and sent a force to collect it, with a really big crab to do the heavy lifting. The PCs found the engine missing and tracked the crab (not too hard). Then, to my shock, they offered to BUY the engine from the sahuagin by researching how to make some of them four-armed. (So many, many bad puns about arming the enemy go in here.) They managed to intimidate the sahuagin into taking the deal.

This has been no end of trouble. The sahuagin they dealt with had to break with the local sahuagin king, who had wanted the engine himself, and that ended up in a three-way sahuagin war. The PCs did indeed research how to make four-armed sahuagin, and made some; now their populace is proposing all sorts of similar projects (cure the ulat-kini children, make people amphibious, cure the stryx child's flightlessness, remove the Mayor's racial vulnerability, etc, etc, etc) which are far beyond the kingdom's research budget. And meanwhile news of the engine is spreading among the sahuagin, who love mutants and would really like to have it for themselves, or failing that under their control.

(3) I was just setting up to have the riled-up sahuagin hit the ships connecting Ancorato with the mainland when the PCs proudly researched a part of the tech tree I had frankly forgotten about: dirigibles! So now they are going to do business by blimp, and sneer at the ghost ship that has been threatening their shipping, not to mention the sahuagin. The only trouble is, I read up on dirigibles and they are really vulnerable to wind, so there will probably be some unplanned side expeditions ahead....

It was a ton of work to get the kingdom rules right, including a Civilization-style tech tree system. But I'm really, really happy with the results. Having a campaign which actually allows the PCs to research and build cool stuff without breaking the game is so much fun. And I would never have guessed what they ended up building! Among other things, the colony town is a Tree City. The stryx love it. Visiters think the place has been taken over by evil plants (some Chelish spies were severely freaked out by this) and frankly I don't blame them.

We are 1.5 game years in, between modules 4 and 5, but I'm barely hinting at 5 at this point--I'd like to go another 6 game months at least. The player wants to see some real kingdom development.

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In our PF1 house rules we have a set of "birthright" spells which each caster class can cast without preparing them, the way PF1 clerics cast Cure spells. The cleric list includes Cure spells, Remove Curse, Dispel Magic, the Restoration line, Remove Disease and Neutralize Poison.

The reasoning behind this is that the cleric list has lots of flavorful situational spells, but if you have to prepare the list above all the time you'll never see them, and it's frustrating and boring. Or you become an item platform rather than a caster, carrying big sets of scrolls so that you can pull those abilities out when needed. I really dislike relying on items this way, plus it can wreck the game if they aren't available. (My GM ran Dragon's Demand as written, meaning you couldn't buy stuff for most of the game. A miserable place to be a cleric.)

Channeling and convert cast help some, enough that I will play a RAW PF1 cleric, but the house rules help a lot more.

I played a cleric in PF2 playtest episodes 2 and 3 and it was, for me personally, really painful. So few spells, so little channeling (he was a dwarf cleric), all the support spells single target.... The character was not entirely ineffective, but he was boring to play, indistinguishable from the other cleric, and in the end he failed at his core mission. Episode 3's TPK could have been averted if I had prepared heightened Restoration in all my top slots, but how to know?

It felt like a gigantic step backwards.

This probably gets better at high level. Everything appears to get better at high level. But I like low-level play and I would like it to work well too.

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In Pale Mountain, the water elemental stood back and used some kind of ranged attack on us. It looked like we'd have to retreat in disarray. But I was, frankly, really fed up with the scenario, and my dwarf cleric had Hold Breath as his general feat. So--

"I walk into the water."

"Make a Swim check."

"You misunderstand. I am a dwarf in medium armor. I sink to the bottom and walk along it."

"How will you get out again?"

"First things first."

So my dwarf went mano-a-mano on the water elemental, which promptly rolled rather poorly--perhaps it was bewildered. We asked the GM whether there were penalties for using a battleaxe underwater, but he couldn't find any, so we went with it. The rest of the PCs took out the earth elemental and Roark managed, barely, to deal with the water elemental. He did not have to use even a small fraction of the 108 rounds he can hold his breath!

It was far and away the best moment of the playtest, until we found out that in fact he should have been at minuses to hit and doing half damage, and of course would have died. But still, it was fun.

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The intersection between the divine spell list and the very limited spells per level per day. If you are going to to your job with regard to removing conditions like disease, poison and paralysis, you aren't going to prepare much of anything else, your spells will be useless most of the time, and you are just a lackluster fighter with some healing abilities. If you are not going to prepare these spells, we are right back to "your items are more important than you are" as you will need to stockpile items to cover the fact that you can't do your job.

And, in fact, you probably still can't do your job, because if you meet something that is dangerously poisonous or disease-causing you will not have enough spells to treat the party even once: you get a max of 3 spells to treat 4 characters, assuming you picked the right condition-treater and took nothing else. Or you can use higher-level slots and pray you don't need any of the higher-level condition-treaters.

I didn't enjoy the spell preparation guessing game for Clerics in PF1. But it has just gotten worse in PF2, to the point where I wouldn't play a Cleric without houserules. I think the divine spell list in both PF1 and PF2 works MUCH better for something other than Vancean magic.

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I agree that for some styles of campaign it is necessary and desirable to trim PF1's spell list down. I do this every campaign. It's not done to keep the PCs from succeeding, but to support the kind of game that everyone wants to play. (When I'm playing, I often nominate spells for the campaign ban-list.)

For example, we did an AP where the PCs were all flying all the time, and after a point, all teleporting all the time. The result was that the landscape and geography became meaningless. It felt really flat. For subsequent campaigns we gutted the movement magic and things were more colorful and fun.

I don't know that Rarity will be much help with this. I'd have to trust that the many, many PF authors all have roughly the same idea about what's dangerous in a campaign than I do. On past experience, this is unlikely. Rarity might be a rough guide to which spells need careful checking--or it might be quite useless. In any case it is unlikely I can use Rarity straight up. To start with, when I ban something I do *not* want to say that it's rare, I want to say that it's nonexistent. If it is rare and the PCs want it, they should eventually (in a high-level game particularly) be able to get it, and then we're back to Flatworld.

As a GM I am torn. Ease of NPC design is important to me. But having NPCs and PCs work on the same rules is critically important. And the player enjoyment of rich customization is important. I actually think these are not fully reconcilable: something will need to be compromised. If PF2 is going for ease of NPC design, I appreciate that, but I think it misses by too much on the other two and my group is unlikely to switch.

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We used the PF1 Settlement rules in Dragon's Demand. It was a miserable experience, because without level-appropriate gear (which could not be gotten in the town, and there was no way to leave the town) the PCs were too weak for the challenges they faced. Everything was one hair away from TPK all the time. Some players enjoy this, but I found it gruelling and fun-destroying. My cleric PC had to be healbot all the time, because with crappy armor and no healing potions or scrolls, that was the only viable role for her. It really drove home the extent to which published adventures assume level-appropriate equipment.

It also led to bad feelings among the players, particularly when we rescued an NPC who had the magic weapon we desperately needed, but it was totally contrary to roleplaying to take it from them.

My preferred solution to this would be less reliance on treasure. Alas, that is not exactly where PF2 seems to be going, though Treat Wounds does help.

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One problem with the linear/quadratic is that not all of us play 1-20 campaigns. I personally enjoy the game at lot at around levels 4-7 and then enjoy it less and less above that. If classes are designed so that they are not very fun to play until level 8, that really doesn't work for me. My spouse likes to play at 12-15; classes that are not very fun to play after 8 are not fun for him. The whole idea that you'll rapidly level a character from 1-20 is not really a good match for either of our preferences.

I'd let the martials do more flashy stuff, personally. I agree that if you rein the magicians in too much they no longer feel very magical. But I'd like a legendary feel for high-level martials as well, or there hardly seems much point to having them.

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Lore skills seem fairly useless in many cases. Take my dwarf cleric of Torag. He has Religion, because he's a priest and it's his business to know this stuff. He also has Torag Lore, but when will something ever come up that is Torag Lore but not Religion? So having Torag Lore gets him exactly the same roll Religion would already give him. When he gets to raise a skill and wants more knowledge, he will raise Religion, because it's around 20x more useful, and after that he'll never use Torag Lore again as it will be worse.

Of course the GM could say that the target number for Torag Lore is easier than for Religion, but the GM probably won't. This would be better handled with a bonus, so that the GM doesn't have to remember to do this.

The situation is better for Lore skills that overlap multiple knowledge skills, or that hit knowledge skills the character doesn't have; but the latter is weird, because usually the Lore you're given is squarely in your area of interest so you would naturally know the more general skill. Circus Lore, which is the best one I've seen so far, might be a counterexample; but of course it was still of no use to the PC who had it throughout the entire three adventures we played.

The circumstances that will let you use your Lore skill will generally be rare, so they should be (a) quite beneficial when they do come up, and (b) mechanically easy.

(Idea 1) Lore gives an automatic one proficiency level increase in any skill check involving that specific topic. So if you have Torag Lore and are Trained in Religion, and get to make a Religion check on a matter pertaining to Torag, you make it at Expert. If you are Expert, you make it at Master. This scales, avoiding the issue of having to use rare skill raises to raise something as overly circumstantial as Lore. It does nothing for a character who is Legendary in Religion, but I can live with that. The main problem, which is a general system problem, is that +1 is very small. But if gating is used the proficiency bump would be useful.

(Idea 2) Lore gives a flat +2 to the check. This is very simple, works for all levels of characters, and at least has a prayer of making a difference in play. It does go against the system's hatred of giving bonuses--but how afraid do we really need to be of someone critting his Torag Lore roll?

My group concluded that Lores are generally not even worth writing down, let alone raising. This proposal at least gives them a chance to do something on the (generally rare) occasion that they come into play.

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A problem I have with those treasure tables is that if you just pick interesting-sounding things, assuming that if they are given as choices they should be reasonable, you will be sorry. This is not beginner-friendly, and continues the unpleasant theme in many parts of the rules of having a lot of very poor options and a small number of decent ones.

This could be remedied by more reasonable tables, plus some advice: we had to figure out the hard way that almost every character should go for magic weapon, then magic armor, and only then start thinking about personalization.

As a way of getting rid of the Big Six, well, I would much prefer the one from Iron Heroes or the one from Unchained, where the bonuses are transferred to the character. We have been using a system of that type for several years now and I really like it. The PF2 system strikes me as being headed for "You need a magic weapon, magic armor, and skill-backers on your key skills" which is hardly an improvement.

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Dire Ursus wrote:

Yes you can spend two actions to basically turn one of your actions into a reaction that occurs on a trigger you decide on.

You could Ready in PF1 as well. My group uses it a lot. But we do not use it to simulate AoO, because it doesn't do that. AoO says "I'm going to hit you, and if you try to move past me, I will hit you AGAIN." Ready says "I will give up my normal chance to hit you now, in order to possibly hit you later when --" where the "when" is things like "--you are casting" or "--my buddy flanks you" or "--the mage takes down your Stoneskin."

"I will give up my normal chance to hit you now, in order to possibly hit you later when you are moving by me" doesn't make much sense. Hit him now! He might not move by you at all and then think how silly you'll feel. And there is no advantage to hitting him later in this case--if hitting him would have dropped him and saved your weak friend, hitting him now will do the same.

AoO works for this because it's *free*. Ready is not a substitute because it is far from free.

For me personally, AoO is a large part of the tactical interest in PF1. When is it worth risking AoO to get a better position? When should I deliberately provoke to allow someone else to move safely past? How can I get where I'm going without provoking? How do we get to the mage behind the fighters before he kills us all? In PF2 you need very constricted terrain to accomplish this; even a fighter/paladin heavy party isn't great at it due to the lack of Combat Reflexes.

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Edge93 wrote:

My 2 cents on this.

In PF1 Attacks of Opportunity ALMOST NEVER HAPPENED. Everyone knows what provokes, everyone knows that everyone has them, and barring things like Greater Trip that forced them I borderline NEVER saw someone use AoO.

There must be a lot of table variance here, because this is certainly not the case in our games. My husband in particular, our best tactician, says "I provoke" and "I cast Detect Combat Reflexes" (our standard line for "I provoke from someone who already used AoO and see if he has another one") pretty much every combat.

High-AC characters will deliberately provoke to draw out AoO and protect low-AC characters, spellcasters, and archers. Characters will provoke if they have an effective response (my swashbuckler did this CONSTANTLY). Characters will provoke because the flanking, spell area, or other benefit they can get is worth the risk. Characters will provoke because they need to get out of combat and take another action, and gambling on the AoO missing is their best chance. It happens a lot.

It was also a characterization point with several of my spellcasters: when I play casters they tend to be very non-martial, and would quarrel with the fighters about why they didn't carry a weapon, thus didn't provoke or flank!

I miss AoO terribly. Yes, a few PC types have it, though only once a turn and competing with their other reactions; but they are in the minority, and overall combat just feels so much less tactical. Need to flank? Run around and flank. Need to get on the casters? Run around and get on the casters. Unless you can totally plug a chokepoint you can't do anything about moving enemies.

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The PC/NPC hard distinction is the deal-breaker for me.

I have played with such rules many times and really dislike them. They make it much harder to make a mental model of the game world and how it works, because everything you might know about PCs is useless in reasoning about NPCs. They interfere with fluid PC/NPC transitions. They generally support a style of play I don't care for, where NPCs aren't people in the same way that PCs are.

Furthermore, in my experience while NPC-specific rules are often touted as a way to reduce complexity, having two sets of rules for very fundamental things like "how does a character die?" tends to lead to serious rules issues down the line, because now every darned thing you add to the system has to work with both sets of rules, and sooner or later something won't. We saw this in _Feng Shui_ where the simplified rules for minor opponents made them weirdly and inexplicably immune to certain abilities, because you simply couldn't apply those abilities to their simplified mechanics. I fear we are already seeing this with Enervate on NPCs vs. PCs, because Enervate is written to work on level-gated abilities and NPCs don't have those. There will be more.

And then the playtest rules compound this by demonstrating that PCs are in fact weirdly handicapped members of their races. With a certain amount of combat skill, an NPC simply gets to do multiple dice of damage with his weapon; an equivalent PC needs a magical crutch. An NPC gets combat manuvers that work all the time; an equivalent PC gets ones that often, if not usually, fail to work. NPC dwarves, I am willing to bet, are born dwarvish; PC dwarves need to painstakingly develop their racial abilities. You need only look at a goblin NPC vs. a first-level goblin PC to start thinking that adventuring is the last resort of the incompetent....

I would much rather do without magic weapons COMPLETELY than have ones only PCs need, while NPCs can succeed with their raw skill.

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We lost to the Greater Shadows in Sombrefell, and I have heard from people who lost to the final encounter. In my opinion the other Sombrefell encounters were more reasonable, and were more fun than the other scenarios we played. If you have limited playtest patience I'd recommend doing Sombrefell rather than any of the others.

But it's hard to generalize, because the system is very, very dicy. We lost to the Greater Shadows because they rolled well with their enfeeblement attack and got some critical successes against our channeling, and suddenly a fight that had looked okay was catastrophic. A group where they rolled more poorly, or we rolled better, might have had no trouble.

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A cleric now has to do something like: drop the shield or two-handed weapon, do a three-action channel, next turn pick the item up. I cannot imagine actually playing a character that did this routinely: dropping your weapon or shield in combat is a horrendous decision. Or the alternative: use your third action to stow the weapon or shield, then next turn three-action channel. Not much better: if you need three-action channel you probably need it NOW. So no shield and no two-handed weapons, or no three-action Channel.

Looking at my dwarf cleric, who now gets just one Channel anyway at 7th level, it's mainly whether you're going to build for three-action or rely on two-action. My fellow players felt strongly that two-action was the way to go, so probably keep the shield? Play like a fighter with the option of two-action Heal in combat? I guess so.

I don't think I'd play him again. I don't know how I could make a cleric I'd want to play in PF2. Melee builds conflict with a major class ability. Caster builds run into the really lackluster spell list. I guess you go with one-handed weapon and no shield, lots of charisma, try to put a few interesting spells in among the Heals, and play backup fighter when you run out of spells. Our house games run towards having many combats in one day, so the spells will soon be gone, but I guess a one-handed fighter with less strength and dex than the front lines might be okay. I dunno. It doesn't sound okay. Low con, maybe, and rely on healing yourself, in order to keep the strength and dex higher? Multi-class into a martial in order to get some combat abilities that might help?

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I don't believe the shadows critted all their saves. They made most, critted at least one, and we didn't roll well on damage, me especially. The enervate hurt also as it cost a die from that character's channels, or at least that's how we interpreted it (that ability is quite confusing).

They crit twice with the shadow-tugging, which if they really crit on 15+ is not that surprising. The GM's dice had been cold all scenario but this time they weren't, and it's just a very dicy set of abilities. Runs of high or low rolls are a fact of life.

Good point that enervate and enfeebled don't stack. I had not realized that. So the worst penalties would have been -4, not -5.

Too bad I guessed remove curse and freedom of movement instead of heightened restoration, but given that the Professor seemed to be under a curse.... I think that was the single worst thing for me. The combo of prep casting and so few spell slots *really* prioritizes guessing right; and all you can do in this one is guess, as you have to prep the spells with no information. (Our table is really hostile to use of metagame information.)

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It would be helpful if people who need to deviate from the rules said so clearly in their posts and questionnaires. If you only report how bad rules are when you can't fudge your way out of it, that leaves bad rules on the books as a hazard to other groups.

I really miss being able to ready spells. My PF1 group makes HUGE use of Ready and Delay actions (and so do the adversaries). Losing that pushes the balance still further towards "striking is better than casting."

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That's a fair description of what happened: one round after we noticed the zombies, the shadows came screaming over the second floor and down onto the main floor. The GM then rolled their initiative, and they both went first (separate rolls). This led to the two groups of PCs being on opposite sides of the giant marble pillar, and the two shadows being positioned so that they could not be hit by the same area-of-effect channel.

I think that getting close to the PCs is entirely reasonable for incorporeal foes who can walk through walls.

My character was hit for enfeebled 1, as was the other cleric. I then reasoned that our best chance (given two enfeebles and two enervates, putting us on the down side of things for combat) was to catch the shadows in multiple area channels, so I did strike-strike-move. Disrupt-move would have been a reasonable alternative but I don't think it would have made a difference. The cleric fought hers, and the other two characters mostly moved up as they had been offsides.

The shadows advanced. Mine hit the paladin and critically enfeebled him. The other one hit the other cleric and critically enfeebled her. So now the four PCs were, I believe, -1, -5, -5, -0 to hit. Both shadows stood through the area channels (it does have a save!) My character was out of channels. I believe the other characters had about one more apiece.

Probably we could have won the fight, but no one wanted to go into the last fight with those minuses. We did not see much way for characters with -5 to hit, -4 damage, -1 AC, -1 saves, and no top-level spells or abilities to contribute to that fight.

It's just crits. I was not following the mechanics enough to know if the shadows got crit-successes on their shadow-tugging or we got crit-fails, but one of those happened twice; and crit-successes on the channel saves.

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I ran a dwarf cleric at level 4 and level 7; base Cha=10, raised to 12 for 7th level. Not a fun character, at least in my hands. I never seemed to guess right about what spells I needed, and there were so few, anyway, that spellcasting was very unfulfilling. At 4th level I did manage to get good use out of Resist Energy. At 7th level I prepared the wrong spells and got no use out of anything except Heal. It turns out that if I had used all high level slots for heightened Restoration, we could have avoided the TPK; but how to know that? --But at least Channel was sometimes good.

I would not be willing to play this character now. No one told me the prime stat for clerics was actually Charisma. So at 4th he'd have had zero Channels, and at 7th he'd have had one. I guess that gets away from the idea that in a scenario (Sombrefell) specifically meant to show off clerics, the cleric might get to show off a bit....

Also his domain power is "I can throw a rock." It's a fairly hefty rock, but still. Three rocks a day, if I recall correctly. This does not really give much flavor or choice of tactics.

Tridus said: "Really, they need to decide what Channel's place is. If it's central to the class, we need to have enough usages to make it be that, especially with how many feats interact with it. If it's not and the lower number is staying, those feats need to be shifted towards something else because the sheer number of them that are devoted to something a Dwarf Cleric can't possibly use more than twice a day at level 4 is just not workable."

I totally agree. It was very frustrating even with the previous rules to discover how many class feats backed Channel, which already was a bad idea for my character. Now all of those feats are nearly useless--one channel a day!--leaving essentially "multiclass or go home."

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Yes, single-day scenarios and prepared casters are a frustrating combination. I'll say, though, that our GM gave us another day, but the clues we had drawn out did still did not enable me to pick the right spells. There was a zombie, but that was the only hint of undead, and we felt very confident about zombies. Otherwise all clues were Dominion of the Black, who are not typically undead. (We did not hear about vampires.) The information we got was frustratingly useless.

I don't ever want to play a prep caster with so few spells again. It was really painful. As it turns out, I should have put heightened Restoration in all high-level slots, and the scenario was a TPK because I did not. And ye gods, I missed being able to prepare other spells then convert to healing. That made prep clerics bearable for me in PF1.

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I was playing a dwarven cleric, no multiclass; the rest of the party were a goblin paladin (multi bard), a goblin Primal sorcerer (multi fighter), and a human cleric (not multi as far as I know).

The part of the game before the undead waves was surprisingly fun. We had some creepiness, some PC/PC and PC/NPC interactions ending in a fun confrontation with the Professor.

The wave with ghasts was quickly mopped up, though there was disappointment that blocking the door seemed to do nothing. The wave with vampire spawn was also quickly mopped up. They did not really feel like vampires.

The wave with wights and the poltergeist hurt us badly. We unwisely split into two groups to handle the two sets of wights coming in (the goblins went one way and the clerics went the other) rather than hanging back and letting them come to us. The goblin group then got hit by the poltergeist and the cleric group had difficulty helping them. My character, at move 20', appeared dysfunctionally slow--often having to take 2-3 Stride actions and therefore being unable to contribute usefully. We could not get the character with see invisible into position to use it. Two characters were enervated 1.

We were really enjoying the weak zombies in the next level, and then the greater shadows arrived. The GM complained that they had too many different abilities. We pressed him to use the most effective one (he had been showing signs of fudging in our favor both here and in Pale Mountain). So he had them attack and pull on shadows.

Every single character turned out to be able to channel. But the fact that it takes three actions to do area channel, meaning you can't move, forced my character to lose a turn (or spend his last channel on just one shadow). We finally did do an entire turn of all four characters channeling. The shadows made or crit-made all their saves and continued to fight. They rolled crits, and two characters ended up enfeebled 4, and mine enfeebled 1.

We called the game at this point. It seemed unlikely we could have won the fight, and if we did, there was no way to recover. I had not known to fill all my top slots with heightened restoration, the only spell that would have helped us at all. The prospect of doing a boss fight with -4 or -5 to hit and no top-level spells on the sorcerer and human cleric did not appeal to the players at all: it sounded like it would be a horrible slog of constantly missing, doing little damage, and probably dying.

I know this is a known problem but I'll re-iterate; most of this was just too hard. The GM fudged, I think, throughout the first section of the game because we would never have found the basement or any of the other clues. (He also put in an extra day to encourage more interaction.) The DCs were just out of reach for us. When the game worked best it was because the GM was frankly ignoring the mechanics.

The fights were a slog, even the easy ones. The effective strategy for my character was strike/strike/raise shield or, if forced, move/strike/strike. This was true for everyone except the sorcerer, whose effective strategy was to use a useless one-action magical effect, then strike/strike. (We could NOT figure out why he was casting something that doesn't affect undead at first! Turned out it was purely to get magical striker.) I got to throw my returning javelin at some zombies, a nice moment, but then having my weapon not in hand was horrible when the shadows suddenly appeared. (The GM said that they used a surprise round to approach, then rolled initiative normally, meaning they went before all of us. I wish we could do that!)

The paladin was reaction-starved and could seldom use his retributative strike; it looks like paladins should always use reach weapons. He was the most flavorful character, though.

I would never ever play a move 20' character again. With the scale of the rooms in this episode, it was incredibly frustrating. I kept wanting to do fun things like guarding the door, protecting the NPCs, responding to an attack on an ally--but it was always wrong because I was slow. And anyway, without AoO I couldn't really guard the door or protect anyone. The monsters would just jog around me and attack whoever they wanted. Clearly I should have multiclassed into fighter and used a reach weapon.

I felt like I didn't have enough spell slots, but in fact I never used the ones I had, except for two of the three heals (two 1st level, one 2nd level). I had not guessed right on what spells I would need (and really there was little way to do so given the scenario). The combination of very few slots and prepared casting was really unpleasant and increased the feeling that melee was the only thing my character could really do.

Channel was effective, but as a low-charisma cleric I only got four. I used one in the wight fight, two to heal the party after the wight fight, and one against the shadows. If only I had prepared heal in all my high level slots, we might have done better. But one of the great innovations of PF1 was that clerics didn't have to do that.... I really missed convert-cast, or even more, sorcerer-style casting (which our home games use for all casters, always).

Some of this is on me as a player. I didn't multi-class, which seems essential. I didn't guess the right spells. I didn't use the bless I had prepared, which might have helped. I used my own heal spells rather than items--I should have burned all resonance and used every charge I could get out of those items, leaving my spells intact. (It was not possible, as a shield using cleric, to effectively use my staff during combat.) Some of it was on the group. We split up too much--getting even 40' apart, out of channel range, was a horrible mistake. The right tactic is apparently to clump up and tag-team one monster at a time, so we should have parked in front of the NPCs and done that.

I was the player who pushed for doing Sombrefell, because it sounded the most fun of any playtest episode. It was, too, due to the out of combat part and the first couple waves of combat. But the combat became a grind, and then we were overwhelmed, despite the ridiculous number of channels: we could not deal with enervate and enfeebled adequately. A party built less specifically for waves of undead would have been even worse.

The group will not be doing any more playtest scenarios. I would be willing to do Undarin but no one else was. My spouse might have done Mirrored Moon but no one else would. The GM, a relative newbie, was pretty unhappy with the whole experience. In my opinion Pale Mountain should have been two TPKs, one to the manticore and one to the water elemental; I think the GM fudged a lot and was getting negative feedback from the group about it. We encouraged him to roll his dice on the table and that was a TPK.

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I just got done running this. I first wrote "I just got done writing this" and that's kind of how it felt....

I revised it so that Naqualia's main goal is to destabilize the city. I split the City Guard into three factions (streetside, dome/gate protection, external defense) and had an aboleth, apparently imprisoned by one faction, actually manipulating it. I had Rillkimatai drugged--passed off as illness and extreme old age--to keep him out of the way while the city descended into chaos, so that a "strong leader" under aboleth control could seize power. And I had Vallik as Myrrdin running a rival crime organization to Jurix's, as suggested above.

The PCs took the whole thing apart in 48 hours flat, but they were 48 interesting hours, anyway. Amusingly, no one ever found Vallik.

Some observations:

The author really knows how to build a vicious NPC. The deep merfolk are the strongest NPCs for their CR, by far, in the AP to date. The druid is particularly horrifying--eight really good attacks and a high AC, and lots of reach, and grab. The non-shapeshifted deep merfolk are immune to sneak attack and give everyone a 20% miss chance, which added up in the longer fights. The sahuagin are really good too, and the siyokoy/galvo encounter was scary. It's a very different standard from previous episodes, and the GM should be prepared for this.

Naqualia should use good cell discipline: multiple safe houses, and no one but her knows all the locations. Otherwise the first subordinate who gets captured will betray the whole plot. (It does not matter that they are fanatics; my PCs have detect thoughts and dominate person....) Also Naqualia supposedly has 40 deep merfolk but there is no room for them at the given safehouse and no sign they were ever there. I gave her three safehouses inside and one outside, which seemed more appropriate for 40 people. The PCs eventually busted all three of the inside ones, but did not bag Naqualia, who has had to leave town.

Be prepared for the "dead end" leads to be followed to the ends of the earth. PCs are like that.

A better way to frame the PCs is to use disguise self or hat of disguise to impersonate one of them while setting off the crimson current trap. Let yourself be seen, then dart off and turn into someone else. (My PCs stopped this in the nick of time, but they got somewhat lucky as well as good.)

Naqualia's minions could really use a bit more disguise magic, given that they are so ethnically unusual. But maybe the high stealth makes up--except for the doomsayers, who can hardly use stealth while doomsaying. Once the PCs let it be known that all these crimes were due to deep merfolk, things became tough for Naqualia's faction. (The city guard apparently has so many ninth level guards it can have multiple of them at every gate all the time, so they are a potentially serious threat to Naqualia's minions if allowed to gang up.)

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In our PF1 games we have been using what I think is the Arcanist system under discussion (we call it "Diamond Throne" as that's where we picked it up). You have a certain number of spells per level that you can prepare each day, and a certain number you can cast, chosen freely on the fly from among the ones you prepared. We allow you to keep a preparation slot open and take 10 minutes to prepare a spell in it if you choose (I basically never do this, but my spouse does).

We have a short list for each class of spells you always have access to without preparation (we call them "birthright spells"). This behaves like PF1 clerics' ability to use any slot to cast Cure. For clerics this short list contains the Cure spells and the major condition removers: Dispel Magic, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, Cure Disease. This in my opinion makes clerics a lot more fun to play, because you can prepare some interesting spells and not worry that this is causing you to fail as a healer in a crisis.

While it may not be essential to the success of this approach, we also limit the number of spells a character can choose among when preparing (8-10 spells a level, usually) to reduce choice paralysis and make characters more different from each other. Birthright spells don't count against this limit.

I would house rule this into PF2 like a shot if I were going to play PF2. My PF2 cleric is super boring because he has to prepare the stuff on that short list, which takes up essentially all his slots. Otherwise it's "Sorry guys, I'll be a healer tomorrow" which does not really work in many scenarios.

I don't know why convert casting was dropped. I liked it and thought it was a major positive aspect of PF1. I find myself really resenting having to prepare Heal.

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My husband plays sorcerers, but he plays them as if they were martials: he uses a one-action magical ability (all through Sombrefell he was using one that does not work on undead--we could not figure out why at first!) and then attacks with Magical Striker. It does not feel much like a caster.

My impression is that functionally all classes are the same: you should wear armor, carry and use a melee weapon, and have a backup missile weapon if you can afford it. Use your spells, if you have spells, to buff yourself or your allies, or for healing. Get a magic weapon and magic armor before anything else. In last weekend's game I frankly had trouble keeping the characters straight. We had two clerics, a paladin, and a primal sorcerer, but except for Channel it might almost have been four fighters. (Admittedly we were saving spells for the big boss, who we didn't reach by the session's end. But this is driven partly by having so few spells, I for one am afraid to use them.)

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A point to be aware of is that if a spell is powerful, making it rare makes it STRONGER. NPCs shouldn't generally prepare for something that they aren't familiar with. For example (not a PF2 example), if invisibility is common, people will have anti-invisibility measures--locked doors, bells, guard dogs, see invisible spells, etc. If it is very rare, they won't prepare for it and the invisibility caster will romp.

This is why games with fantasy spellcasters in the modern setting tend to turn into mage-romps. No one has countermeasures or even thinks of their primary tactics, so they're unopposed in everything.

Similarly, if spells that do damage type X are overpowered, making them rare means that no one will have Resist X, and they'll be even more overpowered. (This is how "sonic" behaves in PF1.)

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On page 324 there are rules for the Unconscious condition. They specify that you make a recovery roll each turn using the rules on p. 295. Unfortunately this points at dying rules which have been revised out from under it, and have no apparent conception of being Unconscious but not at 0 HP.

I can see several possible rulings:

(1) Since the current rules have no concept of unconscious but not at 0 HP, the character who fails this save drops to 0 HP. There are no more rules problems, but this is probably more lethal than intended.

(2) Recovery rolls are still appropriate despite the revision of the dying rules. One could use the version 1 recovery rolls. As those rules have been superseded, this is questionably correct, but it is fairly straightforward otherwise.

(3) As the current rules have no concept of unconscious but not at 0 HP, the character regains consciousness. When? Having them do so immediately seems at first to negate the ability, but since falling unconscious causes you to drop what you are holding and fall prone, there would still be consequences. Alternatively the character might regain consciousness on their next turn --beginning? end? The dying rules do not really cover regaining consciousness during your own turn, probably because they assume it is triggered by an ally healing you. I guess a strict reading is that you lose all your actions if you become conscious during your turn, and must wait for your next turn.

(4) Characters can be unconscious at more than 0 HP, and this behaves like being unconscious at 0 HP; there is no recovery roll, and the character recovers spontaneously after an indefinite time. I don't know what happens if the character is healed. Perhaps any HP healing would wake them. This is just a mess.

I would probably go with option (2) myself, but I make no claim that this is supported by the current rules: apparently the current rules are incoherent, as Unconscious has not been updated appropriately to match the new dying rules. (Or if it has, I haven't seen it.) Options (3) and (4) are simply an invitation to more and more rules disputes.

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It was certainly not the case in PF1 that you could hit a creature that was out of your reach, simply because it was hitting or grabbing you. That might be logical but the rules clearly stated otherwise. Creatures whose grabbing parts could be hit remotely called that out in their description.

PF2 appears to work exactly the same.

It's an unpleasant rule. The player's visualization--this thing has wrapped a tentacle around me, I and my friends should be able to beat on it--directly contradicts the rule. But this is also true for creatures with reach and natural attacks in general. The troll is BITING me, but even if I ready an attack, I can't hit it. Somehow it is biting me without its head ever being in my reach. Argh. And, as this thread points out, it creates ambiguities about whether you could separate the grabbed PC from the grabbing creature with e.g. a wall of force.

I can see three fixes: (1) Write a generalized rule for lopping off grabbing parts. Makes sense for tentacles, not so good for arms or jaws. (2) Have grab always draw you all the way up to the grabbing creatures. Has logic issues--what if that wouldn't be physically possible? We don't want to make a kraken attacking through a narrow passageway either become invulnerable, or squeeze you like toothpaste.... (3) Allow natural-attack reach creatures to be attacked on a readied action, and grabbers to be attacked always. Reduces the power of the critters, and makes reach with a weapon better than reach with your jaws, but it seems reasonably logical and simple.

I'd go with #3. On consideration I may add that as a house rule in PF1, if my players agree.

Collette's PCs are still toast though. I don't think this is a winnable fight.

Angry opinion statement: This is a PLAYTEST. It does not matter which characters are PCs or NPCs, or what would be the most fun; the idea of a playtest is to test the rules we are given. All of this stuff about how horrible it is that Collette won't fudge to make the game more fun is completely off course. Fudging a playtest, especially doing it over and over, totally destroys the value of the playtest.

What are we trying to accomplish here? Hide the fact that the rules don't work very well, so that we end up with final rules that don't work very well? That seems...stupid. Might as well have skipped the whole thing then.

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All game long my character had been advocating getting the clock and then deliberately ambushing the Night Heralds; but when it came time for this, there was no more player enthusiasm and we didn't do it.

Very frustrating that no one spoke Osirian or Gnoll, but even with the GM asking us to take these, we couldn't. I would have liked to talk to the windy guy.

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There are two main factors:

(1) Underwater combat. Avoid gunslingers, bow users, thrown weapon users, people specialized in a melee weapon that does non-piercing damage (you can overcome that at higher levels but there is a risk you'll have big problems for a level or two), and fire-oriented casters. If you run a monk, you'll need to take a style that makes his damage piercing, or use a piercing monk weapon. Also, invisibility reliant builds like some ninjas and arcane tricksters will have problems.

(2) Low chance to buy supplies. Avoid equipment heavy builds like those built around constantly using high-end wands or scrolls. Also avoid weapon users who specialize in obscure weapons: you won't likely find an appropriate magic weapon, and you probably can't buy one for a long time. (Item crafting feats could help here. It's a good AP for taking downtime.)

Urban characters will have relatively few chances to shine; wilderness-oriented ones will have more. But there are some moments for the urban guys.

The party of a fire sorcerer, a bow archer, a vanish-reliant ninja and a greatsword tank in heavy armor is probably about as bad as it gets.

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Dasrak wrote:

One of the big problems is the natural 1 rule. If four people are rolling, there's a 20% chance that one of them will roll a 1 and the party fails regardless of how easy the DC is. As a result, the DC's have to be incredibly low for the party as a whole to have even a 50/50 shot of having everyone beating them. For instance, a typical 5th level party would only have about a 50% chance of making a DC 8 stealth check. Group checks are that hard.

Something that GMs who like to play with large numbers of monsters, like my spouse, have found out the hard way. Eight harpies, for example, will absolutely wreck a PC party that makes its saves on a 5; each character has just a 17% chance to survive a round of that, and it's quite plausible for everyone to fail. (I had to write a simulation program to prove this point, but it's quite true.)

Multiple rolls all of which must succeed are counterintuitively difficult.

Our house games treat group Stealth as an Aid Another situation. The stealth leader rolls their stealth. Everyone else makes an Aid roll whose DC depends on the stealth leader's skill; if they fail, they subtract the number of PCs in the group, plus their personal armor penalty, from the leader's roll. It is a bit clunky but it allows a group to sneak successfully while still penalizing it for being huge or containing McClunky.

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(1) Three action economy, when it works (i.e. when you aren't mindlessly doing the same thing every turn)
(2) Weapon runes. I am sick of the situation where using an odd weapon means the GM has to throw instances of it into the treasure no matter how little sense that makes.
(3) Fewer, more focused abilities on monsters. Too many of the PF1 monsters are huge bags of weird abilities--particularly bad for outsiders.

(1) Intended success level for a focused specialist barely higher than 50%.
(2) Despite a stated desire to reduce the importance of magic items, they seem essential, especially magic weapons and armor.
(3) Number of spells per level so low that specialty spells are not worth considering; this is exacerbated by not having convert casting (i.e. clerics can convert to Cure, druids can convert to Summon) which our house games tend to expand via house rules. It's also exacerbated by shortened durations and reduced numbers of targets on the buffs. Need to buff a four person party? Can't. Oh well.

Doing these lists have made me appreciate that I would have trouble doubling the list of Likes but no trouble at ALL doubling the list of Dislikes. I am not happy playing PF2 as it stands. We have a playtest game this Sunday and I am kind of dreading it.

House rules:
(1) Pick a reasonable list of convert-cast spells for each caster class. Not just Heal, either.
(2) More lower-level spells per level.
(3) Move +dice of damage off of magic weapons and onto TEML.

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We did Jade Regent in PF1 with two people who were slow with arithmetic and dice-counting. Both of them ended up with characters with high numbers of attacks, and it caused big problems at the table. I would pick up a book or something and tune out after 10 minutes going by with no actions; then they would have to get my attention, I wouldn't know what was going on, and it caused player friction.

Eventually I said, either we do averaged damage or I quit. They chose the former, and we did character sheets for each character that simply said "This attack does 32 damage."

It was still slow, because of buffs; the attack really did 32+2+1+4 or something, and with 7 attacks that's still a problem for an arithmetically challenged player. But it helped.

PF2 maybe has fewer attacks, but if you make the weapon damage more than a couple of dice each, it's still problematic. Two successful attacks with 12 dice each is nearly as bad as 6 successful attacks with 2 dice each. (Not quite as bad, because of attack rolls and modifiers. One of our players found switching between figuring bonuses to attack and figuring bonuses to damage particularly tough; another player would routinely roll all attacks before rolling any damage, but this led to annoying backtracking when he'd drop one opponent and then encounter a different AC for the next.)

The thing that makes Fireball bearable to me is that (barring a short catastrophic period in 3.0) you are generally only casting one of them, and there is only the damage roll. A character that could do three Fireballs in a round, much less 7, would be unacceptably slow.

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The whole idea that you have to have a specific score in your "primary ability" to progress in a class or multiclass strikes me as a bad hangover from D&D 1st Edition. It's not needed, and creates misleading impressions.

This is particularly notable with Clerics, who really don't need Wisdom as much as the rules assume they do. Yes, it governs your spell save DCs, but it's reasonable to simply assume that the monsters will make all their saves anyway, and focus on healing and buffing spells. You might well be better off with Strength or Charisma or Dexterity. In fact I wish I'd gone that way with my current cleric.

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You have my sympathies. I played in two sessions of Pale Mountain, and several times saw the GM look at what the module said to do, or what the rulebook said to do--look, cringe, and move on. The quicksand was a notable example. He also declined to look for the underwater combat rules, which kept Pale Mountain from being a TPK.

We will try Sombrefell and then quit. I refuse to do Mirrored Moon, and the GM refuses to do Undarin (probably quite rightly).

There's a real conflict here: it's a playtest, but it's also the playtesters' introduction to the game, and if it is a miserable grind, that will tend to poison the playtester's enthusiasm. Since they are some of the keenest players around, and you want them to be spreading their enthusiasm to others, this is a big problem.

Can you say what proportion of your malaise is the unwinnable scenario, and what proportion is the excessive fiddliness of high level play?

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I have two big problems with TEML plus gating:

As a player of a character who is invested in specific skills, I want to have situations where what is hard for the other PCs is easy for me. Instead, either the task is nearly equally hard for everyone, or it is hard for me and impossible for everyone else. (In theory you could have easy gated challenges, but will we ever see any? They feel unnatural and I doubt module authors will put them in. It's hard to understand what a task is that is trivial for an expert but the merely trained can never do it at all.)

"Nearly equally hard" is an understatement, too: my cleric with Expert Religion is worse at it than the Trained wizard is, due to stats. Obviously ordinary skill rolls will never make her feel like an Expert.

I guess for Religion you model it as cult secrets the wizard isn't allowed to know. I don't see how that works for a lot of other skills, though. Why is he better than me, except for a small subset of tasks he can't do at all? (And if we ever see any Gated Religion tasks I bet they won't fit the "cult secrets" model anyway; it's not like my cleric of Torag is any more privy to cult secrets of Asmodeus than the wizard is.)

As a GM, I hate trying to assign the gates. I already have to assign difficulty and I don't know how to separate the two: this is merely difficult, whereas this is both difficult and only doable with Expert. (It's easier with Trained, but four levels are too many for me to be able to do it across the board.) I also feel a pressure to adapt to exactly which skills my PCs have at various levels, but this practice is disliked by our groups, and does not work for advantures written in advance of knowing the PCs.

I would be hugely in favor of rolling skill feats into TEML. This lets the player know what her Expert skill is worth. As it stands, she has no idea: it might only be worth +1, or it might be essential for hordes of rolls, or anything in between, depending on GM fiat.

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I'd recommend that your players answer "died" when their character fled; that seems to contaminate the data the least.

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We've been playing for several years with a homebrew approach to getting rid of cloak of resistance, amulet of natural armor, ring of protection, and the stat backers by instead having increases at particular levels. I love it. I'm not at all sure that increase at *every* level works for me, though.

The problem with adding cloak of resistance to magic armor is that now everyone has to wear armor or their saves lag behind expectations. I have heard of a lot of armored wizards, because armor seems almost essential. And no one in my group will play a monk.

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As a heads-up for anyone else prepping this, the city entry on p. 65 has Jurix as Rogue 7 but the module has her as Rogue 10; it has Guard Commander Talstran as Fighter 8 but in the module random gate guards are Fighter 9, suggesting Talstran should be at least that high. In general it looks as though it was copied from somewhere else and does not reflect the upleveling of the city due to the desire to set a 10-12 module there.

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I am having to rewrite the whole module. It is colorful and sounds interesting but when I start doing the detail work, nothing makes sense:

--hagworm races through the whole city without raising any alarms
--PCs are framed via bomb fragments for an explosion that happened outside the city while they were inside the city with scores of witnesses
--friendly NPC is kidnapped and sent to the Trident for no reason
--Vallik has no information of use to anyone as far as I can tell
--emergency happens in front of a 14th level cleric who does NOTHING about it
--cleric sends the PCs to get something critical to Talislantri's survival, then lets them keep it for themselves when they leave Talislantri
--Jurix becomes fixated on getting the PCs to do things for her for no apparent reason
--the things Jurix asks the PCs to do are things that would probably stop the adventure cold; given how much Talislantri dislikes surface dwellers, they will obviously be blamed and probably run out of town. Given that the players can see this, it's incredibly unlikely they will do any of Jurix' quests, even if the PCs are amoral or evil.
--the whole idea of doing sabotage to hide the fact that you're looking quietly for someone is deeply weird.

It would make much more sense if Naquaalia were tasked with disrupting Talislantri. She does an okay job of that. But who would want Talislantri disrupted? I am tired of NPCs that do nasty things just to be nasty; aboleth are supposed to be smarter than that.

I'm rewriting with a plot where Ochymua got one of the lesser aboleth "captured" by an element of the city guard, who are now being manipulated by it. They are poisoning Rillkimatai to make it seem that he's too ill to appear in public. The idea is to destabilize the city and having one of the aboleth's minions seize power "to restore order". This is a concrete plan with a clear goal I can work with, and makes (some of) Naquaalia's actions make sense. (They are not killing Rillkimatai because they want to hear his visions, but they can do that while he's drugged nearly senseless.)

I am attracted to the image of the aboleth imprisoned, painfully shackled (but it is a pain psychic and can work with that), apparently defeated, but actually running the show and working towards running the town. (I'd use Onthooth's stats for it.)

I don't know what Blood Lily Cay is good for here, other than giving a level and breaking up the underwater action. There's a whole thing about Dagon worship that never has any payoff. If Rillkimatai found out that enemies were going after the spear and asked the PCs to beat them to it, that might help a little--Naquaalia could send some more of her weirdly numerous and high-level minions. (The whole module suffers from world issues--people are the level they have to be in order to challenge the PCs, no matter how odd it seems. CR9 street thugs in a purportedly fairly safe city, yeesh.)

I wish I could put Ruinquake in here, but its CR is way too high, and if I drop the CR until the PCs can beat it, it's inexplicable that the NPCs (who are higher level than the PCs) cannot. (We won't ask how Wavewalker managed. Having Vallik==Wavewalker might help some with that.)

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This fight was the most fun I've had in the entire playtest; but, as it turns out, only because we failed to find or enforce a number of rules.

The characters knew about both elementals, but had no meaningful prep to do. The fighter jumped out onto the nearest rock and immediately got knocked into the water. The wizard started casting acid arrow--the persistent damage from this was a big factor. The ranger fired arrows and missed. At this point, the water elemental was hanging back and using its reach. We were pretty sure we couldn't beat it with ranged attacks. I was, I'll admit, feeling kind of fed up, so my dwarf cleric simply walked into the water.

"Make a Swim check--"

"I'm not swimming. I'm sinking like a rock."

We worked out correctly that walking along the bottom was made difficult terrain by the elemental's powers, and also worked out (correctly? I don't know) that its powers were meant to suck fleeing people toward it and did nothing useful to an enemy that wanted to approach anyway. We also worked out that Breath Control meant my cleric had about 100 actions worth of holding his breath. The elemental would probably kill him, but drowning would not!

So the dwarf cleric trudged up and beat on the elemental underwater. We had some argument about the size of a Large creature and whether it was sticking out above the water or not, but decided arbitrarily that the dwarf, in 15' water, could just manage to hit it with a non-reach weapon. (If it could have pulled itself up out of his reach, the dwarf was toast.)

The other PCs focused fire on the earth elemental and beat it. My character did strike/strike/raise shield and managed to hang on, though around here we found out that casting a Verbal spell uses up all of your remaining air, so he couldn't do that. Then the other PCs pitched in some damage, but it was the cleric who finally killed the thing.

That felt kind of good, though I had (and suppressed) a dark suspicion that there should have been huge penalties for using a warhammer underwater. I was right, or at least so the feat which lets you overcome them implies: probably half damage from bludgeoning or slashing, flatfooted, and minuses to hit. In other words, RAW this was a stupid and fatal thing to have done. (I still have not found these rules, except by mention in the feat that lets you overcome them. Maybe they are in the Bestiary.)

I would say that "can't be crit" is one of the more unpleasant powers a critter can have. It was in PF1 and it still is. I don't know if the water elemental was also immune to backstab as we didn't have a rogue, but that would make things even worse. It's not that the power is overwhelmingly strong, but it just makes the players feel frustrated and disappointment as a rare fun thing they were hoping for is now a non-event.

TL:DR I had a good time because I got very lucky with dice AND we had the rules wrong.

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