At the end of the day, everything is GM fiat.
Fighter wants to attack something with an axe. Rolls against the monster’s AC, a type of DC the player doesn’t know.
Player wants to look like every other villager in a crowd. Rolls Deception against a DC that the player doesn’t know.
Player wants to sneak into a base. Can be a heist against DCs they don’t know. Can be a simple exploration activity/skill challenge against DCs they don’t know. Can be a full blown stealth encounter that a GM worked the environment just right forward instead of a combat encounter where the GM worked the environment just right for a different purpose. In all three cases, player at some point ends up rolling Stealth against a DC they don’t know.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot of other TTRPGS besides D&D and PF2e. But at the end of the day these games all seem like they’re designed for you to build a character that has the skills you want to be good at, then go through an adventure adjudicated by a GM with DCs you don’t know about, but your build choices decide how good you are at something. You do have to ask a GM if you can attack something, because sometimes the DC is so high that it’s not worth rolling, or the creature is incorporeal and you don’t have a Ghost Touch weapon, or your attack is invalidated because of a levels of resistance, or many other ways that a player wanting to attack can have all of the numbers they put together invalidated.
And if you’re a player, you either play a board game or find a GM that will run a game you want to play, allowing for the scenes you want to run. Pathfinder 2e can run those scenes with the right setup or narrative reasons. This is a fact, even if you don’t like the methods involved. And it doesn’t sound like any version of Pathfinder or D&D will ever help.
Lightning Raven wrote:
As someone who usually feels very similarly to how Gaulin described feeling about alternative rule sets, this is the excuse that I needed to give ABP a try in the next campaign I run.
My 2 cents
Two part scene of Jack trying to get lost in a crowd and the get past the guards are both Deception (for Impersonate) but could also be handled by Stealth. In this case, it’s up to the player to decide how he wants to get by and the GM telling which skill that intention falls under and any bonuses that may apply to the situation, like any adjucation. Pathfinder 2e is not a pure stealth game so they give you the tools to do everything that a GM absolutely needs if they really want to run it it but it’s going to be up to the GM to decide what actions, rules, feats, etc. are valid for anything that they’re trying to run.
Going from guard to guard and taking someone out stealthily will always involve avoiding line of sight of other guards or using darkness for concealment, even in real life. And for the scene I’d probably run it as an action to
Basically, the tools are there if you really need it. As someone said, I’d a fireball just happened in the precious turn and then you run around a corner in order to Hide or Sneak, isn’t that everything you need to run that scene anyway?
Also, going from guard to guard to take them out, do you need to kill them? Are you trying to be an Assassin? If you’re a thief or a rogue you just need to sneak in and out. If removing the guards is important, bring a chemical like chloroform that you can use to quickly knock them out narratively with just one action (I wouldn’t even have a player roll for the knockout, as I agree with the thoughts before that most of the tension and focus should be on sneaking up to the guard successfully), then drag the guard someplace to hide them.
I’d ask for some middle ground between those that feel like shields are useless without Sturdy and the trade-offs Paizo designed into shields with their current stats and abilities.
My only contribution to the discussion is that the next time I get to make a shield block using character, I’ll probably attempt to buy non-sturdy shields at a tier behind my character’s level in order to make replacing them less of a sting.
Staffan Johansson wrote:
Isn’t the point still party coverage and giving individual members their own thing? Given the numbers we used before, if the person in the party who is the best at that skill is still only Expert at that skill and has a +2 item they would still have a 60% chance to succeed. It doesn’t sound like the game is assuming they’d be a Master yet, but if they are a Master they get a healthy boost to their success. At least that’s how it’s coming off to me.
And then the GM still has to consider if the challenge should be a Master level challenge anyway. Maybe I’m a bit wary after some of the PF2e vs. PF1e dicussions and how people felt about the math differences. In either case, whether the baseline is lower or higher, this is another case where I as a GM need to be more aware of what the numbers are balanced around in the system, or else follow all the apparent recommendations (in this case making sure items are obtained) and hoping the players aren’t spreading their skills too much.
Staffan Johansson wrote:
I see. But it makes me want to flip that on its head though. If a level 10 DC is balanced around being a Master at something, then why not use the easy or very easy DC adjustment if it’s something easy enough that a less proficient person has a decent shot at it?
Other than another argument I remember reading months ago, about how it always feels better to start from normal and scale up rather than start from hard and scale down, in regards to AP encounter difficulty and some other things.
I’m guessing this has been argued to death before? Seems like it’s a preference thing. The point of level based DCs at higher level is to be something that’s a challenge for someone that’s a Master or Legendary, not just Expert or Trained, and like a lot of things in Pathfinder 2e they expect you to scale it down if necessary instead of the other way around.
If it’s something you invest in, then you do get above the 55% chance. In the above case, if you’re level 10 and if you’re Expert in the skill and have a +2 skill item then you’ll go from 40% to 60%. If you’re a Master, then it jumps to 70%. If it’s 55% for someone Trained, then if you have the +2 skill item and are Master, your success chance jumps to 95%.
But a lot of the game seems designed to make it hard for a party to have coverage for things, in order to make those that invest in their skills to feel more rewarded in their decisions. When using Level Based DCs, it’s because someone is buying into the idea that tasks should be gated for those that are Experts and Masters, rather than someone just rolling with minimum investment and beating the Master.
Anyway, this post was mostly for me. Assuming this has been argued to death before, it was good for me to see the other perspective and to think out the math a little bit.
I did not even know this was a board feature.
Unless you're using the Automatic Bonus Progression or your players have a s+%$load of gold, or they spend money exclusively on weapons and never buy other items, swapping weapons is in general not worth it unless your current weapon is actively detrimental or broken. Martials, in my experience, basically don't have the option to use just whatever weapon in most games, they all largely end up locked in whatever they decide to use unless they spend downtime swapping runes around.
This is something I’ve always been thinking about contending. For example, around level 2 is the time for a +1 weapon, level 4 for a striking rune, and level 8 for a property rune that does damage.
Say a guy likes to use a sword. He’s level 6 or 7. Ends up against a skeleton that’s resistant to slashing and piercing, but just before the fight they found a +1 hammer. But this hammer doesn’t have striking and instead has an elemental rune. The damage is a little lower, but then you’re not dealing against a resistance anymore. And then what if the enemy in the next room is weak to that element?
Another thing is, once you get to level 8-10 and start getting those +1 striking element weapons, wouldn’t it be cheap to have a few extra level 4 items that are +1 striking specifically to deal with an enemy that happens to have a resistance to your main weapon, or a weakness to the off weapon, and at that point enemies will have weakness/resistance values of 10, which more than make up for the lack of elemental damage? And then you get to +2 weapons, which resets this for a while, but a now much cheaper +1 striking elemental off-weapon can still be good for specific fights?
And on top of that, a slightly weaker off weapon still gets to take advantage of class features that increase your damage like Sneak Attack or Precision Edge, and doesn’t that lower the damage loss somewhat?
This is exactly why I see it as a release valve. At the end of the day, it’s still the players having to do “GM may I,” as it’s up to the GM to decide if you can special order this type of item from this town or not. It’s still up to the GM to decide how he wants item economy to be, and if the GM messes up and gives too few items it’s another option to help quickly correct it.
This definitely looks like a release valve for players that don’t take crafting, but that along with the other options you and others have mentioned for creating downtime choices all end up being methods for seasoning to preferred taste. At least that’s what I’ve concluded since my last post. You have options for whether your player wants to invest in crafting or not, just as you have options for loot depending on whether players are willing to give other weapons a try with different runes or if they’ll always just want to stick with their single weapon until they can upgrade the runes on it.
Isn’t there a line in the GMG where they state that settlement levels in Golarion are generally capped around level 10 or 15? What about outleveling a settlement during an adventure that takes 2-4 levels? That right there would be a simple reason before any large GM fiat that players would need to craft over buy. Even something like Fall of Plaguestone chaffed at my players because the settlement level, and then in Age of Ashes where I’m a player myself at the end of Book 2, there’s been issues with Breachill’s settlement level for a few levels now.
But maybe I’m biased because I’m exactly the type of GM who would design adventures with players receiving recipes above settlement level often. If an adventure in a specific area lasts 2-4 levels, the settlement level would likely be set in the lower half of that range. It gives a sense of outgrowing the old town and the new town having new options more relevant to your current and near-future power level.
I can also see options for higher level Earn Income happening in a similar way, but it would definitely be for less used skills and Lore options.
PF2 at least for now has no way to get a discount when crafting outside of daily alchemical reagents.
It’s all on the same downtime-for-money formula, so it’s all a wash. You don’t go looking to craft unless you have a recipe to make it worth it.
(Now I’m thinking about what type of town or special situation might have a reason to mess with the Earn Income or Crafting formula, although mechanically that could also be represented as earning shopkeeper discounts or solving short in-town quests if flavor isn’t a concern).
Although, don’t forget the times when you’re in a place that doesn’t have any jobs at the item level you’re going to craft. Crafting your high level items for yourself then becomes better income than Earn Income. But then it’s still just semantics, flavor, and arbitrary adventure or GM restrictions made to try and obtain a certain feel during.
My read on crafting? It’s designed for making something from an (often uncommon or rare) formula that the town doesn’t offer in 4 days while paying full price. Not for discounts unless the party is taking a many month downtime between adventures.
What I meant is that a GM playing D&D 5E would be sharing D&D Beyond and any physical/digital books from WotC, and I think it's a similar cost to a GM playing PF2e sharing Roll20 compendiums and any physical/digital books from Paizo.
But I could be wrong on the pricing scheme of D&D Beyond. I don't deny that it's likely easier than sharing compendiums on Roll20.
Scroll down to the Tie-In Module: The Fall of Silverpine Watch. The encounter in question is B3 and is described in such a way to be done in Exploration mode. When I adapted it I turned it into an encounter with zombies surrounding a second NPC instead of just a snake and put it in Encounter mode to hammer in a stronger time dilemma.
To be fair, it's a 5E adventure, but it seemed easy enough to adapt. It's from a blog where the GM does complain a lot that D&D has a hard time with failure states (nothing inherently built into the mechanics) and talks a lot about ways to combat that (often building things into the narrative). Since it's for level 1 characters, the whole adventure is designed to give the players feedback whenever they do something that could have consequences, but not actually hurt the players unless they ignore multiple warnings. The merchant NPC is to be played with a disposition that alters depending on how the PCs treat her throughout the adventure, and even the boss can be skipped or turned away from encouraging the PCs to not fight it if they don't have the narrative information to better deal with him.
I have less TTRPG experience than most of this board so I may be misunderstanding this point, but I'm not sure lack of possible failure states in combat is specifically an issue of mechanic focused games?
I'm trying to overcome this right now, but certain books and DM blog sites have me more focused on creating combats that focus on a narrative question that doesn't bog down to "Can the Players kill/escape the opposition or die/get capture?"
One example is a rescue scenario. An NPC is up a tree and has zombies coming after them. The binary choice is whether you can kill/distract the zombies before the NPC is dead. You can also add more failure states where the more attacked the NPC is, the more or less likely they are to help the PCs afterward which ties into a social scene later.
Another example is defense. If you have a group of objects or people to defend and each object or person that's killed/destroyed or taken away can effect the story different. Which specific things are taken/destroyed can matter as well.
And then you can combine all of these together. One adventure I recently read was for teaching new players. One of the first encounters had the players escorting a merchant when a snake pops up and scares the horses. The merchant is bucked off the cart and is knocked out, the horses are freaking out and about to hurt themselves and anyone nearby in order to escape, and the snake is startled and ready to fight. And how you deal with all of these can have an effect the narrative, like whether you take the merchant's medicine kit without asking and whether you apologize about it later, or whether the players or the horses get bitten by the snake. And as its a single snake, the players aren't even asked by the module to kill it; they could just scare it away or command it to leave, but that also leaves open the opportunity to befriend the snake and make it a friend or pet.
There are other examples too, like reversing the defense scenario and trying to destroy some macguffins before they're all taken away, or taking a cue from video games and having your defense objective be a moving NPC trying to get you into a vault (adding a bit of a heist) that can eventually be hurt and killed forcing you to take the Plan B option while moving in or moving out.
And all of these can happen in Exploration or Combat mode, when I think about it.
Edit: The quoting kept messing up, so I simplified it.
Staffan Johansson wrote:
This is true, but aren't people paying for D&D Beyond paying twice for books in a similar way that someone playing Pathfinder 2e would be asked to pay for the books from Paizo and then the books from Roll20?
And you can share physical/pdf/Roll20 books.
I know most people might keep this in mind, but don’t forget that most combats last 3-4 rounds and it’s likely that the Magus starts combat being able to use Spellstrike, so the discussion should be on how they recharge, not on how the Spellstrike. And different focus spells could have different ways of getting that recharge, along with what other benefits you might get. Your first level might be literally picking your initial recharge focus spell gimmick and that defines your subclass now. And they could have it on top of Striking Spell thesis.
There’s no reason it’s definitely going to be either-or, and it would make sense that with a 4 round combat and a recharge mechanic that you could then Striking Spell twice a combat from level 1 and that’s already every other turn.
Is every other turn for a possible nova so bad?
Edit: Something like this would work too.
Hey, this argument also works well for bosses, who also need to be able to use up extra actions from players and not immediately fall over.
For me personally, I’m confused because I did not think there was an issue where you have a divine source of power that wasn’t from a deity as a sorcerer. My assumption of divine power for classes like sorcerer was that it was just power that was essentially innate and inherent to a being that had access, no explanation given as to why. If you can have innate spells due to your ancestry, you can have “innate” spells as part of your class, which is how I saw Sorcerer and Orcale. Outside of the class discussion, I assumed that if you’re a literal angel, your existence just gives you the ability to cast spells from the divine list, no deity required, but you can choose to serve one and gain benefits that way if you do choose.
For that reason, if I had tried to figure this out myself I probably would have gone down the route Gortle’s interpretation of Graystone’s position, that if your power is innate and not from a deity, then you don’t get to partake in any spells that require a deity in some way. Similar to if you have a neutral deity as a cleric and don’t get certain spell benefits. There are plenty other divine list spells you can take. Yes it’s a painful mechanical restriction, but from what I’ve seen it feels like Paizo with Pathfinder 2e chose to tie a lot of flavor to hard mechanics when it comes to Religion. They even had one of their first Lost Omens books be about Gods & Magic to help have players buy in to these mechanics. And even reading the CRB in 2019 left me with making an Arcane Sorcerer that went with a violently-forced-to-be-an-orphan backstory as an excuse to be Athiest and not touch any of the religion of Golarion with a 10-foot pole. (Since then, he has become Desna-curious).
What is divine power, exactly? I never purchased Gods & Magic, but do they give a holistic explanation of divine magic in Golarion and how it both came to be and how it works? How does one become a god and get the ability to give it to clerics? Can someone just be randomly be made or born divine and be their own source of power (like I assume for angels and devils in this setting)? Would their own alignment then affect their spells?
The problem is the balance against enemies of various levels.
If you make it 75% against an enemy’s weakest save that’s Party Level+2, then it’s around 90% against an enemy that Party Level+0, and 100% against an enemy that’s Party Level-2.
So Paizo made it that it’s closer to 50% for Party Level+2, since they’re a boss, and then around 65% against Party Level+0, since they’re your equals and it feels good to be hitting around that percentage of a time given enough rounds, and then you get to the 80% against Party Level -2.
And if the boss has a legitimate Terrible Save and not just a Moderate-to-Low save, then you will have that 60-70% hit chance on their lowest save. Otherwise, you need someone else to help debuff with Demoralize/Bon Mot/etc. to help increase your success chance to that level.
I am not sure I see the full value of concealment. Maybe we just had poor rolls but flat DC 5 to miss doesn't seem so good ?
I shouldn’t have used “line of sight”. Rather, the concealment acts as cover, as adding a 20% miss chance on top of any successful attack averages out to some amount of +AC.
Buffs are good. Haste and many other buffs last 10 rounds. Magic Weapon is probably the strongest spell in the game until around 3rd level. Blur and Mirror Image can help increase anybody’s survivability. At higher levels there’s both regular and Heightened versions of Jump, Invisibility, and Fly to help you and your party get around in and out of combat. I saved my party from a TPK once by just having enough casts of 2nd level Invisibility (admittedly, as a Sorcerer).
Debuffs are good. Fear and later Slow are spammable and become AoE once you get to higher levels. Slow is probably the strongest non-Incapacitation debuff in the game.
Depending on the encounter map, battlefield control is good. Darkness and Obscuring Mist are both ways to disrupt line of sight, Grease is excellent at first level, Illusions can cause distractions, and at higher levels you get Wall of Stone/Fire/Ice/etc.
Ray of Frost has excellent range and gives you an option in a pinch. Acid Arrow is the spell slot version of this. Eventually there are spells like Disintegrate. Dispel Magic also has 120 feet range which can matter in certain instances like disabling a trap from afar or an enemy buff.
Wizards feel like their niche is to have all the spell options, and the hard part is just understanding when to apply them in this system.
Narratively, if I wanted one last trap as a sort of Final Boss, then I’d either risk the single Complex Hazard (but make it a custom hazard and control for its damage and design a whole encounter around it, since it is a boss fight), or I’d have 2-4 Complex Hazards that would interact with each other (and maybe even someSimple Hazards) like a self-rewinding Rube Goldberg machine.
Otherwise, narratively, there’s no reason to have a final trap unless it’s interactive and takes multiple steps to disable.
Maybe I need more experience with Hazards, but my experience with them so far still matches up with the book. A Simple Hazard is way less threatening than a monster mostly because they’re one and done. You either have the hazard at party level or higher as part of an exploration mode challenge/puzzle and then the players Treat Wounds afterward, or you put the hazard in a combat and use ones that are below party level. Simple Hazards are designed to do 2-3 creatures worth of attacks and then automatically kill itself.
Then Complex Hazards can be an encounter, but there’s no reason then that you can’t A) have it be a Trivial Encounter, B) opt to have it threaten an NPC instead of the party, or C) treat it like just another monster in the enemy party as it’s essentially a monster that needs one good roll to disable since hazards essentially have 1 hit point when you can immediately attempt to disable them.
One of my favorite examples for Complex is Quicksand. How is Quicksand a threat without a larger encounter ongoing? You pull a player out and then dodge it for the rest of the encounter. There’s a threatening moment at first but it can be quickly managed unless the enemies use Shove or similar actions. And nothing stops you from using the hazard against the enemies. Quicksand comes off as a way to either create a dilemma for part of the encounter, or to give lower level creatures a combo opportunity that would just be baked into their normal actions at higher levels. And like Death Saves the party should always have an opportunity to come to the rescue.
Maybe it’s about expectations? Are Hazards death traps or are they ways to make combat encounters and exploration challenges more interesting?
Or maybe it’s because I’ve never used a Hazard that’s higher than party level yet. Too many creatures in the Bestiary I still want to try stuff with, so weaker Hazards are my way of spicing up an encounter when I don’t want to just add more enemies or a higher level enemy. Anything else is just a skill challenge in disguise.
I'd assume you'd lose the spell on a miss, or you'd lose the spell after a time limit if you miss more than once like in the playtest. It's probably meant more for using cantrips and using a spell slot just adds larger risk for larger potential reward, but needing to use a Hero Point or True Strike to hedge your bets. Hopefully Magus still gets to use martial proficiency and potency runes as well, which helps even when Intelligence is its key ability.
To make it more distinct from the Eldritch Archer, I can see it working with save spells as well. Possibly attack roll spells only need one d20 by the player, but a save spell still needs a d20 save from the enemy, however by default you may make the enemy have one level of success worse. Well, maybe that's too strong without being a high level feat.
Agreed with thenobledrake. I assumed that the simple hazards were so low in XP because you use them in an encounter with other creatures, like a pitfall trap that enemies push you into, or trip wire trap that triggers while you're chasing after an enemy (e.g. Plaguestone). You never do an encounter that's just a simple trap, and instead simple traps are meant to fill in the gaps of XP in an encounter's math and make it more interesting than just a Party Level -4 creature.
Complex traps can be their own encounter, and that's what's done with the infamous trap in Age of Ashes. Even then, the damage isn't what makes that so risky but the mechanics behind the damage. And even then, they give you the chance to retreat with just a double or triple move action (or maybe my GM changed something; haven't read the book myself).
Enchanter Tim wrote:
This is the best summary of the issues I’ve seen brought up in this thread over the past few days. And I agree, it would be cool if spell casters got some of these types of feats. The most we get are things designed to cast multiple spells in the same turn.
Thinking about some of those feats again, I can see spell level being a particular gating. But things that work like Bespell Weapon or the Magus’ slide casting, where you siphon off an extra effect after casting a spell, would still be awesome to bring more motion to spell caster turns while allowing them to cast every turn.
Of course, the primary argument I’ve had while reading this whole thread has been, why does a spellcaster need to cast every turn? This is particularly tuned to specific encounters, but what if there were more times where you needed to do some other action to win the encounter (disable a magic device, disrupt a ritual, prepare for a counter spell). A spellcaster that doesn’t cast every turn because they’ve used a single key buff or a sustainable spell the turn before, freeing up the rest of their action economy for the battle, still sounds excellent and reminiscent of a beast master.
This also reminds me of the playtest discussions with the Gunslinger and wanting ways to free up action economy wrt reloads.
Can you or someone else help me understand how this is different than Paizo’s model? You have the Core Rulebook, but if you want all the options for the core classes you still need the APG. And then the classes in both are likely to be expanded in Secrets of Magic and Guns and Gears later this year. There will likely be Wizard/Sorcerer/Druid/Cleric options across three books in this model, and we don’t know exactly how the martials will shake out. Likewise, Ancestry options for the core classes were expanded in Lost Omens: Players Guide while adding new ancestries, but then those new ancestries were expanded in a later book that included even more new ancestries, and those newer ancestries are likely to be expanded in an even later book.
I do think there is a decently large sub set of players that want a system for magic that just parallels the abilities of martial characters, with cantrips functionally much more similar weapon strikes, with all classes having slightly more powerful abilities that can only be used about once an encounter or day. There is already systems like that if you really want casters and...
I was too new to the genre when it first came out, but I wish there was a proper sequel to D&D 4e for this reason. I enjoy my Sorcerer but I never got to try playing a magic user in a system more equalized in terms of how abilities are obtained and used between martials and casters. I did play as a player in a campaign but it was practically everyone’s first RPG and it didn’t go as well as it could.
And after reading a bunch about D&D 4e while playing Pathfinder 2e for the past 1.25 years, I feel like I couldn’t go and try running D&D 4e for myself without homebrewing half the system to be more like Pathfinder 2e for every system outside of encounter mode. Especially with the lack of an officially supported character builder to help check the math.
This is something that’s been bothering me lately. Because:
1. This is under the section for Additional Knowledge
has made me think that you can try again and get new information if your very first attempt was a failure or critical failure (but maybe at a higher DC for the crit failure). That the rules for gaining more information only matter after you’ve gotten information.
Otherwise, I generally agree with the sentiment in this thread that it feels like a badly written rule, especially with Uncommon or Rare/Unique L+2 or higher creatures thrown into the mix. And that means houseruling, working more information into the narrative/adventure at points to create lower DCs, or having players feel like there isn’t enough incentive and ignoring the option, as others have mentioned.
I’m highlighting this part because it’s a “duh” moment for me. Unlike in D&D 4e, the enemies don’t scale in stats linearly (unlike the on-level DCs that scale at 1.33 per level until about 20). Part of that is because of proficiencies, magic items boosting skills, and the natural stat boosts at level 5+, but the on-level DCs already handle that. I remember hearing the reason given for how monster stats were decided and the fact that they were on several formula-defying tables was because “that’s just what works” to make the monsters challenging at different levels with interesting differences in stats. They gave a few stat guidelines for types of enemies like 4e did, but it was still very much “tweak it to what works, even if it means tweaking a bestiary monster,” and additionally there are a number of monsters in the bestiary that don’t follow the creation rules as an exception to prove the rule.
For this issue specifically, I treat it like a magic weapon or armor they might find. I give it to them while the item is of a higher level than the characters (1-2 levels, depending on the adventure), I give them incentives to use it with enemies that are weak to the item effect, and then if they really like it they can get the effect another way later (learning it for themselves later if it’s a spell, transferring it if it’s a rune, etc.). They may even upgrade the item directly.
A lot of spell effect items like the Demon Mask even give you a passive effect to encourage you to hold on to it until you find a way to upgrade it, and hopefully I can create a quest to have that happen that will again count as getting a higher level item for their level all over again.
Wait, I thought Dispel Magic allowed one to dispel a spell effect like Fly without you having to know Fly yourself. The only reason you'd want to identify a spell is because you'd want to specifically Counterspell it as a reaction rather than Dispel Magic its effects (if it had any lingering effects). Or maybe for Learning a Spell.
I don't understand how this isn't what the GMG does for PC-style NPC creation? They give you some default choices for making an NPC with a PC class at X-level, and then you can just adjust the stats or keep them one level lower.
A moderately statted NPC at X-level is similar to a player at X-level, but with less options than a player character to make them faster to run, right?
For a player's first session I literally gave them an NPC Sorcerer that was at the same level as the party, but without any feats except one custom one related to the NPC's story. All they had to worry about was moving, attacking, casting a spell, or using a free-action feat with a subset of spells.
I haven't played or GM'd PF1e so I don't know how much easier it was beforehand, but it seems pretty straightforward right now. I currently limit hirelings to a single level lower than the PCs, given how important level is.
Was there ever an official ruling on whether you needed the Magical Crafting feat or anything else not explicitly stated in the Transferring Runes section to transfer a rune?
As an admittedly new GM, and given my own reading of intentions, this seems to be purposeful. Either you make crafting important in your build (and you plan to get to Master and such to craft rarer items in the higher levels) and the GM responds in kind with recipes and such in your loot, or you’re traveling back to town a lot for a hireling or bringing one with you. And adventurers can always take the risk in reverse-engineering a rune formula, right? Assurance can help with this.
In my own campaign, I’m doing a combination. By making it somewhat difficult and painful to transfer runes, I get people to try other weapons (extra important for me with new players to get to try other parts of the system, and makes it easier to introduce creatures with different resistances and weaknesses), but in a few in-game days they can still reach someone who can help transfer runes for them. In the future if they don’t want to invest in doing it themselves they will have options to recruit the NPC if they wish. And if they go on a longer quest they may need to.
And I’d assume that any Magical Crafting NPC in a town would know the recipes for several if not all of the the common runes that are craftable by an Expert or Master. They could teach or give the recipes as part of a reward or for a cost, and if they’re in a recipe book then the recipes could technically be stolen or copied without their knowledge...
Encumbrance, formulas, activities, and other things are all looked at to me as ways to provide trade offs to player choices during and between adventures. And they’re part of what makes a town or city a valuable location.
But that’s just my interpretation, which looks to be the minority position around here.