A dramatic shift in style of game: big damn heroes vs everyday joes


Prerelease Discussion


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4th ed often got derided for PCs effectively being superheroes because they had so much power behind them. 3.5e and earlier editions often got derided for being fantasy vietnam where a housecat can kill a wizard at level 1.

Pathfinder seemed to follow the style of game with players starting out as everyday joes (a.k.a fantasy vietnam) where characters start out with a small amount of hit points (wizards could start out with as few as 6 hit points or more likely a maximum of 8 hit points, 1 longsword attack away from falling unconscious) and slowly progress into more powerful heroes. 4th ed moved away from that style of play with significantly increased hit points (Con score vs con mod) at level 1, significantly more damage on a hit, +1/2 level on all skills (even untrained ones) meaning you got better at everything as you advanced in level and other more rules that made characters much more resilient both at low level and at higher levels becoming figures of myth and legend (whether it was becoming a demigod, becoming the fated ruler of a kingdom or becoming a thief who could steal fire from the gods themselves). Oh. And lest I forget, action points!

Pathfinder 2nd edition seems to be shifting away from everyday joes and moving strongly towards big damn heroes even at low level. Hit points per level are increased dramatically (40% for at least one likely scenario) and looks like they'll have higher hit points than 4th ed ever did. Magic weapons deal significantly more damage (+1d6 vs +1). Skills potentially advance even if you invest no "skill points" in them (this is speculation still at this point. But magic 8 ball says "signs point to yes"). High level martials are meant to be every bit as legendary as wizards with them being able to epic (or at least legendary) deeds. Oh and hero points seem to be filling some sort of semi-equivalent role for action points.

Now I'm not saying anything bad is about this. There are very real reasons for why every rule change I've described above has been introduced (well... except hero points. But they were optional in PF1 and I expect they'll be optional in the final core rules and they're being presented as core for the playtest in order to get as many people testing them as possible). I understand why they're making these changes. I agree some of the problems are very real and do need addressing.

But I was wondering if anyone else had observed this and how other Pathfinder fans felt about it (or if people think I'm way off point). I'm particularly interested in what die hard "3.5e or death" fans feel about it given a lot of Paizo's success was built upon those fans (I certainly game with and know a few of them).


But is the HP increase also applying to NPCs/Monsters?
If so, that isn't especially apropo to "bigdamnheroes" style.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Personally, I think that 5e fills the grittier Sword & Sorcery area so well that it would be a good move to have characters level into fantasy demigods in PF2. It helps differentiate it as a product.

Also, then I have a clear reason to choose one for some games, and the other for other games.


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Shadrayl of the Mountain wrote:

Personally, I think that 5e fills the grittier Sword & Sorcery area so well that it would be a good move to have characters level into fantasy demigods in PF2. It helps differentiate it as a product.

Also, then I have a clear reason to choose one for some games, and the other for other games.

It makes sense. But that playstyle was pretty clear and evident in 4th ed and Paizo very much differentiated itself from 4th ed by not catering to fans who were interested in that with Pathfinder 1st ed. To now veer off in a new direction: well it is a new direction. Hence the thread.

Quandary wrote:

But is the HP increase also applying to NPCs/Monsters?

If so, that isn't especially apropo to "bigdamnheroes" style.

4th ed's monsters had inflated HP and they were considered "big damn heroes"


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Shadrayl of the Mountain wrote:

Personally, I think that 5e fills the grittier Sword & Sorcery area so well that it would be a good move to have characters level into fantasy demigods in PF2. It helps differentiate it as a product.

Also, then I have a clear reason to choose one for some games, and the other for other games.

That is a bold move.

If PF1 is about arevage joe, they make PF2 about heroes and point to 5th Edt for those looking for more of PF1... that is one way to literally hand out your players on a plate to another company.


That's fine, I'm not saying across the board HP inflation is INCOMPATIBLE with "bigdamnheroes",
I'm just saying it isn't inherently correlative like you suggest, we can take Pathfinder as is and
double all HP sources and modifiers (incl. damage) and the net effect would be zero despite HP inflation.

Regardless, I would hope that low level play is compatible with "low magic" assumptions / E6 style.
Threat level can be handled by GM varying CR, environment, and/or amping up the tactics.


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In my experience, the "average Joe" Phase was very short AND the most annoying part of the game. So I am all for Fantasy-superheroes from the get-go.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Quandary wrote:

But is the HP increase also applying to NPCs/Monsters?

If so, that isn't especially apropo to "bigdamnheroes" style.
4th ed's monsters had inflated HP and they were considered "big damn heroes"

4e simultaneously got characters who were superheroes from level 1 because they couldn't be killed by a goblin in one swing of a rusty shortsword and characters who didn't feel heroic because they couldn't kill a goblin in one round trivially. At low level, at least. At high level the complaints tended to be that casters didn't feel like peers of Doctor Strange while martials got to play Beowulf or Cuchulainn, which was apparently also a bad thing.


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A few hit points more will help surviving one or two hits more, I think that's okay. It'll help the characters to explore a bit longer each day.


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Leyren wrote:
A few hit points more will help surviving one or two hits more, I think that's okay. It'll help the characters to explore a bit longer each day.

until they're out of Resonance and have to rest anyway


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

But resting is heroic, too.. that's how you get Grendel to show up.

...and Grendel's Mom...


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Grendel still has to take Lorraine out or Darth Vader from planet Vulcan will show up and melt his brain!

Okay, I admit I have a crush on Crispin Glover. Anyway... what was the topic again?


4e was deliberately designed around the "sweet spot" of 3e, meaning the levels are less differentiated in feel, but at least they all work. 3.x (including PF1) is really able to pull off a more dramatic "zero to hero to demigod" curve, at least for certain classes, at the expense that everything kind of becomes not entirely workeable as you go into the demigod zone. This might just be something of a fundamental tradeoff that you can't really design around, Im not sure.

Dark Archive

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I'm seeing a lot of rhetoric, but not a lot of substance. Slapping mediocre and prejudicial metaphors on various systems based on a couple of qualities is not really helping understand or critique the new system.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What is known for a fact is that they are attempting to limit magic item access via a method that is problematic. We don't know a lot else, because we're getting one 'touch' of the elephant and we're all blind.


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Shadrayl of the Mountain wrote:

Personally, I think that 5e fills the grittier Sword & Sorcery area so well that it would be a good move to have characters level into fantasy demigods in PF2. It helps differentiate it as a product.

Also, then I have a clear reason to choose one for some games, and the other for other games.

5e just isn't deadly enough to get that feel from me.

Savage Worlds on the other hand with the Beast and Barbarians setting book feels like a Conan movie, but they have the market pressure of a half filled super soaker.

So yeah Paizo could totally move in on the grittier stuff.


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Hit point inflation cancels out, really. 4e had minions, so the heroes still effortlessly one-shotted creatures like it was rocket tag. PF2 just wants to reduce the amount of one-shotting. You start out at at least “scrappy”.

It does sound like characters get more of a seasoned adventurer feel to them. I like that. Less of the Fighter having to shut up in social situations and sit in the bag of holding in stealth situations and find things to fight during downtime.


One joke me and my wife had while watching the last Hobbit movie. Near the end goblins approach. It was casually mentioned that there were about 100 of them and two of the dwarves would handle them while the rest of them go up the hill. I told my wife they must be Pathfinder characters. In 5e two dwarves of any level is going to have a hard time with 100 goblins, but in Pathfinder by level 10 that would be a breeze.


Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


But resting is heroic, too.. that's how you get Grendel to show up.

...and Grendel's Mom...

Grendel's Mom lives at the bottom of a lake and doesn't do house calls...

It'd be an interesting challenge for PF2, to see whether Beowulf can actually handle that adventure with Grendel and Mom without resorting to throwing spells and/or magic items around.


With all of these class feat thingies comming out maybe some of them can increase damage enough to deal with the hp inflation. Of course that would be another change for change sakes and also make those feats a requirement to you know having fun.


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I get the impression that old school fantasy vietnam is going away. Though we need to see a lot more before we can say for certain. Just what exactly will these class feats provide at level 1? How are monsters designed? Has HP been increased because everything gets 3 actions and a reaction a round now?

Really the reveal of PF2 info has been handled terribly in my opinion. The announcement was fine, the blogs are great, however, the podcasts are an extremely bad idea. Folks are only getting a glimpse of how things work. So now the forum goers have to fumble around in the dark and take shots from the hip. Its going to be a long spring and summer.


Malwing wrote:
One joke me and my wife had while watching the last Hobbit movie. Near the end goblins approach. It was casually mentioned that there were about 100 of them and two of the dwarves would handle them while the rest of them go up the hill. I told my wife they must be Pathfinder characters. In 5e two dwarves of any level is going to have a hard time with 100 goblins, but in Pathfinder by level 10 that would be a breeze.

Sword and Board, Defense Style, and Heavy Armor mastery.

They could probably handle that encounter by level 4 in 5e with a proper tactical funnel. Level 5 would give them an extra attack and all but assure victory. 21 AC and -3 all physical damage that does manage to hit them is hard to overcome.

5e is silly easy once you start pulling at the seems.


"big damn heroes vs everyday joes"

If you want to play an average joe, then you should play a Commoner. See how difficult everything is when you have negligible abilities. (The Adequate Commoner is a great guide on how to do that semi-successfully.)

Then play as an Adept or Expert or Warrior. You be surprised how much more you have to start with...and can do!

Finally, play as a PC class. You'll feel like a superhero.


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TBH, level 5-10 is called the "sweet spot" for a reason. Players by and large have the most fun at those levels, and GMs too because it's easier to plan around the PCs capabilities. It's easier to try to expand the feel of that range by default in the core rules for what most people prefer, and then let individual GMs houserule it to a grittier table standard, than to try to find a way to make everyone happy with the old "Vietnam - Good - Justice League" range.

Also a lot of what you are saying is just supposition anyway. We honestly don't know how long a player or monster can actually stay standing in combat at higher levels even if they have more hit points, because we don't know the damage output of higher level characters and enemies yet. One of the devs has come out and said that even with flatter skill ranges you can still have a 15-20 point difference in skill rating between a specialist and someone untrained, a far cry from 4e and 5e. We really have to wait and see.


I love the average joe stage of the game. (although not so much a fan of the "fantasy Vietnam" term... can we make light of wars there aren't living veterans of, maybe?) No, I don't want it to be the whole game. But I really like having that contrast of "here's where you started from". And as much as high levels are always a tad difficult for suspension of disbelief, starting out able to take on the whole fantasy Pallet Town equivalent with only a few scratches throws it right on the window.


The level system should accommodate both styles. Run a low level game if you want a deadly world, run a high level game if you want superheroes.

I'd rather people start their game at level 3 than have the design retool level 1 characters into action heroes.


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Ring_of_Gyges wrote:

The level system should accommodate both styles. Run a low level game if you want a deadly world, run a high level game if you want superheroes.

I'd rather people start their game at level 3 than have the design retool level 1 characters into action heroes.

If all the adventure paths started at 3rd, that would be a great idea.

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