Will "one true builds" still exist in PF2?


Pathfinder Playtest


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As the title.

Dervish Dance Shocking Grasp Bladebound Kensai Magus. Half Orc Fate's Favored Sacred Tattoo Jingasa Warpriest. Flagbearer Banner of the Ancient Kings Longspear Bard. PFS1 was plagued with these "one true build" character options that served to ostracize and inhibit character options, so much so that there were literally no other ways that people would prefer to play those characters, and this perhaps even spread to other home table's.

This aspect held true not only for classes, but niches in combat. Archers, melee, spellcasters, almost always took the same feats because it was "the one true build" for that niche.

Can we expect this concept to go away in this edition, or do we think it's just going to manifest another way?


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There will always be a "best" way to do anything.


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The cream ultimately rises to the top. Unless Paizo manages to make every option perfectly viable against each other (and they won't, especially in a game this complex), there's always going to be a handful of "best builds" floating around. The best you can hope for is that the gulf between best and the rest is narrow enough that the rest aren't feeling hamstrung when played next to the best.


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just continue to shame those who succumb to the 'best build' desires, and you can minimize this behavior.


PFS sort of banned some of these prematurely didn't they? Like you can't play a trappings of the warrior haunt collector because that panoply is banned.

So even if something is an optimal build within a given set of circumstances, I don't know if "PFS infecting home games" is worth worrying about since there are some really neat things you can build in home games that just aren't allowed in PFS.

Liberty's Edge

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The most balanced game possible is rock-paper-scissors. Three options, all equally weighted with as much ability to win or lose.

But you can still win more than statistically possible.
Because people favour rock. They don't have to change their hand, meaning its the choice if they hesitate. And people instinctively favour rock as it's strong. Meanwhile, scissors is least common, requiring the most manual dexterity.
This means, you should start with paper. And you'll win more than the statistical 33% of plays.

If such a single game has a "best" choice, what chance does Pathfinder have? There will *always* be a best option.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

PFS sort of banned some of these prematurely didn't they? Like you can't play a trappings of the warrior haunt collector because that panoply is banned.

So even if something is an optimal build within a given set of circumstances, I don't know if "PFS infecting home games" is worth worrying about since there are some really neat things you can build in home games that just aren't allowed in PFS.

Banned or nerfed, yes. PFS also served for other options to be nerfed after the fact, meaning any "RAW is LAW" home games will suffer from PFS lashings.

As for it infecting home games, it's demonstrated to be possible. They largely plague PFS though, and if PFS2 is anything like PFS1, it will prove to be a problem there as well, which can spill over to other home games.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

As the title.

Dervish Dance Shocking Grasp Bladebound Kensai Magus. Half Orc Fate's Favored Sacred Tattoo Jingasa Warpriest. Flagbearer Banner of the Ancient Kings Longspear Bard. PFS1 was plagued with these "one true build" character options that served to ostracize and inhibit character options, so much so that there were literally no other ways that people would prefer to play those characters, and this perhaps even spread to other home table's.

This aspect held true not only for classes, but niches in combat. Archers, melee, spellcasters, almost always took the same feats because it was "the one true build" for that niche.

Can we expect this concept to go away in this edition, or do we think it's just going to manifest another way?

Sadly in any game based on math, there will always be a mathematically superior option.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Can we expect this concept to go away in this edition, or do we think it's just going to manifest another way?

Well I think that it will manifest one way or the other. I also think that this is not a real problem and never has been. Because there's never been any real need to go for those "one true build options" and as long as thta's the case, I'd rather have those options existing for those players that want to play "mathematically superior" characters than to have a system restricting options for sake of internal game balance.

And quite frankly, I truly hope that organized gameplay doesn't factor in too much in the designers' thought processes.


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I do hope there is a way to handle problematic builds like this. Sadly, Pathfinder is not an online game they can "patch" easily for this kind of thing. Paizo has already done it, but it's a messy "stealth" process that doens't get taken well.

There's no problem with there being superior builds, but it is important to note that once a super-optimized character has joined a party, heavy pressure is being put into every other party member to also ultra optimize or be left in the dust, inadequate for the challenges that now need to be put forth by the GM. Thus, super famous popular builds constrain creativity in chargen by being incompatible to play together with "lesser" builds.

The math seems a lot tighter on PF2, though! Best doesn't have to be "only worthwhile one" anymore. The issue is moot if there's many builds that can give it a run for it's money.


Ryan Freire wrote:
Sadly in any game based on math, there will always be a mathematically superior option.

No. Look upward at Jester David's post for rock-paper-scissors as a counterexample and the weaknesses of the counterexample.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition won't have a "one true build" more than Pathfinder 1st Edition does.

My players' casual builds outperform the optimized builds regularly because they use tools not considered in the standard optimizer's toolkit: intelligence gathering, preparation, diplomacy, allies, and teamwork. Neglecting some of the most powerful tools in the game leads to flawed optimizations.

In additions, the strength of a character's abilities depend on the opponents. In the Iron Gods AP, for example, many opponents are robots with hardness, which is like damage resistance. A character built for one attack with massive damage will fare better than a character built for many attacks with small damage. This atypical environment shifts the optimization equation.


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Mathmuse wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
Sadly in any game based on math, there will always be a mathematically superior option.

No. Look upward at Jester David's post for rock-paper-scissors as a counterexample and the weaknesses of the counterexample.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition won't have a "one true build" more than Pathfinder 1st Edition does.

My players' casual builds outperform the optimized builds regularly because they use tools not considered in the standard optimizer's toolkit: intelligence gathering, preparation, diplomacy, allies, and teamwork. Neglecting some of the most powerful tools in the game leads to flawed optimizations.

In additions, the strength of a character's abilities depend on the opponents. In the Iron Gods AP, for example, many opponents are robots with hardness, which is like damage resistance. A character built for one attack with massive damage will fare better than a character built for many attacks with small damage. This atypical environment shifts the optimization equation.

Except hardness is easily overcome with adamantite weaponry and an optimized build that also uses intelligence gathering, preparation, diplomacy, allies and teamwork will outperform the casual build who does the same. Intangibles can apply equally to any mechanical build.

The big reason single large attacks (two handed) outperform many attacks (TWF) is that full attacks in pf1 are a thing, their static damage bonus will always be higher than the twf and the many attacks give up more of their total damage potential when they cant full attack, as well as having a lower chance to hit. An optimized character will almost never be a TWF character unless they're a rogue.

Also the rock paper scissors counterexample just emphasizes my point, even in a game where ostensibly there are 3 equal options, statistics show that they aren't equal and that there's a choice that wins more than the 33% it should have.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

The problem for me is less "one-true-build" than 'only-reasonable-build' (for of course all kind of caveats over personal/table definitions of reasonable).

If a class feels 'weak' or niche, people try to find a way to make it stronger. They latch onto one-two strengths of the class and find every way to buff those strengths/use them to cover their weakness. Each iteration drives the concept closer and closer to 'one-true-build'.

Speaking of the Magus which I have more experience with trying to play off-true build. The forcing functions are a) you need higher dex at level 1 than you might want at higher levels (when medium/heavy armor come online) and b) the crit range mattering so much. If you changed either of those you'd open up more builds. (Ie if spellstrike spell damage didn't get multiplied a crit you wouldn't have all the scimitar focus builds). If you could start wtih medium/heavy armor and no arcane failure then you wouldn't see people feeling "forced" into dex builds to survive at low levels.

Ie almost everyone who I've talked too, when trying to make a magus for the first time wants to go STR/INT build. But after looking at their level 1 AC/HPs start to add some dex. Then they realize they'll never use the heavy armor and they'll stick with light/medium and swing more to dex. This then leads to the dex to damage desire. most of these people miss the 'one-true-build' but they've come very close to it, just because the game strongly encourages it.


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"one true builds" are for people more intersted in their characters mechanics than the character itself. So it makes me sad to see it everytime.


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Some builds will always be better. I just hope there are no builds that are /orders of magnitude/ better. I want almost every character to be playable, fun and good, and it's okay if most of them aren't "top tier" as long as they don't feel crippled.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

As the title.

Dervish Dance Shocking Grasp Bladebound Kensai Magus. Half Orc Fate's Favored Sacred Tattoo Jingasa Warpriest. Flagbearer Banner of the Ancient Kings Longspear Bard. PFS1 was plagued with these "one true build" character options that served to ostracize and inhibit character options, so much so that there were literally no other ways that people would prefer to play those characters, and this perhaps even spread to other home table's.

This aspect held true not only for classes, but niches in combat. Archers, melee, spellcasters, almost always took the same feats because it was "the one true build" for that niche.

Can we expect this concept to go away in this edition, or do we think it's just going to manifest another way?

This is a tabletop role-playing game, not an MMORPG. Nobody is going to kick you out of their group because you don't have X item or Y skill.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
Some builds will always be better. I just hope there are no builds that are /orders of magnitude/ better. I want almost every character to be playable, fun and good, and it's okay if most of them aren't "top tier" as long as they don't feel crippled.

Pathfinder CR guidelines don't assume much of any optimization from the PCs. Being "crippled" is always in relation to optimized characters.

Problem is that players will stumble upon their builds when trying to figure out their character and then an arms-race begins.

So yeah, I agree on being careful of overpowered options. People WILL find them.


Ryan Freire wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:

... My players' casual builds outperform the optimized builds regularly because they use tools not considered in the standard optimizer's toolkit: intelligence gathering, preparation, diplomacy, allies, and teamwork. Neglecting some of the most powerful tools in the game leads to flawed optimizations.

In additions, the strength of a character's abilities depend on the opponents. In the Iron Gods AP, for example, many opponents are robots with hardness, which is like damage resistance. A character built for one attack with massive damage will fare better than a character built for many attacks with small damage. This atypical environment shifts the optimization equation.

Except hardness is easily overcome with adamantite weaponry and an optimized build that also uses intelligence gathering, preparation, diplomacy, allies and teamwork will outperform the casual build who does the same. Intangibles can apply equally to any mechanical build.

The big reason single large attacks (two handed) outperform many attacks (TWF) is that full attacks in pf1 are a thing, their static damage bonus will always be higher than the twf and the many attacks give up more of their total damage potential when they cant full attack, as well as having a lower chance to hit. An optimized character will almost never be a TWF character unless they're a rogue.

Also the rock paper scissors counterexample just emphasizes my point, even in a game where ostensibly there are 3 equal options, statistics show that they aren't equal and that there's a choice that wins more than the 33% it should have.

For "many attacks with small damage" I was considering both archery and TWF. Archery builds are acknowledged as strong.

Are adamantine weapons part of the one true build? If not, the player varied from the one true build to adapt to the environment. How much variance is allowed before it becomes another build?

Teamwork is not an intangible. Intelligence gathering, diplomacy, and teamwork work better if the mechanical build favors them. Did the PC put ranks into Diplomacy? Do two PC's feats have synergy with each other or do they work at cross purposes? The magus in my campaign had to reject the skald's Inspired Rage song, since it blocked spellcasting. They worked together on compromises. The magus became a wand user because wand casting was not blocked by accepting the song. The skald learned Lingering Performance because a lingering song had only the numerical bonus and penalties, not rage powers nor the spellcasting restriction. As with the adamantine weapons, they adapted to the environment, but the environment in this case was the party.

For a more mechanical example, the one true gunslinger build is high DPR. In my Iron Gods campaign, my wife started with the gunslinger class to build a gadgeteer, dumping Dex to Damage for the Experimental Gunsmith archetype. That was defintely not the one true build, but guess what? A gadgeteer is very powerful in the Iron Gods setting, much more powerful than DPR.

As for the rock-paper-scissor example, that is not one build--Rock, Paper, or Scissors--being better than another. That is a better player taking advantage of another player's weak strategy. An even better player could design a strategy that exploits the strategy that exploits the rock-heavy strategy. I myself run a pseudorandom number generator in my head and make an unguessable stream of moves: Rock Rock Paper Scissors Paper Paper Rock Scissors Scissors. By game theory, that nullifies all strategies.


NielsenE wrote:

The problem for me is less "one-true-build" than 'only-reasonable-build' (for of course all kind of caveats over personal/table definitions of reasonable).

If a class feels 'weak' or niche, people try to find a way to make it stronger. They latch onto one-two strengths of the class and find every way to buff those strengths/use them to cover their weakness. Each iteration drives the concept closer and closer to 'one-true-build'....

This is a more widespread problem than the one true build. Weak builds do exist, and not just from inexperience. Some classes appear to allow certain concepts, such as a rogue who sneak attacks from the shadows, when the actual mechanics do not support the concept. Trap feats exist, too.

The best way to deal with this issue is by playtesting and then redesigning based on the playtest results.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

I suppose the question is will PF2 have builds at all. I see lots of options but as yet nothing to indicate selecting certain options together will create a significantly more powerful character in the way some PF1 options do. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing and I know one of the areas of the playtest I'm most interested in is how all these options work in letting you create and develop your character.


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Clustered shots kills the idea of "many small hits" and is part of the OTB of archery.


Ryan Freire wrote:
Clustered shots kills the idea of "many small hits" and is part of the OTB of archery.

Though robotic hardness acts like damage reduction, it is not damage reduction and Clustered Shots does not work against it. Fortunately, adamantine arrows and bullets do work against it. Weird settings mess with standard solutions, yet my players like weird and exotic settings for the challenge.

And the players encountered their first robot with hardness at 2nd level. Neither adamantine (besides one dagger) nor feats that require BAB +6 were available to them for four more levels. That would be long time for an archer to stick with the original build when it doesn't work against the most dangerous enemies.


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Rycke wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

As the title.

Dervish Dance Shocking Grasp Bladebound Kensai Magus. Half Orc Fate's Favored Sacred Tattoo Jingasa Warpriest. Flagbearer Banner of the Ancient Kings Longspear Bard. PFS1 was plagued with these "one true build" character options that served to ostracize and inhibit character options, so much so that there were literally no other ways that people would prefer to play those characters, and this perhaps even spread to other home table's.

This aspect held true not only for classes, but niches in combat. Archers, melee, spellcasters, almost always took the same feats because it was "the one true build" for that niche.

Can we expect this concept to go away in this edition, or do we think it's just going to manifest another way?

This is a tabletop role-playing game, not an MMORPG. Nobody is going to kick you out of their group because you don't have X item or Y skill.

This wasn't written with that in mind. I mentioned it primarily because I wouldn't want to play with Dervish Dance Magus #63846 or Flagbearer Bard #7354, because I already played with several other practically identical characters, and the reason we have that many identical characters is because of "One True Build-ism" being so prevalent in PFS, with it spilling into one of my home games, I might add!


Mathmuse wrote:
Ryan Freire wrote:
Clustered shots kills the idea of "many small hits" and is part of the OTB of archery.

Though robotic hardness acts like damage reduction, it is not damage reduction and Clustered Shots does not work against it. Fortunately, adamantine arrows and bullets do work against it. Weird settings mess with standard solutions, yet my players like weird and exotic settings for the challenge.

And the players encountered their first robot with hardness at 2nd level. Neither adamantine (besides one dagger) nor feats that require BAB +6 were available to them for four more levels. That would be long time for an archer to stick with the original build when it doesn't work against the most dangerous enemies.

Do you have an FAQ supporting that because nothing about clustered shots required DR to exist for the totals to be added. The condition is making a full attack. The timing is "before applying DR" Now hardness might be applied before DR somewhere, but the rules seem to indicate that it applies after other modifiers (half energy damage first, etc)

Shadow Lodge

5e managed to get rid of the "one true build" concept. There's lots of ways to approach the same concept to achieve what you want that's roughly viable in multiple forms. But the limited numbers are also an issue for some people.

Needless to say, it's not impossible to do.

I'm hoping Paizo has found their own way to achieve this, while opening up chargen customization. A challenging task, to be sure.


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I feel like one thing that is going to prevent "cookie cutter" builds is that you will probably have enough skill and ancestry feats that you have to take ones that are inapplicable to combat (or "encounter mode"). So while perhaps there will be a standard "best practices archery" suite, you will end up with one archer who is an established herbalist, one archer who is a crafter, one archer who is a healer, one who is a jack of many trades, one who dabbles in alchemy, etc.

In PF1 you wouldn't take feats inapplicable to archery (for a while at least) because they come at the expense of "feats that make you better at archery" but now you basically have to.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
bookrat wrote:

5e managed to get rid of the "one true build" concept. There's lots of ways to approach the same concept to achieve what you want that's roughly viable in multiple forms. But the limited numbers are also an issue for some people.

Needless to say, it's not impossible to do.

I'm hoping Paizo has found their own way to achieve this, while opening up chargen customization. A challenging task, to be sure.

And yet there's still people who claim "one true builds" are there. They're exactly as necessary as in PF1 - i.e., not at all. 5e just doesn't have such extreme swings between best and worst.


Plagued is a rather strong word. Some builds were stronger than others that inevitable im afraid.

In my mind OTB are more or less theorhetical peaks that dont necessarily reflect real gameplay or match all concepts.

Rather id like for them to minimize underperforming or straight up detrimental options.


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Mass Kneebreaker wrote:
"one true builds" are for people more intersted in their characters mechanics than the character itself. So it makes me sad to see it everytime.

Mechanics and roleplay aren't mutually exclusive. people with optimal builds can play well while those that are mechanically lax can be bad roleplayers...


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bookrat wrote:
5e managed to get rid of the "one true build" concept.

By having very little customisation (both in ways to modify a class but also in products that have been released)?


Jester David wrote:

The most balanced game possible is rock-paper-scissors. Three options, all equally weighted with as much ability to win or lose.

But you can still win more than statistically possible.
Because people favour rock. They don't have to change their hand, meaning its the choice if they hesitate. And people instinctively favour rock as it's strong. Meanwhile, scissors is least common, requiring the most manual dexterity.
This means, you should start with paper. And you'll win more than the statistical 33% of plays.

If such a single game has a "best" choice, what chance does Pathfinder have? There will *always* be a best option.

Thanks for that life hack. You made my day, and we tend to bet for who is going to pay the next beer with Rock Paper Scissors. So now, I am prepared.

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