Attacks and Defences


Prerelease Discussion


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A lot of games works on a system of attacks and defences, and Pathfinder isn't really any different.

On a magic side, the defences are the three saves: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. Most magical attacks goes up against one of these saves. Having three defences like this is useful because it means a character can be really good in one or even two saves and still have a weakness the attacker can attack.

Physical is a bit… different. In Pathfinder 1, there's three defences on the physical side, kinda: AC, flatfooted AC, and touch AC. Or to put it another way, you have your base AC, movement-derived AC, and armour AC. Flatfooted is your base + armour, touch is base + movement, and your normal AC has all three.

Generally, if a character has high AC, it's either on the armour side or the movement side. Being able to negate one of these creates a weakness for the character.

…Except that's generally not very easy. Not to mention, there's another issue in the attacks.

The difference in physical attacks isn't based on flatfooted AC or touch AC for the most part, but more focused on fewer stronger attacks vs more weaker attacks. In theory, the fewer stronger attacks would work better against higher AC targets and the many weaker attackers better against lower AC targets.

All of this overall creates a rather overly-complex yet ineffective attacks vs defences system for physical attackers.

But enough about PF1.

In PF2, flatfooted appears to just be -2 AC, although touch remains. Regardless, the critical hit and proficiency system seems like it'll mean that higher AC is more clearly good against pretty much any sort of physical attack. If the foe is using fewer, stronger attacks that have a high chance of hitting, then a higher AC means that there's less criticals, which helps drastically reduce the amount of receiving damage. Against the more, weaker attacks with individually smaller chance of hitting, higher AC will simply reduce the number of hits, which also helps drastically reduce the amount of receiving damage.

This means the two attacking styles are pretty similar in effect, they're not noticeably better or worse against different targets. I feel this could be a problem with differentiating between the attacking styles. While I don't think one should be outright better than the other, it can help make the two feel different if one is stronger in certain situations but weaker than others.

So one sort of defense that does help with this is Damage Reduction. DR is more effective against the weaker, more hits style, and less effective against the other type, since it applies to each hit. If this is used to create situations one sort of style is more effective than the other, then it'll mean that, by default, the many attacks style should deal more damage than the stronger attacks style. The stronger attacks style should gain the advantage when DR is involved, but less overall damage otherwise. This is one way the two can be balanced against each other.

But I'm not sure if this is really the best way of differentiating between physical attacks and defences. I do think this is a problem to be thought about, however.


Going by the assumption that DR functions the same in PF2nd as it does in PF1e, I would argue that one of the two being more "effective" than the other is an illusion. They're equally effective, because the DR affects them the same way. If the DR is 5 and the two different characters deals 1d8+6 and 1d6+3, both damage potentials are reduced equally. The subjective perception is that the stronger attack is more effective, but it's more effective on a hit regardless of DR anyway, so it's a trick of the mind that makes it feel like one is affected less than the other.

If the DR is of a specific type that one of the two can't overcome, then it's no longer an illusion, but then it's also moved away from what I see as the core of your initial issue.

Liberty's Edge

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DR does make a difference if you're making multiple little attacks vs. one big attack. PF2 Power Attack, as previewed in the Fighter Blog, is better vs. a foe with DR, for example.


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It's not just a trick of the mind. 1d8+6 averages to 10.5, so DR 5 is about half of it; 1d6+3 averages to 6.5, so DR 5 is about 3/4 of it (also, DR 5 can reduce the latter to 0, but never the former). Also, if you normally deal the same total damage across more attacks, DR will reduce your damage more, since it's applied separately to each hit.


So, the main point I wanted to get it doesn't really feel like there was a good physical attacks vs defence system in Pathfinder 1 and I hope this improves in Pathfinder 2, although I don't know what would be the best way of going about this.


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Honestly, I think the larger weakness here is that there is too much of a differentiation between the physical defenses and the magical defenses. I don't think splitting AC into various components is the best way of providing weaknesses; I think the system would work better if we provided more methods for physical attacks to go against Fort, Reflex, and Will (and maybe the first two more than the last).

Let me take an example from ye old d20 Modern, which by itself really wasn't a great system, but provided neat concepts for Reflex Save attacks (autofire and grenades being the principle examples). By providing these, the game made it possible for attackers to "handle" high-AC characters by ignoring their AC in exchange for a larger ammunition and action cost. Now, this didn't work out great in d20 Modern for mechanics reasons (all DCs were 15, 90% of PCs ended up with Evasion), but I think this *could* work in PF2.

By default in most d20 systems, Reflex saves are reserved for area of effect attacks. This isn't *necessarily* always the case, nor does it have to be, but I could see this being used to allow for some neat options:
More "grenade" effects (such as via alchemist tools being more prevalent)
Special archer attacks, possibly including "arrow drop" (something traditional in actual volley fire with bows, but not really represented in d20 systems)
"Sweeps" with two-handed or large-sized weapons

Likewise, Fort saves could also use some support -- maybe in the form of (common and easy to reach) combat maneuvers that knock the wind out of your opponent, or flurries of attacks that allow you to wear the opponent out (inducing fatigue).


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wizzardman wrote:

Honestly, I think the larger weakness here is that there is too much of a differentiation between the physical defenses and the magical defenses. I don't think splitting AC into various components is the best way of providing weaknesses; I think the system would work better if we provided more methods for physical attacks to go against Fort, Reflex, and Will (and maybe the first two more than the last).

Let me take an example from ye old d20 Modern, which by itself really wasn't a great system, but provided neat concepts for Reflex Save attacks (autofire and grenades being the principle examples). By providing these, the game made it possible for attackers to "handle" high-AC characters by ignoring their AC in exchange for a larger ammunition and action cost. Now, this didn't work out great in d20 Modern for mechanics reasons (all DCs were 15, 90% of PCs ended up with Evasion), but I think this *could* work in PF2.

By default in most d20 systems, Reflex saves are reserved for area of effect attacks. This isn't *necessarily* always the case, nor does it have to be, but I could see this being used to allow for some neat options:
More "grenade" effects (such as via alchemist tools being more prevalent)
Special archer attacks, possibly including "arrow drop" (something traditional in actual volley fire with bows, but not really represented in d20 systems)
"Sweeps" with two-handed or large-sized weapons

Likewise, Fort saves could also use some support -- maybe in the form of (common and easy to reach) combat maneuvers that knock the wind out of your opponent, or flurries of attacks that allow you to wear the opponent out (inducing fatigue).

Another example could be having Demoralize target Will saves. Honestly, I think this should be done for streamlining purposes anyway. Give everyone a Demoralize DC equal to 10+ their intimidation modifier. The Demoralizer doesn't actually roll, their intended victim just rolls a will save against this DC. The current demoralize DC formula is unnecessarily convoluted, and the new action economy represents a chance to have mid-combat intimidation be much more practical.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I thing we are already seeing more of the non-magic stuff targetting DCs.

They've gotten rid of CMD/CMB and gone for Skill vs Save for them. Which skills and which saves have yet to be seen. This isn't 100% what you asked for as the discussion was mostly about different ways to attack people, but it does allow physical characters to use different tactics versus different enemies. Heavily Armoured foe, target their Reflex first to trip them up. Light on their feet but a bit scrawny? Piledrive them into a wall.


Malk_Content: That does seem to fit what I've seen so far.

My only other request on that is they lower some of the feat-gates that held back CMB-based mechanics in PF1. In my experience, those mechanics saw somewhat limited use (in fact often down to only specific builds), because their requirements took away actions and mechanics that could be used for enemy removal.


wizzardman wrote:

Malk_Content: That does seem to fit what I've seen so far.

My only other request on that is they lower some of the feat-gates that held back CMB-based mechanics in PF1. In my experience, those mechanics saw somewhat limited use (in fact often down to only specific builds), because their requirements took away actions and mechanics that could be used for enemy removal.

Well, it doesn't look like there will be feat gates for even attempting stuff, though there may very well be feats which enhance them. Though if maneuvers are based on skills, I wonder how they will interact with the broader utility of skill feats. I think I'd rather avoid having skill feats become too applicable to combat, but if they tend to open new options instead of add more numbers we might be OK.

How they interact with actions is up in the air I guess. I think it would be neat if the iterative penalties could encourage you to do a maneuver instead of another basic attack, but it appears the penalties apply the same on both.


Khudzlin wrote:
It's not just a trick of the mind. 1d8+6 averages to 10.5, so DR 5 is about half of it; 1d6+3 averages to 6.5, so DR 5 is about 3/4 of it (also, DR 5 can reduce the latter to 0, but never the former). Also, if you normally deal the same total damage across more attacks, DR will reduce your damage more, since it's applied separately to each hit.

That's the thing though, the DR isn't more effective on several attacks, it's equally effective on each. Say the character does 3 attacks. For each of those attacks 5 damage is negated. This is true. However, you're interpreting it as a total sum of 15 damage negated, rather than 5 to each attack. If you increase the attacks of the stronger hitting character to match he will have the exact same number of damage negated. You can add and subtract number of attacks on either side and that constant will never change. Every attack has 5 damage negated. The DR doesn't grow or shrink in response to the attacks. Every attack is just as effective relative to the DR as the other attacks. So at the end of it we just come back to "stronger attacks deal more damage", which is true regardless of whether DR is involved or not.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

But we know you can hit harder less times vis a vis Power Attack, and that as Power Attack is based on the die of the weapon bigger heavier weapons benefit more. Therefore DR does apply less to that style in a DPR basis.


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Not at all Luzeke.
If I do 10 attacks of 10 damage, and you do 2 attacks of 50 dmg, we both do 100 damage. But for you, DR 5 is a 50% decrease in damage and for me it is 10%


gustavo iglesias wrote:

Not at all Luzeke.

If I do 10 attacks of 10 damage, and you do 2 attacks of 50 dmg, we both do 100 damage. But for you, DR 5 is a 50% decrease in damage and for me it is 10%

You swapped the percentages, though I agree wholeheartedly with the "full attack" perspective, because the measure of effectiveness is damage per round (DPR), not damage per attack.


gustavo iglesias wrote:

Not at all Luzeke.

If I do 10 attacks of 10 damage, and you do 2 attacks of 50 dmg, we both do 100 damage. But for you, DR 5 is a 50% decrease in damage and for me it is 10%

Like I said, that just circles back to "stronger attacks deal more damage". The effectiveness of the DR and the individual attacks do not change, your perception of the numbers as a whole does.

Khudzlin wrote:


You swapped the percentages, though I agree wholeheartedly with the "full attack" perspective, because the measure of effectiveness is damage per round (DPR), not damage per attack.

It does become a matter of perspective and perception, I agree.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
LuZeke wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

Not at all Luzeke.

If I do 10 attacks of 10 damage, and you do 2 attacks of 50 dmg, we both do 100 damage. But for you, DR 5 is a 50% decrease in damage and for me it is 10%

Like I said, that just circles back to "stronger attacks deal more damage". The effectiveness of the DR and the individual attacks do not change, your perception of the numbers as a whole does.

Khudzlin wrote:


You swapped the percentages, though I agree wholeheartedly with the "full attack" perspective, because the measure of effectiveness is damage per round (DPR), not damage per attack.
It does become a matter of perspective and perception, I agree.

The effectiveness does change. Assuming all attacks hit (which they won't and PA increases the chances of that happening) in a round we can do some basic maths.

Say I have a D10 weapon and 18 strength. I attack and hit 3 times in a round versus as DR 5 opponent. I'll be averaging at 13.5 DPR. Now I attack 2 times with PA with the same weapon, strength and opponent I'll be averaging 14.5 DPR. Not a massive increase, but we are ignoring the fact that you are more likely to hit with the 2 Power Attacks than you are 3 normal attacks, and that the extra dice on the Power Attack are more worthwhile on a crit. But even keeping it simple and making the best possible assumptions for the "hit many times" over the "hit harder" we see it is not just a matter of perception.

EDIT: For clarity sake and so I don't get called on it, when I said "2 Power Attacks I meant a round in which you spend 2 actions on a Power Attack and 1 Action on a normal Strike.


Seems like you guys just need to compare it to how the new mechanics will work. to me it seems we will most likely be making a lot less attacks in PF2 then we were capable of in PF1. for an example.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Seems like you guys just need to compare it to how the new mechanics will work. to me it seems we will most likely be making a lot less attacks in PF2 then we were capable of in PF1. for an example.

A lot more at 1st level: 3

Slightly less at 16th level: 3.

Where is this "a lot less" coming from?


Dude you are thinking about this way limited. with just a few feats at level 6 its 4 at 11 its 6 at 16 its 8 and that is just with 3 feats thier is so many build out their where you can make way more then just 3 attacks. Thats just the tip of the ice berg.

Just checking through the forum I have one guy who has a build that gives him 35 attacks at level 20


I think that the important thing for PF2 is that Two-Weapon Fighting needs to be better at SOMETHING.

What’s cooler than swinging around a lightsaber? Swinging around TWO lightsabers! TWF is a very appealing from a character concept, which is why it is such a shame that it was mechanically one of the weakest fighting styles in PF1.

The holdbacks of TWF compared to just Power Attacking with a 2-Handed Weapon.
1. Long Feat Chains that require high Dexterity.
-requiring high Dexterity normally means less Strength, which means less damage and accuracy (unless you want to burn ANOTHER Feat on Weapon Finesse, which limits your choice of weapons). Then you need to either pick 1 type of weapon (Scimitars, Shortswords, Daggers, or Kukris) or else you’ll need to spend twice as many Feats on things like Weapon Focus or Weapon Specialization. So only classes with a large pool of bonus damage, like Sneak Attack, gained much in terms of damage output. But even then, those classes needed to deal with . . .

2. Bad Accuracy.
-Classes with features like Sneak Attack usually had 3/4 BAB. Classes that didn’t needed to rely on Power Attack to improve their damage. So 3/4 BAB/Power Attack Penalties + TWF Penalties caused most secondary attacks to miss entirely.
-This resulted in PF1 TWF’s only real niche. Crit-Fishing builds. However, if you’re crit fishing, then you want a weapon with a natural 18-20 crit range to expand to 15-20 with the Keen Property or Improved Critical. Which further reduces weapon variety.

2. Very Expensive.
Buying and upgrading 2 Magic Weapons takes a lot of gold. Which is gold that the Two-Handed Fighter is able to invest in improving their other “Big Six” Items. You run into the problem of the Fighter or Rogue draining more of the party’s gold just to stay relevant.

3. Full-Attack Dependent
-To even be able to do more than 1 Attack per round, you need to spend your devote your entire round on nothing else (except a swift action). For a 2-Handed Attacker, this is annoying. For a Two-Weapon Attacker, this is devastating. As an example: Both the 2-Handed and the 2-Weapon Fighters spend 2 move actions to close the distance to an enemy archer. The archer spends a move action to move away then fire an arrow (drawing an AoO from each fighter). Back to the 2-Handed Fighter and 2-Weapon Attacker. The 2-Handed Attacker lost out on one, maybe 2 Extra attacks. The 2-Weapon Attacker lost out on 3 to 5 Extra Attacks.

THEN add in the problems with DR. The bad part is, it is normally the creatures with low AC that are they ones reliant on high DR. Low AC opponents sound like the ones you’d want to attack with TWF. Because your secondary and tertiary attacks may actually hit. But because each hit is losing out on 5-10 damage, you end up doing LESS damage than the Two-Handed attacker.

The good thing is that PF2 seems to have already addressed a few of these issues. Fewer Feat Chains is a design goal. Adding Level to accuracy will hopefully solve the problems actually hitting. Removal of the “Big 6” should hopefully give us more freedom in how we spend our gold. And we can now make multiple Strikes using any remaining actions after we’ve made a Stride.
The truly deciding factors will likely end up being the new Critical mechanics, Weapon Properties, and if TWF feat(s) will give us bonus Strike actions with our secondary weapon.

For example, let’s say that the Scimitar’s Weapon Property that gives it extra damage against a target you’ve already hit that round works even if you had hit the target with a different weapon.
Now let’s say the TWF Feat gives you a bonus Strike action once per round with your secondary weapon at -2 Penalty instead of -5 (a second bonus action per round a -7, and a third at -12 as you level up).

I would totally build a 2-Weapon Fighter that uses 2 Scimitars, and take the “Deal Minimum Damage on a miss” Fighter Feat. That way, while a 2-Handed Fighter Striking with Power Attack may crit more and deal more burst damage, my 2-Weapon Fighter deals more minimum consistent damage as long as I don’t Crititcally Miss.


Vidmaster7 wrote:

1) Dude you are thinking about this way limited. with just a few feats at level 6 its 4 at 11 its 6 at 16 its 8 and that is just with 3 feats thier is so many build out their where you can make way more then just 3 attacks. Thats just the tip of the ice berg.

2) Just checking through the forum I have one guy who has a build that gives him 35 attacks at level 20

1) Ha, I am aware of TWF, and it can work like it does in Unchained (same action economy), so you can get 6 attacks per round with GTWF.

2) Well, that's just silly, and illustrates one of the problems with PF1.


Weather Report wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:

1) Dude you are thinking about this way limited. with just a few feats at level 6 its 4 at 11 its 6 at 16 its 8 and that is just with 3 feats thier is so many build out their where you can make way more then just 3 attacks. Thats just the tip of the ice berg.

2) Just checking through the forum I have one guy who has a build that gives him 35 attacks at level 20

1) Ha, I am aware of TWF, and it can work like it does in Unchained (same action economy), so you can get 6 attacks per round with GTWF.

2) Well, that's just silly, and illustrates one of the problems with PF1.

Which was sort of my point. I think it will end up being a lot more like star finder in that we will have fewer overall attacks but deal more damage with those attacks. (on average! I hope we won't be doing am barbarian damage.)

Also I don't think that PF2 2weaponF will just give extra attacks but I don't know anything for sure.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:

1) Dude you are thinking about this way limited. with just a few feats at level 6 its 4 at 11 its 6 at 16 its 8 and that is just with 3 feats thier is so many build out their where you can make way more then just 3 attacks. Thats just the tip of the ice berg.

2) Just checking through the forum I have one guy who has a build that gives him 35 attacks at level 20

1) Ha, I am aware of TWF, and it can work like it does in Unchained (same action economy), so you can get 6 attacks per round with GTWF.

2) Well, that's just silly, and illustrates one of the problems with PF1.

Which was sort of my point. I think it will end up being a lot more like star finder in that we will have fewer overall attacks but deal more damage with those attacks. (on average! I hope we won't be doing am barbarian damage.)

Also I don't think that PF2 2weaponF will just give extra attacks but I don't know anything for sure.

Right on, I agree, so many attacks can get unwieldy (I remember a 3rd Ed thri-kreen monk that stacked FoB with TWF and natural attacks), that is why I like Vital Strike in PF1, and at one point during the 5th Ed playtest they had Deadly Strike, same thing as Vital Strike, basically.

As for TWF, yeah, I am interested in how it pans out for PF2, that always seems to be a hard one to implement satisfactorily in D&D/PF.


So the weapons blog gives some detail on how some physical attacks can differ via weapons. A bunch of this stuff is good, giving some weapons clear advantages and disadvantages against certain targets, although most of that differentiation appears to be dependant on critical strikes.

I'm reminded of another game and how it did its physical differentiation: Dragon Quest. The video game series.

The basic damage formula is something like attack power minus half defense power. This gives pretty much everybody a bit of DR, essentially. The strongest attacks you can use are multi-hit attacks which are a bit weaker than your normal attack, but due to multiple hits, deals much more damage. However, against foes with high defense, they fall behind the normal singular attack. At a certain point, even normal attacks fail to do much damage. For these cases, there are moves that have a higher chance of critical hit, but will miss instead of doing a normal hit. As critical hits in the game ignore defense, this could be the only way of doing significant damage against foes with really high defense.

So anyways, I thought something similar could be neat in PF2, let's say an ability that gives you +5 to your attack roll, but anything other than a critical does nothing.

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