Monster Skills: A Serious Problem


Monsters and Hazards

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One of my players has come up with an idea that I think can really help to fix both this and the unreasnobaly difficult DCs to achieve basic stuff. It's based on the same error Mark Seifter said there was with the prof. tiers, but the solution is backwards:

Untrained is +0, Trained is +2 and up from there; do not rebalance any encounter or monster. This is essentially a free +2 on everything that the PCs do, which finally lets most characters be on par with the lv0 Goblins and improves the lockpicking odds among other things. From what I've seen, 2 is the magic number that things seem to be imbalanced by. This would mean the Fighter, who is a master of his craft, would usually have at least +1 to hit over (level equivalent) enemies while non-fighters would be a lot more comparable.

Only problem I see is how the +2 AC on PCs would maybe be too much of an advantage unless the monsters also got +2 AC (Monster AC is usually their only inferior stat compared to PCs to compensate for their higher attack, I guess to artificially make combat more lethal for both sides) to compensate. Everything besides AC seems to fall into place just right with the +2. Alternatively, make PC AC start at 8 so that it's more in line with monster math and not have to modify the entire bestiary's AC.


My experience was a lot closer to DMW, at least for the first goblin fight. I think there's only so much you can account for rolls, really. Also, don't forget goblins aren't the most tactically savvy critters out there. ;)


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Captain Morgan wrote:
My experience was a lot closer to DMW, at least for the first goblin fight. I think there's only so much you can account for rolls, really. Also, don't forget goblins aren't the most tactically savvy critters out there. ;)

Maybe it is a problem due to low level, in the same way that a bad crit could one shot a level character in v1, but that's the difference between an easy and a hard encounter. An easy encounter can be damaging if players have bad luck, but it should not nearly tpk them. A hard ecounter on the other hand is by definition an encounter that can go wrong for the pc because well its a hard one, with like maybe 50-60% chance of success meaning a few badrolls on one side or good rolls on the other can change the outcome. 4 goblins should not be an encounter that bad rolls make deadly.

And regarding tactics, well yes and no... goblins are used to fight in mobs, trying to get flanking etc (this is also shown in by their special ability to get a free step when one of them is close). The only monsters you can really play as brainless are undead, all living things, even animals should use basic tactics such as focusing on the weakest looking guy, or gang up on a dangerous fow.

Liberty's Edge

Ystear Fearis wrote:
Well i guess your players were lucky, or maybe they were a big party. My 4 players got rolfstomped all session, that first ooze, with its +6 and 40 hp nearly killed the paladin.

The ooze was scary. You'll note that my commentary was specifically about level 0 foes, not combat in general.

Ystear Fearis wrote:

Every goblin could move and attack twice, with decent chance of hitting for each attack (+6/+1) vs PC with AC ranging from 14 to 18.

3 goblins won initiatives with their master training in stealth (or maybe was it another skill I don't remember) and nearly dropped the paladin (again after using most of his lay of hands) who entered the room first to zero without him even playing. Using decent melee tactics and taking advantage of the goblin special ability, they could easily get flanks by the second turn and then hit at (effectively) +8/+2/-3. Granted my players had bad lucks and struggled to hit goblins, and yes the barbarian did one shot them when he hit them, but a little of bad luck for the PCs changed this encounter into a bloodbath.

My PCs rolled pretty well (or I rolled pretty badly) for initiative, but the rolls were average at best aside from that vs. Level 0 foes, and while we had 5 PCs, for all the level 0 encounters two of them were plinking with a +3 to hit, for 1d6 and 1d8 respectively with crossbows.

Ystear Fearis wrote:
Now I know luck can really change a lot of things, but I don't think an encounter with 6 goblins should be tight to the point that bad luck makes it a near tpk.

The 6 goblin encounter involves two who are level 1 rather than level 0. It being nasty doesn't surprise me at all. My PCs managed to get lucky and take out the Commando before they went, but the Commando and Pyro have pretty nasty stats, actually.

Ystear Fearis wrote:
I know the adventure says the pc can go back and rest as umch as they like during the 7 days, but come on, that would have literally been a 15 minute adventuring day...

This is true. My players never rested at all.

Ystear Fearis wrote:
(I don't even speak about darkus cause he's supposed to be a boss, but with his +10, I didn't register the crits he scored and the party still ended with 3 of them and the animal companion down.)

Drakus was a near TPK for my group as well, but again, I was talking specifically about level 0 foes, not low level foes in general.

graystone wrote:
This. Most combats are near or total TPK's for my games. Even 'easy/trivial' combats, like the slime, are life and death situations while high/severe are a question of how many people are going down not IF they are going to get KO'd.

I agree that the 'encounter difficulty' isn't always accurate, but to me it seems like they undersell Level 1 and higher foes, and oversell Level 0 ones.


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ChibiNyan wrote:

One of my players has come up with an idea that I think can really help to fix both this and the unreasnobaly difficult DCs to achieve basic stuff. It's based on the same error Mark Seifter said there was with the prof. tiers, but the solution is backwards:

Untrained is +0, Trained is +2 and up from there; do not rebalance any encounter or monster. This is essentially a free +2 on everything that the PCs do, which finally lets most characters be on par with the lv0 Goblins and improves the lockpicking odds among other things. From what I've seen, 2 is the magic number that things seem to be imbalanced by. This would mean the Fighter, who is a master of his craft, would usually have at least +1 to hit over (level equivalent) enemies while non-fighters would be a lot more comparable.

Only problem I see is how the +2 AC on PCs would maybe be too much of an advantage unless the monsters also got +2 AC (Monster AC is usually their only inferior stat compared to PCs to compensate for their higher attack, I guess to artificially make combat more lethal for both sides) to compensate. Everything besides AC seems to fall into place just right with the +2. Alternatively, make PC AC start at 8 so that it's more in line with monster math and not have to modify the entire bestiary's AC.

Actually one of my group was wondering, based on the oddity of indexing the system at -2, if the playtest is at 'hard' difficulty and what you have here, 0 indexed, is 'normal' difficulty.

Based on the math in this thread and our initial experiments with doomsday dawn's first section...I wonder.

It's doable as is, but just. And only with a well built party, with a suboptimal party mix, good luck.

Although I wonder how much of the problem is deadly/fatal weapons at low levels. We tried giving Drakus a pick instead of a longsword. In didn't go well...especially with that opening +2 he gets on revealing form. 3d10+10 critical on a 14-20 roll? Yikes...


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But more on topic, with the corrections above I think most skills work better, assumptions of item based stat boosts aside. However, I think perception is fundamentally flawed as is.

Take three scenarios of a stealthy pc sneaking past a sentry.

1) Sentry has been tipped off and is actively expecting the pc.
2) Sentry is well trained and disciplined, but not expecting trouble.
3) Sentry is poorly disciplined and more concerned with staying warm.

The opposed roll works nicely for scenario 1, but the frankly far more common scenarios 2 and 3 where the party is bypassing some monster not actively looking for them? The rules treat all of these exactly the same.

I'm tempted to add a blanket circumstance penalty (-3?) on all perception checks not actively looking for something specific and a larger one (double) if really not expecting trouble.

This way a sneak specialist has a very good chance against a level -2 sentry, decent against 2 but starts to get dicey up against 4 or more.

Against an inattentive, drowsy goblin, the entire party has a good chance to sneak past, as they should.

Related aside, I went to model drowsy and my first pick, fatigued, doesn't impact perception (or any mental state). The best model I'm seeing is actually fascinated. I guess drowsy = fascinated with sleep? That...actually works rather well.


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WestTreefrog wrote:

But more on topic, with the corrections above I think most skills work better, assumptions of item based stat boosts aside. However, I think perception is fundamentally flawed as is.

Take three scenarios of a stealthy pc sneaking past a sentry.

1) Sentry has been tipped off and is actively expecting the pc.
2) Sentry is well trained and disciplined, but not expecting trouble.
3) Sentry is poorly disciplined and more concerned with staying warm.

The opposed roll works nicely for scenario 1, but the frankly far more common scenarios 2 and 3 where the party is bypassing some monster not actively looking for them? The rules treat all of these exactly the same.

I'm tempted to add a blanket circumstance penalty (-3?) on all perception checks not actively looking for something specific and a larger one (double) if really not expecting trouble.

This way a sneak specialist has a very good chance against a level -2 sentry, decent against 2 but starts to get dicey up against 4 or more.

Against an inattentive, drowsy goblin, the entire party has a good chance to sneak past, as they should.

Related aside, I went to model drowsy and my first pick, fatigued, doesn't impact perception (or any mental state). The best model I'm seeing is actually fascinated. I guess drowsy = fascinated with sleep? That...actually works rather well.

Good call with perception, it's idneed too simplistic and doesn't differentiate between attentive and distracted for enemies usually (The exploration rules MURDER PCs on this aspect, tho). Also it would be more viable if we had the old distance penalties to perception (I didn't see them in PF2). Really need more ways to stack the deck in the Rogue's favor.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Probably a separate topic better off in its own thread, but there's a pretty substantive difference between attentive and unattentive opponents: If they're unattentive, you can roll once against the Perception DC for the whole lot of them and sneak past a big group of enemies that way if you roll well, since there's no opposed checks (as opposed to the orc camp problem in PF1 where the 50 basic orcs will all roll opposed rolls against your 7th-level party and several of them will get natural 20s, thus dooming your group). But someone actively on guard and checking the area where you're sneaking for you is going to roll against your DC and make your day a lot trickier.


Ah, I had missed the implications of that, yep that fixes that old issue nicely. And they can only actively seek for 10 minutes without suffering fatigue penwlties, so the 'alert' period gates for about that long. And now I have the Metal Gear Solid theme in my head...

The more I play with this the more I'm coming around in it, so far the fail scenarios are easily patchable with some judiciously applied (and fairly logical) circumstance bonuses whereas in PF1 you could end up with some fairly odd results like a 15th level wizard, (in spite of all that presumed experience) suddenly noticing a lvl 3 monster with it's teeth suddenly in her arm due to the massive variance between trained and untrained skills.


Mark Seifter wrote:
Probably a separate topic better off in its own thread, but there's a pretty substantive difference between attentive and unattentive opponents: If they're unattentive, you can roll once against the Perception DC for the whole lot of them and sneak past a big group of enemies that way if you roll well, since there's no opposed checks (as opposed to the orc camp problem in PF1 where the 50 basic orcs will all roll opposed rolls against your 7th-level party and several of them will get natural 20s, thus dooming your group). But someone actively on guard and checking the area where you're sneaking for you is going to roll against your DC and make your day a lot trickier.

What happens to initiative in one of these passive scenarios? By the logic of the system, all of them have their initiative at the passive DC. Also the 10 + mod is almost as good as just 1d20 + mod. It doesn't feel like much of a penalty.

Maybe we should indeed make a new thread if we're gonna stay on this tangent.


Maybe simply having passive perception at 10+prof and active perception at d20+prof+wis mod can make it more realistic.

That way, unattentive doesn't get to add their wis modifier. It seems to me that an absentminded fellow would focus his attention somewhere (wis mod) either way.

And it helps bringing those monster scores closer to an average partys scores as well.


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Is there a reason why these "monster design guideline" aren't available?
Given that we're deviating from "build monsters on the same framework as PCs with some balancing adjustments" to "build monsters with balance with some framework adjustments", knowing how to balance monsters seems pretty important.


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The problem is that they made the absolute best possible character for a given skill//ability and used that as a benchmark. So this is the guy that has a 50/50 chance. For some odd reason they considered this to be the average guy.


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ChibiNyan wrote:

One of my players has come up with an idea that I think can really help to fix both this and the unreasnobaly difficult DCs to achieve basic stuff. It's based on the same error Mark Seifter said there was with the prof. tiers, but the solution is backwards:

Untrained is +0, Trained is +2 and up from there; do not rebalance any encounter or monster. This is essentially a free +2 on everything that the PCs do, which finally lets most characters be on par with the lv0 Goblins and improves the lockpicking odds among other things. From what I've seen, 2 is the magic number that things seem to be imbalanced by. This would mean the Fighter, who is a master of his craft, would usually have at least +1 to hit over (level equivalent) enemies while non-fighters would be a lot more comparable.

Only problem I see is how the +2 AC on PCs would maybe be too much of an advantage unless the monsters also got +2 AC (Monster AC is usually their only inferior stat compared to PCs to compensate for their higher attack, I guess to artificially make combat more lethal for both sides) to compensate. Everything besides AC seems to fall into place just right with the +2. Alternatively, make PC AC start at 8 so that it's more in line with monster math and not have to modify the entire bestiary's AC.

I also thought of this the moment I first read about TEML. Just- "god, that seems kind of low" and "wouldn't it just be easier to handle in the system if untrained didn't have any bonus or penalty, and and TEML was +2, +3, +4, +5?" So yeah, I agree. Base of 8 AC, Prof = +{(2/3/4/5)+Lv}.

Even so, it seems as if there's a need for some scaling nerfs on the entirety of the Bestiary.

Scarab Sages

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I don't really care if monsters are overall better. They are monsters. They should be terrifying when you met them. It just change the moment when you can challenge them head on.

However NPC should be built like PC in term of stat and proficiency (I don't mind if now they have some locked abilities but I hope in the futur you can made a PC anti-paladin)

I also have problem with monsters that deals 2d6 (or more) damage while the weapon is not magical.
The players Will be really upset "When he hit us we took 3d6 but now that I picked it up it is a regular sword that deal 1d6 ?"

I'm ok if few monsters have this as an ability (kinda like the bearded devil glaive) but not for everyone like Gnoll.

Liberty's Edge

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Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:
I don't really care if monsters are overall better. They are monsters. They should be terrifying when you met them. It just change the moment when you can challenge them head on.

The issue with that is that PCs of Level X are supposed to be mechanically on par with monsters of Level X. 'Terrifying' monsters should be of higher level. That's what level is supposed to mean.

Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:
However NPC should be built like PC in term of stat and proficiency (I don't mind if now they have some locked abilities but I hope in the futur you can made a PC anti-paladin)

NPCs are made precisely identically to other monsters in this system.

Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:

I also have problem with monsters that deals 2d6 (or more) damage while the weapon is not magical.

The players Will be really upset "When he hit us we took 3d6 but now that I picked it up it is a regular sword that deal 1d6 ?"

This is a bit of an issue for me, too. I'd at least like to see it justified somehow (larger Size giving additional damage dice or special abilities, for example). Or give PCs the same ability to do that in some fashion.

Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:
I'm ok if few monsters have this as an ability (kinda like the bearded devil glaive) but not for everyone like Gnoll.

I don't mind it being a very common ability, I just mind it being one NPCs can get and PCs can't with no explanation as to why.


Many of the NPCs damage ranges with expert weapons could have been explained by saying they had used Oil of Potency in advance. Or that they have access to a monster-exclusive Action that raises their dice of weapon damage...


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The problem is no matter how critical the monsters being overpowered by design is... fixing it it outside of the scope of the update document... they'd need to actually republish the entire bestiary. That is gonna take time.

The problem I see being that the rules are advancing monster checks by about +35 over 20 levels (assuming +20 from level, +7 from ability*, +3 from proficiency, and +5 from equipment)... *Armor replaces your ability modifier with an equipment modifier at the cost of up to 4 TAC. It is noteworthy that many creatures also have reduced TACs comperable to the TAC penalty imposed by armor.

Meanwhile most characters can only achieve a +29 to +31 over 20 levels in checks they invest in (assuming +20 from level, +4 or +5 from ability, +0 to +1 from proficiency, and +5 from equipment). With their specialty hitting +35 (assuming as above), and a few dumped proficiencies sitting between +18 to +25 (assuming +20 from level, -1 to +3 from ability, -2 to +0 from proficiency, and +1 to +2 from equipment).

+18 represents neglecting a proficiency as much as possible, +25 represents minimal investment, +30ish represents a significant investment, and +35 requires specialization.

As such I think monsters should have been built in the +30 range instead of the +35. So that the specialist characters can shine, but the minimally invested characters can still contribute. The Weak and Elite adjustment should be used to scale up and down from the middle; instead of needing the apply the Weak Adjustments to multiple times to bring anything down to the PCs actual level of proficiency, and the elite adjustment making any creature far surpass the values appropriate for their level.

Scarab Sages

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:
I don't really care if monsters are overall better. They are monsters. They should be terrifying when you met them. It just change the moment when you can challenge them head on.
The issue with that is that PCs of Level X are supposed to be mechanically on par with monsters of Level X. 'Terrifying' monsters should be of higher level. That's what level is supposed to mean

I disagree on this one but I guess it is just how we imagine the fantasy world.


I ended up really digging into the whole Monster Skill/Perception and PC Competence vs Skill DCs problem.


Deconstructing the Problem: Monster Skills, Monster Perception, and the Skills DC Table; Fixing the Item Bonus Assumption Problem

In this thread I dig into the reasons we are seeing Monsters outpace PCs by so much regarding skills and why PCs fall behind the Low/High DCs on the 10-2 Skill DC table contrary to what I believe are the design goals around expected competence.

Its a bit of a long read, so spoiler it has to do with the built in scaling over the 20 levels which is faulty due in large to the assumptions built in around item bonuses expected at each levels. I also talk about way this can be addressed through a variety of methods.


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What bothers me is that Paizo still has not patched this issue, even though Mark has said that it is a problem. In P2, the difference between "best at hitting" and "good at hitting" is just 10%, and this is what the monsters are off by. The errors in the bestiary are basically invalidating all playtest experience.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Knight Magenta wrote:
What bothers me is that Paizo still has not patched this issue, even though Mark has said that it is a problem. In P2, the difference between "best at hitting" and "good at hitting" is just 10%, and this is what the monsters are off by. The errors in the bestiary are basically invalidating all playtest experience.

Totally agree, this topic is worth bumping until we get some errata. Pretending that playtesting is going fine as it is now seems to be pointless.

Liberty's Edge

In fairness, we're still at the point (with Sombrefell Hall) that the difference is mostly a matter of -1, and monsters are rarely making skill checks (or opposing skill checks made by PCs) in Chapter 3.

I'm certainly very much expecting this to get fixed, since it needs fixing, but this chapter isn't super effected by it, so I don't blame them for fixing other stuff first.


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Cantriped wrote:

The problem is no matter how critical the monsters being overpowered by design is... fixing it it outside of the scope of the update document... they'd need to actually republish the entire bestiary. That is gonna take time.

The problem I see being that the rules are advancing monster checks by about +35 over 20 levels (assuming +20 from level, +7 from ability*, +3 from proficiency, and +5 from equipment)... *Armor replaces your ability modifier with an equipment modifier at the cost of up to 4 TAC. It is noteworthy that many creatures also have reduced TACs comperable to the TAC penalty imposed by armor.

Meanwhile most characters can only achieve a +29 to +31 over 20 levels in checks they invest in (assuming +20 from level, +4 or +5 from ability, +0 to +1 from proficiency, and +5 from equipment). With their specialty hitting +35 (assuming as above), and a few dumped proficiencies sitting between +18 to +25 (assuming +20 from level, -1 to +3 from ability, -2 to +0 from proficiency, and +1 to +2 from equipment).

+18 represents neglecting a proficiency as much as possible, +25 represents minimal investment, +30ish represents a significant investment, and +35 requires specialization.

As such I think monsters should have been built in the +30 range instead of the +35. So that the specialist characters can shine, but the minimally invested characters can still contribute. The Weak and Elite adjustment should be used to scale up and down from the middle; instead of needing the apply the Weak Adjustments to multiple times to bring anything down to the PCs actual level of proficiency, and the elite adjustment making any creature far surpass the values appropriate for their level.

This is the simplest to understand breakdown I've yet read on this forum, good job. Yeah, there cna be a lot of underlying math, but just knowing the se values for every single level (dumped, minimal, significant and crazy specialist) can make the design a lot easier. Would be like a better table 10-2. (if you sub them for trivial/easy/hard/severe/extreme)

In fact, I'm pretty sure this is how that table was made in the first place, with the Devs just needing to decide where to put the midway 50% success rate point. I personally think that one would go on the "minimal investment" one, instead of the "Severe" one where it is currently... But it does have some consequences. The following analysis is for skills, basing off what Cantriped said.

What happens when you put the the midway point early is that, since the numbers in these table slowly drift further apart as levels increase, you end up with veyr dramatic scenarios. The specialist starts becoming more and more reliable as they level up, so what was just a +3 (+15% success) difference at level 1 becomes +10 later and this means a +50% over the base 50% point, so they would eventually get 95% success rate.
I suppose the developers noticed this and didn't want high-level specialists to be so good, which is why they raised the bar so much to keep up with them. Now te problem is that if the specialist has 50%, the "minimally invested" one has -10 over that, so 5% success rate.

It sucks either way they go, but one makes players feel inadequate and the other one makes them feel like gods at what they specialized in. A midway point is possible if put the medium near "significant investment", but it would still be very unfavorable for characters at higher levels.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Perception and Stealth matter even at the earliest levels. The Perception is used in every encounter at least once.

Liberty's Edge

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Laik wrote:
Perception and Stealth matter even at the earliest levels. The Perception is used in every encounter at least once.

Sure, but they clearly didn't have time to fix it before Chapters 1 or 2, and -1 initiative (which is what the difference amounts to in Chapter 3, for the most part) is an annoyance rather than a serious playtest issue.

They need to fix this, but I can see why they prioritized, say, getting rid of Signature Skills first.

Silver Crusade

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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Laik wrote:
Perception and Stealth matter even at the earliest levels. The Perception is used in every encounter at least once.

Sure, but they clearly didn't have time to fix it before Chapters 1 or 2, and -1 initiative (which is what the difference amounts to in Chapter 3, for the most part) is an annoyance rather than a serious playtest issue.

They need to fix this, but I can see why they prioritized, say, getting rid of Signature Skills first.

I disagree. They could easily toss in an interim fix ( eg, lower all perception mods on all monsters by 1) which, while imperfect, would be better than what we have. And hardly takes much text or work to get across.

Signature skills are a huge conceptual problem but they aren't affecting the playtest at all until level 7. Things like skill DCs, assurance, etc ARE affecting the playtest results


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I kind of wonder here if people are considering circumstance bonuses and penalties when it comes to Perception and Stealth. Because they can easily modify your checks by up to a +4 or down to a -4 penalty.

Assuming favorable conditions such as lighting, distractions, and other things your DM should likely adjust it so your enemy has a lower perception. If you've got things working in your favor you may also get a bump in your stealth.

Outside of circumstances specializing in stealth a character would likely have a slightly above average chance to sneak past an even difficult enemy and that seems to be on par.

Especially if the 2 point difference that was mentioned here applies to the majority of enemy skill and perception checks.

Liberty's Edge

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Stealth and Perception aren't the core issue, however. They're an example of the issue, but many other skill checks lack much likelihood of having circumstance modifiers in that range, leaving you with just the skill bonuses.

Saying 'but circumstance modifiers' also has the issue that they are at least as likely to be in the monster's favor as the PC's. With current mods the PCs wind up having a much lower chance of noticing monsters sneaking up on them than the reverse, which remains a large and pressing issue.


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Just after looking through the Bestiary at appropriate challenges for a character I did a bit of math on it.

Ranger 10th Level
Level Modifier (+10)
Master Perception (+2)
18 Wisdom (+4)

Perception DC = 10 + 10 + 2 + 4 = 26

Minor Challenges (Level 8)
..........................
Ogre Mage: Stealth = 8 + 1d20, Success 10%.

Moderate Challenges (Level 9)
.............................
Night Hag: Stealth = 10 + 1d20, Success 20%.
Dread Wraith: Stealth = 16 + 1d20, Success 50%.
Vampire Wizard: Stealth = 16 + 1d20, Success 50%.
Mummy Pharoah: Stealth 18 + 1d20, Success 60%. (Uncommon Creature)

Difficult Challenges (Level 10)
...............................
Roper: Stealth = 18 + 1d20, Success 60%. (+22 Stealth in Stony or Icy Areas. Success raises to 80%)
Rakshasa: Stealth = 20 + 1d20, Success 70%.

All in all, those numbers appear to be on par with what you'd expect from something that can challenge your character. You should expect to encounter enemies roughly 1-2 levels below your character level when the DM is building encounters. Uncommon and Unique enemies can have DC's that scale a tiny bit higher than others of their level.

The only time that you should encounter an enemy higher than your level is when you should be expected to fight it when it is alone.

These enemies have roughly a 50% chance to succeed on their Stealth check against the sample character. This is not a bad thing. If you have a party of adventurers and they are all actually paying attention then each of them would actually roll their Perception check which gives them a better chance for at least one of them to notice the sneaking enemies.

I know this was simply an example that you were using previously and you believe that this is an issue that is affecting all skills and not just Stealth/Perception. I just think that there may be a disconnect here with your expectations. It seems like some people are wanting characters who are "Good at something" to have a better than average success chance in the majority of encounters.

For example, an "Optimized" character in PF1 could obtain an 80%+ success chance in an even CR encounter without too much difficulty depending on what it was. This is something that I view as problematic and if you believe that PF2 should return to something either similar, or at least closer to that then we disagree on the core philosophy of encounter difficulty.


The problem is you used a Ranger with Wiadim as a secondary stat. Rangers are one of only two classes that get Master or better Perception. Essentially you picked the best possible expected PC build for perception. Every other build is worse.

You should also look at Eyes of the eagle as the Item of relevance here.

And don’t forget to include some lvl +1-2 as well.


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We do not have that many monsters yet however there is a wide range of stealth values among them, to stay with the example. And we already have some variety which might indicate more diversity with more monsters to come.

Level 9 Elementals are good at stealth if in their element, haha, except fire, which makes sense.

Roper and Rakshasa should also be pretty optimised in stealth for level ten encounters.

Giants for example are terrible at stealth. So is the Tyrannosaurus, while devils and demons are pretty good again, I would like to see devils being significantly better there than demons.

But I agree the optimized ranger should not be the perception default example.


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Zman0 wrote:

The problem is you used a Ranger with Wiadim as a secondary stat. Rangers are one of only two classes that get Master or better Perception. Essentially you picked the best possible expected PC build for perception. Every other build is worse.

You should also look at Eyes of the eagle as the Item of relevance here.

And don’t forget to include some lvl +1-2 as well.

That was the point here. I wasn't going out of my way to optimize for Perception, but I was picking someone who would normally be "good" at it in their role.

If you added additional item bonuses you could easily get another +2 onto the Perception DC making at level encounters closer to the 40% success rate for enemies and giving favor to that character.

Even if you had someone who was normally considered Expert at their Perception, which almost everyone should be at that point and a Wisdom of 14 you would be only 2-3 points lower. It means that enemies who are considered good at Stealth can actually have a decent chance against you.

With an at level encounter using a character who would be considered 'Average' at best an enemy who is good at Stealth would have around a 60% chance of success.

Either way it lines up pretty well with expectations and with what players are capable of on their own characters. It's just not the same as Pathfinder's First Edition where someone who is 'Specialized' in Stealth would pretty much ignore anyone in an opposed Stealth/Perception check. Similarly anyone who is 'Specialized' in Perception would find almost everyone attempting to sneak around them with the exception of Stealth focused characters.

It made it an uncomfortable arms race and excluded every other person at the table from participating. It also made Perception a skill that the majority of players ended up capping.

I find the situation in Pathfinder Second Edition to be much more realistic and engaging.

Liberty's Edge

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Uh...90% or so of PCs will have lower Perception than the example you use. Of the 13 I've seen created in Doomsday Dawn, only a single one even could have that level of inherent Perception at 10th (the Rogue and some of the Clerics come close, but the only one who could theoretically do it is the 1st level Cleric if he took Alertness...you can make a Rogue or Cleric who has it, but they're exceptionally focused).

And those monsters with low Stealth will, for the most part, not use it, making them sort of a moot point.

And my point was not that monsters would always sneak up on the PCs, it was that if 'circumstance modifiers' to Stealth are really as common as you say, then they would succeed at doing so casually when those applied. Given you were suggesting a +4 modifier as fairly common and that ups most of the on-level encounters to the 70-90% range even vs. the Ranger in question (or someone less focused but with an item).

And once more, the issue I have is not with Stealth/Perception specifically. It's with the numbers in general and what happens when they come into conflict directly, especially since a PC group, as a whole, tends to be maxed out in less than half the skills in the game at any individual level, and some are maxed out at zero of them (and, in many cases have no way to be maxed out due to the absence of, say, a 5th level item to boost Diplomacy).

Indeed, as an example, my Chapter 3 Doomsday Dawn group is 'maxed out' in precisely one and a half skills (Arcana and certain uses of Survival, if it matters) with lower ratings in every single other skill, and had little choice but to be so. The odds look a lot worse for non-maxed groups comparing themselves to monsters, y'know?

I'm not advocating returning to the way things were in PF1. I actually much prefer the basic structure of PF2 in terms orf the range skills can have at any individual level. I just think PCs should not be forced to be absolutely optimal to compete with on-level adversaries on an even footing.


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I'd argue that a 35%+ chance of success is indeed competing.

The only time you'd have lower than that is if you don't invest in a skill or have a very low related stat such as an 8 at lower levels or 12 at higher levels.

If you do not have a skill at at least Trained with the associated Attribute at 14 or higher then you should not have higher than a 30% chance to succeed in an encounter.

"Optimizing" a character in a particular skill minus specific items that boost you further should put you at a 50% - 60% in an even level encounter.

If you happen to have items like Eyes of the Eagle for Perception, then you'll be closer to having a 60-70% chance with that same character, or closer to a 50% chance with someone who doesn't have a high stat or skill.

The variance between someone who is "Trained" with an "Average" stat (12-14) and someone who is an "Expert" with an "Above Average" stat (16-18) is incredibly minor, 4 points on the high end. That's a 20% difference in success rates between them. Significant, but not to the point of making it impossible for the lower skilled individual or making it too easy for the specialized one.


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Additionally, when it comes to Perception everyone can easily get to Expert if they wanted to. Outside of that there are several classes that have Expert innately.

Barbarian
Bard
Fighter
Ranger
Rogue

Out of those classes there are several that will improve further.

Fighter, Ranger, and Rogue will all end up becoming Masters at Level 7 while Ranger and Rogue will end up improving to Legendary by 15.

That basically affords them with a minor amount of perception over other classes, effectively a +2 total over Expert.

This really isn't "Optimization".

Liberty's Edge

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A 35% chance is not competing. It's having a chance, sure, but it's not a good enough chance that you'll try to make it unless you absolutely have to, and when you do try, you'll probably fail and feel bad. It's an unpleasantly low chance of success.

But you seem to be saying that someone with a 16-18 and Expert will have a 55% chance, while the 35% is reserved for someone at 12-14 and Trained. Past the very lowest levels this is false. In order to hit a 55% chance vs. an on-level monster's good skills, a 7th level character needs an 18 stat, Master Level Skill, and a +2 Item to boot. An Expert with a 16 stat and without an item is at 35%. A Trained person with a 12 stat is at 20%.

And that's the range of PC capabilities for people trained in the skill, for the most part. 20% to 55% chance. That's terrible odds and feels terrible.

Once more, I'm not advocating returning to the way PF1 worked or anything, just dropping most monsters' numbers a bit so that the range of options is more like 30% to 65% for PC success rates. A 65% makes the specialist feel legitimately good at their job.

As for whether the Ranger you suggest is optimized, that's a matter of debate and definition (though I'd argue the Wisdom 18 indicates he is, at least for Perception). He is, however, optimal. His +16 Perception is literally the highest you can get on any PC at 10th level without items. Which is the whole point. Most PCs will not have that Perception score and using it as a barometer is thus very misleading.


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PF1 tends to require more combat than I'd like. I'd prefer a system which did a better job of encouraging players to pursue ways of doing things that don't involve slaughtering everyone involved. To do this, non-combat options need to be attractive enough to be worth pursuing.

1. Trying to resolve something in a non-violent manner and failing often puts you in a worse position than just trying to resolve things violently in the first place. So if non-combat options aren't attractive enough, they won't even be attempted.

2. If non-combat options aren't attractive enough, then it won't be worth investing resources (feats, items) to boost non-combat options over combat options. And if they're not invested in, they won't be effective enough to bother trying to use.

Given the low chance of success for non-combat options in PF2, it seems the incentive for players to favor violent ways of resolving issues over non-violent ways will be even greater than in PF1.


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The math really does check out for me to run around the numbers I mentioned, but I will give you some more specific examples using a bog standard character.

For the sake of this let's take a Fighter with 14 Wisdom. Nothing else to aid their perception.

Level Bonus: 7
Stat Bonus: 2
Proficiency: 2

Total Perception DC: 21. (1d20 + 11)

Some enemies you might expect to be an even encounter at 7th level.

For this sake, we'll look at both Low and High Difficulty encounters using the Encounter Builder.

Solo Low Budget: 15
Solo High Budget: 20
Four Person Group Low Budget: 60
Four Person Group High Budget: 80

For the solo encounter, let's focus on a single enemy just to make things the most accurate in terms of difficulty. That gives us a 'Low or high-threat minion' for the 'Low Difficulty' encounter and 'Any minion or standard' in a 'High Difficulty' encounter.
For the group encounter, it recommends getting close to the number of players in the group in enemies. So we'll aim for 3 enemies, two average and one slightly stronger.

For the solo encounter budget we've got a 'Party's level -3' for creature's level for the 'Low Difficulty' encounter and 'Party's level -2' for the 'High Difficulty' encounter.

Given that we're working at level 7 that leaves us with a level 4 and a level 5 creature.

Let's pick up a couple options from each.

Level 4: Barghest, Cat (Tiger), Gnoll Sergeant, Owlbear, and Shadow.
Level 5: Cat (Smilodon), Cyclops, Demonologist, Air Elemental (Lesser), Redcap, and Troll.

Solo Low Difficulty Encounters.

Barghest: Stealth +9 / Perception +10
Cat (Tiger): Stealth +11 / Perception +9
Gnoll Sergeant: Stealth +9 / Perception +10
Owlbear: Stealth +2 / Perception +10
Shadow: Stealth +13 / Perception +8

Solo High Difficulty Encounters.

Cat (Smilodon): Stealth +12 / Perception +10
Cyclops: Stealth +5 / Perception +12
Demonologist: Stealth +5 / Perception +8
Air Elemental (Lesser): Stealth +13 / Perception +11
Redcap: Stealth +12 / Perception +10
Troll: Stealth +4 / Perception +11

For the group encounter budget we're going to assume a standard party of 4 characters. With this assumption, we're going to aim to have 3 enemies in a sample encounter and a single encounter with a 'Boss' enemy that is the only thing the party is fighting.

With this in mind we have a budget of 60 for our 'Low Difficulty' encounter and a budget of 80 for our 'High Difficulty' encounter.

Using these numbers we end up with 3 enemies that have 15, 15, and 30 XP for the 'Low Difficulty' encounter and 20, 20, and 40 XP for the 'High Difficulty' encounter.

With these numbers that gives us the following breakdown.

Low Difficulty Encounter, 3 Enemies.

2 x 'Low or High-Threat Minions' - Party's Level - 3
1 x 'Any Standard' - Party's Level - 1

Sample Encounter:

2 x Owlbears
1 x Drider

Owlbear: Stealth +2 / Perception +10
Drider: Stealth +13 / Perception +13

Low Difficulty 'Boss' Encounter, 1 Enemy.

1 x 'Low or High-Threat Boss' - Party's Level + 1

Sample Encounter:

1 x Stone Giant: Stealth +13 (+17 in Rocky Areas) / Perception +15

High Difficulty Encounter, 3 Enemies.

2 x 'Any minion or standard' - Party's Level - 2
1 x 'Any standard or low-threat boss' - Party's Level + 1

Sample Encounter:

2 x Bearded Devil's (Barbazu): Stealth +10 / Perception +12
1 x Fury Devil (Erinyes): Stealth +15 / Perception +16

High Difficulty 'Boss' Encounter, 1 Enemy.

1 x 'High or Severe-threat boss'. - Party's Level + 2

1 x Dread Wraith: Stealth +16 / Perception +15

Alternatively, a Greater Air Elemental: Stealth +18 / Perception +15

With these examples you have a Perception DC of 21 with most of these enemies having a Stealth in the 11-13 range. When you start punching above your weight class getting into Group Encounters with more powerful enemies then your success will start to drop.

Using this that means that you would succeed 40-60% of the time against a solo encounter that is considered 'Low Difficulty' and 30-50% of the time against a solo encounter that is considered 'High Difficulty'.

When you start dealing with groups of enemies and things that are stronger and more skilled than you are, your success rates drop closer to the 20% range, but I wouldn't expect you to sneak into a fight without a group of enemies being distracted if you were attempting to succeed at all. Or at the very least being aided by something else such as an Invisibility spell or some other form of magic.

In those cases that's where circumstance bonuses and other effects would end up helping you. Stealth is very effective in battle if the enemy doesn't already know that you are there and they are distracted with something else. If you're the one on the receiving side of that then having a 20% chance seems like it's fair, provided you're up against something that is skilled at stealth.


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As well as the main issue of the skills formula being off, I think the levels of skills chosen are off, i.e. Trolls (5) should not be more perceptive than Smilodons (5). Mummy Pharaohs (9) should not be the elite stealth master at its level. And so forth.
What it looks like is that a creature is either untrained or specialized, and that doesn't mesh well when PCs get so few skills to specialize in.

Untrained: The issue here is the baseline for most creatures is higher than for PCs their level. Except for creatures known for a breadth of skills (like a fully stocked Brain Collector), most creatures should just have Level-2 (then +stat of skill). I'd expect famously dumb or mindless creatures to have even lower (though I don't mind them having instinctual skills). Likely this issue will be resolved when the right formula resets the skills.

Trained/Expert: Like with PCs, these should be the norms for most monster skills & Perc. There should be nothing resembling item bonuses until later levels, and then only as if the second-best option. Again, the norm for monsters should resemble the norm for PCs because they're all supposed to be competing at the same level when they are the same level. Monsters shouldn't compete as if they were super wealthy PCs (especially if they aren't going to drop any goodies).

Specialized: This should be reserved for the monster's best skill or two unless known for skillfulness (and likely costing them some combat prowess like it does Rogues). So giants might get item-like bonuses to athletics (based on their level), cats & ambush predators might get stealth, and so forth.
And these should align with other creatures at that level. I could see item-like bonuses, "as if they had an 18 stat instead of a low stat", & master/legendary bonuses for only the best of the best. Even with all of those, a maxed out PC should be competitive, right?

So a Shadow, of course it'll be as good as anything else its level at Stealth, at least in dim spaces. A fey in the forest might even have all the possible bonuses early on, but mind you it's not like PC Elven Rangers should be slackers there either. Or a Treant among trees might hide as if it had 18 Dex, but not necessarily be better than that Ranger.
But a Mummy? Maybe Intimidation, but nobody thinks "Ah, beware the sneaky mummy!" Or a crocodile out of water? Doesn't feel right.
Those guys should be reset to just trained, not elite. And have you thought about just how far a crocodile can leap now! It may need a stubby-footed penalty, or only to be so high when grappling.

Lastly, not all monsters should have top notch Perception, unless known for being observant which yes, is most of them. Maybe pay the price elsewhere?

Liberty's Edge

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@Gloom:

Firstly, that's still at the high end of PC Perception. It's not optimal, but it's at the high end. PC Perception at 7th ranges between +7 and +12 without items. Using a +11 of that range for your comparisons remains slightly sketchy. Items make it more reasonable (since some people will have them and can get a +2 that way), but still.

Secondly, and to reiterate: Stealth is not the sole problem, and using it as your only example has some issues. A large part of the problem is that the PCs can't be good at everything and whenever they run into a monster good at the things they are not they get completely hosed. Looking at one trait (Perception) that every group will have somebody good in, and everyone is encouraged to raise somewhat, only gets you part of the story.

Thirdly, you're the one who brought up cirumstance modifiers like they fixed things. With those, your odds of success drop by up to 20% (to between 10% and 40% depending on the enemy). That remains terrible odds for what's supposed to be a pretty perceptive PC.

@Castilliano:

That's definitely part of the problem, yes. There clearly are some 'middle level' skills, but they get used way less often than 'absolutely maxed out' ones (which, IMO, are vastly overused), which is counterintuitive, not the way PCs do it, and generally seems like a bad call.


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@Deadmanwalking

+11 is toward the middle of the spectrum. +7 would literally be a character that has 10 Wisdom and Trained Perception, which is the minimum possible outside of a racial disadvantage taking Wisdom down to 8.

Doing this would be you going out of your way to make a character that was not perceptive at all.

If you have a perception between 6 and 8, then you should be at a disadvantage when it comes to your Perception DC and your Perception rolls.

Does that mean you should have no chance at all to succeed? No.
Does that mean that your chance to succeed should be very low? Yes.

This was in no way "Optimized for Perception."

If I wanted to optimize a 7th level character for perception I could easily say that it was a 7th level Rogue or Ranger with Eyes of the Eagle and an 18 Wisdom.

That would be:

7th Level (+7)
18 Wisdom (+4)
Proficiency (+2)
Item (+2)

Perception = +15
Perception DC = 25.

Saying that I'm misleading for having a DC set almost dead center of the curve is just rude.


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Just to give some additional perspective, when considering a solo high difficulty encounter for said character and you go with the Lesser Air Elemental which arguably has the highest stealth bonus at that rank, it would need to roll a 12 or higher on its stealth check to beat you.

That still gives you a 55% chance to come out ahead in that.

Liberty's Edge

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I like the idea that monsters can be custom-built to meet the needs of the story. I do not like that this would be used to create metagamey monsters that are built to prevent optimized PCs from surpassing said monsters over a large range of situations

Monsters should not be built just to thwart PCs

Liberty's Edge

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Gloom wrote:
Saying that I'm misleading for having a DC set almost dead center of the curve is just rude.

Firstly, I'd like to note that it's also kind of rude when you keep ignoring 75% of my posts or more to monofocus on Stealth in particular, and the specific numbers you bring up in regards to it. It's a side issue, not the primary point of this thread, and feels a lot like you're dodging actually discussing the issue this thread is supposed to address. That's probably not your intent, but it makes the discussion rather unproductive and is kind of frustrating, IMO.

Secondly, I was in no way accusing you of being intentionally misleading and if it came off that way I sincerely apologize. But I factually disagree with your (almost certainly sincerely held) assertion.

You keep picking members of the three Classes that get better than Expert Perception for your example and acting like they're the norm. Which they aren't. They're exceptional by virtue of getting Master Perception, which is a rather big deal.

The Perception you list is at the Median (well, actually, it's technically above the median, since the range is +6 to +15, making the Median +10.5), but that's not the usual use of 'average' in this context. The usual use if more like the mean. And due to the fact that bonuses below +11 are more common than those above it, IME, the mean is somehwhat lower than that.

A +11 is definitely a typical Perception for the highest Perception person in the party to have if they don't invest in an item. It's not what you get when you average the Perception scores of a typical PC group, however. Well, not unless you mean a very specific version of 'typical' anyway.

The only characters who can even get a +11 or higher without ridiculous investment or a magic item are Rogues, Fighters, Rangers, Clerics, and Druids. And the Rogue, Fighter, and Ranger need to invest in Wisdom to manage it (though not super heavily, admittedly). That's less than half the Classes who are even likely to have Perception in that range at all. There are certainly items, but the whole party isn't likely to have them, so they skew the average up, but only slightly (and is more of a factor at 7th than most other levels since the items in question are available with on-level bonuses, something that's pretty uncommon over the whole 20 levels).

+11 is not an optimized Perception, and I didn't say it was, but it's on the higher end of such scores, rather than being strictly average (I'd bet average at +9 or +10, personally) which I thought was worth noting. Of the Doomsday Dawn characters I've seen created, excepting the obligatory Clerics in Chapter 3 (who skew the average) three out of nine would hit that number at 7th level, and only barely without items. Now, with items, they'd be higher, it's true. But not enough to bring the average to that point.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
ryric wrote:

This seems like an especially big problem considering one of the arguments I keep hearing for "everyone gets better at all skills" is that higher level PCs should be able to, e.g., sneak even if they've never tried it before.

But it seems like with this math that the "freebie" skill points don't actually let you succeed at things, so now we're sacrificing verisimilitude in order to gain basically nothing.

Well, let's examine that. Assuming, say, level 13, bonuses in Perception range from +19 to +25 (clustering at the +22 or better level). An untrained person with Dex 16 (for medium armor) and a -1 armor check penalty (due to high quality armor) has a total of +15 to sneak. That means they need a 17+ to sneak vs. most foes of their level (and a 14+ even vs. the least perceptive). Ouch.

Raising them to 15th level, and they still need a 15+ to sneak vs. foes two levels lower than them (an 18+ on the toughest such foe).

That's...sort of a chance, I suppose.

A PC Ranger can barely manage to keep up with that range of Perception scores (I think the highest possible is +22 at that level without vastly overleveled gear)...but few other Classes will manage even that particularly well.

I'm just a bit confused by the math on this sneak estimation you made.

My understanding from the rulebook is that untrained is (level - 2).
If you had a level 13 character with a 16 Dex and an armor check penalty of (-1), shouldn't that work out to be +13, not +15?

Stealth: +3(dex) (13(level)-2 untrained proficiency)(-1 armor check penalty) = so 3 + 11 + (-1) = 13, not 15.

Unless I'm missing something.

This would make the required check to be 19+sneak vs. foes of their level, which feels a lot more like what I've been experiencing in the playtest so far.


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The Raven Black wrote:

I like the idea that monsters can be custom-built to meet the needs of the story. I do not like that this would be used to create metagamey monsters that are built to prevent optimized PCs from surpassing said monsters over a large range of situations

Monsters should not be built just to thwart PCs

This. I've played under GMs who arbitrarily create monsters and NPCs who only exist to thwart whatever it is that the PCs are trying to be good at. I don't play under those GMs anymore.

Challenges are fun, repeatedly being told that your character investments are meaningless is not fun.

Did you build a monk that is especially good at grappling? SURPRISE! Everything you ever encounter is now super good at escaping grapples for no logical reason whatsoever!

Did your sorcerer specialize in fire spells? WOOPS. Sucks that you never seem to fight anything that doesn't have fire resistance anymore. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Pathfinder2ePlaytest feels like those GMs, and I am just as unwilling to play under those conditions especially if they are baked in to the game.

Liberty's Edge

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BardicWander wrote:

I'm just a bit confused by the math on this sneak estimation you made.

My understanding from the rulebook is that untrained is (level - 2).
If you had a level 13 character with a 16 Dex and an armor check penalty of (-1), shouldn't that work out to be +13, not +15?

Stealth: +3(dex) (13(level)-2 untrained proficiency)(-1 armor check penalty) = so 3 + 11 + (-1) = 13, not 15.

Unless I'm missing something.

This would make the required check to be 19+sneak vs. foes of their level, which feels a lot more like what I've been experiencing in the playtest so far.

Huh. You're entirely correct. All numbers in that post should be 2 worse for the PC. I have no idea why or how that screwup happened. Bad me from a month ago, no cookie for you (alas, it's too late for this to be a serious threat...I already had a cookie).

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Is it even possible to make an actually oblivious character in PF2e? I'm somewhat fond of the trope of the absent-minded wizard who has no idea what's going on around him. Not everyone maxed Perception in PF1e.

Liberty's Edge

ryric wrote:
Is it even possible to make an actually oblivious character in PF2e? I'm somewhat fond of the trope of the absent-minded wizard who has no idea what's going on around him. Not everyone maxed Perception in PF1e.

Pretty easily. A +10 Perception at 10th level (Wis 10, no investment in Perception) is...pretty bad. You'll notice stuff, but not with any regularity.

Of course, upping Wis (as you may wish to do for Will Saves) makes this less true (+12 or +13 is then plausible), but I'm not sure absent-minded characters should be high Wisdom in the first place...

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