A sober campaign journal of Doomsday Dawn: Doom, gloom, and TPKs


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback

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I am running two separate groups through Doomsday Dawn. I will be writing up playtest reports under the following format: introduction, character sheets, major identified problems, playthrough notes, survey answers.

Introduction: Earlier, I heard of two different groups running Doomsday Dawn: Part #1: The Lost Star. Both of those groups TPKed to the boss of the dungeon. Several hours ago, I ran The Lost Star myself. I struggled with the exploration tactics rules. The party was literally 1 HP away from a TPK in an encounter against four 0th-level goblins. The party subsequently died to the dungeon boss. We ended the session on a poor note; the group did not find the experience all that fun, and while I am dead-set on continuing the playtest, some of the group's members are considering dropping out.

Character Sheets: I like to think that our characters were reasonably optimized for their respective classes and their intended level of play, 1st level:

Half-elf alchemist with Alchemical Familiar, mostly because familiars have such good Perception. They did not intend on relying on bombs that much, so they avoided the directly bomb-related options.

Halfling cleric with the Creation domain, a fairly generic buffer, debuffer, healer, and Perception-user. I think they made some poor defensive choices; they should have gone with Dexterity 16 and Constitution 12 instead of balancing the two scores, and they should have used a breastplate. When I asked why they did not use a breastplate, they mentioned that they were too worried about the breastplate's -4 armor check penalty; they were expecting mandatory Athletics checks at some point. Also in retrospect, they should have gone with a light cantrip.

Human fighter with Natural Ambition, Sudden Charge, Power Attack, Dexterity 16, a breastplate, and a two-handed weapon. A fairly typical front-line bruiser who does not wish to suffer the indignity of heavy armor.

Elf rogue with a rapier for a melee attack, Otherworldly Magic (ray of frost) for a ranged Sneak Attack against touch AC, and Trap Finder to more safely using the "Sneaking" exploration tactic, which in turn grants Stealth for initiative and thus Surprise Attack. In retrospect, the sunrod, ready to be dropped at any time, was a poor purchase compared to a hooded lantern.

Major Identified Problem #1: Exploration (and Social) Tactics: Exploration and social tactics are an extremely janky, nonsensical, and problematic mechanic. As I was running the game, exploration tactics leapt out to me as an intense chore, and the same logic carries over to social tactics. I discovered the following problems over the course of play and as I thought about matters.

• Tactic Problem #1: There is no integration between tactics and premade adventures at all. There are no guidelines in the scenarios that help GMs adjudicate tactics.

• Tactic Problem #2: Players are supposed to describe what their characters are doing, and the GM is then to assign an appropriate tactic. That worked the first couple of times, but soon thereafter, the players realized just how limiting tactics were, so they simply declared their tactics outright.

• Tactic Problem #3: "Investigating" sounds too similar to "Searching." Players were mixing up the two all the time.

• Tactic Problem #4: "Investigating" means that a character will wind up with a glut of information... and, due to critical failures, a glut of misinformation as well. This is onerous for the GM to concoct on the fly.

• Tactic Problem #5a: It simply does not make sense that some of these tactics cannot be combined. I can buy that a character cannot be in "Detecting Magic" mode at the same time as "(Mundane) Searching" mode or "Sneaking" mode, but the rest are wholly preposterous. A character literally cannot Recall Knowledge unless they put on their thinking cap and devote themselves to the "Investigating" tactic, and they similarly cannot Seek unless they use the "Searching" tactic. Apparently, it is utterly impossible to simultaneously keep an eye on one's surroundings while recalling pertinent facts about what one sees!

• Tactic Problem #5b: As an extension of the previous point, for social tactics, it is completely impossible to be both "Conversing" and "Looking Out," because if one is engaged in a back-and-forth conversation, it is beyond their capacities to also gauge people for lies. It is also impossible to be "Carousing" (gathering information) and "Looking Out" simultaneously, which is rather damning, seeing how a character should be able to try to detect deceptions from sources of information.

• Tactic Problem #6: If a party has time to spare, there is no reason not to have the entire party make sweeps over a room with "Searching," ala Investigating, and then have the party's high-knowledge characters give a sweep with "Investigating." Since characters cannot look at things and remember things simultaneously, they will just have to look at things with a fine-toothed comb until they discover everything there is to possibly discover, and then they can get the smart folks to remember things. After all, anyone less educated is probably going to roll critical failures and muddle the party's knowledge base with erroneous information.

• Tactic Problem #7: Exploration tactics integrate poorly with animal companions and familiars, the latter more so. Familiars have strong Perception modifiers, so a familiar-owner will want to have their familiar perform "Searching," but given that commanding a familiar takes an action, it is a mystery as to how familiars and animal companions slot into exploration tactics.

Major Identified Problem #2: Recall Knowledge as a Group: Recall Knowledge has a huge problem as a group. Namely, if the entire party tries it, then there is a very good chance that at least one party member will succeed, while another party member (usually one untrained in the skill and with a low relevant ability modifier) rolls a critical failure and dredges up erroneous information.

The way I handled this in my playtest game was to pay attention only to the successful character, but played any other way by RAW, this leads to too many slapstick situations wherein one party members recalls a plausible-sounding fact, while one goofball (who usually knows that they are a doofus untrained in the skill and with a low relevant ability modifier) brings up something pertinent.

Major Identified Problem #3: The Dying Rules are Extremely Convoluted and Unfun: Suppose a PC gets reduced to 0 Hit Points by a lethal attack. They fall unconscious, they gain dying 1, and their initiative gets knocked down. Apparently, even if they receive healing or spend a Hero Point to hasten their recovery, they still have to succeed on a Fortitude saving throw when their turn rolls around to gain consciousness; otherwise, too bad, they stay unconscious. Even if the PC does succeed on the Fortitude saving throw and regain consciousness, they lose 1 action during the turn... and they are still prone, and their held items are on the ground, forcing them to spend actions to stand up and pick up the items. There goes a turn.

Why does it have to be so hard to pop back into a fight with the help of an ally's healing abilities? And why do the rules have to be so bloody (no pun intended) complicated? We were constantly struggling with these rules, and they were the single greatest source of frustration for the entire group.

Major Identified Problem #4: Stealth vs. Perception on Initiative is Puzzling to Handle: From the GM's side, I simply did not know how to handle Stealth vs. Perception on initiative in the slightest. Suppose creature A is hiding in a room, and creature B enters, Seeking. What happens? Does creature A roll Stealth against creature B's Perception DC? Does creature B roll Perception against creature A's Stealth DC? Do they skip that and simply roll initiative, with Perception vs. Stealth? The book explains this poorly.

Major Identified Problem #5: Light Sources Provide Too Small a Radius: Paizo already upgraded low-light vision to ignore dim light regardless of distance, and darkvision to ignore darkness regardless of distance, so why are light sources so feeble now? Torches and sunrods give only a 20-foot radius of bright light with nothing beyond, and hooded lanterns give off only a 30-foot radius of bright light and nothing else. These highly limited light radii proved aggravating for the party, and they nearly caused a TPK in a long room full of darkness and bowslinging goblins. Speaking of which, why even bother with a sunrod at this point, given its price and feeble light radius?

Major Identified Problem #6: Alchemists are Bad: There are no two ways around it: alchemists are bad, and arguably the worst class in the entire game. Their bombs are pathetic for damage (1d8 damage alchemist's fire or 1d6 damage bottled lightning at 1st level), their healing is laughable compared to actual healing spells (1d6 healing minor elixirs of life at 1st level), their other alchemical items' overall combat utility and noncombat utility are shabby for their level, and they burn through all of their Resonance. The alchemist in our group simply could not bring that much to the table.

Major Identified Problem #7: Lower Levels are Swingy Shanktown with Critical Hits: It is really not that hard to score a critical hit in 2e, what with "10 or higher is a critical success." Thus, at lower levels, any party can potentially have a frightening amount of critical hits thrown their way. It is particularly terrifying and swingy when deadly d10 shortbows are aimed at the PCs.

Major Identified Problem #8: Spellcasting PCs are Simply More Varied and Interesting to Actually Play Than Martials: The PCs did not really get to act that much due to the whole "janky dying rules" business, but even when they did get to act, there was a clear rift between the varied combat options of the cleric and the decidedly spammier combat options of the fighter and the rogue. I am a 4e fan at heart, I will make that clear, so I dislike it when the martial classes are devolved into spamming pure damage attacks with maybe a little extra mobility to them. It does not feel like the martials are mixing things up in combat at all, compared to the spellcasters.

Playthrough Notes: The Sewer Ooze: At the start of the adventure, the players strolled into a chamber containing a hidden sewer ooze. This was where I struggled to handle the Stealth vs. Perception rules. I ultimately decided to let them roll Perception against the ooze's Stealth DC to identify it. Then, after the party opted to engage the sewer ooze, it was down to Perception for everyone's initiative.

The sewer ooze opened up with a critical hit and nasty dice results on an AoE attack. Fortunately, the party took down ooze in one round by ganging up on it. It was a rather dull opponent, since it was immune to precision damage (no Sneak Attack for the rogue) and critical hits (no excitement of doubled damage), and AC 5 made attacks a foregone conclusion. Still, the party was banged-up afterwards, so the cleric had to spend from their positive energy pool to heal everyone up.

Playthrough Notes: The Four 0th-level Goblins: Two people in the party were carrying light sources: the rogue with a sunrod (ready to drop it at any time to cast ray of frost, though in retrospect, the sunrod was a bad purchase compared to a much cheaper hooded lantern) and the cleric with a hooded lantern (also in retrospect, the cleric should have had a light cantrip for use on a frontline PC). Unfortunately, their small light radii were insufficient to illuminate the 0th-level goblins on the far end of the room. I figured that the goblins were somewhat distracted with their art project, but once the PCs drew within 40 feet or so of the goblins, the goblins would surely notice the PCs' lights. The PCs did draw close enough, and I called for Perception vs. Perception for initiative.

This is where things went wrong for the party. The goblins brought out their bows, kept to the darkness, and took shots at the PCs. The goblins were merely "sensed," which means that the PCs were flat-footed. Flat-footed PCs have 2 lower AC, which means that the goblins could more easily land critical hits, which meant triggering their shortbows' 1d10 deadly property. This is perhaps how the very first goblin-arrow was a critical hit that dropped the rogue to 0 hit points. The cleric healed the rogue back up, but then the rogue had to contend with the awful dying rules.

At one point, the cleric used a color spray on three goblins, but the goblins luckily resisted. At another point, the rogue used ray of frost to luckily one-turn-kill a goblin. At yet another point, the fighter actually got to use their Sudden Charge for mobility, even though it did not matter much as their second attack at -5 missed anyway. At a different point, the fighter was most disappointed to see that a goblin could bypass their Attack of Opportunity by taking a Step action, but I thought that that was par for the course.

Near the end of the battle, there were but two goblins left, and every PC except for the rogue was dying and struggling with the janky dying rules. The rogue was at exactly 1 hit point, but the rogue saved the day by Striding up to two adjacent goblins and successfully Striking down both of them. By that point, the rogue had taken down three out of four goblins, and yet the rogue never got to Sneak Attack a single time, especially since the sewer ooze was immune to precision damage. If the rogue had taken even 1 more damage at some point, the party would have TPKed to four 0th-level goblins.

The party returned to town to rest. They slept, let the cleric spam heal from the positive energy pool, spent the rest of the day relaxing, and then slept again. That way, the cleric would be fresh on heal uses. Yes, they party effectively spent two days resting, all to let the cleric heal everyone and then recharge those uses. Afterwards, the returned to the Ashen Ossuary. The party wisely ignored the vermin and fungus chambers, discovered a minor healing potion while under the "Searching" tactic, and pressed forward.

Playthrough Notes: The Tainted Fountain Room: The PCs discovered the evil idol at the bottom of the black pool. The adventure implied that the party could realize the danger of directly extracting the idol, so I offered a DC 18 Religion check to the party. The rogue landed the check, and then succeeded on a DC 12 Thievery check to finagle the idol out using their thieves' tools.

The rogue also discovered the alarm-warded door and the locked door. Upon learning that the locked door would take three DC 20 Thievery checks to unlock, the rogue shied away, out of fear of rolling a critical failure and breaking their thieves' tools. The rogue instead opted to freeze the door into a brittle state by spamming ray of frost, and then carefully chipping away at the door to prevent a loud ruckus. I allowed this with a DC 14 Thievery check, and the rogue succeeded.

Playthrough Notes: The Statue of Pharasma: The party's alchemist dedicated themselves to the "Searching" tactic by having their familiar scout, which is not quite in the exploration tactics rules, but I had to adjudicate some mechanism to having a familiar scout ahead. The familiar discovered the statue-trap and reported back by speaking in Common. Unsurprisingly, the rogue went up to the statue and successfully disabled it with a DC 18 Thievery check. Very straightforward.

Playthrough Notes: Drakus the Taker and the Dire/Giant Rat: This is where things went horribly wrong. The party gathered together in the corridor before the stuck door. The rogue was trained in Athletics and was suffering no armor check penalty compared to the breastplated fighter's -4, and the party was not expecting the upcoming room to be the boss room. Thus, the rogue made the DC 12 Athletics check to force open the door, and succeeded on the first try. (Really, the rogue had been a skill powerhouse throughout the whole session, unsurprisingly.)

The party came face to face with Drakus and rolled Perception vs. Perception for initiative. Since the adventure was vague, I ruled that Drakus already had his sword at the ready, since he was performing some ghastly feeding ritual anyway. Drakus went first in initiative and, thinking quickly, created a chokepoint against the characters stuck in the corridors. Drakus buffed himself by showing his faceless face, and then, with a bloated +12 attack bonus, easily scored a critical hit and one-shotted the poor rogue. Everything went downhill from there.

The fighter tried to Power Attack Drakus and missed. The alchemist threw a bomb and missed, but it would have done awful damage had it hit anyway. The cleric healed up the rogue, who succeeded on their Fortitude saving throw to regain consciousness... only to realize that Drakus had Attack of Opportunity and would retaliate against the rogue for standing up or picking up the dropped rapier. The prone and flat-footed rogue tried their luck, and ate another critical hit for her efforts, thus placing the rogue at dying 4, dead. From there, Drakus used the chokepoints of the corridors to finish off the fighter, and then screwed over the cleric and the alchemist with Attack of Opportunity, killing them as well.

The rat did not do much, except for gnaw at the dying fighter to finish the fighter off. In fairness, due to the funky positioning of the chokepoint-based battle, the fighter was the only valid target for the rat.

Drakus took not a single point of damage during that ordeal. It was an unlucky disaster for the party, and Drakus does not even look as strong as a 3rd-level bugbear fighter from the Bestiary, so it is not as if he was overpowered for his level. Everyone's morale was shattered, and everyone was cursing the janky rules for dying.

GM Feedback Survey:
• 1. How long did it take to play this part of Doomsday Dawn (not counting preparation or character creation)?
5 hours.

• 2. How long did it take to prepare this part of the adventure (time spent reading, gathering materials, etc.)?
8 hours.

• 3. How many sessions did it take for you to play through this part of the adventure?
1 session.

• 4. How many Hero Points (in total) did you give out during this part of the adventure?
4 total, all for the out-of-character act of showing up to the session on time, a virtue I place in high esteem.

• 5. How many times was a player character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
9 times all in all, including the times when a character was reduced to 0 Hit Points, brought back up, and then reduced to 0 Hit Points again.

• 6. How many player characters were killed during this part of the adventure?
4, the entire party.

Player Feedback Survey, Alchemist's Player:
• 1. How long did it take for you to create (or update) your character?
No answer given.

• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
2 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
2 times, creating alchemical items.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
1.

Player Feedback Survey, Cleric's Player:
• 1. How long did it take for you to create (or update) your character?
No answer given.

• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
2 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never had an opportunity to use fabricate.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
0, was conserving them and was hesitant to use them.

Player Feedback Survey, Fighter's Player:
• 1. How long did it take for you to create (or update) your character?
1 hour.

• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
2.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
0, was conserving them and was hesitant to use them.

Player Feedback Survey, Rogue's Player:
• 1. How long did it take for you to create (or update) your character?
No answer given.

• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
3 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, not a spellcaster.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
0, was conserving them and was hesitant to use them.

† Do not count any times that occurred while the group was camping or otherwise at rest. Only times that occurred during the adventuring day should be considered. For example, if a character casts a spell after a fight and runs out of spell slots, but the group has another encounter before resting, that would count. Any events that occur after the final encounter of the day should not be counted.


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Excellent feedback. I playtested with a custom adventure, but I had some similar experiences with crits and the dying rules. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2vajx?PF2-Playtest-session-1-feedback-3-takeawa ys#1

I guess if the party in the final encounter had used their Hero Points, well, okay, they're not dead from death saves, but the villain would just have sliced their throats while they were down.


RangerWickett wrote:

Excellent feedback. I playtested with a custom adventure, but I had some similar experiences with crits and the dying rules. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2vajx?PF2-Playtest-session-1-feedback-3-takeawa ys#1

I guess if the party in the final encounter had used their Hero Points, well, okay, they're not dead from death saves, but the villain would just have sliced their throats while they were down.

Thank you; your own thread has helped me place into words some of the issues that were swirling around in my head, and that I could not quite materialize. It seems like you and I have shared much of the same experiences.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Crikey, I better get to reading the rules really well, if I want to run the adventure this saturday. Really interesting to read, thank you!


Your alchemist player was aware they could attempt to make more of their alchemical items by overspending resonance points right? I know it's a bit of a moot point for this character, but should anyone choose to play one in the future.


Though there's not a tactics section it does mention the Goblins running at the party to attack. They would also need to draw their blades so likely wouldn't get an attack in until their 2nd turn.

And those are pillars down the middle so the Goblins have to maneuver (and likely draw their bows too) to get clear shots.

Sucks that the BBEG was able to make a chokepoint against a guy w/ low defenses.
Maybe it's lucky our party failed the door so the BBEG hid.
Then again, since your party knew this guy was the BBEG from the earlier description and/or grotesque transformation, maybe they should have retreated to a more tactical location. It's a lot easier to do that in PF2 speaking of whether it has tactical options, and you can even toss in an attack first.

Experience was completely opposite of yours, but lead character was a Paladin w/ a shield, so was able to absorb tons more damage.


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Spoiler:
My party found the secret door and went around the back way, snuck up on him while he was feeding. So they had an easier time.

I will agree that the dying rules are needlessly complex and goofy. The wizard got poisoned, so he kept returning to 1hp, then uimmediately back to 0 and dying, then dying 3, then hero point, then no longer dying, but poison damage made him dying again, etc.


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Disclaimer: I'm running my first playtest session on Tuesday night, so I have not actually played the rules yet.

I've heard several accounts of the damage being swingy and very dangerous. I'd also agree that the Alchemist seems underpowered on first read-through.

I think you're getting a little too wrapped up in the exploration rules. The exploration mode actions are to see if the characters notice something in the environment. Once they've noticed an object or something they want to interact with, then they can stop and focus on it, which drops them out of exploration mode to make as many specific checks as they'd like. Exploration mode is just for passive checks while the party is moving.

Scarab Sages

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Colette Brunel wrote:
This is really quite clunky and unintuitive, and it is yet another case in favor of completely doing away with those arbitrary and crippling armor check penalties and speed penalties. Nobody in either of my groups has ever dared to come near heavy armor.

I am just amazed that players can't see the advantages to Heavy Armor, Heavy Armor has never been this good in the evolution of 3.X d20 systems. You get TAC bonuses! If the armor is magic the enhancement bonus is also added to the TAC. You get to reduce the armor check penalties at higher levels, magic armor gets reduced armor check penalties. The other penalties are not that bad IMO. They make sense.


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One oversight I made in this playtest session was that the party found a minor health potion, but it should have taken an entire hour to identify it, or ten minutes with the Quick Identification feat. Finding such a trivial item but being halted by an hour due to identification concerns is utterly unreasonable.

Ten minutes should be the baseline, Quick Identification should bump that down to a minute, and identical potions should be identifiable as batches. As it stands, having one person in the party with Quick Identification is nigh-mandatory.


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Thanks for taking the time to write out the reports, identify the problems you felt existed and also include the surveys.

Reading actual play-tests is clarfying a lot of the rules in practice.

Reading the survey questions (quite apart from the actual answers your players provided) is most illuminating - it shows which parts of the playtest are sensitive (damage/kills, resonance, spell points) and what lens the developers are using to perceive the customer's reactions through.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
Castilliano wrote:

Then again, since your party knew this guy was the BBEG from the earlier description and/or grotesque transformation, maybe they should have retreated to a more tactical location. It's a lot easier to do that in PF2 speaking of whether it has tactical options, and you can even toss in an attack first.

This is more difficult against an enemy with Attack of Opportunity.

Action 1 Strike

Action 2 Step
Action 3 Move

No AoO from a creature with normal reach.
If you are in a worse position, you can Step, Step, then Move.

Step allows you you to still move, unlike in earlier editions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Colette Brunel wrote:

I am running two separate groups through Doomsday Dawn. I will be writing up playtest reports under the following format: introduction, character sheets, major identified problems, playthrough notes, survey answers.

...

Colette thank you for putting this together so nicely!

I only ran the beginning of Chapter 1, encounters A1,A2, and A7 and you saw a lot of the same problems I came here to voice.

MAJOR PROBLEMS

Specifically Major Problems 3,4, and 5 already came up. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out those dying rules, recovery rolls, etc. Stealth vs. perception for initiative confused me a bit for encounter A7. And those lights rules, the only 20' bright light for torches, really threw us and made for some dangerous situations.

ENCOUNTERS

Encounter A2 (those four goblins in the dark at the far north of the cavern) dropped our Bard the minute he stepped in and couldn't see them. They made enough noise that I had the goblins even say "oh what's that" especially with the cleric's light coming into the room. 4 readied arrows later (2 of them crits) and bam. It took quite a while for them to get a light source over there. The Barbarian did make good use of "taking cover" though.

In A7 they were taking a beating from the Commando and adding the Pyro on top. Some good hits, some focus fire and the Barbarian struggled to get up. The Cleric healed him but the need for a recovery roll to get up often delayed his actions. I figured the Pyro was smart so as he saw the Barbarian get healed the Pyro again attacked. The Bard is the only reason they won this encounter and didn't TPK. He was the only one conscious at one point. The dying/recovery rules delaying others getting involved. The Bard made a nice 3 action magic missile attack.

Those dying / recovery rules need amending.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
Elf rogue with a rapier for a melee attack, Otherworldly Magic (ray of frost) for a ranged Sneak Attack against touch AC,

That doesn't work.

Sneak Attack wrote:
You deal additional damage to flat-footed creatures (see page 322). If you Strike a flat-footed creature with an agile or finesse melee weapon, an agile or finesse unarmed attack, or a ranged attack, you deal 1d6 extra precision damage. For a ranged attack with a thrown weapon, that weapon must also be agile or finesse.

Your player may be tempted to read the bold as the rule, and the italics as a specific modification in the case of strikes, but that's pretty clearly nonsensical. It would mean any source of damage at all (even a Fireball) would inflict extra damage, but not a Greataxe or Bastard Sword.

Instead, the entire paragraph is the rule, and you have to meet each part to inflict sneak attack. A spell is never a Strike, so it can't inflict sneak attack.

I've seen reports that it was being run otherwise at some cons. Until they update this language, those GMs were doing it wrong.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
This is where things went wrong for the party. The goblins brought out their bows, kept to the darkness, and took shots at the PCs. The goblins were merely "sensed," which means that the PCs were flat-footed. Flat-footed PCs have 2 lower AC, which means that the goblins could more easily land critical hits, which meant triggering their shortbows' 1d10 deadly property. This is perhaps how the very first goblin-arrow was a critical hit that dropped the rogue to 0 hit points.

Great feedback.

Just a quick note. Years ago I played a game called Rolemaster and I noted that randomness helps the bad guys, not the good guys, a lot more.

PF1 had less randomness to it, no critical fails, crit needed to be confirmed, which was more rare.

PF2 has a lot more randomness to it, so it's going to be a lot more deadly in the long term for PCs. I think for skills, they need to take some of the randomness out, and they need to eliminate many of the secret rolls. The GM is already the bottleneck, we don't need more things to take our time.


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I think Colette's feedback is excellent and very helpful. Mocking people for giving negative feedback isn't very nice. GM's should observe failures of the system and report their impressions.


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Jason S wrote:
The GM is already the bottleneck, we don't need more things to take our time.

This is a very good point.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for sharing, I found it very informative and expect it will help me when I run it in a few weeks.

Scarab Sages

OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:

Thanks for taking the time to write out the reports, identify the problems you felt existed and also include the surveys.

Reading actual play-tests is clarfying a lot of the rules in practice.

Reading the survey questions (quite apart from the actual answers your players provided) is most illuminating - it shows which parts of the playtest are sensitive (damage/kills, resonance, spell points) and what lens the developers are using to perceive the customer's reactions through.

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Luceon wrote:
Just because you saw a guy rolling around in armor on YouTube, does not change the fact that many task are actually harder to do when you put armor on, swimming, climbing, and yes acrobatic moves too, and many other things like fatigue. I know for a fact, I have worn armor, and I wore body armor, for many long periods of time for many decades. Training and experience in the armor helps but it never mitigates the penalties completely . The ideas you suggest are dangerous to the game 1 they make no sense. 2. In a game you describe everyone would wear plate mail. You need interesting choices for a successful fun game. Armor needs to have serious drawbacks. Having no armor needs to have serious drawbacks, which it does AC +0, touch AC +0.

So despite there being plenty of documentation to the contrary, you're going to refuse to acknowledge it just because "Oh well this was my experience with it, so it must be everyone's."? Kinda a funny argument when you're arguing with someone over playtest feedback, but hey, you do you. Also, "interesting choices" should not mean "choices you are penalized for taking". Not to mention that characters that usually go without armor gain it for free elsewhere, so really if anything, folks that actually wear the armor should be at an equal playing field, not constantly at a disadvantage because they decided to not make a wizard.


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The saga continues.

I am running two separate groups through Doomsday Dawn. I will be writing up playtest reports under the following format: introduction, character sheets, identified problems, playthrough notes, relevant survey answers.

Introduction: I know of three groups, apart from my own, who had suffered TPKs during Doomsday Dawn: Part #1: The Lost Star. My first group nearly TPKed to four 0th-level goblins, and then TPKed to the dungeon boss. My second group was hammered hard by a case of history repeating itself. They, too, nearly TPKed to four 0th-level goblins, and they subsequently TPKed to the dungeon boss, all while being considerably more meticulous and thoughtful about their tactics.

The dying rules had reared their ugly head again, and everyone was frustrated by them. During the second and third battles, the PCs reached 0 hit points a staggering 14 times in total, and their bear companion reached 0 hit points twice. It was a grueling ordeal. One player even rage-quit two-thirds of the way into the session. I can understand why; they had not gotten to make a single attack roll all that time, since they spent their time fumbling with the dying rules. I had to take control of their character from that point onwards. We ended this session on a poor note as well; one player had already rage-quit for good, and the others are on shaky morale. So far, my two groups have not been having fun with 2e after all.

Character Sheets: Again, our characters were reasonably optimal for their respective classes and builds at 1st level:

Half-orc barbarian with the +2 HP option for front-loaded HP, Dexterity 16 for higher AC, the Fury totem because all of the other totems are flat-out bad and boring, Acute Vision to get around darkness and vision issues, and Sudden Charge for mobility.

Half-elf fighter with Double Slice and a shield. This type of build drops off in effectiveness by 3rd level due to Weapon Expert, but it is vaguely serviceable at 1st and 2nd level, even if it does demand a golf bag of shields. This is less of a shield build and more of a Double Slice build that just so happens to have a shield. A breastplate avoids heavy armor.

Halfling fire cleric with Halfling Luck as a safety net, fire ray for offense, burning hands for area damage, magic weapon to buff the barbarian, and, of course, a positive energy pool to top off the party's hit points between battles.

Halfling druid with a Halfling Luck as a safety net, grease for battlefield control, heal as backup healing for the cleric, and a bear animal companion to squeeze in some extra damage. I think that this character should have used hide armor rather than studded leather though.

Recurring Identified Problems: Exploration tactics, Recall Knowledge as a group, the dying rules, Stealth vs. Perception on initiative, punishingly small light radii, low levels being swingy shanktown on critical hits, and spellcasting PCs being more varied and interesting to play than materials. The dying rules and the low-level swingy shanktown were the most prominent of these recurring problems. The dying rules completely and utterly screwed over the PCs when they had fallen to lucky critical hits, and rather than prevent whack-a-mole syndrome, a grueling whack-a-mole scenario was the only thing keeping the PCs alive. The PCs were dropped to 0 hit points a grand total of 14 times over the course of the latter two battles, and the bear companion was dropped to 0 hit points twice over those two combats as well.

"New" Identified Problem #1: Heavy Armor is Bad, and Medium Armor is Worse Yet Still Bad: This had come up in character creation for both groups so far. Everyone was balking at heavy armor, and nobody was willing to play a heavily-armored character. Can you blame them, considering the crippling -10 speed, the heavy skill check penalties, and the increased price tags for both mundane and magic heavy armor? People were also recalcitrant to use medium armor with its -5 speed, and did so only reluctantly; one player in the previous group even willingly opted for scale mail over a breastplate, because they thought a -4 armor check penalty was exorbitant for a breastplate.

This problem actually appeared mid-session, too. Our halfling cleric was the party's only Thievery-user, but their breastplate was debuffing their Thievery. They had to unequip their breastplate before they made any Thievery check to use their thieves' tools, which makes very little in-universe sense.

"New" Identified Problem #2: Shields are Janky and Confusing: This came up because one player in the second group stepped up to play a shield-bearing fighter. Shields are terribly janky and confusing for a number of reasons. I can see them being decent backup options for non-weapon-using bards, clerics, and druids. Otherwise, they are fairly bad for fighters and paladins. They are good for one thing, and one thing only: helping prevent an alpha strike from a high-initiative enemy during the first round of combat, presuming you have an action to spare before said first round of combat.

First of all, so long as you are holding the shield, you take a -1 armor check penalty, and shields are not actually armor, so expert shields do not eliminate this penalty. Shields require an action to raise, and that is rather burdensome when actions are golden during combat. Shield AC bonuses are circumstance bonuses that do not stack with any others, such as cover or screening.

Furthermore, Shield Block requires a reaction (which means no Attack of Opportunity or Retributive Strike), and it prevents you from taking damage only up to the shield's Hardness in damage. Then come the Dents. I have absolutely no idea how shields taking Dents is supposed to work, because page 175 suggests that shields can take more damage than their Hardness, whereas page 309 stipulates that the shield takes only its Hardness in damage. Either way, once the shield inevitably becomes broken, as per page 175, it takes an action to unstrap it, and that is presuming you have a free hand with which to unstrap it. You also need to spend money to keep your shield up-to-date, lest it fall out of usefulness, and you need to constantly repair that expensive shield.

Let us take all of the above into account. A 5th-level fighter or a paladin spends a hefty sum of 900 sp for an expert light shield steel sturdy (level 4 item), with Hardness 8. Yes, it comes only in light shield form. It imposes a -1 armor check penalty. They need to spend an action to raise the shield for an amazing +1 circumstance bonus to AC, which does not stack with any other circumstance bonuses, such as cover or screening. If they blow their reaction (no Attack of Opportunity or Retributive Strike), they can perform a Shield Block. Whenever they Shield Block, they prevent a measly 8 damage. Sooner or later, the magic shield becomes broken at three Dents. Once it is broken, it is dead weight until unstrapped with an action, and then later repaired.

A fighter might even think themselves clever by trying out a Double Slice build with a light shield boss/spikes. That may work at 1st or 2nd level, but by 3rd level, Weapon Expert means that sword pairings, hammer pairings, or axe pairings become more accurate and optimal. Indeed, that is exactly what one player in this second group did. Suffice it to say, it was rather silly when their shields were constantly being broken. They had to resort to a golf bag of backup shields to strap on in different fights, and that tactic becomes unfeasible later, when only magic sturdy shields are relevant.

I saw a fighter with a shield in this second group. I was not impressed by their shield and the replacement shields.

"New" Identified Problem #3: (Pure Caster) Clerics are Mandatory and Extremely Good: In my first group, people were remarking on how abundant clerics were in resources and how necessary they were for a party's hit points. In my second group, they reechoed the sentiment when the party's cleric started tossing around their positive energy pool, so I think the opinion holds plenty of water. 6 base trained skills, including the domain trained skill, makes clerics skill monkeys. Cleric prepared spellcasting is no joke, since it offers solid spells chosen from the entire list at the start of each day. While most of the domain powers are stinkers, some can be quite decent as backup options, such as the fire domain's fire ray.

And then there is the positive energy pool, which helps keep a party topped off in hit points even after grueling battles. No party can recover from combat quite as well as a party with a positive energy cleric. Every party that wants to go for more than a couple of fights each day needs a positive energy pool cleric present.

Maybe the cleric could use some downgrades, but I dare say that this is the strong power level for classes that every other class should be striving for.

That said, negative energy pools are bad, and I think that they should be given an upgrade. By selecting a negative energy pool, a cleric takes away their ability to top off the party's hit points between combats, and why would a cleric do that?

"New" Identified Problem #4: The Barbarian Totems are Bad: The barbarian's player went on somewhat of a rant about this, and I have to agree with them. The barbarian totems are so... bad. None of them stand out as impressive, and it is obvious that some are underpowered, such as the Animal totem (which is internally unbalanced in its own way, particularly when the barbarian picks up Animal Rage) and the Superstition totem. They were excited for the Giant totem at first, until they realized that all the large weapon did was double the conditional damage while imposing a global penalty. Ultimately, they chose the Fury totem, because they thought that it was the least terrible of the available options. They mentioned that building a barbarian felt like a chore.

"New" Identified Problem #5: Strength-based Fighters and Barbarians (and Maybe Paladins) Have Nothing to Do Outside of Battle: 3 base trained skills, Strength as a primary ability score, and armor penalties mean that Strength-based fighters and barbarians will have little to do apart from fighting. Paladins who prioritize Dexterity over Charisma to escape the hell of heavy armor are caught in a similar position, but at least they have 4 trained skills. I can attest to this, because looking over the fighter of the first group, and the barbarian and the fighter of the second group, they did absolutely nothing of note outside of the combat encounters. Such is life as dumb muscle saddled with burdensome armor and little in the way of noncombative skills, right?

It does not help that a shield-using fighter winds up spending their exploration tactic on "Defending," which means that they essentially do nothing except Raise a Shield. That is exactly what our fighter was doing.

"New" Identified Problem #6: Erroneous Knowledges and Secret Rolls: During the session, I had to confront the annoying mechanics of erroneous knowledges and secret rolls yet again. Erroneous knowledge rolls should not exist, and secret rolls should be the optional rule and not the default.

Erroneous knowledge is burdensome from the GM to handle. The GM has to devise something plausible but incorrect, and that takes time and mental effort. Furthermore, when if the entire party tries rolling for knowledge on a topic, then there is a very good chance that at least one party member will succeed, while another party member (usually one untrained in the skill and with a low relevant ability modifier) rolls a critical failure and dredges up erroneous information, so the GM has to feed the party both valid information and disinformation, eating up even more time. It is even worse when someone in the party has the Dubious Knowledge skill feat, making the GM have to devise valid information and disinformation on the spot, and try to make both sound equally plausible. If the GM does not have masterful finesse, the player might even recognize that the information is false and then try to act against it, which probably prompts an argument on metagaming. It is a mess.

Secret rolls are likewise a chore for the GM to handle. I believe that this lack of transparency will lead to feelings of mistrust, disappointment, and lack of control, particularly given the complete lack of verification this method has. So many rolls are secret rolls, everything from Deception's Lie, to Diplomacy's Gather Information, to Perception's Seek, to all uses of Stealth, to every single instance of Recall Knowledge and Identify Magic. That is way too many. From a purely logistical standpoint, the GM has to either keep track of all of the PCs' skill modifiers and anything that could reroll their skill checks (e.g. Lucky Halfling) or constantly prod the players for their skill modifiers, and the GM has to manually roll and note results, usually for the entire party at a time. This just is not practical; the GM already has so much on their plate, so why does the onus of handling so many skill checks no fall to the GM?

This setup is clunky. I think that erroneous knowledge should be excised from the game, and secret skill checks should be the optional rule (see page 293) and not the default. I should know this, because I had to deal with this when running Doomsday Dawn: Part #1: The Lost Star for two groups, and erroneous knowledge and secret rolls had proven agonizing.

"New" Identified Problem #7: Item Identification Time: This is something I forgot to enforce for the first group, but I definitely pointed it out for this second group. Why does it take an hour to identify a magic item, or ten minutes with Quick Identification? Finding a minor health potion but being halted by an hour due to identification concerns is utterly unreasonable. Ten minutes should be the baseline, Quick Identification should bump that down to a minute, and identical potions should be identifiable as batches. As it stands, having one person in the party with Quick Identification is nigh-mandatory.

"New" Identified Problem #8: Dying Animal Companions and Familiars are Confusing to Handle: The rules are silent on how to handle animal companions and familiars being dropped to 0 hit points actually works. Do they die? Do they become dying? If they become dying, how does their initiative actually get adjusted? This came up twice, because twice this session did the druid's bear companion drop to 0 hit points.

New Identified Problem #9: Cover and Line of Effect: All of us were deeply confused as to how the rules for determining cover vs. determining line of effect actually worked. As per pages 298 to 299, cover and line of effect are determined through the same line-drawing metric, so would it not mean that a creature who has cover against an attack spell also has no line of effect against that attack spell?

New Identified Problem #10: Area Spells and Points of Origin: We saw that for spells, line of effect was always required to the origin point of an area. We also saw that, as per page 299, "an area effect always has a point of origin, and it extends out from that origin. There are four types of areas: auras, bursts, cones, and lines." However, when someone wanted to use a grease spell, the area was listed as, "four contiguous 5-foot squares," and we simply did not know how to resolve the point of origin, something that was crucial in a battlefield with finicky terrain and blocked line of effect.

New Identified Problem #11: Dragging Unconscious Creatures: At one point in the first group, someone wanted to drag an unconscious ally. At two points in the second group, someone likewise wished to drag an unconscious ally. Thus, it is something that can come up somewhat often. We were looking for rules on dragging unconscious allies, and we found none, so perhaps there could be a rule for this?

New Identified Problem #12: Janky Lockpicking Rules: The rules for picking complex locks are tedious. Oh so very tedious. They involve the rogue's player making roll after roll after roll just to unlock a complex door, until they critically fail and snap their lockpick, or until the door finally budges. In this game, the Dexterity 16 cleric removed their breastplate to try to unlock a door with a DC 20, three-success lock. After 26, yes, 26 consecutive rolls, they had snapped a total of four lockpicks, and the door remained locked. Everyone else was twiddling their thumbs and simply watching this embarrassment unfold. What is this, a Bethesda game? This needs to go.

Playthrough Notes: The Sewer Ooze: I handled the sewer ooze differently this time around. I had the party declare their exploration tactics ("Defending" from the fighter nearly every time, because they were aware that they would not be doing much outside of combat). I had the party come within 10 feet of the sewer ooze, and then I called for initiative, using Perception for the PCs and Stealth for the sewer ooze. This was certainly more streamlined than the first way I had handled it, though my players and I found it rather awkward, as if there was no player agency in detecting the sewer ooze before the creature committed to combat.

The sewer ooze had the highest initiative. It unleashed a filth wave, but every PC and even the bear companion succeeded on the DC 15 Reflex save. The tables turned, however, when the sewer ooze approached the fighter and landed a critical hit for 18 damage. The fighter's shield absorbed 5 of this damage... and, due to the confusing shield rules, we had absolutely no idea whether the shield now had one Dent or two Dents (broken). The fighter's player assumed at the time that the shield was broken, so down the shield went, reduced to dead weight strapped on the arm.

The party ganged up on the sewer ooze, with the usual song and dance of going up against a pathetic AC 5. People openly commented on how the ooze design was archaic and unsatisfying to fight against, especially the low AC and the immunity to critical hits. After a ray of frost from the druid, a claw from the bear, a fire ray from the cleric, and three warhammer swings from the fighter, the ooze went down. The barbarian did not receive an opportunity to act, much to the player's disappointment.

Playthrough Notes: The Four 0th-level Goblins: This time around, the party's illumination sources were a light spell on the fighter's warhammer, and a separate light spell from a different caster on the barbarian's helmet. Unfortunately, 20 feet of bright light with no dim light radius is quite small, which is why most of the long room was left in darkness. the long room in darkness for everyone but the raging barbarian. Again, the goblins were somewhat distracted with their art project, but I let the players know that once they came within 40 feet or so, the goblins would roll initiative and attack.

The players advanced, with magic weapon and Rage already on the barbarian, and with the fighter's steel shield raised. Perception vs. Perception for initiative ensued. The goblins went first. They rushed forward (but not so forward as to step out of the darkness), drew their bows, and opened fire. One critical hit and a regular hit later, and the barbarian went down. One critical hit and a regular hit later, and the fighter also went down, Shield Block be damned. Unsurprisingly, critical hits can get very swingy with automatic confirmation and deadly d10 on shortbows. This situation was particularly bad, because now it meant that the two light-source-carriers were unconscious, and the goblins could keep firing from the darkness.

The PCs did their best to recover. They spent Hero Points, and the cleric doled out healing, but unfortunately, neither automatically pops a character back into the fight in 2e. The janky dying rules still demanded Fortitude saving throws to regain consciousness, and even when that did happen, the characters lost an action and had to spend two actions picking up a weapon and standing from prone. There was absolutely, positively whack-a-mole going on during this process; the fighter dropped to 0 hit points a staggering three times during this battle, and they got to make an attack exactly once, whereas the barbarian dropped to 0 hit points four times, and received absolutely no opportunities to make any attacks. This was what prompted the barbarian's player to ragequit; I took control of the barbarian from there.

Over the course of this battle, we had some trouble parsing how the rules handled dragging unconscious PCs, and we struggled with the mechanics for line of effect vs. cover. When the druid wanted to cast a grease spell, we also scratched our heads over the rules for origin points of areas.

Despite a grease spell and a ray of frost from the druid, a burning hands and a fire ray from the cleric, and some maulings from the bear, the fight continued to turn south for the PCs. The sheer unfairness of darkness, expanded critical ranges, and auto-confirming critical hits was too much for the PCs to handle, and it did not help that the barbarian and the fighter were being whack-a-moled.

At one point, the three PCs and the bear were all dying, and the little halfling druid girl resorted to hiding in a dark side passage with exactly 1 hit point remaining, to avoid being killed by the one remaining goblin. Of course, that was the side passage containing four exsanguinated goblin corpses. How nightmarish. That was the catalyst for the player roleplaying the druid as traumatized and skittish from that point onwards. The druid ultimately took an arrow to send her dying as well. Fortunately, the cleric finally regained consciousness, enough to launch a fire ray while prone and take out the last remaining goblin. Such drama and such hardship from a simple battle against 0th-level goblins. The PCs dropped to 0 hit points a total of 7 times during that battle, and the bear companion dropped to 0 hit points once.

Playthrough Notes: Aftermath of the Goblin Horror: Exactly as in the previous group, the party returned to town to rest. They slept, let the cleric spam heal from the positive energy pool, spent the rest of the day eating ice cream and otherwise recovering from their PTSD, and then slept again, just to let the cleric recover their heal uses.

After the PCs returned to the Ashen Ossuary to examine the burial vaults, I once again struggled with the janky rules for exploration tactics, particularly how they did not actually cover the Medicine checks to study the exsanguinated corpses.

The PCs all failed their Perception checks against the centipedes' presence in the vermin chamber, but the party never actually entered, so the PCs avoided that battle. The druid critically succeeded on the Medicine check to study the bloodless bodies, so I made it explicit to the druid that Drakus was a faceless stalker, not a vampire. The druid critically failed their Nature check to study the fungi, so I informed them that the fungus was an alchemical healing agent. They blundered into the fungus chamber, succeeded on the Fortitude saving throw, and harvested some of the fungi into their pack, none the wiser. Sadly, this misunderstanding never became relevant later.

Playthrough Notes: The Tainted Fountain Room: Exactly as before, the PCs discovered the evil idol at the bottom of the black pool. I offered two DC 18 Religion checks here, one to identify the properties of the fountain, and one to discern the properties of the idol. The cleric succeeded on the first roll, but failed at the second roll... while possessing the Dubious Knowledge feat. Thus, I struggled to present true information about the fountain's properties while simultaneously presenting a mix of true and false data concerning the Lamashtan idol.

Ultimately, the cleric rationalized that gingerly extracting the idol with thieves' tools was the best idea, so they took off their breastplate to eliminate the hefty -4 armor check penalty, and succeeded on the DC 12 Thievery check. Yes, the cleric removed their breastplate to assist in an activity of manual dexterity, as silly as that is. This Thievery check circumvented the encounter with the quasits.

Playthrough Notes: The Duel with the Southern Door: The cleric spotted the alarm trap on the eastern door. Not wishing to deal with that, the cleric instead stepped up to the southern door. I let them know that the door would take three successes on DC 20 Thievery checks to open. With their breastplate still removed, the cleric engaged the door with their lockpicks, and I put on the battle theme from Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

• First attempt at beating the door: 13 rolls, picks snapped on the thirteenth roll
• Second attempt at beating the door: 9 rolls, picks snapped on the ninth roll
• Third attempt at beating the door: 1 roll, pick snapped on the first roll
• Fourth attempt at beating the door: 3 rolls, picks snapped on the third roll

After a whopping 26 Thievery rolls to test out the janky Thievery rules, the door stood firm, having devoured four lockpicks like a Bethesda game.

The cleric gave up and more closely inspected the eastern door. They discovered that all it took was opening the eastern door very, very slowly to circumvent the trap. And thus, the party simply took that door, like the punchline to a bad joke.

Playthrough Notes: The Statue of Pharasma: After fumbling around with the rules for exploration tactics a little further, the party discovered the statue-trap. Naturally, the cleric stepped up to disarm it, since they were actually Thievery-trained. They took off their breastplate yet again and stepped up to snatch the hourglass, but they critically failed the Thievery check. They succeeded on the Fortitude saving throw against the sands, so it ultimately did not matter. I allowed the cleric to pry out the hourglass while the trap was resetting, and all was well.

Playthrough Notes: Drakus the Taker (sans Dire Rat): History repeated itself. As before, the party gathered together in the corridor before the stuck door. The cleric placed a magic weapon on the barbarian's greataxe, the barbarian raged, and the fighter raised their shield and successfully battered down the door with a DC 12 Athletics check on the first try.

The party stared down Drakus, who already had his sword in hand, which I rationalized as part of the feeding ritual. They rolled Perception vs. Perception for initiative, and alas, Drakus went first. Drakus buffed himself with facelessness, rushed down the fighter, and, thanks to an expanded critical range from sheer accuracy, easily landed a critical hit on the fighter. It was 24 or 25 damage, not enough for the shield to absorb, so down the fighter went. It was déjà vu, and I had just been in this place before.

This party aggressively spent Hero Points. This party tried to be more intelligent about retreating into the corridor chokepoints, exploiting corners and intersections, readying actions, and so on... but ultimately, it was not enough. The party flubbed their attacks against the faceless stalker, and Drakus's accuracy led to easy critical hits against them. He took down the barbarian and the bear with ease, and the barbarian had made only one attack roll throughout the entire session. Attack of Opportunity was absolutely vicious in a tight and enclosed space like the corridors, and it spelled the doom of the cleric and the druid. In particular, when it was only the cleric left standing, they were left in a position wherein their only viable options all resulted in provoking an Attack of Opportunity, so they fell to such a reaction attack.

All the while, the dying party members simply could not muster up the fortune to land that DC 17 Fortitude saving throw to take a step towards consciousness. And even if they did, well, they would have had to fumble with losing an action, picking up their weapons, and standing from prone. The dying rules are an intensely harsh mistress.

Drakus was hit by only one attack then: a single fire ray from the cleric, which was a critical hit. We misunderstood the critical hit rules and thought that a fire ray could land a critical hit, but we were wrong. Either way, it hardly saved the party from their doom.

Keleri Deverin was devastated by the loss of the second timeline's heroes to the low-level shanktown critical hits and the convoluted dying rules. The group's morale was completely crushed, too, and the janky dying rules were the object of everyone's hatred.

GM Feedback Survey:
• 1. How long did it take to play this part of Doomsday Dawn (not counting preparation or character creation)?
6 hours.

• 2. How long did it take to prepare this part of the adventure (time spent reading, gathering materials, etc.)?
8 hours, though I was using preparations from the previous group's session.

• 3. How many sessions did it take for you to play through this part of the adventure?
1 session.

• 4. How many Hero Points (in total) did you give out during this part of the adventure?
4 total, all for the out-of-character act of showing up to the session on time, a virtue I place in high esteem.

• 5. How many times was a player character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
14 times in total, including the times when a character was reduced to 0 Hit Points, brought back up, and then reduced to 0 Hit Points again. 14 times if the bear companion counts.

• 6. How many player characters were killed during this part of the adventure?
4, the entire party.

Player Feedback Survey, Barbarian's Player:
• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
5 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
2.

Player Feedback Survey, Cleric's Player:
• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
2 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
1 time.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
2.

Player Feedback Survey, Druid's Player:
• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
2 times.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 5. How many times did your character run out of spell slots during play of this part of the adventure†?
1 time.

• 6. How many times did your character run out of Spell Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never had an opportunity to use heal animal.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
2.

Player Feedback Survey, Fighter's Player:
• 2. How many times was your character reduced to 0 Hit Points during this part of the adventure?
5 times. Yes, really.

• 3. How many times did your character reach 0 Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 4. How many times did your character critically fail the check while overspending Resonance Points during play of this part of the adventure†?
0 times, never used a Resonance item.

• 7. How many Hero Points did you use during this part of the adventure?
2.

† Do not count any times that occurred while the group was camping or otherwise at rest. Only times that occurred during the adventuring day should be considered. For example, if a character casts a spell after a fight and runs out of spell slots, but the group has another encounter before resting, that would count. Any events that occur after the final encounter of the day should not be counted.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Great feedback. Concise and to the point.


Quote:
New Identified Problem #12: Janky Lockpicking Rules: The rules for picking complex locks are tedious. Oh so very tedious. They involve the rogue's player making roll after roll after roll just to unlock a complex door, until they critically fail and snap their lockpick, or until the door finally budges. In this game, the Dexterity 16 cleric removed their breastplate to try to unlock a door with a DC 20, three-success lock. After 26, yes, 26 consecutive rolls, they had snapped a total of four lockpicks, and the door remained locked. Everyone else was twiddling their thumbs and simply watching this embarrassment unfold. What is this, a Bethesda game? This needs to go.

It only states 3 successful checks, not 3 consecutive successful checks. Did your players really rolled bad on 23 checks before success?


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Forben Stralken wrote:
Quote:
New Identified Problem #12: Janky Lockpicking Rules: The rules for picking complex locks are tedious. Oh so very tedious. They involve the rogue's player making roll after roll after roll just to unlock a complex door, until they critically fail and snap their lockpick, or until the door finally budges. In this game, the Dexterity 16 cleric removed their breastplate to try to unlock a door with a DC 20, three-success lock. After 26, yes, 26 consecutive rolls, they had snapped a total of four lockpicks, and the door remained locked. Everyone else was twiddling their thumbs and simply watching this embarrassment unfold. What is this, a Bethesda game? This needs to go.
It only states 3 successful checks, not 3 consecutive successful checks. Did your players really rolled bad on 23 checks before success?

Lets break out some math. With +3 dex and trained Thievery, no ACP, your Thievery modifier is +4. The door is DC 20, which gives the following table of results:

Roll a 1 to 6 (5-10): Critical Failure, either lose a success or break a pick if you have no successes.
Roll a 7 to 15 (11-19): Failure, nothing happens.
Roll a 16 to 19 (20-23): Success, gain one success.
Roll a 20 (24): Critical Success, gain two successes.

Or, to put it another way: 30% chance of a critical failure, 45% of a failure, 20% chance of a success and 5% chance of a critical success. Critical failures are more likely than successes and critical successes combined, or as likely if you're counting a critical success as double the effect. This makes it fairly likely that you'll hit critical failures as you go. And the most likely result is failure, which just means you roll again and nothing happens.

Assuming you count crit successes as twice as valuable as successes, which isn't quite true, and completely discount failures since they don't matter, this basically boils down to flipping a coin. You want it to land on heads three times in a row. If it lands on tails you subtract a heads, and if you don't have any heads left, break your pick. You can give it a try to see how it works out - it's definitely possible to win, but it's also extremely swingy.

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I removed a post and a bunch of replies to it. If you want to post your own feedback of the playtest you are welcome to do so in a new thread. If you want to discuss the results of someone else's feedback in a thread, you are also welcome to do that. However, posting insulting and dismissive followups to someone else's feedback is not something that encourages healthy dialogue and meaningful discussion.

"In everyday life, it is safe to assume that there’s a deeper story behind the choices people make. Trying to help people by correcting their surface level actions misses the whole point of being compassionate. People benefit more from loving acceptance and a healthy example than they do from criticism or preaching." ~Joe Hikes


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

From what i can gather reading trough your immence post is that ..

1 the gobblins in the long hall is SUPPOSE to charge your group recklessly, not cleaverly hide and shoot from darkness. This room offers some great places to hide and there is ALOT of opertunity to get cover. Much of the rest of the discriptions follow the same harch penalties etc etc.

Also it seems you misunderstood alot of the games rules and guidelines,
Like the exploration mode.

From what i can read you are trying to WIN against the players by not letting them do anything but dying .

The last boss seems difficult but what about running away ? Take another aprouch there should be atleast 4 players 3 if he downd one with aoo.

Its a playtest , sure, but its a playtest of a roleplaying game not a miniatur combat game where you are supposed to slaughter your players. You didnt read the rules properly and the scenario.. Goblins are no tactical masterminds they charge screeming..


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Quote:
New Identified Problem #12: Janky Lockpicking Rules: The rules for picking complex locks are tedious. Oh so very tedious. They involve the rogue's player making roll after roll after roll just to unlock a complex door, until they critically fail and snap their lockpick, or until the door finally budges. In this game, the Dexterity 16 cleric removed their breastplate to try to unlock a door with a DC 20, three-success lock. After 26, yes, 26 consecutive rolls, they had snapped a total of four lockpicks, and the door remained locked. Everyone else was twiddling their thumbs and simply watching this embarrassment unfold. What is this, a Bethesda game? This needs to go.

My players didn't even bother after trying a little. They just hacked every door to pieces.


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Junker wrote:

1 the gobblins in the long hall is SUPPOSE to charge your group recklessly, not cleaverly hide and shoot from darkness. This room offers some great places to hide and there is ALOT of opertunity to get cover. Much of the rest of the discriptions follow the same harch penalties etc etc.

Replace the goblins with level 0 humans and the problem remains the same: Critical rules and dying rules and the current combat system is overly grueling at low levels.

Junker wrote:


The last boss seems difficult but what about running away ? Take another aprouch there should be atleast 4 players 3 if he downd one with aoo.

What other approach? Have you played the scenario? Given the narrow chokepoints there is no other real feasible approach for dealing with Drakus.


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Rameth wrote:
exploration tactics

As I explain in my experiences with the first group, once players twig to what is happening with the janky exploration rules, they quickly resort to explicitly declaring their exploration tactics just to minimize the jank.

Rameth wrote:
Recall Knowledge

The druid critically failed on a Nature check, and the cleric failed on a Religion check with Dubious Knowledge. I like to think that those are reasonably iconic, Wisdom-based skills for those two classes.

Rameth wrote:
Stealth vs Perception on Initiative

The playtest rulebook and the adventure book specifically stipulate treating an ambush as simply Stealth vs. Perception for initiative. The sewer ooze encounter did not, so I had to extrapolate and improvise.

Rameth wrote:
I would have to say that according to the rules if there is ANY light then that means the rest of the area is filled with dim-light

Is this an actual rule? Did both of the groups and I all miss it? This is a sincere question.

Rameth wrote:
Critical Hits

It did happen all the same.

Rameth wrote:
Martial abilities

There simply was not a point to trying those fancy Athletics uses when directly attacking was the more straightforward method of solving the problem.

Rameth wrote:
Having Drakus have his sword in hand was a terrible way to GM that.

The adventure prescribes, "Drakus reverts to his true form at the start of the battle and fights to the death." Given that he starts away from the PCs, the only legal way for him to revert to his true form and attack is for him to already have his sword in hand (action sequence: revert, move, attack), so that is how I ran Drakus.

Rameth wrote:
The reduced speed penalty doesn't really mean as much

Going from 25 feet to 15 feet can be quite crippling.

Rameth wrote:
Since most combats won't take place at over 50ft

Pathfinder 2e is supposed to support adventuring environments other than dungeon-crawling.

Rameth wrote:
Hear me out, your third attack is basically useless in the early game

Hence why moving around to gain a better position is so useful, as opposed to throwing up a shield.

Rameth wrote:
Speaking of dents the way it explains it on page 175 is fairly straight forward. A shield will subtract the damage from you and itself then you will both take the remaining damage.

Under that interpretation, shields will break as fast as papier-mâché.

Rameth wrote:
The Animal totem seems fine and very flavorful.

It is strictly worse than using a two-hander, and some options are objectively inferior to others, especially when Animal Rage enters the picture.

Rameth wrote:
Dragon totem

+1 damage to start with. Not exactly very exciting, even if it is straightforward and effective.

Rameth wrote:
Giant totem

A global -1 debuff for +2 damage is not a good deal.

Rameth wrote:
Spirit totem

Flavorful and interesting does not equate to practical and useful.

Rameth wrote:
Superstition totem

Being unable to accept magic from others is a completely crippling disadvantage, especially when it comes to healing.

Rameth wrote:
Why not? They can't search?

They can, though they are quite mediocre at it.

Rameth wrote:
Athletics, Acrobatics

Armor penalties.

Rameth wrote:
Considering you only need 3 successes and the only way to lose successes is to critically fail how did your cleric manage manage to not get 3 successes and not get a crit fail between them?

Critical failures occur on a natural 1 or when falling short of the DC by 10 or more.

Rameth wrote:
Final notes: You didn't make any of the goblins run away or try to flee once they all started dying? They are goblins after all they will flee for their lives if the more then half of them are dead.

The goblins did not retreat, because they were actually making good progress in taking down the PCs and the bear.

Rameth wrote:
use tactical movement and positioning better

The second party was even more meticulous and thoughtful about movement and positioning than the first party.

Junker wrote:
the gobblins in the long hall is SUPPOSE to charge your group recklessly

The only prescribed tactics are, "Once they notice the PCs, though, they abandon their task and race forward to attack, howling and hooting." I did have them race forward, 10 to 15 feet each, but no more than that, so as to keep to the darkness.

Junker wrote:
From what i can read you are trying to WIN against the players by not letting them do anything but dying

If Pathfinder 2e cannot hold up to enemies using intelligent tactics, then that is an issue.

Junker wrote:
The last boss seems difficult but what about running away ?

You mean leaving two PCs to die, and thus sealing the mission as impossible to complete? That would have been a poor idea.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CaptainSteel wrote:
Junker wrote:

1 the gobblins in the long hall is SUPPOSE to charge your group recklessly, not cleaverly hide and shoot from darkness. This room offers some great places to hide and there is ALOT of opertunity to get cover. Much of the rest of the discriptions follow the same harch penalties etc etc.

Replace the goblins with level 0 humans and the problem remains the same: Critical rules and dying rules and the current combat system is overly grueling at low levels.

Junker wrote:


The last boss seems difficult but what about running away ? Take another aprouch there should be atleast 4 players 3 if he downd one with aoo.
What other approach? Have you played the scenario? Given the narrow chokepoints there is no other real feasible approach for dealing with Drakus.

Even if you changed the encounter to something else the room is full of strategic possibillity where it would be impossible for the enemies to shoot.like behind the pillars and in the niches.

You can just run away and take him in another room. There is alot of big rooms. Well nevermind your players obviously didn't figure this one out so..


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Junker wrote:

Even if you changed the encounter to something else the room is full of strategic possibillity where it would be impossible for the enemies to shoot.like behind the pillars and in the niches.

You can just run away and take him in another room. There is alot of big rooms. Well nevermind your players obviously didn't figure this one out so..

The problems arise when the goblins or Drakus start off by taking down a PC or two, thus sending the party into a failure spiral due to the dying rules.


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Junker wrote:

Even if you changed the encounter to something else the room is full of strategic possibillity where it would be impossible for the enemies to shoot.like behind the pillars and in the niches.

You can just run away and take him in another room. There is alot of big rooms. Well nevermind your players obviously didn't figure this one out so..

Being rude to someone isn't going to help make the game anymore fun, man. The party never expected to get annihilated within a single round, which is why they didn't have the time to explore the avenues you're talking about. This wasn't a drawn out fight either time, this was near instantaneous death. And as for changing things, this is a playtest. They were given a scenario to beat. They did not beat the scenario. If you were to alter it so they could beat it, the feedback goes out the window.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
AnonMD wrote:
Junker wrote:

Even if you changed the encounter to something else the room is full of strategic possibillity where it would be impossible for the enemies to shoot.like behind the pillars and in the niches.

You can just run away and take him in another room. There is alot of big rooms. Well nevermind your players obviously didn't figure this one out so..

Being rude to someone isn't going to help make the game anymore fun, man. The party never expected to get annihilated within a single round, which is why they didn't have the time to explore the avenues you're talking about. This wasn't a drawn out fight either time, this was near instantaneous death. And as for changing things, this is a playtest. They were given a scenario to beat. They did not beat the scenario. If you were to alter it so they could beat it, the feedback goes out the window.

Sorry, if i sounded rude that was not my intention. I didnt mention to alter anything about the scenario. Just use all available or other options .

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