Doomsday Dawn Part 1 Playtest Report - TPK at Drakus


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So I wanted to share our group's experience, add some insights from our experiences with the Playtest of Part 1, and tell how it ended in a TPK at the boss fight.

Before we begin, I'd like to say our group is very experienced. We play as the same group since 2000 and we play 3.5 and PF1 regularly. My players are very savvy combat-wise, and in our regular games, I frequently have to wrap my head around to build proper challenges to them.

As to the characters, we had:
- Half-elf Monk, with tiger style, DEX/STR focused. AC 17. He was the main front-line.
- Elf Ranger. Archery focused, High dex, AC 17 and wolf animal companion to help tanking.
- Half-Orc Druid, wild order, focused on Dex and Wis, prepared Heal and Burning Hands as 1st level spells.
- Elf Bard, Lore muse. 16 Dex, uses a shortbow as his weapon. Spells known are true strike, Soothe and Fear.

All in all, a relatively balanced party. Now, on to the playtest.

The sewer ooze encounter was a piece of cake. The players took a little (2) damage from the trash explosion, but otherwise dealt with it in 1 round.

For the Burial chamber, the players were sneaking, but were spotted because of their light source. The druid acted first and killed 3 of the 4 goblins with a well placed burning hands, and the last goblin was finished by the monk before they could even act.

The Mindfog fungus Hazard was very fun, as the Druid tried to use Survival to disable the fungus, but kept failing the DC19 check, becoming confused and repeatedly hitting himself with the sickle. He finally gave up and just used produce flame to destroy it. He then used his Heal to patch himself up.

In the vermin den room, I divided the 6 centipedes in 2 groups, in order to roll for stealth. 1 group rolled super high and remained hidden, while the other half was easily spotted by the PCs and combat began. This was where the new initiative rules became EXTREMELY confusing. Instead of just having a surprise round for those 3 centipedes that remained hidden (as it would've been in PF1), I used their stealth checks as the initiative roll, but they used their action to position themselves in the edge of the rubble and readied attacks when some PC appreached the other (now spotted) centipedes. The ranger sent his wolf pet to attack a spotted centipede, but the companion was completely demolished by 2 hidden centipedes attack. He dropped the next round. The wolf then almost died because of death rolls. The players could defeat the centipedes, but sustained a lot of damage. Having no other means of healing they went back to the city to rest and heal up.

When they got back, and since they were away for 2 days, I decided to spice things up a bit, and put 4 goblins investigating the burial chamber. This time, the players sucessfully sneaked and hid behind the pillars. The bard, knowing goblins hated dogs, used ghost sound to imitate do barks and lure the goblins to their location. Then again, the stealth as initiative rules are VERY confusing. I rolled perception for each the goblins and stealth for each of the players, to see if they could have become hidden from them. With their stealth results, some players could sucessfully hide from some of the goblins... HOW the hell do you run that? I don't know if I ran it correctly, but I ruled that hidden characters could ready an action to attack a goblin as soon as they got into range, and then used their superior stealth results as their initiative for the rest of the combat. The problem was that hidden PCs would effectively "lose" their action waiting for the enemies to come closer, while the Seen PCs could act normally from the start. It seem counterintuitive, in practice. Anyway, the players sustained minor damage and continued.

They proceeded to the fountain, spotted the idol and tried to remove it, trigerring the Quasit summons. The battle was overall interesting and balanced. The druid suffered a lot of damage even though he had 16 armor (17 with light shield up), but the +7 bonus to hit from the quasits plus poison plus wolf shapechange was savage. Since the quasits could fly, they could reach almost anyone in the room wih impunity. I think the lack of attack of opportunity for the monk really undermined his ability to be an effective frontliner. The Druid used his one Heal to patch himself up, and the rest of the players drinked from the clear fountain to recover.

None of the PCs were good with Thievery, so they couldn't open the locked door to the south. They went east, detecting the alarm trap. Slowly opening the door, they proceded to the cave with the goblins, the commando and the pyro. Failing a stealth check, the Ranger that was scounting ahead was noticed by the goblins. The battle was difficult at the beginning, as the players were cautious to enter a cave full of goblins and with a grease spell at the entrance (the goblin pyro cast it in his first round). As the mobs could attack with ranged weapons and only one or two PC in the corridor could fire back at them, they eventually entered the cave. The goblins set the trap after the druid failed his jump check (to jump over the grease area) and ended in the area of the trap. However, the druid was able to once again cast a well placed burning hands that finished 3 goblins and hurt the commando. The rest was just the PCs finishing the pyro and commando. They finished healing with a Soothe and the Healing potion and set themselves to the skeleton room.

Now this was a very difficult fight. The only way this didn't end poorly for the PCs was because the Monk was blocked the doorway and fough 3-4 skeletons at a time, instead of all 6. The skeletons with their resistances were almost immune from all damage the party could deliver: The monk couldn't enter Tiger stance as its slashing damage and fought in regular unarmed attacks. The ranger only had his longbow (P), and the wolf bite is P as well. The Druid had a sickle and produce flame, but could get some damage through acid splash. The bard sang and attacked with his shortbow. They slowly but surely chipped the skeleton's HP and won the fight. The monk was badly hurt, end they had to get back to rest and recover once again.

Recovered, all PCs but one had drank from the fountain to replenish their HP (they still had some leftover damage from the day before), so only the bard set off the Statue trap. After that, the players deduced the fountain was protecting them, the bard drank from it to recover and then bypassed the trap the second time around.

Now the boss battle against Drakus. The PCs had to spend 3-4 rounds trying to roll open the stuck door. Drakus positioned himself behind the left statue, whereas his dire rat friend was behind the right statue. The PCs opened the door and the fight began.

With his high Perception of +6, Drakus won initiative. He moved to left side of the doorway and readyed an Strike. The monk assumed tiger stance, Stepped into the first square in front of the doorway in order to attack Drakus without the cover of the Wall. Drakus used his readyed action to Strike the monk, hitting him (he needed a 7 on a D20). The monk hit with one attack, missing the second flurry attack. Next, the ranger moved in and attacked Drakus, but missed. He orderer his Wolf to circle around and flank Drakus with the fighter, which it did with a double Stride. The Druid cast Procuce Flame but missed. The bard sang, and tried to hit with his bow, but missed as well. The dire rat attacked the ranger, hitting with 2 attacks and dealing 5 damage (1 hit and a nat 20, crit). Next round, Drakus reverted his form, and with his +2 to hit and damage, easily downed the monk (1 critical with a nat 20 and a regular hit). The ranger attacked Drakus, but hit with only one attack. The wolf missed both attacks now that he wasn't flanking anymore (the monk was dying). The Monk also failed his first Recovery check, and was now at dying 2. The druid (with a potion) and the bard (with soothe) both healed the Monk, but those actions were essentially wasted, as the Monk could not wake up (he had to pass a DC 17 fortitude save - High DC for a level 3 creature). The rat missed both attacks against the ranger. Next round, Drakus moved next to the ranger, hit him with a crit and downed him. Again, the monk failed the recovery save and wouldn't wake up. The bard cast Fear, but Drakus saved, becoming frightened 1. The druid healed the Ranger. Next round Drakus moved in to attack the Bard, and with a crit (not natural 20) downed him. He then moved to the Druid. He tried to escape, but was soon overwhelmed. the monk and the Ranger never woke up (they couldn't pass the DC17 fort save). So that's it. A TPK.


Now, my impressions.

Firstly, and this is a very positive thing. The game FEELS like a Pathfinder game. One with a custom set of rules, but the feeling is there. That's great.

Also, 3 action economy is great. It's simple and intuitive. I think some actions need to be balanced more (such as being unable to ready spells, recall knowledge taking an action instead of being free action), but overall we thought the combat flowed nice and smoothly.

The Fungus hazard was very fun. I like the idea of hazards being more than traps, and having other specialties (Religion, Nature, Arcana), being used instead of just "disable device, disable device, disable device...".

Monsters were fun to use, specially the quasits. I never used the goblin reactions (Goblin Scuttle i think), as they make seemed too cheesy and gamey to me. Also, it bothered us a lot that even level 0 mobs seem to be arbitrarily strong (they could easily hit every PC, even though they all had decent AC). I get why low level monsters have the numbers they have from a game balance perspective (as Mark have explained in other threads), but nevertheless my players and I couldn't buy the idea that every goblin, centipede, ooze, quasit and skeleton had more To Hit than every PC, and that really detracted from the whole experience. I think Mobs need lower stats overall, one that makes sense in regards to PCs and we need a new category to include previous weaklings monsters (CR 1/3 and 1/4).

A side-effect of monsters with very good bonuses was that even though their damage is rather low, we felt that they Chipped away the party HP WAAAY to quickly. The party exausted their resources very quickly, and had to get back and recover after 2-3 fights every time. Maybe with a cleric it would've been a lesser problem, but having 2 healers (Bard and Druid), we all felt that the adventure day was way too short. Comparatively, in our current campaign, a 3.5 Age of Worms game, we had our party of level 1 PCs go through the whole of Whispering Cairn (a level 1 dungeon with 22 rooms) with just 2 rests. In another Campaign, this one a Curse of the Crimson Throne for PF1, our PCs finished the first dungeon in one go (no rests).

The initiative system is a mess. It either needs a proper rule for surprise rounds or at very least a series of clarifications of when and how to use Stealth as initiative, and how to deal with Unseen creatures at the start of the combat mode, specially if they are seen to some creatures but not others. In 3.5/PF, you just start a surprise round with creatures that are aware of each other, then progress to normal rounds afterwards. IMO, this seems like a much better (and simpler) alternative than we have right now in PF2.

All classes felt very good in combat and outside. My players were specially impressed with how the bard worked so well, although his healing was somewhat subpar (Soothe is way worse than Heal). The druid had burning hands, and it was awesome to see it shine when properly used. The monk was very effective in combat, but we felt that the lack of a way to control the enemy movement undermined his role as a main Warrior. The ranger was very good, but the animal companion was VERY weak. Poor HP, AC (13?? really?), +3 to hit... And costs 1 action of the ranger. For the most part, it just sat there, while the ranger used all his actions for himself.

I think my party had a TPK for a number of reasons: Drakus had significant positional advantage against the PCs as he forced them into the corridor a fought at the entrance. Also, bad rolls for the players and good rolls for the GM was also a factor. I had I think 3 natural 20s during the fight, plus several rolls of 16+. The players had most rolls <10. Also, the dying rules REALLY screwed them over. The recovery save was WAAAY to high (17 for a monk with +2 Fort is ridiculously high), so even though the Monk was almost in full health after the Bard and the Druid healed him, he didn't come back to the fight, and they essentially wasted their actions. The same happened after the ranger fell. Finally, the numbers for Drakus are ridiculously good, and his revert form ability is just lethal. +2 hit and damage is more than +50% damage in a round.

This made me feel that combat in PF2 is more swingy. I know this is 1st level and 1st level characters can always die to bad luck, but I feel that given that crits are way more common in 2E, low level lethality may be a bigger issue now. Also, I know Updated death and dying rules are coming on monday (probably), and that's probably a good thing. Current rules make recovery DCs EXTREMELY unfair, and staying unconscious is REALLY not fun, and moreover, screws the party even more once one of them is downed.

All in all, it was a fun experience. My players and I plan to replay the final battle tomorrow, to see if they can win, since we do have a feeling that luck was a factor in the TPK. Let's see how it goes.


Just to clarify, we didn't use Hero Points. My group hates the very idea of hero points. I hope that Hero Points become completely optional, and not take part in the balance of core mechanics such as dying rules.

Scarab Sages

Just a note :

Drakus should be alone.

It was confirmed by Paizo that the Giant Rat is not supposed to be there. The Paizo dude was like "Why are you all speaking about a rat ? There is no rat in the playtest" and then get very confused when we showed him the rat entry in the PDF.

He then checked and said it was a mistake, likely a copy-paste error or something like that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Actually the goblins in the second room should have gotten the drop on the party. They are in complete darkness, they detected the players stealth attempt, none of the players has darkvision and there are no more dim light rules from light sources (as of this playtest, because that is definitely something which should be changed back). I am unsure how the Druid managed to get three of the four goblins when he couldn't even see where they were.

I'm not trying to be a nag, but as I think that unlimited range darkvision and the new light rules for many spells and items are both working together to create really untenable situations for non-darkvision races, I thought I needed to point this out.


Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:

Just a note :

Drakus should be alone.

It was confirmed by Paizo that the Giant Rat is not supposed to be there. The Paizo dude was like "Why are you all speaking about a rat ? There is no rat in the playtest" and then get very confused when we showed him the rat entry in the PDF.

He then checked and said it was a mistake, likely a copy-paste error or something like that.

Yeah... I learned that today. That's unfortunate, but one more reason now to replay the last battle. I don't think it would've changed the overall result i(i.e. the TPK), but it's something I really want to test.

We'll go through the boss battle tonight, and I'll make sure to tell how it went!


magnuskn wrote:

Actually the goblins in the second room should have gotten the drop on the party. They are in complete darkness, they detected the players stealth attempt, none of the players has darkvision and there are no more dim light rules from light sources (as of this playtest, because that is definitely something which should be changed back). I am unsure how the Druid managed to get three of the four goblins when he couldn't even see where they were.

I'm not trying to be a nag, but as I think that unlimited range darkvision and the new light rules for many spells and items are both working together to create really untenable situations for non-darkvision races, I thought I needed to point this out.

When we played this battle, all of us, myself included, just instinctively used the old PF1/3.5 rules for light range (bright-light + double dim light radius). Only after that we noticed the rule change we began to try and test the new light rules. Spoilers: we didn't like it =P.

In any case, they could detect the goblins were at the north end of the room because of all the noise they were making, and they were very silent, and the goblins were distracted so they only noticed the PCs when they got close to them (~20ft or so). Both the monk and the Druid had light sources in them.

But I agree, the light and vision rules are wonky, they should just use PF1 rules instead.


You say "the ranger was very good" which goes against most other things I've read. Did he actually get to use any ranger class features other than standard martial combat stuff and the good skill list?

The Exchange

Just played this one today. Enjoyed my rogue. Skeletons are gods. I believe they had 5 damage reduction against piercing and were immune to electricity and cold. Our entire party (rogue X 2, fighter, cleric, ranger, and pally) struggled. Took us forever to kill them.


Mudfoot wrote:
You say "the ranger was very good" which goes against most other things I've read. Did he actually get to use any ranger class features other than standard martial combat stuff and the good skill list?

You're right, what I actually meant is that the archer (could be any class) could shoot reasonably (wihtout volley 50) and do damage (except against the skeletons).

But the problem is, the animal companion didn't feel worth the action and recall knowledge was never used. The animal companion was actually used to take the brunt of the "sneak attack" from the centipedes, droping in the first round, and was also used to trigger the goblin trap.

Regarding the goblin fight, we were using dim light rules, and the bard casted light right at the fireplace so the druid could co there and use burning hands the next round.

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