Beating AC by 10 = Critical Hit problems


General Discussion

Lantern Lodge

Has anyone run numbers on how having modifiers to your attack rolls affects damage? It seems to me that anything giving you a + bonus to attack will be prioritized since it also translates to more damage / protecting against critical failures.

Do you guys think high level play as a fighter will drop behind casters even more? Since their action economy is staying roughly the same (they get more powerful spells for the same action cost) while martials used to get extra attacks for more damage but now they will have the same number of attacks and roughly the same attack bonus as casters (assuming there are spells that increase their attack bonus ).

For magic items, will all martials just stack + x weapons rather than elemental/ other effects? In PE1 it was better by a slight degree dpr wise for +x weapons but against low AC opponents elemental pulled ahead. In PFS play it was pretty evident for players to focus on the “core” + x attack/armor/saves/ability score magic items. Now you’re even more incentivized for just + x gear (armor included to protect against critical successes, saving throws to get critical successes more often, etc). Also resonance further restricts you from branching out for more colorful magic items.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s strange to include beating the AC by 10 as a critical hit or have effects on critical failures of 10 or more. It changes the math significantly to the point where I think you only want to focus on buffing attack where as before there was a point where too much attack was a bad thing. Also, now abilities that subtract from your attack or AC have a much higher “cost” associated with them, squisher classes are exponentially squishier (low hp and low AC plus easier crits against them), etc.


From my memory, an extra +1 on the weapon was pretty much always better than what is now potency runes mathematically. At least now, the system allows for them to be used.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
kaisc006 wrote:
Has anyone run numbers on how having modifiers to your attack rolls affects damage? It seems to me that anything giving you a + bonus to attack will be prioritized since it also translates to more damage / protecting against critical failures.

Yes, and this is the case. A +1 is much more valuable than before.

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Do you guys think high level play as a fighter will drop behind casters even more? Since their action economy is staying roughly the same (they get more powerful spells for the same action cost) while martials used to get extra attacks for more damage but now they will have the same number of attacks and roughly the same attack bonus as casters (assuming there are spells that increase their attack bonus ).

Actually, I've heard the opposite complaint so far-- martial damage seems to scale better vs monster AC than spells do against monster saves. I haven't playtested that so far. From what I have read the various battle buff spells don't quite hit peak martial damage anyway and can only be done a limited number of times per day. Remember, you get less spell slots now. Which means that the increased proficiency and other bonuses martials get to shine more.

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For magic items, will all martials just stack + x weapons rather than elemental/ other effects? In PE1 it was better by a slight degree dpr wise for +x weapons but against low AC opponents elemental pulled ahead. In PFS play it was pretty evident for players to focus on the “core” + x attack/armor/saves/ability score magic items. Now you’re even more incentivized for just + x gear (armor included to protect against critical successes, saving throws to get critical successes more often, etc). Also resonance further restricts you from branching out for more colorful magic items.

In terms of elemental effects, those are now property runes which don't compete with or increase the cost of potency runes. (They still cost money, obviously, but it is now much easier to get them at some point or another, or transfer runes you find onto your weapons.) Also, the elemental runes are buffed in big ways compared to PF1. This seems true for many properties, although not all. I don't love the new Keen.

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I guess what I’m saying is it’s strange to include beating the AC by 10 as a critical hit or have effects on critical failures of 10 or more. It changes the math significantly to the point where I think you only want to focus on buffing attack where as before there was a point where too much attack was a bad thing. Also, now abilities that subtract from your attack or AC have a much higher “cost” associated with them, squisher classes are exponentially squishier (low hp and low AC plus easier crits against them), etc.

These are accurate effects on the system, but it is a feature, not a bug. There are also a few things you are overlooking. The biggest point is there just aren't as many ways to get +1s anymore. Feats like Weapon Focus are gone. The new ability score generation caps your min-max potential much harder. And there are fewer bonus types. Bless and Inspire Courage are both conditional bonuses now, for example. Those buffs (and debuffs) can be a really big deal, but there's only so much you can do to get them, and beyond that you need to focus on action economy and what not.

The +10 crit mechanics also makes for interesting new tactical decisions. Rather than simply doing 3 attacks every round, perhaps you should trade your -10 hit for Focused Aim to give your opening shot a higher likelihood to hit and crit. Or maybe you should utilize shields or cover, for similar reasons.


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@OP: you generally only have to worry about monsters going +10 on players' ac, as most player accuracy is usually too low (and sources to increase it too rare/nonexistent) to do that on a level-appropriate enemy with any regularity, while enemies' inflated statistics have no such troubles.


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Yup. Monsters seem to have a significant edge over players in 2E at any level except one with a gross level imbalance. Apparently this is intentional. I gather that monsters are intended to still pose at least a minor threat up to level -4, meaning those level 0 goblins should still be on the radar of a level 4 party and should have good odds of killing one or two characters per combat at lower levels.

I'm, uh, not fond of this conceptually. I feel like it skews the advantage to the monsters in most scenarios, and while there's certainly a niche in the market for games where you beat your head bloody on a wall for two hours before making incremental progress, I don't feel like tabletop is a good medium for that kind of system. I always felt like the days of showing up with a 3 ring binder full of character sheets were a bug, not a feature.

Plus it really doesn't make sense for a lot of campaigns. Reign of Winter for example -- you've been geased into helping Baba Yaga! Except, uh, half the party is destined to die within the next day or two. What happens when new characters show up? Do they, um, inherit the geas? (If you replace every part of the PC party within an AP, is it still the same party by the end?)


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kaisc006 wrote:
Has anyone run numbers on how having modifiers to your attack rolls affects damage? It seems to me that anything giving you a + bonus to attack will be prioritized since it also translates to more damage / protecting against critical failures.

Yes. I have even done a simulation analysis of Fighters vs. Barbarians vs. Rangers.

Suffice to say, a +1 to hit bonus (flat) is worth more than +1 damage PER LEVEL. So, at level 20, a +1 to hit is worth MORE than +20 damage, at least under the conditions of the model.

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Do you guys think high level play as a fighter will drop behind casters even more?

No. If anything, the Fighter is king of combat, IMO. (Well, the OpFor is king, but Fighter is Prince.) There are numerous threads about how spells are lagging.

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For magic items, will all martials just stack + x weapons rather than elemental/ other effects?

These are completely separate now, as others have noted. I have given the 'accuracy/damage balance' above.

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I guess what I’m saying is it’s strange to include beating the AC by 10 as a critical hit or have effects on critical failures of 10 or more. It changes the math significantly to the point where I think you only want to focus on buffing attack where as before there was a point where too much attack was a bad thing. Also, now abilities that subtract from your attack or AC have a much higher “cost” associated with them, squisher classes are exponentially squishier (low hp and low AC plus easier crits against them), etc.

This is by design, but since it is ALSO by design that no character crits except on a 20 without bonuses in 2E, I find it... amusing.

Lantern Lodge

I figured it’s by design I personally think it’s a pretty big problem with the system. I totally get the degrees of success / failure for spells (although it doesn’t fix the “focus only on +x” problem of pf1) but don’t find it appealing for combat / skills.

I haven’t played the playtest just browsed the rules and from what I’m seeing combat is too swingy. How do you guys think nixing degrees of success / failure in at least combat would affect the system? In its current state I’m hesitant to play.


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kaisc006 wrote:
I guess what I’m saying is it’s strange to include beating the AC by 10 as a critical hit or have effects on critical failures of 10 or more. It changes the math significantly to the point where I think you only want to focus on buffing attack where as before there was a point where too much attack was a bad thing. Also, now abilities that subtract from your attack or AC have a much higher “cost” associated with them, squisher classes are exponentially squishier (low hp and low AC plus easier crits against them), etc.

Yes, this ties into the +Level thing, I am genuinely surprised they want critical hits/fumbles to be such a core part of the system. I thought 4th Ed handled crits the best, max damage, so you don't have the chance of rolling less damage than a regular hit (talk about anticlimactic), and you don't have the potential for absurd spike damage (look at 5th Ed...).


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kaisc006 wrote:
Do you guys think high level play as a fighter will drop behind casters even more?

My playtest at level 10 had martials doing MUCH more damage than casters. Casters, except for clerics, aren't in a great place in PF2.

kaisc006 wrote:
Also resonance further restricts you from branching out for more colorful magic items.

Isn't that ironic? One of their goals was to make magic items more colorful and flavorful, but yet we can't really use them very much because of resonance and the fact that healing trumps everything.

kaisc006 wrote:
I guess what I’m saying is it’s strange to include beating the AC by 10 as a critical hit or have effects on critical failures of 10 or more.

It makes for more tactical gameplay. Getting flanked matters, being flatfooted matters, getting buffed matters, taking cover matters, being frightened or sluggish matters.

In playtest you'll notice the difference between success or failure is often 1-2 points.

That's one of the nice things about the game.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've playtested the first two parts of DD and it seems like for 1st-4th level characters critical hits don't matter at all.

This is also true for the monsters. For Pale Mountain all of my PCs (other than the wizard) have an AC of 20-22. Even thought the monsters have an impressive +10 to hit its not like they critically hit more often, probably even less often than in PF1.


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Shamelessly stolen from somewhere...

As with any number-based RPG, having a larger amount of "+1" to your rolls/scores will make you significantly stronger than someone who doesn't, even if it's just one; however, +1 represents all PF2 has to offer via optimization.

Before you can optimize, you must first understand the game. Explaining Pun-Pun, for example, necessitates discussing snippets of rules from eight or more books, and this is certainly an optimized character for Dungeons and Dragons, where characters must deal with game-bending effects and situations too wild to list here. Thus, the thought processes for optimization depend on the game.

Primarily, the only thing you can do to a character is hit point damage and applying temporary inhibitors such as slows, dazes, and stuns, so an optimal character might be concerned about having hit points. Unfortunately, the RAW ('Rules as Written', the only thing an optimizer can use to make judgments) for monster damage is so pathetically low, the healing so jaw-droppingly high, that this isn't much of a consideration.

Similarly, characters primarily, almost exclusively, defeat monsters by dealing hit point damage.

The primary way characters do damage is by attacking (go figure.) And this leads to our fundamental philosophy of optimization in PF2: +1 to hit is everything. PF2 is seemingly an extraordinary narrow game, there's really nothing else that's relevant. All of a character's powers are keyed off scoring hits, with the exception of the powers that are keyed off scoring critical hits, which uses the same modifier, but is much less likely. If you can't hit (or have your enemies fail a saving throw), your powers are worthless.

Someone ignorant of the system might think +1 matters more at low levels than at high, (like it does in Pathfinder and 3.5e) but, PF2 uses a treadmill system. A first level character might have +7 to hit, and will attack monsters with a defense of 18 (i.e., they'll have a 50% chance of hitting). A 20th level character might have a +34 to hit, and this might sound better, but the game is designed to keep characters on a treadmill at all times. A 20th level character will fight monsters with a defense of 45, and so still have a 50% chance of hit.

PF2 has been designed with optimization assumed, nearly all character abilities are based around combat, and combat is balanced around optimal characters. Should a suboptimal character be playing, they will necessarily be underperforming. Dropping from that 60% to-hit (with 10% chance to crit) to a 55% chance to-hit (and 5% chance to crit) is so important that failing to find this +1 (either by putting off enchanting your weapon or raising a stat, or by choosing a suboptimal race) will punish you - and in many cases, will guarantee that you're stuck playing a suboptimal character for the entire campaign.


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PF2 has been designed with optimization assumed, nearly all character abilities are based around combat, and combat is balanced around optimal characters. Should a suboptimal character be playing, they will necessarily be underperforming. Dropping from that 60% to-hit (with 10% chance to crit) to a 55% chance to-hit (and 5% chance to crit) is so important that failing to find this +1 (either by putting off enchanting your weapon or raising a stat, or by choosing a suboptimal race) will punish you - and in many cases, will guarantee that you're stuck playing a suboptimal character for the entire campaign.

Not necessarily. The Rules for Ability Boosts at level 5, 10, 15, & 20 punish players who invest into stats they already have a 18 in. If a party has a Gnome Fighter and a Human Fighter, the Gnome will start with a Strength of 16, but by level 5, the Gnome can increase Strength to 18, while the Human can only go up to 19 (which doesn't give it any bonuses compared to STR 18). If these two fighters play to level 20, and both keep maximizing their Strength, they'll spend half their levels at the same Strength bonus (level 5-level 9, level 15-19).


There were a lot of crits going on in our playtest of In Pale Mountain's Shadow. Having a bard with us probably helped. The PCs were critting a lot against some of the earlier enounters, and later we were getting critted a good amount by the monsters. And crits are pretty devastating with the damage done. Especially with the multiple dice from magic items and things like Power Attack, and the fact that as far as I can tell, almost all damage doubles on a crit, even things like precision damage that didn't in PF1. I had a +1 longsword, and tended to use power attack. So I had several crits of 6d8 + 8 damage. That's a lot of damage. The crits I saw tended to drop monsters or PCs, or come very close to doing so. Luck does seem to have a bigger role in the Playtest than in PF1.


Doktor Weasel wrote:
The crits I saw tended to drop monsters or PCs, or come very close to doing so. Luck does seem to have a bigger role in the Playtest than in PF1.

That's not so good, crit-fishing builds for he/she who goes first, wins; sucks.

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