A Thought On Vs. Monster Checks


General Discussion


Consider, if:

A) A PC of a given level should be substitutable for a monster of the same level, and-

B) Most modifier numbers (skills, saves etc.) have fairly uniform progression, then-

C) PCs and monsters of the same level will have nominally the same bonuses, and thus a 50% success/fail rate rolling against each other.

This is not a universal truth. For example, a rogue likely has a few points more in Stealth than Perception, if only for having Dex as their best ability score.

Overall though, if a monster at the level of the party is intended to be swappable with a clone of a member of the party, they would rival a PC in their area of expertise (e.g. a sneaky monster vs. sneaky rogue).

This does not explain all issues. Monsters being experts (or more) in more fields than any PC can be does not fit this model. But if tagging PCs of level X in for monsters of level X is a goal, then gravity would pull towards equal bonuses, and 50/50 chances, against equal level foes.

PS: Attack bonuses and AC bonuses do not have mirroring sources, though may still feel unsatisfying to some.


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...What's your point here?

The issues people have are:

* Monsters are good at basically every skill for some reason.

* Monsters best skills are universally as good as, or better than, the most optimized PCs possible. Slightly unoptimized PCs get wrecked.

This is in contrast to PF1, where I can be rolling a +40 bluff modifier at level 1, and know no monster will have a sense motive near that for basically the entire campaign, because I've invested a race, two feats, and am using a limited resource pool for it already.

People like that, if you specialize and invest that hard, you end up with 80-100% success rates. In PF2, maximizing your stat, proficiency, getting a special item for it, etc... gets you a 50/50 chance against the *average monster*. People don't like that. If it was my super-invested bluff against the inquisition's super-invested sense motive? Fair game. But this is not the case.


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I did make mention of that: "This does not explain all issues. Monsters being experts (or more) in more fields than any PC can be does not fit this model".

My point is some of these seem like mistakes, like monsters having overtuned bonuses being a developer mistake (from what I read, at least).

Monsters being good at too many skills might also be a mistake, or might go away if the above mistake is corrected and they become just decent at nearly every (or close to every) skill instead.

Other things seem like design goals, or at least like direct consequences that trace back to design goals.

For another example, the success rate of a PC in their best area against an average monster is the inverse of the failure rate of an average PC against a monster in the monster's best area.

To break it down in order, after the stated mistakes are fixed:
>Average PC's bluff vs. average monster's sense motive = 50% chance (as a monster and PC of level X are intended to be interchangeable)
>Your super-invested bluff vs. average monster's sense motive = 80-100% chance (as you stated people like for specialising)
>Your super-invested bluff vs. specialised monster's sense motive = 50% chance (because you should be interchangeable for this monster as a PC of level X, and thus an appropriate challenge)
>Average PC's bluff vs. specialised monster's sense motive = 20-0% chance (because they're calibrated to 50/50 against you)

It's a cause and effect chain. On average, whatever advantage you want to have as a specialist over an average equal level monster, is the advantage a specialist equal level monster will have over an average PC, because they're calibrated as interchangeable.

It becomes a game of choose:
>As a specialist vs. a non-specialist you get a 90% success rate, but as a non-specialist vs. a specialist you only get a 10% success rate ("Why even bother rolling?")
>As a non-specialist vs. a specialist you get a 40% success rate, but as a specialist vs. a non-specialist you only get a 60% success rate ("I don't feel special!")

If people want their average success as a specialist vs. non and non vs. specialist to combine to > 100%, the "PC <-> monster of level X can be swapped" intent makes this difficult, maybe impossible.

Liberty's Edge

My big, and previously stated, issue is that the 'average' monster is on par with an absolutely optimal PC (or, in some cases, above even that).

Really, I think things would be fine for the most part if they fix that particular issue.


Deadmanwalking: There seems to be close to universal agreement that that's a problem, and an admitted mistake by the developers.

I'm trying to dig past that, to the hopeful post fix state, to see if people like the numbers then.

A good example is proficiency bonus. +3 Legendary vs, +0. Trained gives a nominal 65% success rate to the Legend.

This may underwhelm some, but it should (post fix) give a Trained PC a 35% shot against a "Legendary" monster.

Once "average" monsters are fixed to be on par with "average" PCs, I think this is where we'll end up.

If people are happy with that then awesome. Personally I think a 65-75% and 35-25% split sounds decent to play.

Liberty's Edge

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Artificial 20 wrote:
Deadmanwalking: There seems to be close to universal agreement that that's a problem, and an admitted mistake by the developers.

The latter isn't something I've seen. Can you cite a source? The last time Mark Seifter mentioned it in a thread of mine (which was around a week ago or so), it seemed like the intent was for them to be equal, but not superior, to absolutely maxed out PCs including the PCs having items, at least in their main skills. That's...really not an okay amount of maxed out, IMO.

Now, there were errors on top of that which make monsters look even worse, but the 'intended level' still seems overly high at the moment. This is a playtest and that could change, but I hadn't heard it was definitively going to as of yet, so I'd be very interested in hearing any data you have to indicate such a thing.

Artificial 20 wrote:

I'm trying to dig past that, to the hopeful post fix state, to see if people like the numbers then.

A good example is proficiency bonus. +3 Legendary vs, +0. Trained gives a nominal 65% success rate to the Legend.

This may underwhelm some, but it should (post fix) give a Trained PC a 35% shot against a "Legendary" monster.

Once "average" monsters are fixed to be on par with "average" PCs, I think this is where we'll end up.

If people are happy with that then awesome. Personally I think a 65-75% and 35-25% split sounds decent to play.

The issue with this solution (which otherwise sounds great and I'm completely on board with) involves Ability Scores and Items. Which of those are assumed and at what levels creates a lot of differences in what you wind up with stat-wise.

I mean...is the 'default PC' assumed to have a maxed out stat and item? If so, then they're not really average, and if not the difference winds up quite a bit bigger than the one you cite.


There were some errors in their reference document for monster building which caused some monster skills at some levels to be a bit high relating to their change of which levels you could become Master and Expert.

Monster perception was being calculated like a skill as it occupies a wierd in between place. But, PCs really struggle and cannot keep up to monster Perception as written. It was doubly off for being calculated like Monster skill and for PCs being well behind in regards to skill items and higher proficiency availability.

The 10-2 Skills DC table suffers some similar problems as well as having Low and High tracks that are too steep. It might have the same error as Monster skills explaining ~1pt of it at many levels.

But, the underlying fundamental problem that has been giving the devs problems are skill items and the built in assumptions around them. Monster Skills, Monster Perception, and Skill DCs assume a baseline skill item investment for Low/High/Severe/Extreme. It is assumed in the varying tiers of Monster skills giving them an outsized appearance vs PCs. It blows Monster Perception out of the water compared to PC's Perception. And it makes the Low and High DCs really really tough to reach.

The Devs know about this and are taking a closer look at how to address the skill item issue. Their assumptions fell more towards the pack rate side of players that once a skill item became available, mundane or magical, the default character condition would be to pick them up when their overall cost was low compared to their WBL.

So, when you look at their numbers and realize there was an error and smoothing issue that adds ~+1 in a lot of places, and then they are assuming PCs and Monsters are getting +2-4 in every skill depending on specialization and getting a full +5 in their focused skill, you can see where all of the error is coming from. And it really is caused by +X Skill items, and their underlying assumptions of availabiltiy.

How they were wanting to set those benchmarks was fine, except for the pervasive error caused by the skill item assumptions an how the whole system skewed everything upwards.

I have suggested the "Counts As Proficiency" Magical Skill item style to replace the standard +X issues that are currently causing a host of problems. You have tiers, Expert, Master, and Legendary for Magic skill items. The item lets you calculate your proficiency in that skill as if you had that proficiency. If you already had that proficiency or higher you would instead get a +1 Item bonus to that skill. If you had legendary proficiency and a legendary skill item you'd instead get a +2. Coupled with some of the secondary or activation ability for skill items and you're good to go.

Essentially those that were untrained or only trained stood to be able increase their effective skills by quite a bit, while those who were specialized stood to push the boundaries by +1-2. But, by shrinking that skill item overhead from +5 to +2 all of the underlying math and assumptions get much much easier to address. It automatically fixes the Monster Skill and Perception vs PCs issues and makes the 10-2 skill table extremely easy to address.

Not sure exactly how the Devs are going to address all of these issues, but I would expect to see or the original error corrected which brings a lot of DCs and Monster Skill/Per down by ~1. Then I'd expect to see some change to how they were calculating Low/High DCs, maybe just by another 1 which would probably lower some of the Monster skills by 1 as well.

I would expect that independent of any skill item changes, and those are where these problems really get addressed. Something like limiting the maximum +X bonus for items to +3 would really trim things up and shift things toward the spectrum of competence we want. Adopting something like my skill item suggestion above would tighten it down and virtually eliminate the underlying problems.

I am looking forward to seeing how the devs address these issues. I am confident they are aware of them, and actively working on solutions. The removal of Signature Skills was helpful first step.

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