Loving Monster Special Abilities


Monsters and Hazards


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Monster special abilities are giving some wonderful flavor to monsters. I feel like this is one of the great successes of the PF2 play test.

AND

I wouldn't mind seeing a few more...

I don't know why but it really bothers me that cats don't have Catfall.

Or that Barbarian rage is described as "The fury of a wild predator fills you when you Rage, granting you uncanny unarmed attacks."

But beasts (other than badgers) don't rage... Everything on the list that possesses Barbarians when they are raging should be able to rage too.

Except snakes, WTH are snakes doing on the rage list? :) maybe take deer off the list too.

And take a look at adding a few more raging monsters: Owlbears and Lycanthropes for sure.


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I like monsters to have some fancy abilities, but please don't overload. A new tracking mechanism like rage for average animals - not for me.
What feels off is that we have humanoids with special abilities that players can't get. First thing that comes to mind is the Goblin Shuffle that Goblin PC's forget once they become heroes.
I would love for these abilities to become ancestry feats, but it is probably hard to balance.


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I do like the fun monster abilities. This is one thing P2 seems to have nabbed from 4e that I greatly approve of. The ankhrav fight was just the best, with his armor gnashing mandibles, acid spray and burrowing--it was just a delight to run.

The idea of pack animals that do more damage when they fight as a unit is another great one too. It made the hyena fight a lot scarier.

I love all of this. In general I'd be happy if the monsters had less hit points, which has led to a lot of sloggy fights, and more fun abilities like these that they get to use once or twice to make the PCs lives exciting.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I will add my voice that monsters are great!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yeah, loving the monster abilities (need to start back up that review thread, maybe tonight or tomorrow if work doesn't interfere...)


I very much like the monsters. Demiliches, hyenas, and the saxra in particular have won my heart, and I very much appreciate that even low level mundane beasties like crocodiles have distinctive abilities.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Despite my love for the new monsters, I still find dragons and their abilities to be underwhelming. I'd like to see them improved before the final release.


People keep saying how they like the new monsters and their abilities.

I'm looking at the book going "What Abilities?"

No really, I see people talking about the Abilities that monsters have but not talking about the Abilities monsters have but they're so awesome that no one is talking about.

Elleth was kind enough to actually give me some names to look up but all my tests (Parts 1-2 of the Doomsday Dawn) playtest has not given me anything terribly awesome or interesting. Heck I'm looking at Part 3 now and that's all just Humanoid Undead for the most part which is "Wow this is interesting *Sarcasm*"

Can I get some examples as to some of these "Awesome" abilities that others are seeing? Related question, just because it's awesome to USE a GM doesn't mean it's awesome to face in combat(Look, Earth Elemental's Crumble is pretty fitting and sounds like a good idea, but my players disliked playing what boiled down to Wack a Mole).


I like that cats get sneak attack. I though that most of the undead have interesting special abilities.


Snickersnax wrote:
I like that cats get sneak attack. I though that most of the undead have interesting special abilities.

I'm just going by what's in Part 3 so...

Ghoul and Ghast don't do anything new. They Jump but that's it. They do have Consume which is flavorful but I question how useful that actually is. If there's a Dead PC, that's a problem in and of itself regardless of the two monsters getting HP back.

Poltergeist gets an AoE now. Hmm.

Wight gets nothing new.

Vampire Spawn actually loses some abilities.

And Zombie doesn't seem to have changed much either outside of having a Grab/Bite combo now.

I'll exclude the boss of the section as I expect bosses to be pretty fancy anyway. If anything it seems like Shadows got a buff but is that something we really needed anyway?


The abilities I liked in the playtest so far:

Goblin Shuffle - nice way to set up flanks, very Fitting for small, weasely Monsters. Pictures their hyperactivity very nicely

Zombie Grab/Bite. Would be great if it worked, but as the grab takes an extra Action, it means the PC has to stay a full round in the grab. But then they are low Level threats, so ok.

Hyena/Gnoll Pack Tactics. Built in buff for Focus fire, something the Players can visualise nicely and work against.

Hyena Drag. Very flavourful, even though it is of limited use.

Afflcitions in General (poison and diseases) - even though it takes some time to get used to them and they may prove too fiddly in the end, they actually are dangerous and interesting now

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

The Chromatic Black Dragons can backhand people who backtalk them as a Reaction.


Rysky wrote:
The Chromatic Black Dragons can backhand people who backtalk them as a Reaction.

Do they? I just see Tail Lash which gives them a free swing at anyone in 15 feet if they Skill check or Strike. Granted that's once per turn as it's a Reaction.

The Strike makes sense I suppose but the Skill seems more flavorful or unused.

I suppose due to Maneuvers being tied to Athletics you can get slapped if you try to do one.


MerlinCross wrote:

People keep saying how they like the new monsters and their abilities.

I'm looking at the book going "What Abilities?"

No really, I see people talking about the Abilities that monsters have but not talking about the Abilities monsters have but they're so awesome that no one is talking about.

Elleth was kind enough to actually give me some names to look up but all my tests (Parts 1-2 of the Doomsday Dawn) playtest has not given me anything terribly awesome or interesting. Heck I'm looking at Part 3 now and that's all just Humanoid Undead for the most part which is "Wow this is interesting *Sarcasm*"

Can I get some examples as to some of these "Awesome" abilities that others are seeing? Related question, just because it's awesome to USE a GM doesn't mean it's awesome to face in combat(Look, Earth Elemental's Crumble is pretty fitting and sounds like a good idea, but my players disliked playing what boiled down to Wack a Mole).

I mean I'll happily give more detail. Some abilities I like:

Hyena:
Drag. I just think this is fun because I can have some monsters play tug of war with somebody or drag a squishy off. I'm not expecting it to do too much, but I think it could cause a low level player to freak out when their wizard buddy starts getting pulled away by his ankles. Part 2 difficult terrain stopped me having as much fun with them as I hoped though.

Beasts in general:
I like that a lot of animals have abilities that you automatically think of when you think of the animal. E.g. crocodiles have a death roll, camels have an unpleasant spit, and great white sharks can leap out of the water and take a bite out of a low-flying enemy. This is doubly nice because, as mentioned many times, I'm coming from 5e. 5e Beasts are generally dull, sloggy, and weak. Here most of them have something (e.g. cats having both sneak attack and pounce) that makes them play different, and some like the smilodon are actually pretty horrifying.

Demilich:
Demilich I like mostly because of how they can be swiftly tailored to a theme, and because I just really like the flavour of "lich imploded and absorbed their magic items into themselves. Now they're just a malicious little arcane nexus." E.g. I'm possibly tempted to run at some point a Transmuter demilich, with the appropriate staff rolled in (meaning that they could cast Humanoid Form and disguise themselves as themselves in life) and one of the eye gems being something like Monstrosity Form so they could turn into a purple worm and dig a tunnel or whatnot. I like how they awaken, but mostly it's all about how they interact with spells.

Saxra:
I mostly like Saxra as the auras and knowledge stuff mean it's basically a living malicious storm that you go to for advice and try not to get too close. At a glance over the PF1 version though, it doesn't seem much different. So mostly I guess I'm glad it got included in the playtest.

Marilith:
I like how much mileage they get out of different sorts of hitting people -AoO (sextuple opportunity), Defensive assault (esp the interactions it has), focused assault, sextuple strike.

Quasit:
I like that they can shapeshift, move, and attack in one turn. Mostly I just think this is fun with the action economy, esp when they have other things at their disposal. Like the hyenas I think I'd like to use a quasit with more metaphorical bark than bite.

green dragons:
I like that the miasma obscures the dragon, so they can flood a location with noxious gas and then lurch out of the gloom to attack somebody else. I like the white dragon blizzard for similar reasons, but I think poison gas makes it thematically horrifying.

Nightmare:
Flaming gallop. I quite like flaming gallop.

I'll agree that crumble sounds annoying, but I think the major earth elemental Spike Stones sounds interesting.

MerlinCross wrote:

The Strike makes sense I suppose but the Skill seems more flavorful or unused.

I suppose due to Maneuvers being tied to Athletics you can get slapped if you try to do one.

If you had players with access to flight you could potentially run a midair combat over water in a storm -midair maneuvers are acrobatics checks, swimming is an athletics check.


Yeah, I really liked how the big cats operate! Most of these abilities seem much more fun to use in play than what PCs get. A lot more fun edition for GMs this time around! Specially compared to 5E where the original bestiary only had meatbags with basic melee attack and nothing else.


ChibiNyan wrote:
Yeah, I really liked how the big cats operate! Most of these abilities seem much more fun to use in play than what PCs get. A lot more fun edition for GMs this time around! Specially compared to 5E where the original bestiary only had meatbags with basic melee attack and nothing else.

One thing that was interesting to run though in the PF playtest, is that the new action economy and weapons rules made it feel interesting for me to run even a bunch of mindless skeletons. Scimitar sweep encourages focusing on two players after all.

5e has some monsters I like, but most of them are big high end monsters with legendary actions, so it's going to be fun actually enjoying running low level combat as the norm, rather than the exception.


ghouls and ghasts having a leaping ability and a (grotesquely appropriate) health restoration action is also awesome.

I'm really digging all the little bits of uniqueness given to each monster.

I think my favorite so far are the actions of the faceless stalker and doppelganger that give a reason to reveal the true nature of the creature before it is dead.


thenobledrake wrote:

ghouls and ghasts having a leaping ability and a (grotesquely appropriate) health restoration action is also awesome.

I'm really digging all the little bits of uniqueness given to each monster.

I think my favorite so far are the actions of the faceless stalker and doppelganger that give a reason to reveal the true nature of the creature before it is dead.

Yay Leap. It's so good... oh wait. What's it do? Half move and no reactions. This is only useful depending on what class make up you have to deal with. And the Feed is fitting as I said before but..., no it's not useful.

Think about it. You have to kill a PC, you have spend an action to feed and you'll a sitting duck to recover...1d6. When your HP is 20. Or 3d6 to recover with a pool of 45 HP for a Ghast.

So for the Ghouls that can be half a hit or a hit. Ghasts MIGHT recover more and live longer but by the time players fight them, they should be able to clear out 3d6 of HP at a decent clip. It's a Level 3 monster, the team might have a 2dx magic weapon by that point. And more to the point you need a Corpse to do it, which means if you've killed a PC, they probabably have WAY more to worry about than the enemies recovering some HP.

The other way is to fill the room with bodies already... but that also means the ghoul/ghast will have to stop attacking, run back, and feed. Which is almost their entire turn(Full turn if they have to leap away from Fighter) and thus a waste of a turn.

Fitting to the creature. In use, why waste the space?

And that's actually what I'm coming away from the bestiary with. I recall one of the blogs showing Monsters for PF2. They showed some big creature from PF1 saying "Look at this dude! He fits so many special abilities and spells! But some of them are useless and or redundant. We're not going to do that again!"

No Paizo. You seem to be doing that again. Or at least setting yourself up to do so. But this is one GM's opinion.

Suggestion though; Let Feed boost Ghoul/Ghast power or maybe give temp HP. This way they can feed before battle or on their first turn to get a useful buff.


MerlinCross, you see to be stuck on some idea that the monsters should be doing something other than being the monster that they are - actions don't need to be the "best" thing for the creature to do, they just need to be something that the creature would do and result in the encounter with the monster being a bit unique and fun.

That means leap is great because you can set up the encounter area so that leaping is useful, or just toss in a leap here or there for flavor.

And as for the feed action... it's not limited to PC corpses. Use more than 1 ghoul or ghast, and as soon as one hits the floor, have another chow down on chunks of it.

In use, entirely not wasted space. There is more to the experience of playing the game than the monsters doing the mechanically most potent thing at every opportunity.


thenobledrake wrote:

MerlinCross, you see to be stuck on some idea that the monsters should be doing something other than being the monster that they are - actions don't need to be the "best" thing for the creature to do, they just need to be something that the creature would do and result in the encounter with the monster being a bit unique and fun.

That means leap is great because you can set up the encounter area so that leaping is useful, or just toss in a leap here or there for flavor.

And as for the feed action... it's not limited to PC corpses. Use more than 1 ghoul or ghast, and as soon as one hits the floor, have another chow down on chunks of it.

In use, entirely not wasted space. There is more to the experience of playing the game than the monsters doing the mechanically most potent thing at every opportunity.

It's weird that we expect the PCs to do the mechanically most potent thing at every opportunity but for the monsters it's suddenly all about the flavor.

The phrase "You CAN but why would you want to" is how I've viewed most the playtest. Because the math is going to effect the "Why".

You CAN leap, but if you can hit and or crit with your swings, why aren't you swinging? And if you CAN get to a target without eating a Reaction, why ARE you leaping?

You CAN Feed on a corpse, but it's better to take that swing, you aren't going to get enough HP to survive the resulting attacks form the PCs. Oh wow, a ghoul runs up to the dead ghoul that's standing in front of the Fighter/Monk. Now they don't even need to do anything, here's 3 swings for free.

It is wasted space, to me at least. Abilities that are neat but going to rarely be used because the math asks "Why aren't you swinging to crit, you are playing it wrong.".


MerlinCross wrote:
It's weird that we expect the PCs to do the mechanically most potent thing at every opportunity but for the monsters it's suddenly all about the flavor.

Nah, it's about flavor for the PCs too - especially given the number of players that legitimately don't care to figure out what the most potent thing is, and those that don't get it right even when they try.

At my table I've got monsters using cool options just because they are cool, and players doing the same.

The question of "You can do that, but why would you want to" is answered with "because it is fun, cool, and while not the most mechanically potent is still better than other things an action could be spent on in this situation."


thenobledrake wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:
It's weird that we expect the PCs to do the mechanically most potent thing at every opportunity but for the monsters it's suddenly all about the flavor.

Nah, it's about flavor for the PCs too - especially given the number of players that legitimately don't care to figure out what the most potent thing is, and those that don't get it right even when they try.

At my table I've got monsters using cool options just because they are cool, and players doing the same.

The question of "You can do that, but why would you want to" is answered with "because it is fun, cool, and while not the most mechanically potent is still better than other things an action could be spent on in this situation."

Sadly, I agree with you. I want to do whatever I want.

But the math, system and community pushes for the numbers for the "BEST" way to play. The moment you aren't doing so, you're subpar, behind and depending on the system, going to eat dirt.

I feel PF2 is going to do the same. The abilities are nice but either useless at times or redundant. Something they seemed to want to move away from.

The "It's fun and cool" is not an answer the math supports. Can you swing? Can you crit? Math says to swing.

Player or Monster, Math says you should be swinging. But this is a larger problem I have with the system than monster Abilities.


The math, the system, and the community are all ours to choose how much power to give.

We are not slaves to the math - if we were, my table experiences during this play-test would be filled with players carefully evaluating every action they spend and bland monsters that move as little as possible, attack with every action, and leave nothing for the players to remember them by other than reduced HP totals, rather than being filled with things like casting enlarge to get down off a balcony without taking falling damage, ghasts wrestling with each other to eat other fallen ghasts, and PCs doing things like shoving NPCs out of harm's way rather than making as many attacks against the monsters as they could like they are.

If we play how we want to play, the math and the system fall in line immediately, and the community - at least the part of the community that actually matters, our own tables - will get with it or get a new group over time.


MerlinCross wrote:

.

You CAN leap, but if you can hit and or crit with your swings, why aren't you swinging? And if you CAN get to a target without eating a Reaction, why ARE you leaping?

Because of the penalty on consecutive attacks, doing something other than 3 attacks is often a great idea.

Moving for flanking, leaping into the back ranks to attack the healer, Leaping to make use of interesting terrain, taking a bite out of a fallen combatant are all useful and interesting choices rather than attack again at -8 or -10 to hit.


MerlinCross wrote:


Ghoul and Ghast don't do anything new. They Jump but that's it. They do have Consume which is flavorful but I question how useful that actually is. If there's a Dead PC, that's a problem in and of itself regardless of the two monsters getting HP back.

Just to stay on that example, from a GM's perspective this gives you a lot of room to actually build encounters or even whole settings. This explains why the undead might be able to overwhelm the city guards and thus the players are needed.

You can create pressuring examples where the PC's are not really at danger but need to exert themselves to save the populus or guards. Or it is a fine explanation why the ghouls/ghasts are still at full health when they reach the players.

Jump is fairly nice as there will be frontliners like fighters or paladins to which they might first get but after biting their teeth into hard metal they might look for something more squishy jumping into the back lines, while being replaced by more of their friends that need room to engage.

Having the ability to pass through otherwise impassible or damaging terrain is nice too. So yeah in a vacuum these abilities might look boring or weak but they offer a whole lot of design space.

I still hope that the dragons will be more diverse in their actions and special abilities in the final bestiary, the white dragon stands out so far.


Haven’t we been inundated with thread after thread about how monsters are too powerful? If the ghoul is going to kill the PC’s in a round or two anyway, what does it matter if it stops for a snack. I figure that just gives the PC’s a fighting chance…..


vestris wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:


Ghoul and Ghast don't do anything new. They Jump but that's it. They do have Consume which is flavorful but I question how useful that actually is. If there's a Dead PC, that's a problem in and of itself regardless of the two monsters getting HP back.

Just to stay on that example, from a GM's perspective this gives you a lot of room to actually build encounters or even whole settings. This explains why the undead might be able to overwhelm the city guards and thus the players are needed.

You can create pressuring examples where the PC's are not really at danger but need to exert themselves to save the populus or guards. Or it is a fine explanation why the ghouls/ghasts are still at full health when they reach the players.

Jump is fairly nice as there will be frontliners like fighters or paladins to which they might first get but after biting their teeth into hard metal they might look for something more squishy jumping into the back lines, while being replaced by more of their friends that need room to engage.

Having the ability to pass through otherwise impassible or damaging terrain is nice too. So yeah in a vacuum these abilities might look boring or weak but they offer a whole lot of design space.

I still hope that the dragons will be more diverse in their actions and special abilities in the final bestiary, the white dragon stands out so far.

SO just walk around the front line? Just walk around him/her. What's stopping you from just saying "Good bye Mr/Mrs not fighter, I'm just gonna go over here now." And shuffle over to the the cleric in back for a nom nom.

I mean what's the Paladin or Monk going to do? Unless you have basically set up as a shield wall or just a line of dudes, you have a better chance of reaching someone if you just WALK over to them.

I can't see why I would need Leap. More to a point, Why would I need Leap when they actually have an Acrobatics score? At least Tumble has a risk of failing. But I suppose carwheeling undead is just too much for the system.

And I still say they should at least get Temp HP from eating.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The signature actions that monsters have are a great addition to the stat block and should definitely be brought forward to the final game.

All the fights my players remember and talk about are the ones that had monsters with distinctive and dynamic actions. Less impressive were things like the Mummy which had an underwhelming disease that was of no impact whatsoever.


Mechagamera wrote:
Haven’t we been inundated with thread after thread about how monsters are too powerful? If the ghoul is going to kill the PC’s in a round or two anyway, what does it matter if it stops for a snack. I figure that just gives the PC’s a fighting chance…..

In general special abilities aren't making monster too powerful, legacy math is.


The monster special abilities, especially on monsters that used to just be beatsticks, are awesome.

Hydra in particular is a huge standout, giving PCs a meaningful reason to carve and burn heads instead of just killing the thing straight like you would do in 1e.

2e has me legitimately excited not just to run its monsters, but actually to build my own - something I used to avoid like the plague.

Paizo Employee Designer

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MaxAstro wrote:

The monster special abilities, especially on monsters that used to just be beatsticks, are awesome.

Hydra in particular is a huge standout, giving PCs a meaningful reason to carve and burn heads instead of just killing the thing straight like you would do in 1e.

2e has me legitimately excited not just to run its monsters, but actually to build my own - something I used to avoid like the plague.

We want to make it easier for you to do the mathy parts of the monster so you can focus your time and effort in building the part that makes fighting that monster unique, like the hydra.


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Snickersnax wrote:
MerlinCross wrote:

.

You CAN leap, but if you can hit and or crit with your swings, why aren't you swinging? And if you CAN get to a target without eating a Reaction, why ARE you leaping?

Because of the penalty on consecutive attacks, doing something other than 3 attacks is often a great idea.

Moving for flanking, leaping into the back ranks to attack the healer, Leaping to make use of interesting terrain, taking a bite out of a fallen combatant are all useful and interesting choices rather than attack again at -8 or -10 to hit.

Agree with this - and the fact that some monster weapons are agile gives you a reason to use them, so you aren't just attacking with the same (maximum damage) weapon over and over.

Case in point: in Doomsday Dawn, I had Drakus use his first attack with the longsword, then use his claw (agile); and then use his final action to Grab the player with his claw. Next turn, that player was flat-footed due to being grabbed, which meant that the longsword was hitting with Sneak Attack damage as well... He put both the frontliners down at least once and was a real threat - all by himself.

And right now, my PCs are being attacked by the Ankhrav - it spewed acid all over them so a couple of players are using their third action to try and get the gunk off them, lowering their flat DC check for removing the persistent damage from 20 to 15.

That third action is useful for much more than just attacking.

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