Difficult terrain - is there a better way?


Running the Game


My group is starting on Part 2 and difficult terrain is everywhere. It seems like it would possibly make combat a little bit more interesting, but so far I think all it does is bog down everything.

The three action system without everything having attacks of opportunity feels so freeing, and combat feels like it can be more mobile than ever before, but the difficult terrain rules feel like a relic when added into the mix. Mixing the diagonal movement rules is even worse. Turns slowed down to a crawl as people are trying to figure out how much movement they're spending, especially coupled with abilities that allow ignoring the first step of difficult terrain. From a higher level view, difficult terrain itself seems to be fundamentally against what the new combat system is trying to highlight.

I'm curious if anyone has any thoughts on how difficult terrain could be implemented in a different way that is more aligned with the paradigms of the playtest.

My current thoughts are something along the lines of "If you enter a square of difficult terrain during a Stride, the maximum amount you can move during that Stride is decreased by 10ft." then an ability or feat could allow that reduction to be only 5ft. Then a type of super difficult terrain would only allow a single 5ft of movement through it per stride -- terrain that basically ends your movement when you enter a square of it. Certainly this idea has issues, but as of right now the difficult terrain rules in the playtest (and in Pathfinder 1) are poised to be totally ignored by my group since it doesn't add anything interesting to combat, it just slows down turns, and makes combat more close quarters and immobile like Pf1.


Ya, diagonal movement rules are a real pain and would have slowed my groups down if we weren't playing online. I would be happy if they went 5e style with diagonals.

The rest of the rules weren't bad but the implementation in chapter 2 was terrible. There was just too much difficult terrain and it was used too often. If difficult terrain is used sparingly on a map (about 60% area or less) and is non contiguous, then movement is tactical. If its allover or in one big blob, then it turns movement into a slog.


Part 2 does seem strange so far. The first encounter involves monsters that have the ability to pack attack, but only just enough of them where they'd have to all target one player for it to work, and then their drag ability is (as far as I know) affected by difficult terrain as well, so you don't even get to use that to its full potential against the PCs. I'm curious to see how the rest of the encounters go, but the first one seems like it needed another pass.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I don't think my groups have ever had an issue with this, can you expound? Diagonal movement is just base 5×sqrt (2), which is close to 7.5. You round down the total distance moved, so going one diagonal rounds down to 5, but 2 adds up to 15, so diagonal moves are calculated like 1,3,4,6,etc. If you're in difficult terrain, movement costs double, so each diagonal square is just 15 feet (7.5×2). If you had your movement cost tripled for some reason, it would go up to 22.5, which rounds to spending 20 feet to go one square.

Maybe if you look at it from a standpoint of spending movement it's easier to use?


Sounds overly complicated to me. When Im three beers in, I dont need to be busting out Pythagoras.

Just make a square 5 feet (10 with difficult terrain) and call it a day.

Now, don't misunderstand me. Complexity that adds to gameplay and tactics is fine. But needless complexity is needless.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Drop the notion of feet and just use squares of movement instead. Diagonals cost 1, 2, 1, 2, etc. Add one square to the cost of moving for difficult terrain and Bob's your uncle.


Basically turns slow down when a character has to pass through some squares of difficult terrain, and some squares of not difficult terrain, and a player can easily spend minutes trying to figure out how to get within melee distance of their target.

A character was using sudden charge and spent some time trying to figure out the movement, and between the rest of us we worked out a path that would get her to her enemy that was a little round about, but made the least use of diagonals and difficult terrain squares.

A player will often try to figure out a path, and then realize its not quite enough to get to their target, and then try again from a different approach, and we end up spending time looking at every possible approach because with some combination of where a character spends their diagonals and where they enter difficult terrain, the movement will work out.

My group uses roll20 so we even have an advantage there with the ruler. Diagonals are automatically calculated for us, and without that I'm sure my group would have given up on the diagonal rules by now.

In complete isolation, the rules of navigating difficult terrain seems easy enough, but mixed in with the intensity of a combat scenario with everything else you need to remember about your character and your plan for that turn, it just feels like a system that completely bogs down the game for no payoff. Keep in mind your movement speed maximum... okay 25, now start spending movement to move but... wait, what tile did I start from again? Okay wait actually this wont get me to where I want to go so I'll start again okay so... 5 feet and then this is the ... first diagonal so this one is 5? or 10? So then the second diagonal in difficult terrain will be... 10? no, 15? wait, how m uch total did I spend already? Okay wait I'm not going to get there with this path either, what tile did I start on again? Okay maybe I'll just stay where I am for now and then and figure out something else... wait I forgot I have the ability to ignore the first five feet of difficult terrain but... with this path I'm using my first entry into difficult terrain is a second diagonal for 10 feet so I think that's just 10 feet? And then I get to here and... is my next diagonal 5 or 10 or wait now its 10 or 15 because of difficult terrain?

The core of this issue I think is that with difficult terrain rules you cannot infer where your movement speed will get you, and because of that you always end up feeling like you're barely missing the solution on how to move to where you want, so you will spend attempt after attempt trying to figure it out. When you have just an open terrain map, and to make it even simpler, 5 ft diagonals, you can just look at the map and understand where your character can go.

(An example of bogging down the game with a good payoff is a complex spell. When a prismatic spray goes off onto 6 targets, it does take awhile to resolve everything that is going on, but there is very little to figure out. You just make a list of everything in the cone, and then start rolling a bunch of dice. You have the complete program in front of you and you just have to execute it, and at the end of all of it usually there's a big payoff of some crazy awesome swing in the battle, with creatures being poisoned and electrified and sent to another plane and turned to stone. It slows down the game, but with a bunch of excitement toward the end.)

Maybe my group will get used to this but even in years of pathfinder 1 we essentially have never used difficult terrain because it never adds anything to an encounter. Maybe I've just never seen it utilized in a good way, but usually when you see the map it appears as if its going to make for some interesting tactics, but actually what it does is just slows everyone down so much that the best thing to do is just stand there and swing out with all of your attacks because you can barely move around. (not to mention AoOs in PF1)


Part of the problem is that with base speed now being 25, difficult terrain is even more punitive than it ever was in the past.

I'd feel better about it if the base / default / typical difficult terrain cost 3 squares (15 ft) for every 2 squares (10 ft) moved, instead of 2 for 1.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Fuzzypaws wrote:
Part of the problem is that with base speed now being 25, difficult terrain is even more punitive than it ever was in the past.

Debatable, since you can now move 50 feet and still make an attack. Plus there's less need for taking complicated routes (or 5-foot steps) to avoid AoOs.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

If we are simplifying anyway, why not get rid of the extra cost for diagonals? Yes, you cover more ground than going straight, but as we are abstracting loads of Things anyway, why not get rid of that complication as well? It is one of the most forgotten/confusing movement rules, and if Monsters and PC's use the same rules, it doesn't overly matter if they break another physics rule.

I think Terrain is ok as is, movement cost doubled is as easy as it gets. And as Long as you set up the field in an interesting way, I feel the actual challenge of using the tarrain to your Advantage is a nice tactical minigame.

I agree that the Setup in DD2 was neither interesting nor useful. It could have been if the Hyenas ignored the Terrain, while the Characters didn't. But as is, it just slowed down movement for everyone and didn't add any tactical decisions. Well, beyond letting Dragon Style Monks shine.


Yeah, diagonal rules are convoluted with no payoff. I think having diagonals cost 5ft would probably alleviate some of the difficult terrain issues my group has.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I think I could get on board with making diagonals 5' as well. While I don't have a problem with how it works now I can see how it would simplify it for everyone. Are there any real drawbacks to doing this?


The only disadvantage I've found with 5' diagonals is that it makes certain distance/radius calculations ambiguous. If a spell can affect anyone within 30 feet of you, and someone is 6 squares away diagonally, are they affected? Are fireballs square now?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

"Every second 5' square of diagonal movement costs 5' extra" is convoluted?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Convoluted probably isn't the right word, but it's messy when you're moving across a mixture of orthogonal, diagonal and difficult terrain. "I move 5, 10, 15, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50... Wait, was that an odd or even number of diagonals? Where did I start from again?"


Right. You're asking for a player to track a lot suddenly just for movement. How much movement they have per-action. What square they've started on. How much they've spent so far. If the diagonal move they just took counts for 5 or 10. If the square they're stepping into costs more than 5. If they have any abilities that mitigate that.

What ends up happening in my games is a player will just put their token somewhere and say "can I get to here?" and then everyone starts putting together the sequence of moves that is required to get them to that spot, and it just seems so complicated for such a simple thing such as moving your token to a different square.

I wonder what it would look like in this version if it were something along the lines of "You can only move diagonally once per Stride"


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I don't find 1 extra sqare per square moved for difficult terrain difficult (heh!). Also the diagonal rules of 1, 2, 1, 2 cost are simple.

Double cost for diff. terrain may be hefty but not hard to calculate.
And if some players take minutes to calculate how to best come into meelee range... well it's a fight so decide quickly or your turn is over. If difficult environment makes it hard to find the optimal tactic, that's the reason it's there.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Convoluted probably isn't the right word, but it's messy when you're moving across a mixture of orthogonal, diagonal and difficult terrain. "I move 5, 10, 15, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50... Wait, was that an odd or even number of diagonals? Where did I start from again?"

I find that if you are losing track of the odd/even diagonal moves a simple token works wonders.


+1 5' Diagonals


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I don't have problem with Difficult Terrain, but the Diagonal system is somewhat of a chore, especially combined with DT.
But not just for movement, you can see it's impact on the AoE diagrams most clearly for larger cones.
Having simplified system with 'square fireballs' honestly seems like most stream-lined for game play.
Given characters and monsters are 'square' I don't see fundamental problem with that, though I 'get' initial discomfort.


masda_gib wrote:

I don't find 1 extra sqare per square moved for difficult terrain difficult (heh!). Also the diagonal rules of 1, 2, 1, 2 cost are simple.

Double cost for diff. terrain may be hefty but not hard to calculate.
And if some players take minutes to calculate how to best come into meelee range... well it's a fight so decide quickly or your turn is over. If difficult environment makes it hard to find the optimal tactic, that's the reason it's there.

I believe it is simple in complete isolation of other systems, but I have failed to ever see anyone comprehend it without multiple explanations, or even worse a complete fresh explanation every single time they have to move.

Rushing or skipping turns because it's combat feels unnecessary for the groups I've been a part of, and the tables I've run. Adding a timer to someone's turn from what I've observed adds sort of a meta-tension in a bad way. The characters don't feel any more in peril, the players do, and it feels bad when your character is punished for something a player didn't fully comprehend.

Finding and executing the optimized turn is a big part of the fun for my groups, so it feels like difficult terrain and diagonal movement could add an interesting layer to consider tactically, but instead it's more like a layer of obfuscation to simply disrupt optimal play by overwhelming the player during their turn. I'm all for interesting limitations to work around, especially in combat, but diagonals and difficult terrain does not satisfy that for me.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Groups that find diagonals difficult might be better off just using a hex grid instead of squares. Hex has its own drawbacks of course, but does make movement and area effects easy.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Its not difficult. Its just needless. If hexes are so great then Paizo should switch over and make all their AP maps to using them.

If not...

+1 5' Diagonals.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Switch over to hex grids? Have fun drawing out those rooms and hallways.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'm OK with difficult terrain and how it worked in PF1.

Yeah, forget about feet, using the number of squares you move and difficult adds one. Counting by 2s... shouldn't be hard.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Fuzzypaws wrote:
Part of the problem is that with base speed now being 25, difficult terrain is even more punitive than it ever was in the past.
Debatable, since you can now move 50 feet and still make an attack. Plus there's less need for taking complicated routes (or 5-foot steps) to avoid AoOs.

You could previously move 60 feet and attack with a +2, so that's not too convincing.


Data Lore wrote:

Its not difficult. Its just needless. If hexes are so great then Paizo should switch over and make all their AP maps to using them.

If not...

+1 5' Diagonals.

God no. This makes diagonals way too valuable and greatly extends the distance you can travel in a single move to 35' (assuming a base 25). At that point, why even have movespeeds?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

We have gotten very used to two-dimensional diagonal movement with added difficult terrain in PF1, though it does slow us down. The usual process is to count out loud: 5, 15, 20, 30 is a diagonal move. Difficult terrain just adds 1; for the love of the gods, don't make difficult behave differently on a diagonal! That *does* throw me off, and we quickly ruled otherwise.

However, diagonal movement in three dimensions (air, water) defeats me every time. This move is my second double-diagonal move, does it take the diagonal penalty twice? I'm going up, movement costs are doubled, how does that affect the diagonal penalty?

I am not really happy with 5' diagonals as it will lead to the players exploiting the grain of the grid. And I'm also not happy about going back to hexes because buildings are such a pain in hexes, and because we have a decade of square-grid maps in the APs and modules. But I could really use a simplification that made air and water combat less agonizing. (I'm running _Ruins of Azlant_ right now, so this issue is in the forefront of my mind. Just about to begin _The Flooded Cathedral_, which is, well, flooded.)

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I HATE 5ft diagonals. They completely break things for me.

The problem is that if you just look at the map then it is clear that A is closer to B than C. People have a quite good ability to estimate distance.

But with 5ft diagonals it is OFTEN the case that the figure that is OBVIOUSLY visually closer is, in fact, more distant.

I find them extremely jarring and non intuitive. It slows things down a lot when I have to figure out who is the closest opponent, which is the closest square, etc.


Mary Yamato wrote:
I am not really happy with 5' diagonals as it will lead to the players exploiting the grain of the grid.

How would you 'exploit' 5' diagonal movement? It's standard in a number of other games and I've never seen it cause any problems.


It increases diagonal movespeed by the square root of 2.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What I meant by exploiting 5' diagonal movement is things like deliberately attacking down the diagonal so as to move further. On consideration, it's more an esthetic problem than a tactical one, though--I am not coming up with a tactical application, given that spell and effect areas are also square.

It does really encourage running around your foes, as much more movement is available for twisty paths with 5' diagonals.


Mary Yamato wrote:

What I meant by exploiting 5' diagonal movement is things like deliberately attacking down the diagonal so as to move further. On consideration, it's more an esthetic problem than a tactical one, though--I am not coming up with a tactical application, given that spell and effect areas are also square.

It does really encourage running around your foes, as much more movement is available for twisty paths with 5' diagonals.

Yep, which exacerbates the problem caused by the distinct lack of AoOs in this edition.


sherlock1701 wrote:
It increases diagonal movespeed by the square root of 2.

Not really though. Visual perception of space is relative. It looks like that, sure, but if its treated as 5' in all game terms and effects then its just 5'.


Data Lore wrote:
sherlock1701 wrote:
It increases diagonal movespeed by the square root of 2.
Not really though. Visual perception of space is relative. It looks like that, sure, but if its treated as 5' in all game terms and effects then its just 5'.

It has nothing to do with visuals. If you move diagonally along a square grid, you cover ~1.41 times more distance. It's absolute. On a 1-inch square grid, you would move ~7 inches instead of 5. It would look bizarre in the game world, since you'd see people move much farther than should normally be possible, but only in certain directions.

If I walk forward, I cover 25 feet in 2 seconds. But if I turn 45 degrees first, I can cover 35 feet in the same time moving at the same pace. What kind of freaky physics would that be?


Freaky game physics.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The game already has square fireballs and step pyramid cones. I don't think getting rid of the diagonal move Speed rule is the one thing breaking the physics of Golarion. By the way, this already happens every time Players only take one diagonal move per round, so the physics are doomed already.
Anything that empowers opponents and players in the same way has no way of exploiting anything. Yes, it would make everybody slightly faster and easier to avoid Control zones. I would accept that for avoiding the stumbling blocks of movement calculation.
But that is just my view.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Agreed--extra cost for diagonals adds nothing to the game other than complication and a false mathematical "realism." I've often given the example that in Pathfinder, a halfling with a dagger and a bugbear with a greataxe each need exactly a 5' square to fight effectively, which just doesn't make much sense from a "realism" perspective. But abstractions are necessary, and if we can allow them there, why not for diagonal movement?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Voting "no" to "all diagonals being 5 feet". While the game may be an abstraction and a universal rule applies everywhere and thus cannot be more exploited by one side than another, we're still modeling things that are observable in-universe. Being inside a 75' by 75' room is a phenomenon that can be observed in-universe. Starting at a corner and being able to reach either the other side OR the opposite corner in the same amount of time with the same speed would also be something observable in-universe and IMO breaks down far too much immersion value for very little ease of play value.

For example, when my group plays, half the time, we'll count out a move to see where we can go or if a spell can reach far enough to tag an opponent. But the other half of the time, we're using a mini tape measure and using an inch for every 5 feet (so, 6" for 30 feet or 20" for 100 feet). And in either case, the gameplay matches the events in-universe. A square room is a square room and movement and distance within operate the same way as you expect (i.e., if you're in a corner, the diagonal corner is the furthest away you can get in 2D). Draw the square room such that its sides are diagonals relative to the battle mat and it still operates the way you expect. Draw the square room on a battle mat with no grid lines (instead using the tape measure exclusively) and it still operates the way you expect.

I enjoyed playing 4E for the most part, but I hated its diagonal movement and square fireballs. That, before anything else, told me I was a mini on a grid rather than a character in a world.

Regarding the difficult terrain, my issue is with how its the same number regardless of direction. If its twice as difficult and costs twice as much speed, I'd rather those things be true whether I'm moving cardinally, diagonally, or using a tape measure with no grid of any kind (so that, again, I can arrive at the same result no matter what I do).

Also not a fan of difficult terrain shutting down Stepping. That seems needlessly punitive.


Why do you bother with a grid then anyway? It makes movement uselessly restrictive, so if you are able to use a ruler/tape, forget about grids.

If you use squares, realism breaks down the moment you take two turns to cross that room while using only one diagonal each time. Just because it's the next turn, suddenly the extra movement happens, only over 12 seconds instead of 6.

But I totally understand that there are different levels of where the illusion breaks down, so I understand your argument, even though I disagree.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

5E solved this problem with a non-Euclidean universe, where every square counts as 1 (or 5 ft) no matter whether straight or diagonal.

It certainly speeds up gameplay, and diagonals don't make a huge difference tactically anyway.

Also makes 3 dimensional fights easier, since you just choose the longest distance (vertically or horizontally) in order to determine range.


Holy crap, I didn't even realize that about 5e. Another reason to dislike it I guess.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
sherlock1701 wrote:
Holy crap, I didn't even realize that about 5e. Another reason to dislike it I guess.

Different strokes for different folks, but I can say it certainly makes it easier for players to take their turns and faster for GMs to adjudicate and contributes to 5e being a faster game than either version of Pathfinder.


DerNils wrote:

Why do you bother with a grid then anyway? It makes movement uselessly restrictive, so if you are able to use a ruler/tape, forget about grids.

If you use squares, realism breaks down the moment you take two turns to cross that room while using only one diagonal each time. Just because it's the next turn, suddenly the extra movement happens, only over 12 seconds instead of 6.

But I totally understand that there are different levels of where the illusion breaks down, so I understand your argument, even though I disagree.

The grid helps with drawing out the encounter. And once we're done drawing it out, using the diagonals with Pythagoras OR using a tape measure allows us to get to the same or similar enough conclusions either way. Why would it be an all-or-nothing commitment?

Warning: boring math.

Spoiler:
For example, how do you calculate 97 x 5?

Do you get out a calculator and plug it in (resulting in 485)?

Do you figure it out in your head one at a time (7 x 5 is 35, 90 x 5 is 450, 450 + 35 is 485)?

Do you rejigger 97 x 5 to 97 x 10 / 2 (97 x 10 is 970, 9 / 2 is 4 drop a 1, 17 / 2 is 8 drop a 1, 10 / 2 is 5, put them together and it's 485)?

Do you rejigger 97 x 5 as (100 x 5) - (3 x 5) (500 - 15 is 485)?

Most of those take me the same amount of time. But other examples might have one methodology or another be better or easier. As long as all of them give me a consistent result, why limit myself?

And yes, I realize using one diagonal a turn eventually breaks down the realism, just like I realize that an octagon isn't a circle. Meaning it is just a matter of where a player's tolerance for where the illusion breaks.

That said, neither an orange nor a suspension bridge are an apple, but one comes closer than the other.

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
sherlock1701 wrote:
Holy crap, I didn't even realize that about 5e. Another reason to dislike it I guess.
Different strokes for different folks, but I can say it certainly makes it easier for players to take their turns and faster for GMs to adjudicate and contributes to 5e being a faster game than either version of Pathfinder.

As a 5E player who didn't even realize they'd kept 4E's treatment of diagonals until this very conversation (in my defense, 1) the DMG also includes alternating diagonals counting for double and 2) spells come in cones, circles, and spheres, which hint at Euclidean geometry rather than squares, squares, and squares, which don't), I have to disagree with it being a contributing factor to 5E being easier and faster to adjudicate.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

First time I ever found people Actually thinking it is hard to count diagonales. It never was an issue in any game I was.

Smurf.

Community / Forums / Archive / Pathfinder / Playtests & Prerelease Discussions / Pathfinder Playtest / Game Master Rules / Running the Game / Difficult terrain - is there a better way? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Running the Game