20 levels is wrong for PF2


General Discussion


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I don't think there's a right time of day to bring this up, so, sorry, designers.

I've been ruminating a lot about this subject, and my experience with the Playtest has made me more and more certain about the fact that 20 levels is not the best fit for PF2's system, and something more compressed like 10 levels would be best.

The reasons why I believe so are three-pronged:

1. Exciting action system... that you don't get to play with

The first moment when I realized that the progression was borked was during character creation for my Playtest run.
My players looked starry-eyed when I explained the action system... but completely crestfallen in actual play when they realized they had way too many actions. Tossing them out into low accuracy attacks felt terrible to them, particularly when their normal attacks had weak accuracy to start with.

I could tell that what they wanted was to interact with the system in more ways.

That's why I believe 20 levels is a disservice to the action system – every class should get a pack of abilities, modified by their Class Feats, that allows them to interact with the action system in satisfactory ways, and diluting a class into 20 levels make it so that the ramp-up time until this happens is excessive.

2. Lots of choices... and few exciting ones

Class feats, skill feats, general feats, ancestry feats... it's great to have so many choices around, but they aren't very impactful. A lot of them feel weaker because they are tied to feat-lines, which seem to predetermine your class progress – why wouldn't a Ranger that gets Monster Hunter go with all the rest of the line?
Skill feats feel like they could be too narrow to be properly used too. This is particularly salient in Backgrounds for campaigns – there are too many of them that grant a skill feat you'd use once at best.

This leads me to believe that 20 levels dilutes the power of the options. In a concentrated affair with 10 levels, you could make fewer, more meaningful choices, that got rid of feat-lines and each stood on their own. For example, the Monster Hunter pack would combine most of the utilities spread out through the levels (subject to balance, of course). A Ranger picking Monster Hunter would be great at an area, and have room for improvement in the rest.
Similarly, concentrated skill feats could provide general bonuses, specific bonuses and even extra combat actions all in one.

3. +level to everything warps play through 20 levels

Die has 20 sides. A 20th level character has a full 20-sided dice over a level 1 one. That's not a problem in itself, but when DCs come into play, math collapses, as a lot of people may have brought up in 1.3.

If you had 10 levels instead, the same system would have another texture and provide more grounded results. Concentrated feats would make 10th level characters better at processing dice, rather than better at outputting higher numbers. That would make the progression feel much more natural.


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or just remove +1/level and 20 levels feels fine.
add 3d6 instead of d20 and every +1 bonus that you can get your hand on is worth a lot.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

On first read I agree with about 90% of what you're saying, except that it would make character advancement almost glacial if you were to cut it down to half the levels. A good deal of the fun of leveling is saying "oooh, and next level I'm going to get THAT thing!" which kind of fades away if you've spent 3 months at level 4.

Basically do this, but do it all the way to level 20 instead of just 10.

Scarab Sages

Everything I've seen has indicated that the playtest solved high level play by removing it and stretching levels 1-10 out to 20, so why not just be honest and say you can't develop past level 10?


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This feels like the issue is class design is effectively 10 levels stretched over 20, and nothing inherently problematic with 20 levels. Which I agree with.

Level 1 characters are anemic. They were in PF1, and while PF2 is probably better for level 1 using just the CRB, it still feels like you're in training mode until the real game kicks in. This might be intentional for new players, but then adventure paths start you at 1 and experienced players 'have to play the tutorial again' too often. Possibly fixed with more adventures having ways to enter at level 3-5 without missing too much plot.

Many class feats & features are not exciting, and give 'dead levels' if you don't multiclass into something fun that level instead. Ranger is a specific example of this, where I've had a player tell me they 'stop getting new things from their class at level 13' (because none of it is interesting to them).

I feel fixing the classes is a much better solution than changing the total level range.

(Also: I like that level 20 characters might auto-succeed something a level 1 character auto-failed on even without much investment beyond a few stat bumps. I want them to feel they've become a whole different tier of hero. I just wish feats & features kept up with that)


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#1 : Another consideration would be a way to reduce the iterative attack penalty as you level up, potentially tying it to potency for weapons which could be an option. I noticed the same that when casting haste on a martial character; it didn't really amount to much and especially not compared to what you expect the spell to do as a pf veteran because of the exact reason listed.

#2 : Yup, i concur. The alternative would be to go through the feats that currently exist and retune them to allow them to be less situational. Some options like "Cat's fall" and "Kip up" feel very strong skill feat wise because they come up often enough and feel impactful when they do come up, having more feats like those would help a lot.

#3a : I don't mind the proficiency system personally, i understand that i am a minority regarding. The bigger issue is that the DC's currently factor in too many unspoken variables(between stats/skill increases/items not everyone will buy/magical buffs not every group has/etc are all factored into the table), resulting in a optimized character feeling less successful then desired(when consulting medium/hard table) and a supposed competent character not feeling all too competent at all. The numbers are better with 1.3 but they aren't quite there yet.

#3b : I've stated this before but i have a strong suspision that this is because of the +10/-10 critical system and while i'm personally a fan of the idea behind it; i also feel like it might be getting in the way. If you have 75% chance of success on something for example, that translates into a 25% chance of a critical success and a 50% chance of success a lot of the time and because criticals are ment to be relatively infrequent; its caused the very tight math to feel like a 50% a lot of the time which might be mathmatically correct, it comes at the cost of fun factor for many.

Edit: Lyee worded #2 quite well and i especially agree with his closing remark.


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you're basically not really your choice of class or race until about level 4 (when most classes get what was basically their level 1 spread from PF1).

you also finally get to interact with the archetype/prc system at... level 4.

you also get to choose something as mundane as a different weapon from your class-locked kinds (for any character who isn't a human, which is in fact the majority of choices in the book) at--you guessed it--level 4, when you gain your first general feat.

i'm beginning to notice a pattern here.


Igor Horvat wrote:
or just remove +1/level and 20 levels feels fine.

Bingo, outside the playtest, this is my No. 1 house-rule (plus removing extra weapon damage dice from magic weapons); I love that the design enables this omission and tweaking (+1/4, +1/2, or +2 x Level, etc) of the game.

Like 5th Ed, keep it hack-happy.


Dreamtime2k9 wrote:
#1 : Another consideration would be a way to reduce the iterative attack penalty as you level up,

I am surprised they left in that punishment (like non-casters need to be kept there).


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some of the contributing factors to play feeling like 10 levels stretched over 20 include:

1. Ancestry Feats being underwhelming and equating to buying back baseline stuff.

2. Class Feats being separated into narrow level ranges, forcing you to pick unexciting options because there's nothing on the level tier that you want.

3. Rampant class feat taxes, where your class ability progression requires you to continually buy the next level.

4. Lack of general feats, which let you dabble outside of your class in other interests without multiclassing.

5. The lack of multiclassing which would allow you in some cases to switch to a new class once you had all the things you wanted from another, saddling you with the levels you don't want.

6. Large level gaps between proficiency upgrades

7. Level 1 characters with few options for personalization (no feats in some cases)

8. Skill use being gated behind skill feats which are given out on a schedule. (no identifying spells AND picking pockets at level 2)


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Vic Ferrari wrote:
Dreamtime2k9 wrote:
#1 : Another consideration would be a way to reduce the iterative attack penalty as you level up,
I am surprised they left in that punishment (like non-casters need to be kept there).

The iterative attack penalty seems harsh. In PF2 it's harder to get to a "can hit on a 4 on the first attack" situation like you can in PF1. And -1 to hit is more punishing than in PF1 since it kills your ability to make criticals. So it seems like the iterative attack penalties in PF2 are much more punishing.

But if they remove them or greatly reduce them, it's a step back towards "martials should stay in one place doing nothing but attacking". When the third attack is highly unlikely to hit, it encourages you to use that third action for something else, like raising a shield.


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Sounds like your players' play experience is vastly different from mine. As a spellcaster, I feel like I have too few actions, since the only one action spell is Shield and one version of Heal/Harm; almost every other spell (or spell point action) requires 2 actions to cast, leaving me with 1 action to either move, attack with a weapon (which is stringent and more often than not is at a penalty), use Shield cantrip, Recall Knowledge (pointless unless you're early in the fight or really have no clue what a creature is or does), or Request/Feint/Demoralize the enemy. Each of those actions can be valuable in the right circumstances, and I can only choose one of those per turn. Yikes. And the only way to get more actions is by being Swift/Quickened (which is limited), or by spending all of my Hero Points (a hefty cost); it's no wonder I feel like I'm not doing enough in a round as a spellcaster.

@ Lyee: Has the Ranger player considered taking some multi class feats for the "uninteresting Ranger feats" he'd normally get? Those are sometimes better than the class feat choices he can get.


@Darksol: You also have truestrike and jump (that i can remember having utilised for 1 action spells). I personally found the spellstrike type of caster with casting haste on themself to be very enjoyable to play and feel appropriate action economy wise. I just had to sacrifice my touch attack spells considering that would have my spellstrike miss pretty much all the time.

I felt like i was doing a great deal at that point, typically casting a blasting or crowd controling spell, spell striking with my hasted action and having an action left for casting shield/jump, moving or any of the action you just mentioned as i saw fit.

It did help though that the adventure itself was more exploration based so quicken spell felt very powerful and impactful at that point, even more so as it would be incredibly difficult to run out of spells with 1 encounter a day.

@Matthew: It would just allow 2 attacks to be rather reliable and a third action to roll for the 5% or move or use any other action as seen fit. I don't necessarely think thats a problem. I don't really want to go back to hitting on a 4 but i would like my second attack to hit somewhat frequently which isn't the case presently.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Vic Ferrari wrote:
Dreamtime2k9 wrote:
#1 : Another consideration would be a way to reduce the iterative attack penalty as you level up,
I am surprised they left in that punishment (like non-casters need to be kept there).

The iterative attack penalty seems harsh. In PF2 it's harder to get to a "can hit on a 4 on the first attack" situation like you can in PF1. And -1 to hit is more punishing than in PF1 since it kills your ability to make criticals. So it seems like the iterative attack penalties in PF2 are much more punishing.

But if they remove them or greatly reduce them, it's a step back towards "martials should stay in one place doing nothing but attacking". When the third attack is highly unlikely to hit, it encourages you to use that third action for something else, like raising a shield.

I feel like "encouraging new tactics by making the main one suck" isn't as handy as "encouraging new tactics by making the other ones better". Plus the new action system does that already, the only reason "stand in place and full attack" was a thing was because you were already locked in there for your two attacks that probably will hit, you lose nothing by taking the later ones and maybe snagging a nat 20 for some bonus damage. If there was a way to trade out attacks 3 and 4 for extra AC or a bonus effect (which isn't affected by BAB like combat maneuvers are) you can bet that people would take that instead.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Vic Ferrari wrote:
Dreamtime2k9 wrote:
#1 : Another consideration would be a way to reduce the iterative attack penalty as you level up,
I am surprised they left in that punishment (like non-casters need to be kept there).

The iterative attack penalty seems harsh. In PF2 it's harder to get to a "can hit on a 4 on the first attack" situation like you can in PF1. And -1 to hit is more punishing than in PF1 since it kills your ability to make criticals. So it seems like the iterative attack penalties in PF2 are much more punishing.

But if they remove them or greatly reduce them, it's a step back towards "martials should stay in one place doing nothing but attacking". When the third attack is highly unlikely to hit, it encourages you to use that third action for something else, like raising a shield.

I like the spirit, but if the 3rd action is dull and or/obvious and you do not wield a shield?


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I am hopeful that some of the changes (multiclassing as feats and very tight math, for example) is a sign that they want to make endcap abilities something to look forward to that *will get used*. PF1E had endcaps, but they were functionally RP notes on a character's retirement, so multiclassing (as actual classes) wasn't seen as giving up anything.

Or, put another way, I hope that the current redesign of the 20-level system is meant as a prelude to epic-level play. I (admittedly) don't like the current multiclassing design, but I like the idea of having epic-level options and actually playing the alchemist who has discovered the secret of eternal youth/paladin who banishes the hordes of Hell with each strike/bard who performs so well that enemies die from joy.


I've done something similar in 5E (we capped at Level 5 though, not 10) and it does simplify things quite a bit.

I do think, however, that PF2's progression might be too tightly geared toward 20 levels and might not pare down very well in play...

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

Folks, I can appreciate the theory crafting going on here, but changing to a 10 level game is not currently on the table.

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