Levels Feeling Sparse: When & Why?


Classes


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So, recently Jason locked a thread saying the game would fit better in 10 levels, because over 20 the level ups often didn't give enough. Fair to lock, because it was framed that a drastic change should happen that isn't on the table. It was discussing a 'wrong solution'.

But I think the problem can be real, and let's discuss that, then look for any right solutions that fall out.

When, during the playtest, do you level up and feel you don't get enough? When you reach Fighter 7, getting a General Feat, +1 Perception, and +1 in some skill, does that feel like a 'full level'? What about when you reach Wizard 12, getting +1 DCs (that you expect enemy saves to also increase by), and a Skill Feat? If that's your main character advancement for the next... many-sessions maybe before 13 (depends hugely on group pace), does it feel like major progression?

We haven't had people who spent 5 sessions at level 11, hit 12, and can express how they feel knowing that's it for progression for 6 sessions, because the playtest hasn't existed long enough for campaigns to reach that far. A lot of this is theoretical, but that's all we have.

* Are feats overall lacking in impact? Skill feats? General feats? Ancestry feats (I think so and I think they're working on it)? Class feats for a specific class at a specific level range?

* Do skill increases feel meaningful enough?

* Do any classes have especially weak levels?

* Do casters getting their proficiency increase feel cheated of advancement?

Side-discussion:

* How much of your advancement does & should come from magic items? (Currently the case is Weapon users: Almost all of their damage. People who love skills: More than their proficiency. This feels very wrong.)


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Preface:
Its hard to say presently because we haven't really had that sort of adventure yet. At the time time, competence feels largely...the same across the three levels of play that I've done so far. The numbers are bigger each time, but the game feel is the same.

Lyee wrote:
* Are feats overall lacking in impact? Skill feats? General feats? Ancestry feats (I think so and I think they're working on it)? Class feats for a specific class at a specific level range?

Feats are hot garbage right now. There are very very few that make me go "that sounds cool." The rest I look at and yawn.

Quote:
* Do skill increases feel meaningful enough?

No. And this is because the DCs also went up by 1-2. So regardless of what I do my average competence remains the same.

Quote:
* Do any classes have especially weak levels?

All the full casters are missing 3 class feats compared to everyone else "because their spell casting stat is a feat" despite everyone else getting weapon and armor proficiencies for free. Well, except for the...

Alchemist, who spends the majority of his feats on "make bombs do more damage" just so you can keep up with everyone else getting magic items for free.

The sorcerer who got shafted with his bloodline (semi-fixed with update 1.3)

Quote:
* Do casters getting their proficiency increase feel cheated of advancement?

Absolutely. The fighter didn't get forced to spend a feat on his weapon proficiency. The monk didn't get forced to spend a feat on his saving throws. The rogue doesn't get forced to spend a feat for his extra skill boosts.

I'm sure the argument could be made that the spellcasters get MOAR SPELLS for free, but my counter argument is:

1) Most spells are hot garbage.
2) The spell proficiency value is used for almost nothing.

Well, not quite nothing, but the spot on the sheet for it is for "spell rolls" which is used for precisely 1 task: counterspell. The DC variant is your spell save DC, sure, and you use your spell proficiency for spell attack rolls (but not your spellcasting stat!), so this feels useless.

Quote:
* How much of your advancement does & should come from magic items? (Currently the case is Weapon users: Almost all of their damage. People who love skills: More than their proficiency. This feels very wrong.)

Magic items are hot garbage too.

There are SIX non-consumable level 3 items. SIX and two of them are staves and one's (light) armor. My level 7 character spent a level 5 slot on a level 4 item and a level 3 slot on a level 2 item because there was nothing else available.

Oh and one of those six is bracers of arrow deflection that you can use once every 10 minutes. Woop de doo.


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Do we need to say "hot garbage" when we could instead say "not exciting" or "kind of blah" or "somewhat disappointing" or something less hyperbolic?

Liberty's Edge

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Do we need to say "hot garbage" when we could instead say "not exciting" or "kind of blah" or "somewhat disappointing" or something less hyperbolic?

Temperate refuse rolls off the tongue better I think.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Do we need to say "hot garbage" when we could instead say "not exciting" or "kind of blah" or "somewhat disappointing" or something less hyperbolic?

Hmm...lets see:

Feats are bland on bland. They are so completely and utterly unexciting as to make me want to play another game. I want none of them and I find myself picking something anyway because it literally will never come up, so why bother spending the energy worrying about it.

Spells with durations are worthless.
- No one casts Fly on a single target in order to ignore gravity for a minute.
- The same goes for Resist Energy (and polymorph spells and most other buffs). The entire POINT of that spell is to say "there's a fire elemental in that room, Wizard, buff us." You can't do that with this spell until 13th level. Who is going to burn their entire daily allotment of 2nd level spells on a single fight?
- Spells that require concentration hampers spellcaster's abilities to deal with the ebb and flow of a fight. If they have to move, they can't cast a spell. If they cast a spell, they can't use Shield. If they cast another concentration spell they're done for the fight.
- Summons are weak. As in you get 1 monster that is so low level as to not even grant you experience if you were to fight it and you expect it to actually HURT the thing you're fighting. It's a speed bump, nothing more. Also, where did all the celestial summons go?

Quote:

Level 0: Dire rat

Level 1: imp devil, quasit demon
Level 2: lemure demon, sloth demon
Level 3: hell hound
Level 4: bearded devil
Level 6: lust demon, nightmare
Level 7: blood demon
Level 8: erinyes devil
Level 9: bone demon wrath demon
...

Magic items come in two flavors:

- Required by law
- Actual trash that is actively on fire
Ok three flavors
- Consumables, which are overly expensive, and also trash that is on fire and it burns your soul to drink it

There's the occasional item that's actually worth having, for some classes, some of the time. Like the staff of healing. The staff of healing is so underpriced everyone has one.

I think "hot garbage" expresses my feelings pretty well and there's a reason it feels like PF2 only gets up to about the same power level as a 10th level character in PF1.

Nothing about the system excites me (except the stat gen mechanics, but even that is a garbage fire of extra bland on blandbread with a side of blandsauce because there's only about four distinct results).


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I feel like that at every level up on the rogue, cleric, and druid that I’ve played so far. I am feeling like that as I make a bard for the 5th chapter.

Biggest causes:

  • Feat chains. If your class doesn’t grow without investing in a class feat then it doesn’t feel like a class.
  • Not enough interesting choices at every class feat level. If you choose one class path, it might not get something at feat level 2 or 4 or 8 or 14, so you have to pick something outside of your path and that is most likely from a much earlier group that feels overly weak when you pick it late.
  • lack of built in scaling. This is the biggest culprit, because nothing feels strong for more than one play session.

    I think the current offerings would discourage me from buying the finished product, even though the framework is reasonable.

    I also think the designers know that everything could have a lot more sizzle in the finished product and want to limit power creep over the next ten years.

    But if they publish the game using the content philosophy of the current playtest classes, no amount of clean framework will save it.

  • Silver Crusade

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    PossibleCabbage wrote:
    Do we need to say "hot garbage" when we could instead say "not exciting" or "kind of blah" or "somewhat disappointing" or something less hyperbolic?

    Indeed, less emotionally charged language might make the devs more likely to pay attention to the (valid IMHO) feedback.


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    PCScipio wrote:
    PossibleCabbage wrote:
    Do we need to say "hot garbage" when we could instead say "not exciting" or "kind of blah" or "somewhat disappointing" or something less hyperbolic?
    Indeed, less emotionally charged language might make the devs more likely to pay attention to the (valid IMHO) feedback.

    As much as I agree, its just...not...easy. There's so much wrong across the entire system that summarizing isn't possible without expressing one's self with highly charged words.

    When it comes to paper and dice hitting the table:

    - Removing a majority of feats would not adversely affect the game (all General, Skill, and Ancestry feats, and about a quarter of all class feats).

    - Removing non-cantrips wouldn't adversely affect the game that much. Not that cantrips are fun, either.

    - Removing TEML (and by extension, skill increases) would not adversely affect the game.

    - Removing all non-armor non-weapon magic items would not adversely affect the game.

    - Removing Druid, Ranger, and one of Wizard/Sorcerer from the game would not adversely effect the game.

    That's how bad it is. I mean, that might be a little hyperbolic, but going into detail would require a 434 page treatise. That is: I would need to annotate the entire book with almost as much content as the book itself contains.

    I still want to run the playtest to completion because there might be something I haven't gotten to see in action that might be intersting. But right now...no, there isn't. Session by session I'm finding myself frustrated, disappointed, or bored with the game.

    The challenge level somehow manages to at the same time be "so easy it may as well not have been an encounter" and "so hard we may as well go home." The fight with the manticore in chapter 2 was hands down the most frustrating AND most boring fight I've ever been in.

    Ok, I've got it. The right comparison.

    Here's what I want to do.

    I want to go play Apocrypha instead. And you know what I think of Apocrypha? "I'd like this game more if it was the PFACG. The rules were clearer, the iconography was better, card powers felt more meaningful, and I had more advancement options. All around the PFACG was just...better. I do like the theme and setting, though."

    PF2 is so bad I'd rather go play the "crappy knockoff" of the ACG (yes, I am aware its made by the same people, but it lacks the polish and good design choice that the ACG had, as if they didn't take any of the lessons learned while doing it and apply it back to their original setting).

    I want PF2 to be good. I do, I really do. But I find it hard to bring myself to make polite eloquent post after polite eloquent post without getting emotionally charged. And the more I play the playtest the stronger my opinion of where the game's at solidifies.

    And that opinion is:

    It's a train wreck. :(


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    I've seen Draco's sentiment a lot in the Pathfinder discord, here on the forums, on Reddit, and in both of my gaming groups. Rarely as charged, though.

    If we figure the current options are baseline, and many of them are going to be considered bad and ignored after the first three supplement books, how much of the system would be fixed? If more powerful and interesting feats/spells get released in Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic, or their equivalent. If Ultimate Intrigue 2.0 has a new plethora of skill uses that scale interestingly with proficiency. How much would that fix? Are the level tables broken at a core level anywhere, or is it mostly the content you slot into them?


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    I think a good part of the bland leveling comes from level ups providing busywork rather than choices. Skill rank improvements aren't interesting without an attached feat, so there's no real reason to separate them. Some class feats are locked into a progression and shouldn't need to be chosen to progress again later. Race feats are weak, infrequent, and don't interact with much of anything and feel like an unnecessary step. Often times you'll have a bunch of options that don't do much for you, and no way of doing something you do want, like improve weapons or armor proficiency. Equipment feels very similar.

    Going up levels feels more like maintenance than growing in power.

    I think the frequency of improvements is too high, requiring the impact of the improvements be too low. That probably won't change with new options without altering the distribution of power.


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    Draco18s wrote:

    Spells with durations are worthless.

    - No one casts Fly on a single target in order to ignore gravity for a minute.

    One minute is long enough for the guy with the big sword to take on a flying enemy. It's long enough to get you (and anyone you can carry) over a gap or up a wall you can't climb. It's enough to get one PC with ranged attacks into a position of complete safety for the duration of a battle with non-ranged enemies.

    It's weak compared to PF1 Fly, but it doesn't sound worthless to me.


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    Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    While I'm not as strongly opinionated about it as Draco18s, I do feel that there is a lot of blandness to advancement for a lot of reasons.

    The biggest three, in my view, are:

    1. Narrow options in class feats, resulting in many "no brainer" and "least bad" option choices. This is a consequence of both required feats for your build (often blatant feat taxes, if you think of them from a feat perspective rather than class feature) and tight level restrictions on class feats.

    2. Lack of out-of-class customization. Class feats for most classes other than fighter are pretty equivalent to PF1e class features. This leaves PF1e's impactful combat feat selection almost wholly absent from PF2e. You can use general feats to get proficiency, but that's basically it from a combat perspective. This means you're constantly chaffing for the next opportunity to actually define your character.

    3. Slowness of proficiency progression. This is noticeable particularly with skills, where a character might thematically care about one skill and want to get the next skill feat, but has to wait many levels. Once they do get it, it's typically designed too conservatively. Related to this is that many skill feats should be baked into the proficiency level so that when you do get that proficiency increase, you don't have to then wait several more levels to get the skill feat to do what you want.

    As an example, let's say I want to play a shadowdancer type rogue who doesn't muck about much with thievery, but is a master at stealth and making deadly attacks from the shadows.

    Class Feats:
    Level 1: Nimble dodge is the only choice for this character.
    Level 2: Either Mobility or Footpad's Focus could be good.
    Level 4: Marginally useful stuff, but Unbalancing Blow is the winner for this build. Starting to get more into a crit focused build than I want though.
    Level 6: Some good options. Blind-Fight, Light Step, Skirmish Strike, and Twist the Knife are all useful to this build.
    Level 8: All of these have some slight downsides. Opportune Backstab is probably the best for this build.
    Level 10: Sneak Savant mandatory
    Level 12: No good choices, but Critical Debilitation goes along with the unintentional crit focus my build has acquired.
    Level 14: Spring from the Shadows is mandatory, and way late in the career for something like this.
    Level 16: Nothing exciting. Would probably take dispelling slice for thematic reasons.
    Level 18: Trickster's Ace is only choice for this character
    Level 20: Hidden Paragon is the only choice.

    Actual difficult class feat choices over 20 levels: 4

    Skill Feats I care about:
    Terrain Stalker
    Swift Sneak
    Foil Senses
    Legendary Sneak

    Skill feat choices I'll make that aren't compelling to my character concept: 16


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    Matthew Downie wrote:
    Draco18s wrote:

    Spells with durations are worthless.

    - No one casts Fly on a single target in order to ignore gravity for a minute.
    One minute is long enough for the guy with the big sword to take on a flying enemy.

    Of course, the rest of the party is still on the ground doing bupkis

    Quote:
    It's long enough to get you (and anyone you can carry) over a gap or up a wall you can't climb.

    So, just you. The "and anyone you can carry" equates to "no one" because "a person" works out to around 16 Bulk, or about double what you can carry without being encumbered.

    Oh you're a wizard. It's triple your max unencumbered carrying capacity.

    So you have to cast it on the entire party. Welp, there the entirety of your 4th level spell allotment for the day.

    Quote:
    It's enough to get one PC with ranged attacks into a position of complete safety for the duration of a battle with non-ranged enemies.

    Or you can cast Phantasmal Killer, Globe of Invulnerability, or Hallucinatory Terrain.

    It's weak compared to PF1 Fly, but it doesn't sound worthless to me.


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    When 2e moved to a model of no or few built-in class features, and instead, "class feats," it meant that the nice yet less interesting stuff you'd get as part of background progression became...unexciting feats. That you had to take.

    The previous model, 1e, had some exciting but also "less interesting" (yet important) options built in as part of automatic class features. This let the less exciting options fade "into the class" as background noise. Helpful, but still background noise.

    Taking those less interesting options out and making them a forced choice frustrating and less interesting. A player cared about interesting options like wildshape, but perhaps less about "hey, you now get +2 versus fae magic."

    That one change alone might make things feel bland, but let's push it further.

    In 1e, archetypes offered unique flavoring along a concept. Archetypes (often times) exchanged for "less interesting" options. If the archetype replaced a more interesting feature (like wildshape), then it (the archetype) needed to be more interesting to compete.

    In 2e, everything is leveled out. The "boring" options aren't automatic. They're right out there with the cool stuff, so things can feel just...

    ...I want to like 2e. I really, really do. I'm sure the devs are tired of me at this point. I don't want to be a tiring person, and I have respect for what they do. I appreciate we don't see eye to eye.

    PF2e hasn't inspired me to play 2e, and I hate saying that. What it's instead inspired me to do is pick up and play other systems. I just spent about $70 on books for a new RPG, for example, and have subscribed to some of their podcasts.

    The change, from "small, piddly-sounding (though not piddly in practice)" abilities from being more in the background to being made into a "forced choice" and brought into the foreground could be part of that feeling.

    I'm not sure if it would help, but perhaps if 2e yoinked out several of those less interesting feats and repackaged them as part of a "Class Paths" it might feel more exciting. Yes, this might make a person a little more locked in, but the Path wouldn't need to give abilities every level, and you could still offer choices.

    We're essentially talking about what "feels right," here, in the end. The engineer versus the artist. Yes, Model X might be more efficient than Model X.3, but it feels more dull. The two need to get along.

    In fact, Paths might solve the "generic flavor" issue that creeps in, in more than one way. Much like how folks have called for 2+ ancestry feats early on to feel as though they have more definition to their character, I'd just have the Paths be an "in addition to" system. You'd need to do some cleanup of the system, but hey.

    Anyhow, no. You aren't imagining it.


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    WatersLethe wrote:

    While I'm not as strongly opinionated about it as Draco18s, I do feel that there is a lot of blandness to advancement for a lot of reasons.

    The biggest three, in my view, are:

    1. Narrow options in class feats, resulting in many "no brainer" and "least bad" option choices. This is a consequence of both required feats for your build (often blatant feat taxes, if you think of them from a feat perspective rather than class feature) and tight level restrictions on class feats.

    This definitely has elements of amount-of-content-in-playtest issue that will be fixed over time. the feat tax style things are a big issue though. Especially those that are chains, potentially eating 40% of your total class feats to be competent at a basic concept.

    WatersLethe wrote:


    2. Lack of out-of-class customization. Class feats for most classes other than fighter are pretty equivalent to PF1e class features. This leaves PF1e's impactful combat feat selection almost wholly absent from PF2e. You can use general feats to get proficiency, but that's basically it from a combat perspective. This means you're constantly chaffing for the next opportunity to actually define your character.

    I agree here generally. Doing much of interest requires an archtype, which guts a lot of your 'class features' that are now feats.

    I think this could be fixed by having far more powerful, character-defining General Feats. Even if you don't get one until level 3, that'd be easy to houserule, and many games can start at 3.

    WatersLethe wrote:


    3. Slowness of proficiency progression. This is noticeable particularly with skills, where a character might thematically care about one skill and want to get the next skill feat, but has to wait many levels. Once they do get it, it's typically designed too conservatively. Related to this is that many skill feats should be baked into the proficiency level so that when you do get that proficiency increase, you don't have to then wait several more levels to get the skill feat to do what you want.

    Yes, I agree with a lot of this. I'm okay with the level requirements for proficiency advancement, but I do think it should come with some basic upgrades to the skill that are currently skill feats.

    WatersLethe wrote:


    As an example, let's say I want to play a shadowdancer type rogue who doesn't muck about much with thievery, but is a master at stealth and making deadly attacks from the shadows...

    I think a lot of this will be fixed in time with more content (if tehy publish at PF1 pace, after 3 years I would be very surprised if you couldn't go 1-20 picking only Stealth skill feats). Definitely a growing pain, though.


    Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

    It might help if you could cash in general feats for archetypes


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    Lyee wrote:
    WatersLethe wrote:

    While I'm not as strongly opinionated about it as Draco18s, I do feel that there is a lot of blandness to advancement for a lot of reasons.

    The biggest three, in my view, are:

    1. Narrow options in class feats, resulting in many "no brainer" and "least bad" option choices. This is a consequence of both required feats for your build (often blatant feat taxes, if you think of them from a feat perspective rather than class feature) and tight level restrictions on class feats.

    This definitely has elements of amount-of-content-in-playtest issue that will be fixed over time. the feat tax style things are a big issue though. Especially those that are chains, potentially eating 40% of your total class feats to be competent at a basic concept.

    "Adding more options" doesn't mean that there isn't an issue. Feats that are required to make the class functional (such as the alchemist needing to spend feats to get the damage increase other people just get via weapon potency runes) means that other options are eclipsed by the Absolutely Required feats.

    With feat collections that are bland adding more feats means that the set that currently exists may as well be removed because no one will take them if the new options are better.

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