Reason why damage on magic items bothers me


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It took me a minute to figure out, but I think I finally got my biggest (personal) reason why I don't like that essentially all of a martial's damage is tied up in his (magic) weapon. It makes my Hollow Knight concept invalid.

To backtrack a bit, I have a few characters that I keep in my campaigns as a sort of recurring thing. They're basically a corrupted kind of einherjar - they can't exactly die, if they do so, they go back to their plane to await being called again. There's a restoration period they have to go, but that's not really important. There are a few of them, Hollow Knight, Silent Knight, Shadow Knight, etc. They all have auras of X on their armor. The Hollow Knight has an anti-magic field centered on his armor. If I were to use this character in 2e, the front liners would be swinging 1d12+str at each other... for 10/12 levels worth of hit points.


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Slightly different reason but same conclusion with me. This is really absurd that only spellcasters have an innate feature for truly meaningful damage scaling among the levels, while the noncasters require external help (in the form of magic weapons) to keep up with the rising stakes.


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Lucas Yew wrote:
Slightly different reason but same conclusion with me. This is really absurd that only spellcasters have an innate feature for truly meaningful damage scaling among the levels, while the noncasters require external help (in the form of magic weapons) to keep up with the rising stakes.

That's more or less been my problem with melee for a few editions of d20, pf2 just makes it worse. Take away a casters magic items and they're still a caster. No staff means fewer spell slots, but you still have spells. You can still be useful. Take away a fighter's magic items and he's probably not hurting monsters any more than a commoner would.

Of course, if the dragon feels like being sporting and staying on the ground in pf1 he might still get some good rolls and win.

In pf2 he's missing out on a ton of accuracy and damage that it's assumed in the dragon's hp and ac that he'll have. He won't win. That dragon is smacking that fighter with all the damages the fighter is missing.

And forget having a decent back up weapon...


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Tying most of the attack power of melees to items is indeed a bad design choice IMHO.

A level 20 fighter should be more than half as good as normal with an ordinary sword.


It's pretty easy to fix though. Just give PCs an innate bonus (maybe 1 point behind the expected progression so that getting the next plus of magic weapon is still beneficial and desirable). Obviously, the magic weapon bonus wouldn't stack with your innate bonus.


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The crazy thing is that if you steal a high level fighter's +4 magic sword and replace it with a mundane one, you completely cripple their damage output.

It's cool that the weapon matters and all, but it's so lopsided right now that god help you if you lose your uber beatstick.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Just like stealing a Wizard's spellbooks cripples them. Yet the "but your spelllbook might get stolen/destroyed!" doesn't really figure into discussion about design and balance. And rightfully so, going after spellbooks is a cheap move, just as is going after weapons.


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Perhaps they can just do at X level, you gain an extra die of damage (maybe at three points like 6, 12 and 18 or something) AND have weapon enchantments give a more standard +x bonus to damage.

That would reduce the outsized impact of spells and abilities that increase your weapon enchantment, improve how well lower die weapons "stack up" and allow both items and character advancement to have similar impacts to raw damage output.

This would also lead to a slight net loss of martial damage output and maybe make non-martial options more valuable.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Just like stealing a Wizard's spellbooks cripples them. Yet the "but your spelllbook might get stolen/destroyed!" doesn't really figure into discussion about design and balance. And rightfully so, going after spellbooks is a cheap move, just as is going after weapons.

I'm not sure that the real objection is that the fighter will lose their weapon but that they need it in the first place. I rather like the current system of damage dice for potency runes, but the drop off is a little dramatic when viewed mathematically and if you don't like magic items being assumed then I can see why you'd be upset.

That said, it's not "bad design." It's a stylistic decision that some people like and others don't. The good news is that the treasure tables make it much easier to houserule potency bonuses as inherent and adjust WBL accordingly. Imi think there's good odds guidelines for doing so will even be published in the CRB or GM guide.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Just like stealing a Wizard's spellbooks cripples them. Yet the "but your spelllbook might get stolen/destroyed!" doesn't really figure into discussion about design and balance. And rightfully so, going after spellbooks is a cheap move, just as is going after weapons.
I'm not sure that the real objection is that the fighter will lose their weapon but that they need it in the first place.

It is, at least for me. Having a magic sword be useful is cool. Being utterly dependent on said magic sword to do a meaningful amount of damage just makes one feel like a lousy fighter. It's not a new problem, but the extra damage dice exacerbate it.

And going after weapons is a bit more likely to happen in a fight than going after a spellbook. Sundering and disarming make some amount of sense to do in a fight, destroying a spellbook generally doesn't since the wizard likely isn't carrying it in his hands with a great big label on it that says "this is mah spelbook!!1 hurp der hur" and due to the fact that it wouldn't affect the spells he already has prepared.


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As someone who has been using innate bonus progression for years, there is no way I'm going to stop with PF2e.

It would be nice if it made it into the core rules, though.


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Automatic Bonus Progression has been really nice, and I wouldn't hesitate to include it in PF2. The less I have to interact with item level the better, and I really don't like going through character sheets making sure everyone has the correct magic items to progress.

But, as everyone has said, PF2 has ABP nearly built into it. As much as I don't like item levels, it does make this one house rule really easy to implement.


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Yes, the design principle that you are your gear and that's the most important aspect of your character is really horrid. Not only damage, it applies to saves, AC and to hit as well (so does effect casters in the end).

Items should do interesting things, not simply be required to prop up the math. And at the moment, the system breaks pretty easily if the DM doesn't understand that they're required to hand out weapons and armor on schedule.


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I have no problem with it.

Fighters hit stuff with swords. If they use their same sword for their whole life, it will likely do the same damage. They learn some feats like Power Attack or whatever, and these feats increase their damage somewhat.

Wizards blow stuff up with magic. 'nuff said.

In the real world, swords will never do the same damage that can be achieved with advanced technology. You don't demolish a building with a sword. You use dynamite.

In Golarion, you don't demolish a castle with a sword. You use a wizard.

All this makes sense, but it's not fair to martials. I get that.

So, let's level the playing field: Casters do almost all of their damage with magic. And now, Fighters do almost all of their (high level) damage with magic.

Both kinds of characters need magic to do what simple medieval technology cannot. Neither a fighter nor a wizard will try to knock down a castle with a steel sword. Neither one will try to slay a dragon with a steel sword.

Both kinds of classes use magic to get the big stuff done.

I see absolutely no problem with that.


It has bothered me too, but sometimes I also like it. the way they are being done now clearly makes them more powerful, and having extremely powerful magic weapons changes the the feel of the world, where very powerful people user weapons that are very powerful in their own right. It's not inherently better or worse than the stories where potent magic weapons are helpful tools that add some power to people who mostly get by on their own power.

I think my ideal would be automatic damage progression that lags behind what a magic weapon expected for the level could do so that getting a whole extra damage die still feels like a significant upgrade, but that , for a higher level character, I could still look at the sheet and think, "yeah, they are powerful even without a weapon" even if they realistically wont frequently be disarmed and it wouldn't ever really matter.

It also opens up the option to create feats to completely close that gap. It would allow players who want that to have it, but likely wouldn't be all that powerful, since you are spending a feat to do the same damage as someone with a magic weapon.

Maybe this change makes disarming through athletics weaker, but just bump up what the skill is capable of if that is a problem, either baseline or with a feat.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Just like stealing a Wizard's spellbooks cripples them. Yet the "but your spelllbook might get stolen/destroyed!" doesn't really figure into discussion about design and balance. And rightfully so, going after spellbooks is a cheap move, just as is going after weapons.

Apples and oranges. It's not about the fighter having a weapon vs. not having one, it's about having a magic weapon vs. a mundane one. Wizards don't need to replace their "mundane" spellbook with some kind of special one at higher levels to stay relevant.


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DM_Blake wrote:

I have no problem with it.

Fighters hit stuff with swords. If they use their same sword for their whole life, it will likely do the same damage. They learn some feats like Power Attack or whatever, and these feats increase their damage somewhat.

Wizards blow stuff up with magic. 'nuff said.

In the real world, swords will never do the same damage that can be achieved with advanced technology. You don't demolish a building with a sword. You use dynamite.

In Golarion, you don't demolish a castle with a sword. You use a wizard.

All this makes sense, but it's not fair to martials. I get that.

So, let's level the playing field: Casters do almost all of their damage with magic. And now, Fighters do almost all of their (high level) damage with magic.

Both kinds of characters need magic to do what simple medieval technology cannot. Neither a fighter nor a wizard will try to knock down a castle with a steel sword. Neither one will try to slay a dragon with a steel sword.

Both kinds of classes use magic to get the big stuff done.

I see absolutely no problem with that.

Not the same thing at all. A wizard's job is magic, so needing magic doesn't make a wizard feel less independent. (I mean, if they had no spell slots and needed items for everything it kind of would, but...) A fighter's job isn't magic, so needing magic makes a fighter feel less independent.


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This is why I feel proficiency also increasing damage dice (but not stacking with other effects that increase damage dice) would be a step in the right direction.


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DM_Blake, my issue with that argument is that wizards get more magic automatically when they level up, while fighters have to go out and buy more magic.

If you are suggesting that the system should assume that fighters, like wizards, should get more magic automatically when they level up, congrats! We agree. I am just advocating for cutting out the "go buy the more magic" step to save time, and avoid messing up people who don't know they are supposed to buy the more magic.


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I'd prefer there be some happy medium between having to constantly have a magic weapon to be effective and having them provide a tiny bonus as in PF1. I think Paizo's capable of making that happen.


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I believe the solution to this problem (or at least a solution) has been stated in several places - tie increased damage to weapon proficiency. You can also tie weapon traits / tricks / etc. to the same. This allows everyone to specialize to some degree and fighters to specialize in a bunch of different weapons and unlock damages / powers / tricks / etc.. that other classes couldn't reach.

Moreover, it pulls all that away from feats. Imagine if fighters had a trick / proficiency table much like spellcasters have a spells known / spells per day table.


I mean, the big issue is that AMF is called out in the rulebook explicitly as a rare spell, so this should not be a common effect to find, and having it wreck everybody's day thus is appropriate.

Lantern Lodge

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I feel like this makes disarm an extremely powerful option too. Before it was still good but required significant feat investment. At least a fighter could carry a spare +1 weapon and not tank much in damage. Now they are utterly useless without their magic weapon.

Also makes this system only runnable in a high fantasy setting. To be fair I feel like PE1 only worked in high fantasy as well but there was at least the illusion of it being run in a low fantasy setting.
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OK, suppose we put the extra damage dice on proficiency instead of on the weapon.

Then what do magic weapons do?

A potency rune that only adds to hit feels weak. Do the potency runes also add to damage while proficiency adds dice? Is that too much?


You could make it so e/m/l in a weapon skill gives +50%/double/triple your str/dex bonus to damage.

Also if the weapon itself is e/m/l you could add a flat +1/2/3 damage to the weapon even if it isn't enchanted.

A master sword user wielding a master sword with 20 strength would do 1d8+12, if it's enchanted +3 it would instead do 4d8+12.

Expert user with an expert sword with 18 strength would do 1d8+7.
Legendary with a legendary sword and 24 strength would be 1d8+24.
Trained user with an expert sword and 16 strength would do 1d8+4.

The roles could be switched too if needed (the skill gives a flat bonus and the quality of the weapon adds stat bonuses). I figured giving an incentive to be highly skilled at the weapon would be better though.

This would resolve the issue of terrible rolls doing negligible damage at later levels as well.

This could be extended to the magic system as well. e/m/l quality casting implements give +1/2/3 damage/healing. e/m/l spellcasting gives +50%/double/triple spellcasting modifier to damage/healing.

granted, martial characters already are much more effective than casters right now, they really need to buff caster effectiveness, and probably add a few HP to monsters with the change.


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DM_Blake wrote:

OK, suppose we put the extra damage dice on proficiency instead of on the weapon.

Then what do magic weapons do?

A potency rune that only adds to hit feels weak. Do the potency runes also add to damage while proficiency adds dice? Is that too much?

You could stick to property runes like starfinder did fusions. Change half the weapon damage to a new type, adapts to a monster's weakness after 1-2 hits, called/returning, adds to the DC of effects inflicted by the weapon, etc. Leave potency runes out and increase the effects of proficiency.


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DM_Blake wrote:

OK, suppose we put the extra damage dice on proficiency instead of on the weapon.

Then what do magic weapons do?

A potency rune that only adds to hit feels weak. Do the potency runes also add to damage while proficiency adds dice? Is that too much?

Properties are what actually make a magic weapon feel magical. Flaming, ghost touch, dancing, these are the things that feel special. +X is boring.

That said, +X has too much legacy and I know Paizo won't kill it. That's why I keep recommending that they instead change what +X means. Maybe +3 means that 3 times per day, you reroll an attack roll and keep the better result. (Or reroll saves for magic armor, or reroll checks for a skill item.) There's various options for making a plus a useful and desirable option without it being mandatory.


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you could also have some higher level creatures be unaffected by weapons below a certain plus value. 1e AD&D did that a lot. I think 3e got rid of it.

But yeah, aside from that, properties. We already have different materials (which was the original source of the pluses). We, in effect, have a redundant system. There's nothing wrong with a flaming adamant sword and it breaks immersion less.


Yeah, fully in favor of just getting rid of potency runes, or at lest changing them to an effect completely divorced from attack and damage.


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I dislike tying innate improvement of damage dice to proficiency. Would barbarians and those that gain expert from fighter dedication or ancestry feats not get an extra die until level 13? I dunno, I think that opens up a can of worms thats best left closed.


I feel like if you don't want potency runes to be a such a big deal, the treasure table makes it trivial to implement Automatic Bonus Progression for weapon damage dice or whatever else you want to be an inherent property of our heroes rather than a consequence of their stuff.


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Agreed, proficiency is a bad target as it's already balancing other things and you wouldn't want the two tied together. I'd just advance them item level to character level and call it good. That's about what it would be anyway.


Data Lore wrote:
I dislike tying innate improvement of damage dice to proficiency. Would barbarians and those that gain expert from fighter dedication or ancestry feats not get an extra die until level 13? I dunno, I think that opens up a can of worms thats best left closed.

I should clarify. I also want to chuck weapon proficiency as is as well. Sorry. That should have been made clear. :)


It can be simple as every 4 or 5 levels or whenever the WBL currently assumes you'll get another +.

Based on how the monsters are designed, it shouldn't be hard to place when damage upgrades are required. And this way the DM doesn't need to hand deliver a cart full of exactly the right weapon types that match what the current party uses.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, the big issue is that AMF is called out in the rulebook explicitly as a rare spell, so this should not be a common effect to find, and having it wreck everybody's day thus is appropriate.

It doesn't really wreck anyones day per se. It just makes the fight take 8 million years (hyperbole). The fighter is less dangerous when the magic is turned off... which feels extremely counter-intuitive.


Voss wrote:

It can be simple as every 4 or 5 levels or whenever the WBL currently assumes you'll get another +.

Based on how the monsters are designed, it shouldn't be hard to place when damage upgrades are required. And this way the DM doesn't need to hand deliver a cart full of exactly the right weapon types that match what the current party uses.

I don't really have a horse in the ABP race, since it does some things I conceptually like and others I'm more hesitant on, but I will say that 2e already effectively solved the latter issue, due to runes, and their transferability between items. So the GM doesn't need to drop a +2 Gnome Flickmace in a scenario where it wouldn't make sense, the PC just needs to transfer that +2 to their existing item.


Fuzzypaws wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

OK, suppose we put the extra damage dice on proficiency instead of on the weapon.

Then what do magic weapons do?

A potency rune that only adds to hit feels weak. Do the potency runes also add to damage while proficiency adds dice? Is that too much?

Properties are what actually make a magic weapon feel magical. Flaming, ghost touch, dancing, these are the things that feel special. +X is boring.

That said, +X has too much legacy and I know Paizo won't kill it. That's why I keep recommending that they instead change what +X means. Maybe +3 means that 3 times per day, you reroll an attack roll and keep the better result. (Or reroll saves for magic armor, or reroll checks for a skill item.) There's various options for making a plus a useful and desirable option without it being mandatory.

You could always tie the +X to the quality. We already have the 3.X precedent of Masterwork quality weapons being +1 in some ways but not others, so why not go all the way? +1 gear means expert quality gear, +2 is master, +3 is legendary.


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Long John wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
I mean, the big issue is that AMF is called out in the rulebook explicitly as a rare spell, so this should not be a common effect to find, and having it wreck everybody's day thus is appropriate.
It doesn't really wreck anyones day per se. It just makes the fight take 8 million years (hyperbole). The fighter is less dangerous when the magic is turned off... which feels extremely counter-intuitive.

Well, if you somehow disable Excalibur, King Arthur should be less dangerous, yes. I just don't want him to go all the way down to nonmagic.


Data Lore wrote:
I dislike tying innate improvement of damage dice to proficiency. Would barbarians and those that gain expert from fighter dedication or ancestry feats not get an extra die until level 13? I dunno, I think that opens up a can of worms thats best left closed.

That's an issue you should take up with the Barbarian class. They already get Rage bonuses to damage, so it's not like they are hurting for damage bonuses.


Cyouni wrote:
I'd prefer there be some happy medium between having to constantly have a magic weapon to be effective and having them provide a tiny bonus as in PF1. I think Paizo's capable of making that happen.

The PF1 Bonus would still be extremely good because that +1 is worth a lot, even if the damage was nothing special.

Scarab Sages

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I actually like damage being tied to a magic weapon. It makes sense from a gaming perspective, and he idea of property runes being transferable from weapon to weapon is a nice convenience.

It makes sense from a versimilitude perspective as well. Why should a high level fighter be hitting THAT much harder than a low level one? Isn't that what all the feats are for: to show your increase in skill? A bastard sword is a bastard sword, and one person might be more skilled (mimicked by Increased Proficiency), but it wouldn't really make sense for it to do that much more damage. An enchanted, flaming Bastard Sword, however, makes sense to do more damage.

I feel like a small sidebar in the rulebook regarding automatic bonus progression for people who want to run low-magic campaigns is all that's needed, not a complete redesign of the progression system.


Tholomyes wrote:
Voss wrote:

It can be simple as every 4 or 5 levels or whenever the WBL currently assumes you'll get another +.

Based on how the monsters are designed, it shouldn't be hard to place when damage upgrades are required. And this way the DM doesn't need to hand deliver a cart full of exactly the right weapon types that match what the current party uses.

I don't really have a horse in the ABP race, since it does some things I conceptually like and others I'm more hesitant on, but I will say that 2e already effectively solved the latter issue, due to runes, and their transferability between items. So the GM doesn't need to drop a +2 Gnome Flickmace in a scenario where it wouldn't make sense, the PC just needs to transfer that +2 to their existing item.

I think if I were to do ABP in PF2, I'd make the potency rune something each PC makes themselves, it's unique to the player and they can recreate it with a rest. At later levels, maybe they can make two/three, one a lower level. Might be a problem for TWF, but I'm sure that could be ironed out.


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Davor wrote:

I actually like damage being tied to a magic weapon. It makes sense from a gaming perspective, and he idea of property runes being transferable from weapon to weapon is a nice convenience.

It makes sense from a versimilitude perspective as well. Why should a high level fighter be hitting THAT much harder than a low level one? Isn't that what all the feats are for: to show your increase in skill? A bastard sword is a bastard sword, and one person might be more skilled (mimicked by Increased Proficiency), but it wouldn't really make sense for it to do that much more damage. An enchanted, flaming Bastard Sword, however, makes sense to do more damage.

I feel like a small sidebar in the rulebook regarding automatic bonus progression for people who want to run low-magic campaigns is all that's needed, not a complete redesign of the progression system.

I mean, do most people asking for this want low magic? I don't want low magic, just martials not being totally dependent on magic. Am I really asking the impossible?


One thing I will point out is to be careful what you ask for. 5E is a game where most classes have very little item dependence and the game suffers a bit for it.


Data Lore wrote:
One thing I will point out is to be careful what you ask for. 5E is a game where most classes have very little item dependence and the game suffers a bit for it.

How precisely? I haven't really played 5e enough to see its warts that well.


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The game is built so you can be successful with almost no magic items at all. You need a magic weapon to get past damage resistance of some monsters, but beyond that, you dont really need any magic items in 5E to succeed at the game as written.

Ultimately, that means less treasure and less excitement around treasure.

You could run a high magic item game but you would need to uptune monsters (you almost have to even without magic items since pcs have so much inherent power).


I think that a balance has to be struck between making enchanted weapons powerful, and not making the poor disarmed fighter completely useless.

I have got a couple idea: the first is giving extra dice for level or proficiency, but not as much as you would get from a level appropriate potency rune. That way the lvl 20 fighter rolls six dice with their +5 sword, but still rolls four(?) wihtout it. Magic weapons are still required to be optimal, but at least you don't suck if you somehow can't use your best one.
The other idea is flattening potency runes: only +1 potency exists, it competes with property runes for slots, and the extra damage dice stacks with what is provided by class/level/proficiency. Now, potency is good but no longer mandatory.


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Data Lore wrote:

The game is built so you can be successful with almost no magic items at all. You need a magic weapon to get past damage resistance of some monsters, but beyond that, you dont really need any magic items in 5E to succeed at the game as written.

Ultimately, that means less treasure and less excitement around treasure.

You could run a high magic item game but you would need to uptune monsters (you almost have to even without magic items since pcs have so much inherent power).

That is one of the handful of things I like about 5e. Granted, it relies on a good DM who can make interesting magic items without giving major combat bonuses or defeating their own encounter design. If you don't have a good DM, you're just spending all your gold on hundreds of healing potions.

I'm a huge fan of pure mechanical bonus items being baked in to a class' progression. You just need different treasure to compensate.


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Data Lore wrote:

The game is built so you can be successful with almost no magic items at all. You need a magic weapon to get past damage resistance of some monsters, but beyond that, you dont really need any magic items in 5E to succeed at the game as written.

Ultimately, that means less treasure and less excitement around treasure.

That sounds fine to me. Let leveling up be the exciting part. Not every monster you defeat need have items that make you cheer in awe.


Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I was not a fan of that aspect of 5e and I really like what I am seeing in the way of treasure in PF2 comparatively.

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