Character generation "learned helplessness"


Creating a Character


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Here's what I've noticed about character generation for me personally, and spilling over into play:

I made a learn-the-system ranger, a rogue for Lost Star (who I didn't get to play due to scheduling issues), a cleric for Pale Mountain (two sessions played), and an upleveled form of that cleric for Sombrefell (not played yet). I did not enjoy the character generation process at all, and it left me with a negative attitude toward the game. The two sessions of Pale Mountain that I got to play were fun in spots, but in thinking over them I realized that character generation problems also influenced how I played my character and reduced my enjoyment in play.

The fundamental problem is, very early in character generation I developed a strong sense that it was not really worth looking up an ability--a feat, spell, etc.--because it was so likely to be disappointing. So I picked things by name, and if it was not obvious how to use them, in play I simply didn't use them.

The first skill feat I encountered in making the cleric (the only one of these characters I've actually played) was given by his background, and was the one that, if you critically fail in trying to recall something about your religion or read its scriptures, it becomes a regular failure. I was enormously demoralized by this feat. Successfully using this feat equates to your character *failing*: there are no positive outcomes. It suggested a game in which trying to manage your failures is the focus of play, even on something that should be as central to the character as a cleric knowing his own religion. That didn't sound fun at all.

I read through the Ancestry feats (pre-update Dwarf) and there were two that excited me, but not for my level. All the ones at my level seemed very situational and unlikely to come up in play.

I had similar moments of demoralization in looking up some of the spells, the skill feats, and the general feats. "Just take Fleet" said my fellow players about the general feats. I ended up with a trait-like ability to hold my breath instead, because Fleet was really out of conception.

What happened in play, then, was that I just didn't use stuff. I had developed an attitude that if I had to look it up I was likely to be really disappointed, so I just didn't look things up. I hit foes with my weapons instead, and cast Heal. I did force myself to cast Resist Energy in the second session and that was useful, though the duration was a pain. I missed using a domain power that could have been quite useful, because I assumed it would not be. Surprisingly, I did get to hold my breath! That was actually fun! But it was rather a long shot that this would be useful--and in fact it wasn't useful, as the regular level of breath holding would have been enough.

I am not going to claim that this was a smart or mature way to approach the rules. But it's where I rapidly ended up. The extremely high density of lackluster options doesn't just obscure the more useful ones, it also left me with a general attitude that nothing's likely to be any good, so why bother.

In actual play we had an inexperienced GM who did not know some of the rules. As a player I found myself hugely tempted not to ask for the rule to be looked up, because I felt doing so would lead to an unpleasant outcome. For example, he chickened out of running the quicksand, and a good thing he did as the RAW for this would not have been fun at all. He failed to find the underwater rules, I did not point out that they probably existed somewhere, and as a result my character got to have one glorious moment (trudging along the bottom of the pool and fighting the water monster, holding his breath grimly) which would have instead been an inglorious death with the correct rules (flatfooted, minuses to hit, half damage--I think).

Systems have personalities. For me, this one's personality as communicated by the rules and the monster builds is unpleasant. It dangles terms like "Master" and "Legendary" but really your character is always going to be mediocre at best. It rubs in that you should expect to fail and crit-fail a lot, and that you probably shouldn't even try to do things that aren't your specialty. (At least after the revisions I can try Medicine without killing my friends--that was awful. But Aid Another is still frequently a bad idea.) The monster abilities just seem so much more fun than the PC abilities--not just that monsters are more powerful, but they get things like intrinsic dice of damage (rather than having to rely on a magic weapon) and combat tricks that work all the time (rather than usually not working, like most PC abilities). Casters have so few spells, and the spells are so weak, it is best to play them as fighters. And Exploration Mode feels like the system is picking on you. You can try Sneaking, but if your Perception is higher than your Stealth (and it generally is, because you have to wear armor) you are just making your initiative *worse*. And forget about doing what your character would actually do--that turns out to be fatiguing at best and illegal the rest of the time.

I'll stick out another session of playtest, but there's no excitement. I've played and enjoyed badly broken systems before--I'm a veteran of Shadowrun First Edition--but I'm just not feeling it with this one.

I'll put forward "Student of the Canon" as a one-phrase explanation of why PF2 is not fun for me, especially in character generation. I want abilities to allow my character to do something interesting and at least slightly effective. I am instead given an assurance that, when I finally get the rare chance to make this overspecialized roll, at least the failure won't be as bad as usual.

I'll end on a game design principle that I learned a long time ago. If you roll something a lot, like Strike, it can be acceptable to fail fairly often. If you roll something once in a blue moon, and that thing is important to the character, it needs to work almost all the time. No one wants to be the party expert in Ancient Osirian Hieroglyphs, and just once in the whole campaign you finally find a hieroglyph--but you can't read it, too bad. I think this pretty much rules out having a unified combat and skill difficulty system the way PF2 does, because it means rarely used skills will just break your heart.


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Frankly, a lot of them aren't even as good as that since, in most instances, there's no difference between Critical and Regular Failure anyway.

That said, my own problem relates more to added complexity with no apparent payoff in terms of fun.


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Mary Yamato wrote:
It suggested a game in which trying to manage your failures is the focus of play, even on something that should be as central to the character

This, more than anything else, has been the great limiter for me. PF2 is a system where the characters are built to fail, and optimal characters are reduced to a coin flip. And that's for characters in their core disciplines. If it wasn't for the crit system, it feels like you could replace the d20 with a d2.

Too many options are about failure mitigation, and ones that you think should help (I am looking at you, Assurance) aren't actually good at it. I keep watching the updates in the hopes that this will change, but so far they have just been playing around the margins. The core of the system, where you are designed to fail and fail often, isn't changing. And it's just not fun.


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John Mechalas wrote:
Mary Yamato wrote:
It suggested a game in which trying to manage your failures is the focus of play, even on something that should be as central to the character
This, more than anything else, has been the great limiter for me. PF2 is a system where the characters are built to fail, and optimal characters are reduced to a coin flip. And that's for characters in their core disciplines. If it wasn't for the crit system, it feels like you could replace the d20 with a d2.

And still we hear the same things...

There is plenty of math done and some real examples now that show how this is not true, or at least is not in most cases.
There this post by Dragonriderje with a detailed, round-by-round combat log with statistics attached that clearly shows how success chances are higher than 50%.

It seems like the playtest is tough. Strong enemies and hard challenges cause a lot of failure player side. This is most probably intended (for various reasons I can only try to guess, like wanting to have frequent cases of death rules coming up to test them, for example); but the devs themselves have said that monster stats are probably too high.
That said, I can't figure how hard it seems to be to distinguish game design from adventure design. Outside the playtest, even if the monsters stay as strong as they are now, a GM can easily adjust the difficulty of encounters and other tasks to the desired level.

@Mary Yamato: I respect your opinion, but it seems to me that you have been caught in a spiral of pessimism. You didn't even try to have fun, so how could you?


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Megistone wrote:
That said, I can't figure how hard it seems to be to distinguish game design from adventure design. Outside the playtest, even if the monsters stay as strong as they are now, a GM can easily adjust the difficulty of encounters and other tasks to the desired level.

Game design guides adventure design.

The reasons the playtest adventures say things like "detecting the fluffy bunnies is a DC 24 Perception check, and waking them up gently is a DC 27 Nature or Perform check" (when those sound like tasks a level 1 Druid ought to be able to manage) is presumably because the game design tells us that any task that doesn't match the expected DCs is beneath the party and not worth significant XPs.


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Megistone wrote:

And still we hear the same things...

There is plenty of math done and some real examples now that show how this is not true, or at least is not in most cases.
There this post by Dragonriderje with a detailed, round-by-round combat log with statistics attached that clearly shows how success chances are higher than 50%.

There is a reason why we keep hearing the same things, and it's because the same things keep coming up. It's not just combat rolls, which you seem to be assuming here, but skills and saves. And, in particular, the DC table.

Let's take a simple example: a 5th level wizard with a max'ed out Int of 19 (18 at start, +1 boost at L5), and an Expert level in Arcana. As a L5 wizard, I want to learn a new, 3rd level spell (the highest spell level I can cast). I go to table 4-2 "Identifying or Learning a Spell" and the "typical DC" for a 3rd level spell is 19. My Arcana bonus is 5 (level) + 4 (Int) + 1 (Expert) = 10. I have to roll a 9 or higher to succeed, which is a 55% chance of success.

Now, it can be argued that, even though Arcana is a core thing a wizard should be really, really good at, the highest level spell maybe should be a (roughly) 50/50 chance even with optimal stats. Except, look at this text:

Rulebook wrote:
Failure: You fail to learn the spell but can try again after you gain a level. The materials aren't expended.

So, I have a 55% chance of success, and if I fail, I have to wait until Level 6 to get my 60% chance of success. Which is some pretty heavy punishment, because how long will it take to go from L5 to L6?

...unless I spend a feat to mitigate my failures, which lets me retry in a week. Which is a fancy way of saying: wizards are a coin flip at a thing they should be good at, and have a feat to mitigate failure, but no feats to help them succeed. Which is more-or-less what the OP is saying.

I chose this example because it doesn't require parsing the Skill DC table. The DC for a level-appropriate challenge is laid out for you. If you compare 4-2 to the DC table in 10-2 (using the 1.4 errata), you'll see that this DC sits between "Medium" and "Hard". It is obviously what is intended to be a "level-appropriate" skill check.

Quote:
but the devs themselves have said that monster stats are probably too high.

Not quite. What was said was, their skills are maybe +2 too high. That is not the same as all of their stats.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I did have fun. The underwater fight was a great character moment, propelled by the other characters' reactions to my dwarf just walking into the water. ("Roll to swim--" "I'm not swimming. I sink like a stone and hit the bottom.")

But if the rules were a GM, I wouldn't play with the guy again; I ended up with a very strong feeling that he doesn't like players. Too many bad experiences, I guess, and I can relate to that. But I don't play with GMs who dislike or distrust players, and I would rather not play with a system that leaves me feeling that way either.

The problem wasn't exactly that I wasn't trying to have fun. It's that I *was* trying to have fun, and this led to me ignoring a whole lot of stuff on the assumption it wouldn't be fun. And, somewhat to my shame, keeping quiet while the newbie GM forgot rules that would have been unpleasant if remembered.

I'm not a player who cheats, by and large. Not insisting that we find the underwater combat rules was pretty much cheating, but finding them would have been sure death for my PC and maybe a TPK if the others tried to save me. And, yeah, I should have stayed out of the water. But *that was the one bit of the game I really enjoyed.* That was my character's chance to use his breath-holding ability--it actually came up!--and to have a bit of spotlight.

The problems in play might be due to the too-hard playtest scenarios. I don't think that can be the cause of the character generation misery, though, and it truly did make me miserable and poisoned me against the game. Last night I had to level up the 4th level cleric to 7th level, and I felt I was searching through piles of options just desperately trying to find something that would be fun and more or less in character, rather than an annoying piece of bookkeeping with no real benefit. And I got to the magic items and I just ran out of will to continue. I think I will have to bribe another player to do it for me, because I just don't want to. RPGs are not supposed to be such a chore.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber
John Mechalas wrote:

...

Let's take a simple example: a 5th level wizard with a max'ed out Int of 19 (18 at start, +1 boost at L5), and an Expert level in Arcana. As a L5 wizard, I want to learn a new, 3rd level spell (the highest spell level I can cast). I go to table 4-2 "Identifying or Learning a Spell" and the "typical DC" for a 3rd level spell is 19. My Arcana bonus is 5 (level) + 4 (Int) + 1 (Expert) = 10. I have to roll a 9 or higher to succeed, which is a 55% chance of success.

...

Needing a 9+ on the die equals a 60% chance.

[edited the 65 down to 60. Danke, Schwarzer Schatten. Been a long day.]


Franz Lunzer wrote:
John Mechalas wrote:

...

Let's take a simple example: a 5th level wizard with a max'ed out Int of 19 (18 at start, +1 boost at L5), and an Expert level in Arcana. As a L5 wizard, I want to learn a new, 3rd level spell (the highest spell level I can cast). I go to table 4-2 "Identifying or Learning a Spell" and the "typical DC" for a 3rd level spell is 19. My Arcana bonus is 5 (level) + 4 (Int) + 1 (Expert) = 10. I have to roll a 9 or higher to succeed, which is a 55% chance of success.

...

Needing a 9+ on the die equals a 65% chance.

I throw another number.

9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20 are 12 out of 20, or 6/10. Which is as much as 60%.


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Yeah, I am off by 5%. The "d2" is a bit of an exaggeration, but this still sits in coin-toss territory. And even though 2/3 odds start sounding good at L6, the failure condition is so severe (it isn't time bound) that I have a feat tax to mitigate it, which goes back to the OP's point.

Even if you don't like that example, there is the playtest thread that Megistone brings up as a counter-point which isn't really a counter-point at all. Those to-hit averages are a mix of +1 and -2 level foes. Dig a little deeper, and sure enough, things start looking a lot like a roughly 50% chance to hit a level-appropriate foe on the first strike is the design goal.


Matthew Downie wrote:

Game design guides adventure design.

The reasons the playtest adventures say things like "detecting the fluffy bunnies is a DC 24 Perception check, and waking them up gently is a DC 27 Nature or Perform check" (when those sound like tasks a level 1 Druid ought to be able to manage) is presumably because the game design tells us that any task that doesn't match the expected DCs is beneath the party and not worth significant XPs.

Nothing in the rules say that waking up the same bunnies at level 1 and at level 15 should have different DCs; they state the opposite, actually.

That's just an adventure badly written, or maybe written to test both possible outcomes at the cost of logic and immersion.

Mary Yamato wrote:
The underwater fight was a great character moment, propelled by the other characters' reactions to my dwarf just walking into the water. ("Roll to swim--" "I'm not swimming. I sink like a stone and hit the bottom.")

That's interesting, because sinking is probably harder than staying afloat unless you are really stuffed with treasure (precious metals are DENSE!).

Besides, I think that the cool options are there, but I would like more too, expecially when we talk about master and legendary skill feats. I would also love feats that leverage the proficiency with weapons and armors, allowing characters to do wonderful things.
The content of this playtest is quite limited, but I'm sure we will have more of that later.


John Mechalas wrote:

Yeah, I am off by 5%. The "d2" is a bit of an exaggeration, but this still sits in coin-toss territory. And even though 2/3 odds start sounding good at L6, the failure condition is so severe (it isn't time bound) that I have a feat tax to mitigate it, which goes back to the OP's point.

Even if you don't like that example, there is the playtest thread that Megistone brings up as a counter-point which isn't really a counter-point at all. Those to-hit averages are a mix of +1 and -2 level foes. Dig a little deeper, and sure enough, things start looking a lot like a roughly 50% chance to hit a level-appropriate foe on the first strike is the design goal.

I think you are right that in some cases the DCs are too high.

We have three macro-classes of skill checks: classic checks like spotting traps, lockpicking and climbing; opposed checks; and particular cases like the one you mentioned (lingering performance and treat wounds also come to mind; crafting and professions too, though they are handled differently).
Classic checks have a level attached; we don't have (I hope I can say "yet", here!) clear rules or examples for determining the level of a task, so assigning a level is up to who is writing the adventure. DD sets most checks equal to the party level (with trivial/easy/hard/... adjustments), but as I said in my previous post that could have its own reasons.
Opposed checks are simple. If monsters get their skills reduced, they will become easier; it depends on the target % the developers want to achieve, but in general equal competence makes it a 50-55%, and rightly so.
Particular cases are considered on-level, and that causes some problems, I agree, but being particular it's easy to adjust their rules.

It all boils down to two questions. The first is: how much chances should a competent adventurer have to succeed at an equal-level task? The charts, the bestiary and some specific rules tell us what the developers are thinking about that.
The second question is: how often should an adventurer face equal-level enemies or skill challenges - outside of the playtest? That's entirely up to the adventure writer.
The particular cases like the aforementioned Wizard trying to learn a new spell are unfortunately left out of adventure design scope, and some of them indeed feel problematic.


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Seriously, look at the last update. There are pre-generated level 5 characters in it.

At level 5, the "medium" difficulty DC is 18 - upped to 22 if all character can try and only one success is needed. This stands only for unopposed checks - the Perception of a level 5 monster is in the range 10-12, hence a level-appropriate Stealth or Thievery or Deception check will always be in the range 20-22. When a level 5 monster has a skill, it's usually larger than +10 - eg, the yeti has +11 stealth, and an additional +3 in the right circumstances. Finally, Athletics attacks (trip, grapple etc) aren't affected by ACP, but athletics DC (like the dc to escape your grapple) is.

With all that in head, look at the pre-generated characters:

- Amiri has one skill at +8 (Athletics). Everything else is lower. This means, she has 55% chance of succeeding a level-appropriate medium Athletics check (if it's not one of those check that require only one success from the whole party), any other level-appropriate medium check is at best a coin flip. She has a lot of skill at +1, +2, +3 - 20% to 30% to succeed anything level-appropriate, 0% to 10% if only only one success is required for the whole party. She can grapple a monster, but can't maintain the grapple - the monster will likely roll +12 against her DC of 18. And Perception +8 - not able to notice a yeti in summer.

- Fumbus has crafting and two lore +10. So a whopping 65% of success at his specialties. Oh wait, lore is the kind of check than only one character has to succeed, so +4 to the DC: he has only a 45% success rate. He has Stealth +10 (and Thievery +9), but as I explained, the level-appropriate DC for those task is always in the range 20-22. Finally he has Acrobatics, Arcana and Society +9, for awesome 60% success rate at medium stuff - as long he doesn't try to tumble. Perception +7 - not able to notice a yeti in summer. Oh, and he has two level 4 items (a +1 dogslicer and a bag of holding), none of those two items use the new system, but can we stop pretend the alchemist is playable without a bag of holding?

- Kyra is the most awesome at skills. Medicine +10, ie 65% success rate against medium tasks, Diplomacy +9 (success rates undefined since it uses Will DC, but the Will check of level 5 monsters doesn't seem too high), Nature and Religion +9 (60% success rate) and Performance +8 (55% success rate, whatever Performance actually does). That's 5 skills that are better than a flip coin against medium tasks. Then she has a few +5 and everything else is +1. Note: since the medicine DC increase automatically with level, she will never be better at medicine. And finally, Perception +10 - it's a coin flip to notice a yeti in summer, and she's at monsters level.

- Merisiel has +10 Acrobatics, so 65% success rate against level-appropriate medium challenges - as long as she doen't tumble. She has +10 Stealth and Thievery, but again, any level-appropriate task is DC 20-22. Then her best score is +7 - a coin flip against any level-appropriate medium challenge. So in the end, one skill that's better than a coin flip. Hooray for the skill master, I guess? She has a lot of skill feat, there's one that begins with "you may attempt a DC 20 Medicine check" (hint: she won't) and another one that begins with "when you get a critical success with the Lie action" (hint: she won't), and then I think i stopped caring about her skills. She has Perception +8 - not able to notice a yeti in summer.

- Seoni has Diplomacy +10 (success rate undefined, but not bad), Intimidation +9 (idem), Arcana +8 (55% success rate). It's a good thing she has intimidation since spells are useless: she get something useful to do every round. Then she has a lot skill at +7 (a coin flip against anything level-appropriate), one more than Merisiel so she the best "jack-of-all-trade" of all those characters (again, hooray for Merisiel the skill master?). She has Perception +7 - not able to notice a yeti in summer.

- Last... And least, Valeros. No skill at +8 or more at all, so basically, when he rolls something it's at best a coin flip. Like Amiri, he can grapple a monster, but can't maintain the grapple. Perception +7 - not able to notice a yeti in summer.

Those are the characters designed by the same people who created the DC chart and the monsters.

Their best success rate against level appropriate medium challenge is 65%; there are 10 skills where one of the characters can get more than 55% success chances: Acrobatics, Arcana, Althetics, Diplomacy, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Religion, Society, as well as Performance (whatever it does). If they have to roll Deception or Stealth or Occultism or another lore, none of them can do better than a coin flip.

In the other hand, everyone of them has several areas where they have less than 30% success chance. If they attempt something that can be rolled by everyone and requires only one success, the success rate of the specialist drops to 45% at best - and some characters may drop to 0% success rate. God helps them if the DM uses the "hard" DC at any point of the adventure.

Again, those are the actual characters designed by the people who created the DC chart and the monsters.

One last thing, none of those character has any stat at 19. We all know the DC chart assumes you get a 20 somewhere at level 10 - and yet none of those character will be able to do that. This means, as weak as they are, they are still better than the character you intend to play until level 15.

PCs are supposed to fail most of the time. They are supposed to suck hard. The only way to make them feel competent is by playing you level 5 character in a level 2 kindergarten adventure.


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Mary Yamato wrote:
But if the rules were a GM, I wouldn't play with the guy again; I ended up with a very strong feeling that he doesn't like players. Too many bad experiences, I guess, and I can relate to that. But I don't play with GMs who dislike or distrust players, and I would rather not play with a system that leaves me feeling that way either.

... You expressed my exact feeling. This system doesn't like the players. :/


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Megistone wrote:
Nothing in the rules say that waking up the same bunnies at level 1 and at level 15 should have different DCs; they state the opposite, actually.

Right, but how often do you meet the exact same bunnies again after 14 levels? They'll be unique harmless fluffy bunnies created for the situation, with level-appropriate stealth abilities, and be hard to soothe.

And if you're high level and something is hidden under a pillow, it will be really well hidden under a pillow. And if you need to pick up gossip in town, the people in town will be really reluctant to talk, so you'll need level-appropriate diplomacy skills to get anything out of them.

Because if they aren't level-appropriate, they won't be a challenge, in which case there'd be no point in the adventure-writer bothering with them.


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Megistone wrote:

Nothing in the rules say that waking up the same bunnies at level 1 and at level 15 should have different DCs; they state the opposite, actually.

That's just an adventure badly written, or maybe written to test both possible outcomes at the cost of logic and immersion.

Emphasis's mine.

The adventure is written as intended. The bunnies you encounter in a level 15 adventure are level 15 bunnies, they aren't the same bunnies as the one you encountered in a previous lower-level adventure. That's how the system is supposed to work.


So, how high should the chance of success be?
You are a specialist lockpicker trying to pick a lock that has been made by an equally skilled (equal level), specialized locksmith: how often should you succeed?
You are an expert ranger trying to follow an equal level opponent, who is as skilled at you. How often should you catch it? What if YOU are the one trying to cover your tracks?
You are a fighter, swinging your blade at an enemy. The enemy is your level, and as defensively skilled as you are offensively. How many blows should you land?

Equal level means equal level: to be consistently successful, you should target areas that your opponent is less skilled than you at.


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Megistone wrote:
You are an expert ranger trying to follow an equal level opponent, who is as skilled at you. How often should you catch it? What if YOU are the one trying to cover your tracks?

If we're dealing with a same-level expert specialist, that's an expert same-level challenge.

An average same-level challenge ought to be represented by dealing with an average guy of the same level, with average stats, no magic items, no speciality in the skill in question. 50%-55% success for an average PC, higher for a specialist.


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Megistone wrote:

So, how high should the chance of success be?

You are a specialist lockpicker trying to pick a lock that has been made by an equally skilled (equal level), specialized locksmith: how often should you succeed?
You are an expert ranger trying to follow an equal level opponent, who is as skilled at you. How often should you catch it? What if YOU are the one trying to cover your tracks?
You are a fighter, swinging your blade at an enemy. The enemy is your level, and as defensively skilled as you are offensively. How many blows should you land?

Equal level means equal level: to be consistently successful, you should target areas that your opponent is less skilled than you at.

OK.

So that's what you understand when you heard "medium" difficulty: "the best expert of that level". What is a "hard" difficulty? A cosmic threat of that level? What about the higher difficulties?

Anyway, per the rule, every creature is the best possible expert of that level. At level 5, monster's written skills are in the range 10-12; when a skill is lower than that, the designer don't even bother to actually write it. A Redcap has Craft +8, his craft DC is 18, so I guess a lock crafted by a redcap is DC 18. And yet, this skill is too weak to warrant a single word in the Redcap's description. Redcap aren't described as "the best possible lock-crafter of level 5" because their craft skill is too low to bother.

Look at perception: the pre-generated PCs have Perception in the range 7-10 (with only one character having more than 8). Level 5 monsters have Perception in the range 10-12. PC's stealth are in the range 1-10. In other words, the [best PC has 55% chance to be undetected from the worst monster. Monsters' stealth is at least +10 when it is written - and usually more than +5 when it isn't. A troll has +6 Stealth - enough to warrant a 50% success rate against Fumbus, Seoni and Valeros. A level 5 fire elemental has +9 Stealth: a giant light-emitting fireball has 50% to hide from the most perceptive PC.

PCs are supposed to fail; except sometime, they are confronted with a trivial task like spotting a troll, or they are doing an normal task in their specialization, and their failure rate drops to 50%.

Other times, the monster is an expert in its field, and the best PCs can't compete. The players just sit, shut up, and listen how the monster is awesome. The system doesn't want the player to do cool stuff, it want them to listen to the cool stuff the monsters do.


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Megistone wrote:

So, how high should the chance of success be?

You are a specialist lockpicker trying to pick a lock that has been made by an equally skilled (equal level), specialized locksmith: how often should you succeed?
You are an expert ranger trying to follow an equal level opponent, who is as skilled at you. How often should you catch it? What if YOU are the one trying to cover your tracks?
You are a fighter, swinging your blade at an enemy. The enemy is your level, and as defensively skilled as you are offensively. How many blows should you land?

Which is the more difficult task? Is it harder to build a difficult lock or to pick one? Is it harder to cover tracks or follow them? Is it harder to hit someone with a sword or dodge a blow? In a world where offense and defense advance evenly, you have a point, but that isn't how things normally work out.


I agree with Matthew Downie, and to Gaterie too, though not on his/her conclusions.
My opinion is that a specialist's success chances for a same-level expert check should be around that 50-55% in normal conditions; at the same time, not all challenges presented to that character should be like that: some should be easier, some should be lower level, a few should be harder.

It's the same for monsters: I think they are overtuned. I'd want some monsters being very hard to hit, some much easier (always speaking from a equal level point of view); some should be very perceptive, others not; a good chunk of them should have vulnerabilities, not only in terms of added damage, but in the form of a weaker save or skill, giving a specialist or a well-prepared caster an occasion to shine.
A few monsters should have skills you can't hope to match at that level: that's perfectly fine, and interesting even.

As for Gaterie's conclusions: I think that it's fine that the PCs are expected to fail often when they attempt difficult challenges, or target an opponent's strong area.
To me, the playtest is made to test different outcomes and see how high the numbers should be set; I would be very disappointed if the final version of the game makes it so difficult to sneak by ANY monster of your level, or to succesfully hit them with a spell.
Tuning the bestiary and being consistent when choosing skill task DCs should be enough to make the game enjoyable on this regard.

@ErichAD:
These are some good questions to ask. The answer is probably different in a case-to-case basis, but you can't fully model reality. The game uses opposed checks (not really in PF2, as only one side at a time rolls except for initiative, but let's call them so), meaning that skills are roughly equal and being "active" or "passive" is the same when you are equally skilled.
That's a way to see things, and an elegant one though obviously simpler than reality is.
PF1 had real opposed checks, but treated a lot of other things differently: for example you got better at attacking, but almost never at defending. I don't think that makes a better model, actually.

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