Consideration on how +1 boosts are really much more than a "5% increase"

General Discussion

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So I posted basically this same thing as a comment on a Heroes of Undarin post but this is something I've wanted to make a proper post on for a while in hopes of getting some good discussion on it.

I hear it said a lot that +1 bonuses/penalties (and other small bonuses) don't matter much and getting one active is usually subpar to other options as it's only a 5% increase to your chances, or it only adds 1 success every 20 tries. But I think that something very easily overlooked is the -relative- increase an extra success every 20 tries brings, and also the fact that if your success is already 55% or higher then each +1 adds one critical every 20 tries, not just one success every 20 tries. This post gives some illustration of both matters. I am just pasting my recent comment from that post here as it properly covers the topic to the degree I intended and I'm limited in time so please forgive the slightly awkward transition restating some of what I just said.

A thought on the supposition that +1 is only a 5% improvement because it just adds one success every 20 tries, consider that the effectiveness of a +1 actually depends on how likely you were already to succeed.

Let's take for example two Fighters with and without Bless. One hits his current foe on 10, 15, and 20. This is a 50% success and 5% crit, 25% success and 5% crit, and 5% Crit. With Bless this becomes 9, 14, and 19. So now it's 50% success 10% crit, 30% success 5% crit, and 5% success 5% crit.

The other hits his current foe on 5, 10, and 15. This is 50% success and 30% crit, 50% success and 5% crit, and 25% success and 5% crit. With Bless it becomes 4, 9, and 14. Now it's 50% success 35% crit, 5% success 10% crit, and 30% success 5% crit.

Now we measure how many hits each Fighter will land every 20 uses
of each of his attacks statistically speaking, and how many he would land with Bless. Crits are counted as two hits since almost everything doubles on a crit and to keep this simple.

Fighter a, his first attack will hit 10 times and crit once in 20 uses. So 12/20. Second attack will hit 5 times and crit once. 7/20. Third+ will crit once. 2/20.

With Bless Fighter a will first hit 10 times and crit twice, 14/20. Second hit 6 times and crit once, 8/20. Third+ hit once and crit once, 3/20.

The first attack sees a 1/6 increase (about 17%) in damage output, the second a 1/7 (about 14%) increase, and the third+ a whopping 1/2 (50%) increase! Interestingly the first attack gains a bigger relative boost due to gaining one crit every 20 strikes instead of one hit every 20. But in any case this is far more than a 5% or 1/20 improvement.

Fighter b, his first attack will hit 10 times and crit 6, 22/20. Second attack hits 10 times and crits once, 12/20. Third attack hits 5 times and crits once, 7/20.

With Bless his first attack hits 10 times and crits 7, 24/20. Second attack hits 10 times and crits 2, 14/20. Third attack hits 6 times and crits once, 8/20.

So here we see that the bonuses have diminishing returns when your success rate gets much higher, the first attack only having a 1/11 increase (about 9%). The second has a 1/6 increase (about 17%) and the third a 1/7 (about 14%), these are the same as the first and second attacks of Fighter a because of the specific example numbers I chose.

As an aside a Fighter with 50% accuracy (9 hits and 1 crit, 11/20) getting a +1 sees a similarly small increase to Fighter b's first attack here, going to 10 hit 1 crit, 12/20, a 1/11 increase or 9%. This is a blip in the math due to being the highest success rate where a +1 gives you an extra hit rather than an extra crit.

So all that said, the whole point of all this is to illustrate how a +1 is much more than a 5% boost. It's a 5% objective, that is it will take a 55 to a 60 and an 80 to an 85, but the effect it has on your actual damage output (Or your successes and critical successes on other rolls) definitely varies but is much more than 5%.

TL;DR, an extra success (or critical success) every 20 tries means different things depending on how many times you were succeeding and critting out of every 20 tries in the first place. It means more going from 5 successes to 6 than 9 to 10 for example. Which generally also means that buffs and debuffs are more effective when you stand in an underdog or middle ground position than if you're already ahead. But again, usually more than a 5% increase.

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Yet none of that does anything to fix the bland and fiddly "feel" of a +1 bonus. None of that fixes my players' disappointment when they are trying to build a fun character, and spend their time wading through a sea of tiny situational bonuses that give a +1 while twerking under the full moon, and pretty much none of which stack with each other.

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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Yet none of that does anything to fix the bland and fiddly "feel" of a +1 bonus. None of that fixes my players' disappointment when they are trying to build a fun character, and spend their time wading through a sea of tiny situational bonuses that give a +1 while twerking under the full moon, and pretty much none of which stack with each other.

Hmm, interesting. I can't speak to that as most of my experience with the small modifiers that I'm talking about ere isn't with character build choices like feats and such that come into play only certain times but rather things that are applied via specific actions, like Flat-Footed, Frightened, and Bless. But this a good point to consider. Honestly with the way 2.0 is built I think character choices should be more about altering what you can do than the number bonus to you doing it, with the number changes to be left to active, reactive, and proactive choices in battle. But from what I've seen this is mostly the case, with most class feats and a lot of ancestry and skill feats giving new abilities or new facets to existing abilities than just bland bonuses. So I'm curious what kind of disappointing options your players are finding so much of that just give tiny situational bonuses. (I don't mean that to sound snippy or snooty or anything, I'm genuinely curious as this is important info to bring up if options aren't having quite the right kind of options)

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(Math, Personal opinion and bad english incomming)
If you only have 5% chances to hit, a +1 boost make you succeed 100% more often but on a single dice roll it has only 5% chances to change the outcome (10% if critical fail matters)
If you have 50% chances to hit, a +1 boost make you succeed 10% more often and critical hit 100% more often but on a single dice roll it has only 10% to change the outcome.
Every permanent +1 boost feel extremely valuable in the long term (that's why the 18 in primary stat at creation is mandatory) because you can see the statistical increase in success rate.
Every temporary, situationnal, or only for one roll +1 boost feel useless : a hypothetical +1 to attack for a full 3-attack turn with 65% to hit the first attack will not change the outcome 81% of the time.

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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Yet none of that does anything to fix the bland and fiddly "feel" of a +1 bonus. None of that fixes my players' disappointment when they are trying to build a fun character, and spend their time wading through a sea of tiny situational bonuses that give a +1 while twerking under the full moon, and pretty much none of which stack with each other.

I really feel that building a fun character shouldn't be about getting flat bonuses. Actually, I would prefer a game where there are no feats at all giving flat bonuses, but a lot of feats allowing the character to broaden what they can do in the field they want to specialize in.

I was making an example for archery in another tread: I can stand a feat or two giving plain mechanical advantages or removing penalties, but no more than that; and possibly different between each class, to promote diversity and synergy with other abilities (faster shooting for a Ranger, snipering for a Rogue...).
All the other feats, IMO, should be about doing fun stuff with your bow and arrows, more options, making every combat turn different depending on the situation and what you want to do. Not just making as many Strikes as possible with your amassed bonuses.

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Megistone wrote:
Fuzzypaws wrote:
Yet none of that does anything to fix the bland and fiddly "feel" of a +1 bonus. None of that fixes my players' disappointment when they are trying to build a fun character, and spend their time wading through a sea of tiny situational bonuses that give a +1 while twerking under the full moon, and pretty much none of which stack with each other.

I really feel that building a fun character shouldn't be about getting flat bonuses. Actually, I would prefer a game where there are no feats at all giving flat bonuses, but a lot of feats allowing the character to broaden what they can do in the field they want to specialize in.

I was making an example for archery in another tread: I can stand a feat or two giving plain mechanical advantages or removing penalties, but no more than that; and possibly different between each class, to promote diversity and synergy with other abilities (faster shooting for a Ranger, snipering for a Rogue...).
All the other feats, IMO, should be about doing fun stuff with your bow and arrows, more options, making every combat turn different depending on the situation and what you want to do. Not just making as many Strikes as possible with your amassed bonuses.

The bulk of Fighter's class feats (and this is most certainly true of other classes as well) seem to be either getting +1 bonuses or mitigating the multi-attack penalty somehow. It's such a yawner.

Class feats, as you said, should be about expanding the capabilities of the class or specializing more heavily in one area. They should be unique abilities, not these sorts of bland +1s.

As for Edge93's post, I dunno that your math really translates to how the game works. You made a point to discuss hit rates when the characters appear to have a level advantage on the opponent. While that is the bulk of the game, it appears, it's not where the system breaks down into a pathetic mess. When you already have a level advantage, your crit range begins to expand on the 1st attack and that's all well and good. Getting a crit on 15 vs on 16 doesn't make the character feel special or great for it. The problem, though, is when you face the BBEG or a tough fight that has one single monster of higher level than you. That +1 doesn't do much to get you back to a viable hit rate. It seems that 65% is the best hit rate Vs even level monsters anyone really gets. Against something 2 levels higher, you're under 50% again. And that situational +1 was already included in that "under 50%." This is the area where the game needs re-tuning and all the not-stacking +1s in the world can't fix it.

There was a post earlier asking "Is good math fun math?" The resounding answer is that it's not necessarily true, but not ruled out. In the case of PF2, the answer is that the math is real pretty, but not at all fun. The argument that a +1 is super effective because it bumps crit and hit chance and the expected value of damage by whatever amount... It's not really affecting the argument that "My awesome Fighter feels useless because he misses too often" or "My awesome Fighter doesn't feel better at being a swordsman than the Wizard."

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Fuzzypaws wrote:
Yet none of that does anything to fix the bland and fiddly "feel" of a +1 bonus. None of that fixes my players' disappointment when they are trying to build a fun character, and spend their time wading through a sea of tiny situational bonuses that give a +1 while twerking under the full moon, and pretty much none of which stack with each other.

Yeah, this. +1 temporary bonuses just don't feel that impactful and often you won't know if it actually made a difference or not (so even if it does, you have no way to know that).

Then with things not stacking, you're like "I could make someone flat footed, but since that bonus won't stack with the one we're already getting, why bother?"

Which is just silly. Being able to stack these things up is where some of your depth comes from.

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Being able to stack things is also what broke PF1. It was too easy to find different things to stack together, and thus the math behind PF1 was broken.

They have very intentionally done the opposite here.

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Claxon wrote:
They have very intentionally done the opposite here.

The opposite of 'too much' is 'not enough'...

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I mean I get that stuff not stacking can seem a pain but I mean, as far as enemy AC goes all the penalties I've seen are Circumstantial and Conditional. Flat footed is the only circumstantial penalty I've seen while all others are Conditional, coming from status conditions. And this is something I like. I mean flat footed and a level 2 condition (Frightened 2, sluggish 2, etc) gives a total of -4 which is a MASSIVE difference and represents using a couple of different sources to greatly compromise a foe's defenses. Doing that kind of stuff is really satisfying to me personally.

And I like that conditions don't stack. It means you don't have to feel pressured to try and make sure this guys gets Enfeebled, sluggish, Frightened, and sick so that you can set the most benefit. You can get a solid benefit out of just one condition per enemy but there's also reason to do more.

Frightened penalizes everything pretty much but fades fast. Sluggish, stupefied, etc. penalize a narrower range but tend to last longer. Sick penalized everything and by default lasts longer than fright but can potentially be shrugged off quickly at the cost of actions. All of these effects have varying merits, so while hitting someone with Sluggish 2, Frightened 2, and Sick 2 may not give them a -6 (because that would get ridiculous fast) it does give them multiple thing s to work against. Fear is giving them a hit to everything for a couple rounds. But even after that they're still taking the same penalty from sick unless they burn actions to drop it and even if they do that their AC, accuracy, and Dex stuff is gonna be penalized for a while from Sluggish. It may not be optimal to drop a bunch of different status effects at the same strength but it is not without its benefits as laying down some conditions that cover a wider area but are less persistent plus others that are more persistent but cover less your opponent has to do a lot more to shed their penalties and even when they shed some they've got others to deal with.

Just something to consider. I don't think we should bring back the stacking game or massive on-the spot bonuses (like the unholy terror that is Divine Power from PF1), but PF2 hits what I think is a good middle ground. By applying the right things you can get an impactful but not broken advantage, while not being seriously punished for only applying say 2 effects instead of 4-6. It encourages having a variety of tools to use as they're called for instead of trying to dump a bucket of buffs or debuffs on one situation (the buff sheets I've had to track in some PF1 games were absolutely ridiculous), but if you do decide to do multiple things to very definitely debuff someone it still has an increased effect, but in a more subtle and nuanced way.

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As much as I liked the +10/-10 system, I think it is causing more problems than it is solving. If I can't stack bonuses or penalties because the +10/-10 system makes them too powerful, then I don't want the +10/-10 system.

(The other issue is that the game is balanced around coin flip probabilities AND you are expected to max out certain aspects of your character to achieve this probability.)

PF1 DOES have issues with too many stacking bonuses, but a list of patch notes banning problem features would have been a heck of a lot better than what PF2 is trying to do now.

I LIKE the idea that you can "over specialize" in one area at the cost of other areas (even though there usually wasn't much of a cost in PF1).

A person who maximizes their attack rolls should be rewarded by hitting more often (>>>>50%) and should have to pay for it by having lower statistics in other areas. (Maybe his AC is low and he get's hit often, or he has bad saves and fails saving throws more often, or he has low HP, or he's allergic to magic.)

Yes, there may be situations where one character can't fail and another can't succeed, but that should come down to being the player's fault for dumping a stat.

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Matthew Downie wrote:
Claxon wrote:
They have very intentionally done the opposite here.
The opposite of 'too much' is 'not enough'...

I never said I agree with their reaction.

If I had to classify it in 1 word, I think I would say "disproportionate".

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Claxon wrote:

Being able to stack things is also what broke PF1. It was too easy to find different things to stack together, and thus the math behind PF1 was broken.

They have very intentionally done the opposite here.

It did awfully well for a "broken" game. People throw that word around so much that it has no meaning.

2e might have better math, but is it fun to be told "sure you can do a thing, but it doesn't stack with the other thing someone else already did so you might as well not bother"?

Because between those two options, one of them is enabling me as a player to do interesting things and the other is shutting me down. One is clearly more fun than the other.

And if it isn't fun, I don't care about the math in the slightest.

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Greg.Everham wrote:

The bulk of Fighter's class feats (and this is most certainly true of other classes as well) seem to be either getting +1 bonuses or mitigating the multi-attack penalty somehow. It's such a yawner.

Class feats, as you said, should be about expanding the capabilities of the class or specializing more heavily in one area. They should be unique abilities, not these sorts of bland +1s.

I took a quick glance ats fighter feats, and found no one of them that gives a +1 to anything, and no to-hit bonuses at all.
They give multiple combined attacks, play with MAP, simulate a shield with your weapons or improve shield usage, impose conditions on targets, mitigate your attack failures or negative conditions, improve your mobility... there are some that increase damage, but at the cost of an extra action. I saw no flat bonuses to standard attacks (except for Savage Critical - level 18 - and what other I may have missed, but I'm pretty sure we are talking about a little minority).

That's the direction I like; but to be honest there aren't many feats that thrill me particularly. At least at mid/high levels I would have expected feats that leverage your skill with weapons (and to an extent with shields and armor, too) allowing you to do really astonishing things. Many people don't seem to like that (without magic), though, and unluckily to me that doesn't seem to be the direction that high-level play is going, except for a few cases.
Maybe we will have options for that in a later book.

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I actually don't mind the overall trimming of the system math, but I feel like the considering of the +10/-10 crit system has led to a deflating of meaningful bonuses on the general scale. It seems like UTEML should progress +0/2/4/6/8. That'd provide a really noticeable feeling when increasing proficiency. If the numbers get too high, take it to -2/0/+2/+4/+6. But +1's aren't terribly noticeable, and it's a shame the system seems fixated on them.

I would be willing to entirely remove the +/-10 system if it meant getting more impactful buffing and debuffing choices.

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I think most people are stuck in a way of thinking that compares PF1 to PF2. +1 might seem like nothing when back in PF1 you could have an oracle with +30 diplomacy at lvl 8. By lvl 12 he could fart in the middle of town and be given the key to the city because of how charming he is.

In this system though where bonus are all small and numbers are equally as small a +1 can actually change a lot. It's applying every thing the character understands and knows to be just that bit better than the person next to them.

It's only going to not feel like it matters if you keep comparing it to another system (especially one that had a lot of bloated numbers). The way the numbers work is different and it's time to start thinking about how these numbers interact with the challenges and abilities that this system has.

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I'm a bit of an anomaly I fear. I like the +1's and +2's, and the stacking - I miss that. I want my feats and abilities to make me better at what it relates too and nothing does that quite like increasing my odds of succeeding.

Fancy new abilities are all well and good, but there are problems with that 1) someone will feel it shouldn't be locked behind a feat and everyone should be able to do it 2) if you have too many of them you can start to lose track of them and 3) most of them are so niche/situational that it really doesn't feel like you are gaining any benefit at all.

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PsychicPixel wrote:

I think most people are stuck in a way of thinking that compares PF1 to PF2. +1 might seem like nothing when back in PF1 you could have an oracle with +30 diplomacy at lvl 8. By lvl 12 he could fart in the middle of town and be given the key to the city because of how charming he is.

In this system though where bonus are all small and numbers are equally as small a +1 can actually change a lot. It's applying every thing the character understands and knows to be just that bit better than the person next to them.

It's only going to not feel like it matters if you keep comparing it to another system (especially one that had a lot of bloated numbers). The way the numbers work is different and it's time to start thinking about how these numbers interact with the challenges and abilities that this system has.

Except that many people still feel like no matter how much they specialize, their attempts to succeed come off as a coin toss and not a specialization. Focusing on something merely keeps you adequate, whereas the opposite makes you worse over time relative to DC's of appropriate level.

In 1e, you could get a high enough bonus to make success almost certain in specific things which made you feel you could always contribute at least that one thing effectively. Now even a specialist fails a large amount of the time and that threatens having a party that cannot progress cause everyone happened to fail their rolls.

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Matthew Downie wrote:
Claxon wrote:
They have very intentionally done the opposite here.
The opposite of 'too much' is 'not enough'...

For example, since everything is conditional, classes don't really mesh anymore. There's a difference between trying to curtail min-maxing and making it so rage and inspire courage can't stack. What's the point in trying to build a buffing character if my party's self-buffs will render me useless?

Deoda wrote:

(Math, Personal opinion and bad english incomming)

If you only have 5% chances to hit, a +1 boost make you succeed 100% more often but on a single dice roll it has only 5% chances to change the outcome (10% if critical fail matters)
If you have 50% chances to hit, a +1 boost make you succeed 10% more often and critical hit 100% more often but on a single dice roll it has only 10% to change the outcome.
Every permanent +1 boost feel extremely valuable in the long term (that's why the 18 in primary stat at creation is mandatory) because you can see the statistical increase in success rate.
Every temporary, situationnal, or only for one roll +1 boost feel useless : a hypothetical +1 to attack for a full 3-attack turn with 65% to hit the first attack will not change the outcome 81% of the time.

I'm not sure I get the same feeling. A 100% boost making a 5% chance a 10% chance sounds great, but that's more a result of framed expectations. 10% is still a bad chance regardless. Same with the transition from 50% to 55%; the number has gone up a relatively significant amount, but has yet to become reliable.

For things that are only situationally useful, they suffer much more by also being unreliable mathematically.

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True.

But main problem is still d20(or any single die roll), because of it's flat distribution of successes.

You are equally likely to make an expected average effort(10), best possible effort(20) and worst case scenario(1).

3d6(or any variation of multiple dice) is far superior as it focuses probability chance to average numbers, rewarding skill(bonuses) more than dumb luck and makes every +1 that you can find really worth it.