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Alright, time to actually give some proper play testing feedback. I should've done this sooner, but better late than never.
(Hopefully this is coherent. I'm pretty tired as I'm typing this up)
My group has never really played in Golarion, so we felt it more useful to see how well the game worked in a setting of our own design. Worldbuilding was easy enough in PF2, and the rarity system seems to be a good way to keep spells that might otherwise break the game from doing so. I definitely look forward to playing with the system to create interesting worlds in the future.
The group consisted of 4 people, I'll call them players "E", "D", "N", and "K".
E is the biggest role-player of the group, the kind of person who will make most of his character decisions based on flavor consideration. He played a Dwarf Barbarian, taking the fury totem. He was considering the giant totem, but decided it seemed wrong for a dwarf to idolize something taller than they are. He used a maul, going for a pretty cookie-cutter big-weapon barbarian build.
D has very specific taste, and likes to build characters that appeal to him both flavorfully and mechanically. He'll generally look through rulebooks for something to inspire him, then build something that appeals to his sensibilities. He loves to play evil or evil-leaning characters, and also likes "mean" mechanics, like debuffs and combat maneuvers that render the enemy unable to fight without killing them. Because the Monk is his favorite PF1 class, he decided to play one in PF2 for his first character. He went for a Strength-based build using a bo staff.
N enjoys the social aspects of the game, and enjoys role-play, but doesn't really care much about character building. With a bit of help from D, he made a Gnome Rogue, a switch-hitter with a short bow and dagger, and an out of combat focus on thievery.
K is the power gamer of the group. He loves to play powerful characters, but doesn't like cookie-cutter characters. Instead he likes to find atypical classes or concepts and make the most optimized version of them possible. I asked him to play an alchemist, since I was a bit worried about the playtest version of the class, and wanted to see someone really put what was my favorite PF1 class through its paces. He played a Goblin Alchemist, primarily focused on bomb-throwing (though he changed course a bit midway though, more on that later). I'll probably be talking about K's experience the most, since he gave me the most feedback by far.
We started by building level 1 characters. E put his character together without too much trouble, and seemed to find the process enjoyable.
D forgot to include his level in his armor class calculation, which led to his monk being a bit flimsy for the first two sessions (he figured out his mistake by the end of thesecond).
N ran into a little trouble making sense of how skills were handled, but had no other issues.
K understood the system just fine, but realized mid-way through buying his gear that the alchemist basically requires the 2 bulk, 60 sp Alchemist's Tools in order to function. He wasn't too happy about this, as it meant he couldn't get the crossbow he wanted as a backup weapon (he could neither afford it nor carry it with his 10 strength). He was also unimpressed with the background system, since none of the bonus skill feats seemed very interesting or impactful.
Our group meets pretty infrequently (about every other week), so each session ended up being after a different update.
First Session (Update 1.1)
For the first session, I created a pretty basic dungeon crawl consisting of a few encounters of increasing difficulty. The encounters all ran pretty smoothly, and different enemy types definitely felt pretty distinct. D kept getting poisoned, which definitely hindered his character without making it unplayable or outright killing him. When the group got the final encounter, a showdown against a Zombie Brute, N ended up putting in the most work with his slashing weapon and sneak attack damage. E put in good damage, but due to his lower speed and lack of range or reach, he often found himself getting into the fight a little late. Some unlucky initiative rolls exacerbated the problem.
During preparation, K was unsure how many bombs he would need, and ended up spending all but 1 of his resonance points on making them. He got a couple of good critical hits with his bombs, and definitely felt he was contributing. What's more, he didn't even use up all his bombs, though he was being incredibly conservative with them. He also felt the need to wait until absolutely necessary to resort to quick alchemy, since he had only the single guaranteed use.
The table of DCs was real helpful for coming up with appropriate challenges on the fly, and I made pretty frequent use of it when the PCs wanted to try something unorthodox that I hadn't really accounted for.
Overall first impressions were good. While definitely different than PF1, the game ran pretty smoothly at first level, and encounters were challenging without being impossible.
Second Session (Update 1.2)
In the second session, the party went into the sewers of their home city, looking for a magical artifact that they learned was in an ancient temple buried beneath generations of city expansion. Everyone advanced to level 2 before the session started. The PCs encountered a pitfall trap as their first major obstacle, which led to a comedy of errors as they tried to figure out the best way to get the less agile party members safely across.
Next they came across a gang of goblins, which they dispatched without much trouble. D took some hefty hits, but managed to stay standing, while N stayed safe but far less effective sticking to his shortbow instead of engaging in melee. E did the most damage, and definitely felt like a barbarian with his massive d12+6 damage rolls.
K felt like he was being carried, suffering from below-average rolls, and tight combat environments not well suited to AoE weapons. He did help patch the party up with some healing elixirs, but ran out of resonance pretty quickly. He also wasn't too pleased with his elixirs costing his allies resonance too, since that ate into their ability to use the healing items they picked up as treasure. Similarly, the fact that his class features were resonance-powered meant he couldn't rely on healing pick-ups either, otherwise he would run out of his primary resource. It felt unfair to him that no other class had to choose between using healing items or being able to use their main class features.
About midway through the session, I ended up giving D some bracers of armor, hoping to bring his AC up a bit (he hadn't yet realized he was miscalculating yet. Not long after, the PCs managed some incredibly thorough searching and very high rolls, so I decided to throw them a magic weapon. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake, as it put the weapon's wielder (D) well ahead of the rest of the party damage-wise.
Running the goblin encounters didn't feel too different than PF1, but the pack of goblin dogs I through at them were surprisingly dynamic. The "Scratch" action allowed for some more interesting monster tactics than the goblin's basic move-attack-attack routine. I hope it becomes the standard for most monsters to have at least one non-attack action available to them.
The session ended with a small group of kobolds trying to ambush the PCs. Unfortunately for them, the party managed to see the kobolds beforehand, and ended up surprising them instead. After dispatching the kobolds, the PCs found themselves before a 3-way fork in their path. They decided to rest for the day, and tackle the fork in their path in the morning.
Session 3 (Update 1.3)
During preparation, K decided to focus more on healing items than bombs, since he was finding his damage pretty lackluster and the party was definitely lacking consistent healing.
Unsure of which path to go down, the PCs decided to investigate each one as best they could before making a decision. Unfortunately, each path went over a small waterfall, making backtracking difficult. They decided to tie a rope around the goblin (K), and lower him down over each waterfall in turn. The first one he went down landed him in a pool of quicksand (or quicksewage, really), where we realized the rules for quicksand didn't spell out what sort of action the Athletics check to escape was. I forget exactly what we decided on, but the encounter was pretty exciting, with K's goblin very nearly dying a grisly death.
Later on they decided on a path infested with Stirges. Their blood-draining mechanics made for a real interesting encounter, as having to avoid immediately killing an attached bloodseeker in order to avoid persistent damage forced reliance on atypical combat strategy.
After a social encounter with the goblin boss the PCs turned in for the that turned bloody and an ancient riddle door, I dropped the PCs into a randomized dungeon. Each PC was teleported to a room at random, where they faced a relatively easy encounter appropriate for 1 or 2 characters. After defeating the monster in the room, they were teleported to another random room that had yet to be cleared. We tracked the rounds of combat for each room simultaneously, so with luck, a PC who made short work of their room might be able to join in an ally's more difficult encounter mid-combat. This was a big hit with the players, and a lot of fun to run. None of the encounters were too challenging, save for the room the Alchemist ended up in. Up against 3 level 0 zombies, his already dwindling supply of bombs wasn't really able to do enough damage to take them down. Luckily the monk managed to find his way to the alchemist's room, and made pretty short work of them with his flurry of blows.
After this ordeal the PCs were in need of healing. N, having scavenged a healer's kit in one of the rooms, was able to to treat wounds without any trouble, leading to a bit of a paradigm shift for the rest of the session as full healing was now only a matter of spending enough time, rather than dependent on any limited resources. K found this funny, since his character's one meaningful way to contribute (healing), was now all but obsolete.
The final boss was a single troll, which turned out to be far easier for the party than I expected. K had a flask of Alchemist's fire left, and he managed to deal significant damage for the first time that night thanks to the troll's hefty weakness. The rest of the party were able to make pretty quick work of the troll by ganging up on it, and appreciated not having to worry about its regeneration thanks to the persistent fire damage.
After dispatching the troll, the PCs recovered the artifact they were after, at which point the campaign wrapped up.
Overall I enjoyed GMing my first PF2 campaign. Though the playtest book requires an unpleasant amount of page-flipping (please clean up the layout in the final edition. A rule should not reference a section containing little more than a referral to yet another page number. Looking at you Counterspell), once I got the hang of how DCs were assigned, it was pretty easy to come up with appropriate challenges on the fly. I also really liked the way monsters ran. Definitely an easier and more dynamic experience than PF1. The rules for Encounter Mode hardly came up, and ultimately felt unnecessary to be spelled out in such specific terms. In a future playtest campaign we might put them to greater use, though.
I asked each of the players for their overall impressions of PF2 and the class they played once the campaign concluded. N had nothing to say, though everyone else seemed to really like the new action system.
D thought the monk definitely felt right, with lots of attacks and impressive mobility. He really liked being able to pick up a "style" early on in his career. In PF1, monks often had to spend their early levels on "necessary" feats like Power Attack or Weapon Finesse, or the many feat-tax prerequisites for some of the better styles, and couldn't actually use their chosen style until quite a few levels on. Curiously, he thought that the PF2 monk felt less MAD than the PF1 version of the class. With the tighter math, while higher ability scores couldn't get you too far ahead of the curve, lower ability scores couldn't leave you too far behind.
E enjoyed playing a Barbarian, he liked the feel of the class, and appreciated the totem giving the Barbarian a unifying theme, something the PF1 version lacked (at least in the CRB). He also didn't mind the bounded math, feeling that he didn't have to roll unreasonably high to contribute.
K was far less happy with the Alchemist. He felt the class was unpleasantly resource starved, and had poor action economy. 2 actions to use a limited-use attack that deals less damage than just swinging a weapon (which takes only 1 action) was not very fun. He said that it seemed that if you don't prepare most of your items at the beginning of the day, your resources won't last you long enough to survive the average adventuring day. Quick Alchemy felt way too expensive, since he only had so many resonance points left after putting most into the more efficient early preparation. He picked up Smoke Bomb, but ended up using it only once, as spending a resonance point for the ability rarely seemed to be worthwhile. The general consensus seemed to be that the Alchemist had too few uses of its alchemical items, and the items were far too weak to justify being so scarce.
We're starting the next campaign today, at level 7. We're gonna try to do a bit of a healing stress test, like the one called for in the playtest adventure path. The party this time around consists primarily of casters, and K is once again playing an Alchemist, as he wants to see how the class fairs in a damage/support role at higher levels. I look forward to seeing how things go.
|Mark Seifter Designer|
Oh wow, note to self. Don't post at 5 AM when you're too tired to proofread.
I hope none of this comes across as mean-spirited. While I know K and I both tend toward the critical side, I also know Paizo just wants to create the best game possible. I'm excited to get the chance to be part of that process.