Looking For Commiseration; Re: Undarin


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback


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Good evening, fellow GMs,

I just finished running session one of "the Heroes of Undarin". It's almost midnight, here in Minnesota. I'm exhausted and drained. I knew what the adventure was like before running it but, honestly, it's so much more draining to run a game knowing you're going to kill your players' characters than I thought it would be.

By the end of it, as we were breaking up, I asked if they wanted to set-up a special run between now and our normal, next session in two weeks: to see if we could finish it.

They had made it through about the first third of Wave 1/Event 3. We stopped because one player had to go (other commitments; he volunteers some days) and another also had to leave because combat had taken so long and his ride back to Wisconsin had arrived.

None of them wanted to go on. To quote one: "It was a slog".

And, honestly: I was glad. It was a slog for me, too.

I get that the goal of this adventure is to stress-test characters, seeing how long it takes to kill them. And I get that this is a necessary part of play-testing.

That said, it was such a grind. And I had to wear my enthusiastic "GM Face" the whole time, running it like it was any other adventure.

It was the Pathfinder equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru. Only despite how cool that kinda sounds, it wasn't. It felt like a relentless death march and, for me, that's just not fun. At all. And it wasn't for my players.

So, yeah: we won't be continuing this one. We'll go on to the next.

But, still, I'm not sure I want to. I'm so worn out.

Maybe it's because it's so late and this was a very crunchy game session requiring tracking so many conflicting and overlapping conditions, spells, powers, and abilities that I'm figuratively seeing cross-eyed right now. But maybe I'm starting to think that this version of the Playtest, even with the updates, just isn't that good of a game. Parts of it are, sure; I really like several parts of it! But so much of it ... hurts. It's just not enjoyable.

Is anyone else having these feelings?

Or, to the contrary, does anyone else have any suggestions that could rekindle my cheer and enthusiasm for the Playtest?

I've been playing tabletop RPGs for 38 years and I've not encountered so troubling a game session before. This really did a number on me.

Any encouragement or commiseration welcome!

Yours,
Sylvan

Silver Crusade

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It is indeed very, very tiring.

We made it through all of Event 1 in a 5 hour+ scenario.

As the GM I wasn't really enjoying myself. I offered the players the choice of continuing or not (by this point its pretty obvious to the players that they're very likely going to die). They all chose to continue.

I'm taking a breather in between, mind. Running this once every 2 weeks is enough for me. Every week would be too much.

I HAD stressed in character how absolutely essential their mission was and how they HAD to hold on as long as they possibly could. Partly to manage expectations. I know that, as a player, I'd be SEVERELY peeved to face wave 2, barely survive, only to be crushed like a bug in wave 3 (I think there is about a 60% chance they'll die in Wave 2 and a 40% chance they'll make it to wave 3 and die there. They've shot a LOT of resources to survive Wave 1).


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pauljathome wrote:

It is indeed very, very tiring.

We made it through all of Event 1 in a 5 hour+ scenario.

As the GM I wasn't really enjoying myself. I offered the players the choice of continuing or not (by this point its pretty obvious to the players that they're very likely going to die). They all chose to continue.

I'm taking a breather in between, mind. Running this once every 2 weeks is enough for me. Every week would be too much.

I HAD stressed in character how absolutely essential their mission was and how they HAD to hold on as long as they possibly could. Partly to manage expectations. I know that, as a player, I'd be SEVERELY peeved to face wave 2, barely survive, only to be crushed like a bug in wave 3 (I think there is about a 60% chance they'll die in Wave 2 and a 40% chance they'll make it to wave 3 and die there. They've shot a LOT of resources to survive Wave 1).

I'm just ... feeling totally disconnected (more and more frequently) with 2E. If the final product ends up being anything even remotely like the playtest version, I'm really not going to enjoy it at all. And the more today has gone by, the darker my mood has gotten.

I appreciate your support (you clearly get it); I'm just looking at all the TPKs people are reporting, all the arguments over rules interpretations, all the rising tide of dread while the official channels keep saying "this is the greatest thing since sliced bread" rather than giving us any hope that the problems so many are talking about are being heard...

I feel like that adherent to 2nd edition AD&D who refuses to go on to 3rd edition because 2nd was "perfect". And I swear: I'm not that gamer! I love so many different systems! But the more I see the divide widening between people who are having real problems with the Playtest and those who defend it: the more I feel as if there's a portion not being listened-to ... that, in fact, the decisions have already been made and this is going to be the direction the game goes in.

I think that may be compounding my problems with the Playtest: that as things get increasingly monotonous, I'm losing drive, ambition, and desire to play it.

Does that make any sense?

Or, honestly: am I just a fluke, here? I mean, I could very well be too close to my reactions and be the only one having this many problems.

It's hard for me to see.


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Personally I'm waiting to see if PF2 gets substantial changes which make it better before I even try to promote it to my friends. As it is the feeling of 'everything is nerfed' would sink it and taint its image enough to stop a second attempt, I think.

Not that these people think that PF1 is perfect. They have played enough of it to have expectations of PFthough.

Silver Crusade

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Sylvan Scott wrote:

[

I'm just ... feeling totally disconnected (more and more frequently) with 2E.

I'm having similar reactions, albeit it sounds like on a lesser scale.

I still think that 2E has the possibility of becoming a game that I personally will enjoy more than 1E in its current bloated state. But I admit that I'm getting less and less optimistic about it as time goes on.

I fully expect the actual 2E to be significantly different than the Playtest version. I expect Paizo to fix 2D10 of the major problems and only introduce 1D12 major problems with those essentially untested fixes. My hope is that those 2D10 roll high AND cover almost all of my top 15 flaw list and that 1D12 rolls low and doesn't create any game breakingly bad fixes.

I think that my biggest concern right now is that I have strong reservations about what and how they're play testing things. I am NOT accusing them of malice or anything of the sort. I just often think that they're acting as if they have blinders on, they're asking questions and testing in ways that seem to me very, very biased towards getting the answers that they (likely quite unconsciously) want.

This particular chapter of Doomsday Dawn seems like a moderately good example to me. I think there is going to be a MASSIVE self selection going on with this scenario. Players who enjoy the combat mini-game (and are likely to be better than average at it as a result) seem much, much more likely to make it through the grind and participate in the reviews than people like your players who will be quitting in disgust.

I'm also not really sure what they expect to learn. Optimized Clerics are wonderful. Optimized martials equipped with the only holy weapon in the group are going to do WAY more damage than any other martial. AoE spells are somewhat underpowered, other spells are significantly underpowered. Druids mulitclassed into Paladins are WAY more powerful than wild shaping druids. 12th level play is very complicated.

The above are the lessons that I have learnt from the 1 session I've ran so far. None are the slightest bit surprising to me. Most fall into the "Well, duh" category.

I also think that they'd be way better served to update the pdf than to keep putting out errata. I don't care if its purty. Surely it can't be THAT much work to just update the pdf.


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avr wrote:

Personally I'm waiting to see if PF2 gets substantial changes which make it better before I even try to promote it to my friends. As it is the feeling of 'everything is nerfed' would sink it and taint its image enough to stop a second attempt, I think.

Not that these people think that PF1 is perfect. They have played enough of it to have expectations of PFthough.

I hear ya.

And, yeah: PF1 has plenty of flaws. I'm not particularly fond of how spontaneous casters are handled nor barbarians with their rage.

But, over the years, the gradual house-rules and home-fixes have provided a really good social framework of fellow GMs to address these issues. Plus, plenty of fixes from Paizo have been excellent! Unchained, comes to mind, with regards to the Crafting rules.


pauljathome wrote:
I still think that 2E has the possibility of becoming a game that I personally will enjoy more than 1E in its current bloated state. But I admit that I'm getting less and less optimistic about it as time goes on.

Sadly, that's how I'm feeling, too. The weird thing is, the game seems almost entirely new rather than an upgrade or series of fixes to a new edition. While not to the depth of the problem, it reminds me of 4E's change from 3E, right now.

pauljathome wrote:
I fully expect the actual 2E to be significantly different than the Playtest version. I expect Paizo to fix 2D10 of the major problems and only introduce 1D12 major problems with those essentially untested fixes. My hope is that those 2D10 roll high AND cover almost all of my top 15 flaw list and that 1D12 rolls low and doesn't create any game breakingly bad fixes.

<laughs at your analogy> You, my friend, are someone I like! :)

Agreed, too.

It's not like the Paizo folk are bad or untalented! These are really skilled individuals who work under very difficult situations of social media scrutiny and an enormous amount of expectations. I totally take my hat off to the difficult task they've undertaken!

I'm really hoping that what comes out of this is evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, though; like 2E to 3E or 3.5E to PF1. I'm getting a bit slow in my aged, addled brain for learning new systems all the time ... even good ones!

pauljathome wrote:

I think that my biggest concern right now is that I have strong reservations about what and how they're play testing things. I am NOT accusing them of malice or anything of the sort. I just often think that they're acting as if they have blinders on, they're asking questions and testing in ways that seem to me very, very biased towards getting the answers that they (likely quite unconsciously) want.

This particular chapter of Doomsday Dawn seems like a moderately good example to me. I think there is going to be a MASSIVE self selection going on with this scenario. Players who enjoy the combat mini-game (and are likely to be better than average at it as a result) seem much, much more likely to make it through the grind and participate in the reviews than people like your players who will be quitting in disgust.

I'm also not really sure what they expect to learn. Optimized Clerics are wonderful. Optimized martials equipped with the only holy weapon in the group are going to do WAY more damage than any other martial. AoE spells are somewhat underpowered, other spells are significantly underpowered. Druids mulitclassed into Paladins are WAY more powerful than wild shaping druids. 12th level play is very complicated.

You bring up a very good point regarding play-balance. While the GM is usually on-hand to balance things out, this PF2 system seems to work more of those controls directly into the core rules. For me, there are so many rules and subtle differences now that I keep confusing one edition's ruling from the other's.

Hmmm... Let me see if I can say that in a more constructive and "explained" way...

A significant problem that I'm finding with the Pathfinder 2 playtest is that the game, itself, is more revolutionary than evolutionary. It is a complete do-over in many senses. But, at the same time, it uses 90% or more of the same terminology as first edition. But many of those terms now have such significantly different meanings (or subtle changes) that they can easily get confused. For people who have spent years learning and memorizing the rules of first edition, this makes adjusting to 2nd edition more difficult than learning a completely new game system. It's not just learning new rules: it's learning rules that sound similar to rules you already knew and, then, end up getting confused by subtle and not-so-subtle differences. My nearly-a-decade of experience with PF1 is clashing with the differences in PF2. Many of the new exceptions in the Playtest rules (or the special cases) are summed-up in only a couple words and easily missed or overlooked because the player's or GM's brain thinks it knows this stuff, already.

Does that make sense? I'm hoping that explains what I think is at the core of my difficulty with these rules.

Yours,
Sylvan


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I mean, the difficulty of "Heroes of Undarin" and the nature of PF2 are two different things. HoU was, as you said, made to be an unwinnable scenario, made to test when (not if) the PCs would fall in battle. Paizo has been fiddling with the Dying Rules to get "dying" to their preferred ratio, and the results from this will help them know where they are at with the current rules.

But I do commiserate with you. Haven't gotten to HoU yet, but "Affair at Sombrefell Hall" really wore me and my group out. We're limping through "Mirrored Moon" and are probably going to do some PFS scenarios before going back into the meat grinder. I suppose it's like going into "Tomb of Horrors" expecting an average dungeon.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You have my sympathies. I played in two sessions of Pale Mountain, and several times saw the GM look at what the module said to do, or what the rulebook said to do--look, cringe, and move on. The quicksand was a notable example. He also declined to look for the underwater combat rules, which kept Pale Mountain from being a TPK.

We will try Sombrefell and then quit. I refuse to do Mirrored Moon, and the GM refuses to do Undarin (probably quite rightly).

There's a real conflict here: it's a playtest, but it's also the playtesters' introduction to the game, and if it is a miserable grind, that will tend to poison the playtester's enthusiasm. Since they are some of the keenest players around, and you want them to be spreading their enthusiasm to others, this is a big problem.

Can you say what proportion of your malaise is the unwinnable scenario, and what proportion is the excessive fiddliness of high level play?


EberronHoward wrote:

I mean, the difficulty of "Heroes of Undarin" and the nature of PF2 are two different things. HoU was, as you said, made to be an unwinnable scenario, made to test when (not if) the PCs would fall in battle. Paizo has been fiddling with the Dying Rules to get "dying" to their preferred ratio, and the results from this will help them know where they are at with the current rules.

But I do commiserate with you. Haven't gotten to HoU yet, but "Affair at Sombrefell Hall" really wore me and my group out. We're limping through "Mirrored Moon" and are probably going to do some PFS scenarios before going back into the meat grinder. I suppose it's like going into "Tomb of Horrors" expecting an average dungeon.

An excellent analogy. It is exactly like that!

And, yeah: Sombrefell Hall also wore out one of my players who, later, admitted to me that the slog-like nature of it made him want to quite some 4 hours before it actually ended.


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Mary Yamato wrote:

There's a real conflict here: it's a playtest, but it's also the playtesters' introduction to the game, and if it is a miserable grind, that will tend to poison the playtester's enthusiasm. Since they are some of the keenest players around, and you want them to be spreading their enthusiasm to others, this is a big problem.

Can you say what proportion of your malaise is the unwinnable scenario, and what proportion is the excessive fiddliness of high level play?

An excellent question; not easy to answer.

But I shall try...

The fiddliness of high-level play was definitely a part of it. I had to keep checking rules and putting more graphics on our battle map to indicate overlapping areas of reverse gravity, swamp of sloth (or whatever the Hezerou has), the PCs' divine, anti-fiend field or blessing, making all those "hidden" Perception rolls (such as for the Omox), and deal with all sorts of Enfeebled, Grabbed, Grappled, and differing conditions with different end-points and countdowns.

I'd say that about a third of my problems were keeping track of all the nonsense. Of the remaining 66.67%, I'd say that about half (33%) was the unwinnable scenario and the last 33% would be level design: aka the fact that this was nothing but a slog.

So, oddly, in answer to your question, it turns out about equal portions contributed to my unhappiness:
33.3% ... Keeping track of everything
33.3% ... The "unwinnable" scenario
33.3% ... The slog of endless combat

Does that make sense?

Yours,
Sylvan


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Yes I totally get you. Running doomsday dawn is extremely draining and less-than-fun as a GM. (Probably as a player as well). But I still think the bulk of the system has promise.

I can compare the PFS Playtest scenarios to the Doomsday Dawn chapters and see that the PFS scenarios played reasonably well (as both a player and a GM) -- they still felt like PF to me, just a bit streamlined/modernized in ways that works for me. So I can see first party adventure writers using the pf2 to tell fun stories. The PFS scenarios felt more like the authors were playing with how to handle out-of-combat situations with the new rules in ways that work -- but that doesn't change the default setting of the difficulty knob, nor is it seeking to stress test the players as much. Additionally the scenarios still have enough "time" for more RP to occur and still fit into a single session, whereas doomsday dawn has been tough to fit into two sessions even cutting RP to a minimum.

Doomsday Dawn however is a playtest, with all the non-fun stress testing that entails, but wasn't emphasized/marketed as much as it should have been.

My rating of "how much does this feel like PF" has been dropping chapter over chapter, but I think that's entire due to what's being stress tested.


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Sylvan Scott wrote:
I'm just looking at all the TPKs people are reporting, all the arguments over rules interpretations, all the rising tide of dread while the official channels keep saying "this is the greatest thing since sliced bread" rather than giving us any hope that the problems so many are talking about are being heard...

Just a thought.

These forums are filled with negativity, but that's to be expected. Some of us are sad or angry about some rule and want it fixed. Some of us are eager to help and want our voices heard as we shout about some broken thing. Some of us are just overwhelmed and need to vent. Whatever.

It's expected.

All this negativity might just be the tip of an otherwise happy iceberg.

My table has completed 3 playtest scwenarios under three GMs with no TPKs. One very close battle at level 1 that almost ended in a TPK but we got through it. Otherwise, no real close calls. But few people are posting that, so you only hear the other point of view.

For every one person who is irked enough to post here about problems, there's probably one, maybe more, maybe dozens, who are playing and enjoying it - and because THEY are having fun, they're not coming here to make posts. We have no idea how many. Maybe nobody (worst case) or maybe millions. Who knows?

Maybe the whole game is unraveling into an unplayable mess or maybe 99% of the playtesters are having fun but it's only the unhappy 1% who are making the most noise here.

There's really no way to tell.

So, I suggest you evaluate the game strictly on how YOU feel about the game (which you obviously are) and IGNORE the overwhelmingly negative stuff here.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

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My group talked it over and decided ahead of time to skip adventure 5. We were 2 weeks behind the playtest window already, because Mirrored Moon took so long. I didn't reveal to the group what Undarin would be testing, but the group was just plain tired and grumpy from all the playtest and just didn't care to continue.

So we decided to skip to part 6. I'm extremely glad we did! After the group made our decision, I outlined what they would have done in chapter 5, and read the opening and closing flavor text. Everyone in the group immediately said that they would have hated playing it! So I think we bypassed a lot of grief at the table.

I'm sure my group will like Red Flags better. Though whether they will *like* it at all is a bit up in the air; most of the sessions so far have been mixed-to-negative.

*sigh*


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Absolutely a slog. We've had two sessions so far totaling about 8 hours, and we've cleared up to event 5. Everyone is healthy, the cleric still has more than half of her heals left, and the casters haven't even touched their 6th level slots yet, so barring some catastrophic rolls I suspect they can go quite a bit further, so it's entirely possible it will take two more sessions. The sheer number of hit points, and the fact that the only viable way to defeat enemies is by eroding every last hit point, really makes combat feel longer and more exhausting.


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Sylvan Scott wrote:
Maybe it's because it's so late and this was a very crunchy game session requiring tracking so many conflicting and overlapping conditions, spells, powers, and abilities that I'm figuratively seeing cross-eyed right now. But maybe I'm starting to think that this version of the Playtest, even with the updates, just isn't that good of a game. Parts of it are, sure; I really like several parts of it! But so much of it ... hurts. It's just not enjoyable.

The tracking complexity of mid to high gameplay took me completely off guard. Low level play has been a real delight but higher level play seems to assume that you'll be using electronic tracking aids and some form of quick reference materials.

I'm having a hard time with this myself. I'd rather have comprehension complexity than tracking complexity.


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The Once and Future Kai wrote:
Sylvan Scott wrote:
Maybe it's because it's so late and this was a very crunchy game session requiring tracking so many conflicting and overlapping conditions, spells, powers, and abilities that I'm figuratively seeing cross-eyed right now. But maybe I'm starting to think that this version of the Playtest, even with the updates, just isn't that good of a game. Parts of it are, sure; I really like several parts of it! But so much of it ... hurts. It's just not enjoyable.

The tracking complexity of mid to high gameplay took me completely off guard. Low level play has been a real delight but higher level play seems to assume that you'll be using electronic tracking aids and some form of quick reference materials.

I'm having a hard time with this myself. I'd rather have comprehension complexity than tracking complexity.

I, too, completely loved numeric conditions at lower-levels. I ran into a few problems tracking them starting in "Sombrefell Hall" (especially in figuring out who was bolstered to which undead's special ability and for how long) but it really got complex and burdensome during "Undarin".

The difficulty comes in how many can be active simultaneously.

If the amount of conditions are few (regardless of whether they are created by PCs or critters) this is a joy and makes things really easy to track! But once we get up there in how many spells and abilities can spawn trackable conditions, it becomes too cumbersome.

I'm not sure how I would address that.

I mean I really like this idea! But it doesn't scale well, it would seem.

Anyone have any ideas we could pass on to the developers?

Or, perhaps, is this just something Kai and I are running into as a problem?

Yours,
Sylvan

Silver Crusade

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One obvious thing to at least reduce the problem is to reduce the number of conditions that are far, far, far too similar to each other.

I don't want to go as far as Advantage/Disadvantage but do we REALLY need however many conditions that subtract 1 from slightly different lists of things per level of the condition?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One suggestion I tried with Undarin...write down when each effect expires and just track the round...much easier than tracking each effect separately.

The bolstered thing needs work though, especially since it is not clear if it applies to all similar effects, effects of identical monsters, etc. It seems to vary from ability to ability.


Byron Zibeck wrote:

One suggestion I tried with Undarin...write down when each effect expires and just track the round...much easier than tracking each effect separately.

The bolstered thing needs work though, especially since it is not clear if it applies to all similar effects, effects of identical monsters, etc. It seems to vary from ability to ability.

Depends on the creature. The ghasts in Sombrefell have their noxious and sickening aura of bad smell. When you save versus one, you're only bolstered against that one. But if you have multiple ghasts with overlapping areas of effect or moving enemies that constantly expose PCs to differing, overlapping effects, it becomes really tough to chart.


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DM_Blake wrote:
Sylvan Scott wrote:
I'm just looking at all the TPKs people are reporting, all the arguments over rules interpretations, all the rising tide of dread while the official channels keep saying "this is the greatest thing since sliced bread" rather than giving us any hope that the problems so many are talking about are being heard...

Just a thought.

These forums are filled with negativity, but that's to be expected. Some of us are sad or angry about some rule and want it fixed. Some of us are eager to help and want our voices heard as we shout about some broken thing. Some of us are just overwhelmed and need to vent. Whatever.

It's expected.

All this negativity might just be the tip of an otherwise happy iceberg.

My table has completed 3 playtest scwenarios under three GMs with no TPKs. One very close battle at level 1 that almost ended in a TPK but we got through it. Otherwise, no real close calls. But few people are posting that, so you only hear the other point of view.

For every one person who is irked enough to post here about problems, there's probably one, maybe more, maybe dozens, who are playing and enjoying it - and because THEY are having fun, they're not coming here to make posts. We have no idea how many. Maybe nobody (worst case) or maybe millions. Who knows?

Maybe the whole game is unraveling into an unplayable mess or maybe 99% of the playtesters are having fun but it's only the unhappy 1% who are making the most noise here.

There's really no way to tell.

So, I suggest you evaluate the game strictly on how YOU feel about the game (which you obviously are) and IGNORE the overwhelmingly negative stuff here.

I can commiserate on that at least. My group has played 4 full parts with no TPKs or even deaths (Only 1 player has even gone to 0, and that was a Change Shape Drakkus crit in Part 1! Admittedly there were two times I could've reasonably KOd one of my players but I let other players shift the focus of the monsters that would have done it because the battle was well enough in hand that they were going to win handily anyway and I didn't want to rain on that one player's parade during the victory stretch).

Also the only fights that they did in Mirrored Moon were Liruthall and the Night Heralds. They negotiated with everyone else and since the Lake Monster doesn't speak for or against communication (Despite every other encounter doing so) I let them try using Wild Empathy from the Huge Shark-shifted Druid to Coerce the monster to give them a day to spelunk for the treasure.

As for my own HoU experience it's been slow but my party is actually very much enjoying it. We've taken two of our weekly IRL sessions and a special Skype session (About 8-9 hours of play, maybe a tad less cause we screw around) and we've gotten through 4 fights.
The group loved roleplaying meeting with their other characters, who I somewhat caricaturized. XD But anyway, I'm trying to work on my technique to speed battle as it's been slow but I don't think it has to be. The party has used very few resources so far and I honestly think they could go all the way but I'll have to see. They have figured out they're in for a big haul but I don't think they fully understand so a lot is in the balance as it were. But so far they're having fun figuring out and exploiting their foes' weaknesses and playing the defenders.

EDIT: I actually looked up Commiserate and realized I had the definition wrong, so the earlier use of it is off. Applies more past here though hopefully. XD

Sylvan, as to getting you excited for the playtest again I can't give you a concrete answer. I can hope that the much more roleplay heavy Part 6 will make you feel better (Though one encounter there does need work) but failing that I'd just say that I hope you can come to not worrying too much about the game's state. I've looked around the forums and I think that a vast majority of the negativity I've seen is far out of proportion. From my experiences, while the game has its rough edges certainly it's in a good place I believe and I think pretty much every update so far has been a step in the right direction and shows Paizo is listening to us. Not to the tune that they're gonna remove +/level because of how many threads there are complaining about it but to the tune that they're earnestly looking for the real propblems and trying hard to fix them. If not for the playtest then at least for the full CRB. I mean, the new Resonance Test is a SHINING example of this. I saw so MANY people accusing Paizo left and right of being completely stuck on their resonance system, saying Paizo thought it was perfect and was deaf to any complaints against it. And yet they've released a test for what looks to me like a massive change to the system (I haven't been able to play it, only look at it) and while it probably needs quite a bit of fine tuning (I mean that's a given, its an experimental change to an experimental system as they work to find their balance) to me it proves that they're listening to us. If they weren't then I don't see how Resonance would have such big changes on the table.

As to the reports of TPKs, I can't speak for all of them but for the sake of all that is Holy please, PLEASE ignore pretty much any TPK reports by Colette. Their reports are about 90+% of the TPK mentions I've seen and they have spoken on more than one thread about how they have been deliberately doing everything in their power to force TPKs (Including questionable choices like ignoring anything the rules say about monster behavior in favor of playing them with as close to perfect tactics as they can manage). This is not meant as a personal attack but an assertion that constant TPK reports by someone excercising a highly questionable style of GMing should be taken with many grains of salt. With how much power is given the GM in Pathfinder the system has NEVER been meant to stand up to that. If the GM's one and only concern in combat is causing a TPK then that is what will most likely happen. The only reason this may not have been always true in PF1 was just because of how ridiculously broken PCs got.

If you're seeing a lot of TPK reports from other people maybe you could link them, I'd be interested in seeing what other people are running into. I just know that it hasn't been a problem for me, even with a couple low-healing parties.

Just know that there are definitely people out there enjoying the Playtest greatly, people who've played PF1 for years and love where Paizo are going with their next big step, even if they aren't QUITE there yet. :) If you're looking for tales of someone's positive experiences to balance out the negativity feel free to let me know and I can share some of the escapades of my group, we're all having a blast. I haven't found the time to do proper writeups but I'd be happy to add priority to it if it would help someone else. :)

Liberty's Edge

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Just ran a marathon session of Undarin on Sunday. They've just finished the 2nd wave of creatures - the undead, and they're still just barely alive. I ran from 10am till 8pm, and it was definitely draining - I had a useful quick reference website and GM sheet that kept me sane, but it would've been hellish without it. We're finishing it off this weekend, though everyone knows they're going to die - the demilich fight that we just finished went for 14 rounds, finished with 1 PC conscious and everyone out of spells - the cleric, bard and sorcerer were all entirely drained, bar one 3rd level Dispel Magic. We're moving on to part 6 this coming weekend, as everyone is presuming the next fight will take them down - and with 2 boar demons, they're likely correct.

People have ben enjoying the playtest as I've been running it so far - with little change from the rules, except blatantly ignoring Secret rolls because I hate them. We had a very memorable Mirrored Moon, with our Goblin druid somehow befriending the Sea Serpent through Wild Empathy, and similarly bizzare occurances greatly facilitating enjoyment. Heroes of Undarin has been enjoyed for the last few combats just for how long we've been surviving - our goblin bard was on 1 hp for 6 rounds in a row and somehow crit succeeded my AoEs, I failed my attacks when I needed a nat 1 to miss, and they went down eventually but spent a hero point. I think the players have enjoyed it more than me as GM - the sheer amount of monsters to prepare, conditions to track, and enemies to run took its toll on me in a major way.


Arcaian wrote:

Just ran a marathon session of Undarin on Sunday. They've just finished the 2nd wave of creatures - the undead, and they're still just barely alive. I ran from 10am till 8pm, and it was definitely draining - I had a useful quick reference website and GM sheet that kept me sane, but it would've been hellish without it. We're finishing it off this weekend, though everyone knows they're going to die - the demilich fight that we just finished went for 14 rounds, finished with 1 PC conscious and everyone out of spells - the cleric, bard and sorcerer were all entirely drained, bar one 3rd level Dispel Magic. We're moving on to part 6 this coming weekend, as everyone is presuming the next fight will take them down - and with 2 boar demons, they're likely correct.

People have ben enjoying the playtest as I've been running it so far - with little change from the rules, except blatantly ignoring Secret rolls because I hate them. We had a very memorable Mirrored Moon, with our Goblin druid somehow befriending the Sea Serpent through Wild Empathy, and similarly bizzare occurances greatly facilitating enjoyment. Heroes of Undarin has been enjoyed for the last few combats just for how long we've been surviving - our goblin bard was on 1 hp for 6 rounds in a row and somehow crit succeeded my AoEs, I failed my attacks when I needed a nat 1 to miss, and they went down eventually but spent a hero point. I think the players have enjoyed it more than me as GM - the sheer amount of monsters to prepare, conditions to track, and enemies to run took its toll on me in a major way.

Our Mirrored Moon session was really fun too. My group somehow befriended or made piece with everything but Liruthall and how they made negotiations with the Cyclopes was hilarious. Our Half-Orc Druid (Multiclassing Cleric of Gozreh) saw symbology on the way up to the longhouse indicating they followed Gozreh, and as he put that together with the fact that they've been logging in Tulaeth's forest he got PISSED. So as most of the party approached stealthily he activated Stormwind Flight and flew right up to their gates pronouncing the wrath of Gozreh, as the Goblin Alchemist chucked Bottled Lightning from cover for dramatic effect (A critically succeeded Aid check) and the Druid easily beat the Diplomacy DC to open negotiations with his Intimidation check so I let that open negotiations with him at an advantage. XD

Best part is, his Cha was 10 and I'm not sure he was even Expert in Intimidation (He might have been though. I don't recall). He did have a mask boosting it though.


https://paizo.com/threads/rzs2vav4?Bardarok-Playtest-Report

I just came upon these and they're a really fun summary of some sessions by a group that seems to be getting through the Playtest pretty well. Quite a few funny moments and some "For crying out loud why didn't I realize/think of that?!" ones too. XD


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Edge93 wrote:

As to the reports of TPKs, I can't speak for all of them but for the sake of all that is Holy please, PLEASE ignore pretty much any TPK reports by Colette. Their reports are about 90+% of the TPK mentions I've seen and they have spoken on more than one thread about how they have been deliberately doing everything in their power to force TPKs (Including questionable choices like ignoring anything the rules say about monster behavior in favor of playing them with as close to perfect tactics as they can manage). This is not meant as a personal attack but an assertion that constant TPK reports by someone excercising a highly questionable style of GMing should be taken with many grains of salt. With how much power is given the GM in Pathfinder the system has NEVER been meant to stand up to that. If the GM's one and only concern in combat is causing a TPK then that is what will most likely happen. The only reason this may not have been always true in PF1 was just because of how ridiculously broken PCs got.

Ever since update 1.3 (September 24), I have not been having monsters attack unconscious PCs all that often, mostly due to the way Hero Points work. I still have monsters coordinate themselves into good positions and then focus fire upon high-value PC targets, because that is simply good tactics.

I hardly ever bear in mind "which PC could affect a monster's weakest save," because that is ultimately a low-priority concern. Monsters generally have tightly-constricted saving throw values, monsters' saving throws tend to be quite high, and standouts like blindness aside, save-or-lose effects are relatively weak in 2e.

I generally try to target healers first, then spellcasters, regardless of what spells they pack. This is sometimes complicated by paladins with their Retributive Strike, and rarely, fighters with Attack of Opportunity, in which case I will have to either attack those martials or find a way to circumvent them.

This has still led to two TPKs a week since September 24. Granted, Heroes of Undarin is supposed to result in a TPK, but both parties dying to wave #2 out of 9 due to overpowered glabrezu melee attacks is rather embarrassing.

If a game cannot stand up to coordinated enemies and focused fire upon PCs, then the mechanics should be called into question.

It is worth noting that all of the in-combat TPKs I have GMed for have had the party be defeated by sapient opponents, with the exception of the two TPKs to the damaged flesh golem in Arclord's Envy. That damaged flesh golem had good enough statistics that it did not even matter that it was forced to attack the "nearest living creature." Those two battles were pre-update-1.3, and I did not even have to target unconscious PCs except incidentally. I mostly focused on attacking the conscious, nearest PCs, as prescribed for a berserk golem. This still defeated both parties.

For reference, I have also GMed four sessions of playtesting for Dreamscarred Press's rajah class in Pathfinder 1e, and over three dozen sessions (we played twice a week) for Dreamscarred Press's voyager class. I was consistently pitted the party against vastly, vastly over-CRed encounters. TPKs were few and far between; only two had ever occurred over that many sessions.

My GMing style has not magically changed between Pathfinder 1e and Pathfinder 2e. I am using the same overall tactics: coordinate enemies into good positions and have them focus fire upon high-value targets.

If such a simplistic tactic is all that is necessary to cause Pathfinder 2e's balance to crumble apart, then that is worrying. It goes to show just how overpowered the current set of monster math is. Certainly, it does not help that higher-level monsters tend to go first in initiative due to overtuned monster skills.

You have already said that "The only reason this may not have been always true in PF1 was just because of how ridiculously broken PCs got," but that just goes to show how much more defenseless Pathfinder 2e characters are in the face of "high," "severe," or "extreme" difficulty encounters against coordinated enemies who are serious about focusing their fire, no?


Colette Brunel wrote:
Edge93 wrote:

As to the reports of TPKs, I can't speak for all of them but for the sake of all that is Holy please, PLEASE ignore pretty much any TPK reports by Colette. Their reports are about 90+% of the TPK mentions I've seen and they have spoken on more than one thread about how they have been deliberately doing everything in their power to force TPKs (Including questionable choices like ignoring anything the rules say about monster behavior in favor of playing them with as close to perfect tactics as they can manage). This is not meant as a personal attack but an assertion that constant TPK reports by someone excercising a highly questionable style of GMing should be taken with many grains of salt. With how much power is given the GM in Pathfinder the system has NEVER been meant to stand up to that. If the GM's one and only concern in combat is causing a TPK then that is what will most likely happen. The only reason this may not have been always true in PF1 was just because of how ridiculously broken PCs got.

Ever since update 1.3 (September 24), I have not been having monsters attack unconscious PCs all that often, mostly due to the way Hero Points work. I still have monsters coordinate themselves into good positions and then focus fire upon high-value PC targets, because that is simply good tactics.

I hardly ever bear in mind "which PC could affect a monster's weakest save," because that is ultimately a low-priority concern. Monsters generally have tightly-constricted saving throw values, monsters' saving throws tend to be quite high, and standouts like blindness aside, save-or-lose effects are relatively weak in 2e.

I generally try to target healers first, then spellcasters, regardless of what spells they pack. This is sometimes complicated by paladins with their Retributive Strike, and rarely, fighters with Attack of Opportunity, in which case I will have to either attack those martials or find a way to circumvent them.

This has still led to two TPKs a week since...

But can we make focusing fire ineffective without causing bigger problems? Also focused fire is just as effective in PF1 if you don't have broken PCs, perhaps more because in PF1 it's easier to fully kill a character once they hit 0 than in PF2. In PF1 it's fairly common at higher levels for a KOing blow to actually be a killing blow. But the point I'd make here is that if an entire party of monsters focusing their fire on a single PC can't effectively bring down that PC then what chance does that party of monsters have against the party of PCs as a whole? This is the whole reason why, in both PF1 and PF2, having all your enemies gang up on one player at a time and mash them into the ground is considered such a d*** move. Especially when the GM does it with the idea of sacrificing one or more parties of monsters to make sure the PCs are weak enough for another set of monsters to finish them. It's even all-but-stated in the PF2 rulebook (And quite possibly somewhere in the PF1 GM Guide) that this isn't how monsters are generally supposed to conduct themselves.

In a game of two sides fighting each other where there are multiple foes on each side I have VERY rarely seen a case where focusing on one foe at a time ISN'T the best tactical option, pretty much the only options are when you have seriously good AoE abilities and/or the enemies are much weaker than you. And as stated above I think making things to where an entire party of monsters focusing their fire can't bring down single targets then we would have bigger problems, including that those of us who DON'T do this to our parties would have to jump through a similar level of hoops to actually challenge their parties to what we have to do in PF1.

Or to put it another way, adjusting things to make it so that the most party-killing-determined GM can't kill parties screws over other kinds of GMs.

Also saying "Doing x small thing causes the balance to crumble" means very little when it's something the rules PRETTY MUCH TELL YOU NOT TO DO. Now I just checked the rules and it says how most monsters have a grasp of basic tactics like flanking and focusing on a target, but they also have emotional reactions and make mistakes. To me this doesn't translate in any way to "No matter what all monsters group up in a single set and kill each PC one at a time starting with the weaker ones" but I can see a little more how your mileage could vary. Still it sounds like there's a distinct lack of the breathing space that is supposed to let players counter these tactics.

A side note out of curiosity, do people keep returning to play with you or are you managing to find this many different groups to take out?

Two last things, on a less irate note. While you honestly irritate me quite a bit and your meta-heavy, victory-at-all-costs GM style frankly pisses me off, I appreciate that you've found some of the holes in the system, such as the misword in the Golems' Inexorable March.

The other, the devs have long since admitted that monster math is tuned too high but it can't be imminently fixed, so maybe consider giving your players a break and let them actually have some fun in a fight instead of beating a dead horse?


I just went over page 328, and at no point does it ever imply, "Monsters focusing fire is bad." Where are you getting this idea that Pathfinder 2e advises the GM to avoid focusing fire?

Ultimately, it is the GM's responsibility to roleplay monsters, give them emotional responses, and so on. But when the GM decides, "I will roleplay these monsters as out to actually win the fight and survive, and give them emotional responses accordingly," then... does that really mean that the PCs should lose to those overtuned monster statistics? Logically, if the players have their characters undertake similarly serious tactics, focusing fire, then the PCs should stand a great chance of winning right?

The problem, of course, seems to be that the monster math is overtuned. Thus, whether or not this was the developers' intent, encounters are balanced around players and their PCs playing to win and focusing fire, and monsters lackadaisically running around doing "cool" but tactically inefficient things.

If they can fix the monster math, then the game will be all the better for it.


In my experience, focus fire also falls off when:

(1)members of a group are best at attacking in different ways, such as a fighter going for a mage with low AC while a caster hits the enemy frontline with lower saves. mage v. mage or fighter v. fighter is inefficient enough that there's no reason to if you could actually be doing something to another opponent. This could be more difficult in a premade adventure which has homogeneous enemies: if you have four identical goblins, they all have the same optimal target.

(2)There is a greater risk of lost potential when focus-firing, for example if the target can use a temporary block that defends against all attacks in a given turn. This falls off the list due to turns being declared sequentially, so you will always know the situation you would be attacking into.

(3)Only some enemies can get at the high-priority targets, i.e. the tanks are doing their job. Colette even mentions that this is working decently with AoO and Retributive Strike, at least briefly (until the tank in question can't tank anymore because they're dead.)

(4)Control/debuffers are doing well. If an enemy isn't threatening because of one character's actions, the rest of the team can go after someone else (e.g. someone that resists debuffs better, see (1)). There also isn't much point in debuffing the same character several times for diminishing returns over doing your worst to another target. I know this sure doesn't work on the player side in this system, so I wouldn't be surprised if attacking is the optimum on the other side of the screen too.

So I believe you can make something that discourages focus fire as the default method, but Doomsday Dawn isn't that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Edge93 wrote:
But can we make focusing fire ineffective without causing bigger problems? Also focused fire is just as effective in PF1 if you don't have broken PCs, perhaps more because in PF1 it's easier to fully kill a character once they hit 0 than in PF2.

On the other hand, there were way better defensive spells in PF1, and running past front-liners in PF1 was much more dangerous since AOO's had better distribution and were more plentiful. Still, it is a legitimate criticism of both editions that the game becomes a lot deadlier if enemies focus down one PC at a time.

I don't think you could really solve this without some kind of new mechanic that actively discourages focusing on specific targets.


Dasrak wrote:
Edge93 wrote:
But can we make focusing fire ineffective without causing bigger problems? Also focused fire is just as effective in PF1 if you don't have broken PCs, perhaps more because in PF1 it's easier to fully kill a character once they hit 0 than in PF2.

On the other hand, there were way better defensive spells in PF1, and running past front-liners in PF1 was much more dangerous since AOO's had better distribution and were more plentiful. Still, it is a legitimate criticism of both editions that the game becomes a lot deadlier if enemies focus down one PC at a time.

I don't think you could really solve this without some kind of new mechanic that actively discourages focusing on specific targets.

Agreed, though I will say I didn't typically find frontline-passing terribly hard in PF1 either despite the additional AoOs.

I don't suppose you have some such defensive spells you could provide by way of example? Don't get me wrong, I'm sure you're right about the defensive spells, it's just that most casters I've seen were still mostly offense focused, and even what defensive spells I've seen seemed bypassable or less effective than offense which always bugged me because I love tactical casting and using wards and stuff.

One notable example I saw once though was use of a Wall of Stone to seperate a group of Golems from their master so we could fight the master (And her Assassin we hadn't noticed yet) alone for a few rounds. That spell is around in PF2 anyway though.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For my part, my players have loved 2e so far... but I also haven't run it very much... and I especially haven't run the playtest adventure much.

Raiders of Shrieking Peak has been a lot of fun for my players - more fun than Lost Star was, I think.

I think I'd be enjoying 2e a lot less if I were trying to keep up with the playtesting schedule instead of just running a game or two as I have time.

Also the thing where virtually every single thread on the forums has the same couple people show up to make the same disparaging comments about not just the system but Paizo as a business?

That's disheartening, for sure. I'm happy to see this thread take more of a "I don't think Paizo is being malicious but I'm concerned about their direction" approach.

Overall I definitely see where you are coming from. The playtest has been super rocky, and I'm still not sure myself if it will be the system I want it to be.

I'll certainly run it, either way, because the appeal for me is the Adventure Paths, not the system. But it's definitely an open question of "how many house rules will I need?"

I'm crossing my fingers that number is low.

There are definitely some things I'm excited about, though. I love the action economy, the four degrees of success, some of the cooler feats... above all else I love love LOVE the monster design. That might be the single biggest selling point of 2e for me. The numbers are too high, sure, but the actual mechanics of the monsters and the way each monster feels different in play... that's amazing, and I haven't really seen that in any other system I've run.


MaxAstro wrote:

For my part, my players have loved 2e so far... but I also haven't run it very much... and I especially haven't run the playtest adventure much.

Raiders of Shrieking Peak has been a lot of fun for my players - more fun than Lost Star was, I think.

I think I'd be enjoying 2e a lot less if I were trying to keep up with the playtesting schedule instead of just running a game or two as I have time.

Also the thing where virtually every single thread on the forums has the same couple people show up to make the same disparaging comments about not just the system but Paizo as a business?

That's disheartening, for sure. I'm happy to see this thread take more of a "I don't think Paizo is being malicious but I'm concerned about their direction" approach.

Overall I definitely see where you are coming from. The playtest has been super rocky, and I'm still not sure myself if it will be the system I want it to be.

I'll certainly run it, either way, because the appeal for me is the Adventure Paths, not the system. But it's definitely an open question of "how many house rules will I need?"

I'm crossing my fingers that number is low.

There are definitely some things I'm excited about, though. I love the action economy, the four degrees of success, some of the cooler feats... above all else I love love LOVE the monster design. That might be the single biggest selling point of 2e for me. The numbers are too high, sure, but the actual mechanics of the monsters and the way each monster feels different in play... that's amazing, and I haven't really seen that in any other system I've run.

I especially love the Earth Elemental's "Ow that hurt imma screw off now" ability. Especially when you have him pop back up in a different spot. XD

But yeah, I expect I'll end up with house rules myself, even if they work out all the major kinks (Which I expect they probably will), but that's because my group is crazy and I like to tailor things to my friends' style. XD


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Edge93 wrote:
Agreed, though I will say I didn't typically find frontline-passing terribly hard in PF1 either despite the additional AoOs.

It was harder, though; you had to work to get around a guy with a polearm... and there could be up to 3 people threatening AOO's as you moved around the party.

Edge93 wrote:
I don't suppose you have some such defensive spells you could provide by way of example?

Disrupting visibility and movement often works best. There are so many spells that create some kind of mist or concealment effect I couldn't even list them all; there are lots of ways to create more solid barriers, from low-level stuff like the web spell (which could be oriented vertically if you so desired to form a wall of webbing rather than a field of webbing) to high-level stuff like wall of force. Or heck, even something as simple as a spot of grease. You had spells like wind wall to deflect ranged attacks. Many of these spells exist in PF2, but are mere shadows of their former selves (plus they tend to be higher level, have longer casting times, and you have fewer castings per day to work with). Speaking of spells that still exist but don't work as well, we have invisibility. Since casters don't really have the "indirect battlefield control" options anymore, invisibility is much less effective as a defensive measure. A well-built PF1 wizard would often have options he could use that wouldn't break invisibility, while in PF2 you really don't have many. Dimension Door is significantly weaker; PF2 ddoor has significantly less range and requires line of sight, so you really can't escape a fast or ranged attacker, nor can it take an ally with you. In PF1 you could use ddoor to quickly whisk an ally to a safe location.

Moving into more questionable territory, we have the Emergency Force Sphere. This spell is the ultimate panic button. Mid-level so it's available at an acceptable point in your career and easy to keep duplicates prepped at higher levels, immediate action to respond quickly to problems, and extremely difficult to bypass. I'm very torn on this spell; I like that it helps keep the squishiest characters in the game even when they screw up (which is great for the gameplay experience) but I do feel it's too good, especially on high-level casters for whom a 4th level slot is chump change.

Edge93 wrote:
One notable example I saw once though was use of a Wall of Stone to seperate a group of Golems from their master so we could fight the master (And her Assassin we hadn't noticed yet) alone for a few rounds. That spell is around in PF2 anyway though.

Wall of Stone is actually interesting in that it's one of those spells that's gotten a mixed bag of buffs and nerfs in PF2. It's actually better as a utility spell now since the size of the wall is significantly bigger. However, it's much weaker in combat since the shape of the wall is much less malleable (you're stuck with 20x120 ft dimensions) so it's much harder to completely close off a breach, the casting time is longer (3-action casting versus standard), and it's much, much less durable. The PF2 wall of stone is basically paper mache due to its 10 AC; even low-level fodder monster have a pretty decent chance to crit it multiple times in a row, and all it takes is two dents to destroy a section. It's not completely terrible, since large-sized creatures need to open up a bigger breach (squeezing rules are way less generous in PF2) but anything worth it's salt is breaking through in under a round.


RE Wall of Stone, aren't objects still immune to crits?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Object Immunities, pg 175 wrote:

Inanimate objects and traps with object immunities

are always immune to bleed, disease, death effects,
healing, mental effects, necromancy, nonlethal attacks,
and poison, as well as the asleep, enervated, enfeebled,
paralyzed, and stunned conditions. Many objects
are immune to most other conditions, at the GM’s
discretion. For instance, a sword can’t be hampered, but
some effects that cause the hampered condition might
work on a moving blade trap. Intelligent items are not
immune to mental effects.

Critical hits don't seem to be on the list.


Dasrak wrote:
Object Immunities, pg 175 wrote:

Inanimate objects and traps with object immunities

are always immune to bleed, disease, death effects,
healing, mental effects, necromancy, nonlethal attacks,
and poison, as well as the asleep, enervated, enfeebled,
paralyzed, and stunned conditions. Many objects
are immune to most other conditions, at the GM’s
discretion. For instance, a sword can’t be hampered, but
some effects that cause the hampered condition might
work on a moving blade trap. Intelligent items are not
immune to mental effects.
Critical hits don't seem to be on the list.

Huh! Well that's my bad. I guess I'm not immune to PF1 carryover assumptions after all. XD

Seems weird though.

To be fair precision isn't either. So RAW you could get the Rogue on one side of a brick wall, his buddy on the other, and the Rogue can Sneak Attack the wall. Or maybe you can't flank the wall cause it's not a creature. But the Rogue is certainly Unseen to the wall, so... XD


Edge93 wrote:
Dasrak wrote:
Object Immunities, pg 175 wrote:

Inanimate objects and traps with object immunities

are always immune to bleed, disease, death effects,
healing, mental effects, necromancy, nonlethal attacks,
and poison, as well as the asleep, enervated, enfeebled,
paralyzed, and stunned conditions. Many objects
are immune to most other conditions, at the GM’s
discretion. For instance, a sword can’t be hampered, but
some effects that cause the hampered condition might
work on a moving blade trap. Intelligent items are not
immune to mental effects.
Critical hits don't seem to be on the list.

Huh! Well that's my bad. I guess I'm not immune to PF1 carryover assumptions after all. XD

Seems weird though.

To be fair precision isn't either. So RAW you could get the Rogue on one side of a brick wall, his buddy on the other, and the Rogue can Sneak Attack the wall. Or maybe you can't flank the wall cause it's not a creature. But the Rogue is certainly Unseen to the wall, so... XD

If the wall is young the mortar is the weak point, if the wall is old you are better of breaking the bricks. But you need lore: masonry to get that monster lore.

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