Feedback and concerns on the math of Pathfinder 2


General Discussion

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Raynulf wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Raynulf wrote:
Currently I find the idea that a Mercenary Scout gets to deal 2 x weapon damage with his non-magical kukri and shortbow, while a PC needs a potency rune to achieve the same to be... dubious. I will withhold judgement until I see the creation rules, however.

Which is a fair criticism as far as verisimilitude goes, and also speaks to an issue with having so much damage tied to PCs magic weapons while not wanting to let every NPC be a treasure trove that breaks WBL.

But that's the system as it currently exists. You can not like it, but you can't deny that it exists, or simply ignore that it allows for stuff like NPCs with vastly better skills than combat abilities or vice-versa.

I never said the system doesn't exist, simply that the code that generates an NPC hasn't been published yet, and while we can attempt to reverse engineer it from some finished (playtest) examples, I would much prefer to see the rules by which they were created. To be fair, yes, some conclusions are easy to draw - that Pathfinder 2nd Edition cleaves much closer to 5E* in NPC design than it does to Pathfinder 1st Edition, but I'd argue we're still only seeing snippets of a larger picture.

*I despised the 5E approach to NPCs so much I wrote homebrew NPC class levels (and corresponding "challenge" chart) specifically to get around it.

Captain Morgan wrote:
[paraphrasing for brevity, as the full text is only a few posts back]On NPCs simply being granted the skill levels they need to present the appropriate challenge numbers, due to "lifestyle".

You make a good argument, and it may well be the case that NPCs are expected to simply 'have' the appropriate skills in order to produce the Table 10-2 DCs, which would alleviate the "does every con artist have to match the PCs level" concern.

That being said, I am genuinely not sure if the arbitrary assignment of numbers is actually a preferable approach. For monsters,...

So I don't think I can convince you to like this approach, but I'd like to point out that deciding to give a character challenge appropriate individual skills isn't arbitrary. Or at the very least doesn't have to be. You as a GM can add narrative justification quite easily.

On the flip side, having NPCs follow the same level progression as PCs despite vastly different life styles is no less arbitrary and gamey. Why should one's improvement as a basket weaver be proportionate to their BAB, saves, and HP? Because that's how it works at PF1. You can only be so good at a thing without increasing your level, and that carries a bunch of other powers ups that don't make sense outside of Adventuring.

On the young whippersnapper issue: this also isn't anything new. 1st level characters in any version of pathfinder have their abilities capped at a certain point. That means making a character who is older or really experienced at one specific creates problems.

There are really only two differences between how skill advancement works between editions. PF1 uses more fractional math progression, where PF2 is more linear. And PF1 had a lot more room to jack your skill bonus up through feats and traits, where PF2 instead focuses on giving you tasks that are gated behind skill feats and proficiency level.

Things like skill focus were the best way to raise an NPCs specialized skill beyond what most had, but even that is level capped because you only get 1 feat every other level.

Now, to be fair, I personally think skill feats could stand to provide more of a numeric bonus than they currently do, and the actions they allow for are generally unexciting as they currently stand. Hopefully we see this fixed in the final product.

But this is all moving through needle on an issue that will probably always exist in these games: tension between level as a mechanic and a narrative device.


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Captain Morgan wrote:

...

Hopefully we see this fixed in the final product.
...

Don't keep your hopes up.

I say this for the simple reasons that a) skills have combat uses now so massive unrestricted jacking up of numbers is a no-no, b) one of the aims of this edition is to make sure that PCs don't routinely fall off the RNG in either direction, and there isn't much room left to expand the range of PC skill check numbers without falling off in either direction, and c) the things we have seen like low CR students with extremely high skill bonuses (relative to the PCs) with no mechanical justification suggest that the PF2E team have already considered the "problem" of narrow and relatively low PC skill ranges and have rejected attempting to solve them, instead opting to designer fiat away the problem for NPCs.

Dark Archive

Snowblind wrote:

Not to be a complete debbie downer by pointing out the hard facts, but can we try and restrict ourselves to suggestions that are...oh, I don't know...remotely realistic?

The PF2E team has maybe a few months at most to implement changes, bulk out the rules with all the stuff they left out of the playtest, and have a finished product ready to go to layout/copyfitting (or whatever the procedure is). They don't have time to run a playtest, and they don't have a very good track record of throwing out revolutionary new systems on a time crunch that work well right off the bat (see: this playtest). Any fixes need to be reasonably straight forward, they need to be very easy to test or simple enough that their effects can be checked by number crunching alone, and they need to slide into the existing system with minimal changes to any surrounding rules components.

Stuff like "leave +level modifier off skills, except when defending against combat actions by other creatures" is within the bounds of reason. Stuff like "reengineer the game to be 10 levels with a partial levelling system" or "totally strip out level scaling and then reengineer entire swarthes of the bestiary so that PCs aren't blown out by the high level special abilities of things that they should be able to otherwise take" is not.

Inclusion of an optional rule to accomodate parts of their base who are balking at the bloat is both reasonable and realistic, taking likely no more than a few pages of text. They've committed far more resources in the past to subsystems nobody uses. In this case, people are literally asking for it, even if not a majority.


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Snowblind wrote:

Not to be a complete debbie downer by pointing out the hard facts, but can we try and restrict ourselves to suggestions that are...oh, I don't know...remotely realistic?

The PF2E team has maybe a few months at most to implement changes, bulk out the rules with all the stuff they left out of the playtest, and have a finished product ready to go to layout/copyfitting (or whatever the procedure is). They don't have time to run a playtest, and they don't have a very good track record of throwing out revolutionary new systems on a time crunch that work well right off the bat (see: this playtest). Any fixes need to be reasonably straight forward, they need to be very easy to test or simple enough that their effects can be checked by number crunching alone, and they need to slide into the existing system with minimal changes to any surrounding rules components.

Stuff like "leave +level modifier off skills, except when defending against combat actions by other creatures" is within the bounds of reason. Stuff like "reengineer the game to be 10 levels with a partial leveling system" or "totally strip out level scaling and then reengineer entire swarthes of the bestiary so that PCs aren't blown out by the high level special abilities of things that they should be able to otherwise take" is not.

If the solution that the developers end up going with is "leave +level modifier off skills, except when defending against combat actions by other creatures," because they are feeling rushed for time, then the PF2 is in a lot of trouble. No one wants to see the developers decide that the best game they can make has to involve as convoluted and unnecessary rules as exceptions like that. At the point where some skills will use their bonuses some times and not others, it makes much more sense to not have any of those checks be based off of skills, and it defeats the point of having a unified proficiency system.

Switching to a 10 level game would take some reworking, but it is much more clerical work than complete system redesign that would require excessive play testing. It may be too much of a departure for the developers to want to do, and I totally understand that, but I don't believe for a minute they would reject it because of the time it would take, if they felt like it was the better option. Even if I don't like people's ideas, I think it is better for people to voice them and have them considered for their own merits, rather than dismissed for reasons that will result in a worse game, like "time crunch."

Scarab Sages

Instead of rebuilding the entire game around a 10 level system, why not just leave the current system mostly the same, but add 1/2 your level to things instead of full level? It's functionally identical (sans the whole HP per level issue).


Vic Ferrari wrote:

Yes, that is obvious, hence it being in a future product. Why would an Athletics or Acrobatics check cause problems?

Basically the rolls are based on the fact that your char skills grow along with the DCs, it could be a huge problem.


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Unicore wrote:

The best way to reign in the number bloat of PF2, would be to adjust the game to have 10 levels, with 1 half-way point milestone at each level. This would have the following benefits:

Spell level would match character level, there would be nothing that didn't match existing character level. Items don't really need 20 levels either. It would be better to have 10 levels of items and have much more consistency to what level items were, without the awkwardness of, well we started at level 4 so the light armor characters might be able to pick up an armor rune, but none for you medium armor folks. Often times the item chart feels like it is arbitrary because they needed to spread items out over 20 levels instead of just having less item levels.

Additional spells per day, and skill point raises could be attached to the milestone marker, meaning that overall character growth could be maintained exactly as is. Martial characters can pick up useful class feats instead of an additional spell at their level and it all feels much more balanced. The martial/caster disparity is greatly reduced.

With a -4 for being untrained, a 10th level character with no attribute bonus and no item bonus is going to have a +6. They have seen enough to have a chance to survive in some situations, but a first level character with expert proficiency and a max attribute score is going to be just as good at them. However, the first level character is never going to be a serious threat to the 10th level character in combat, because important combat stuff is all trained at a minimum. -4 is significant at a 10 level spread. It is not at a 20.

There would be no fractional level issues to calculate.

Player growth would feel more organic as players would develop their skills over the course of a level, rather than being overshadowed by the raw power of gaining a +1 to everything at every point of growth.

But, the 20 level structure is such a sacred cow of the game and the D20 system that I don't think it will happen.

I have seen this idea before, posted by GwynHawk on September 14, 2018. I thought that the idea was sensible, but it made the level-up too drastic, doubling the character's power.

However, Unicore's suggestion of the half-way point milestone makes this a staggered advancement. Staggered advancements smooth out the level-up and make it less drastic. This would be similar to Staggered Advancement in Pathfinder Unchained, except like many Unchained mechanics, Staggered Advancement was awkwardly superimposed over an existing system and could not stagger feats nor class features. We could make PF2 staggered advancement work as smoothly as PF2's three-action system.

Snowblind wrote:
Not to be a complete debbie downer by pointing out the hard facts, but can we try and restrict ourselves to suggestions that are...oh, I don't know...remotely realistic?

It is realistic. The difference is mostly semantic. Let's call the current PF1 and PF2 system "levels" and the newer system "bilevels" in the following discussion.

What would happen is that the advancement of two adjacent levels: 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th, etc. would be merged into bilevels. For example, the 3rd bilevel would be a merger of 5th and 6th levels. Then some features that can easily be staggered would not be given immediately; instead, they would appear at milestones as the character gained some of the 1,000 experience points on the way to the next level. Let me call these dividends, because I am dividing them across the bilevel. (I also considered calling the dividends awards, portions, or premiums.) The player choses the order in which the dividends are gained, so some players might chose extra hit points first and some might choose the class feat first. The worst dividends would be saved for the last, so the character will be a little behind the average curve right before the next level-up.

Consider the cleric.

Cleric with levels.
1 Anathema, ancestry feat, background, channel energy, deity and domain, divine spellcasting, initial proficiencies, initial hit points.
2 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
3 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 2nd-level spells, general feat, skill increase
4 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
5 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 3rd-level spells, ability boosts, ancestry feat, skill increase
6 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
7 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 4th-level spells, general feat, skill increase
8 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
9 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 5th-level spells, ancestry feat, skill increase
10 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Ability boosts, cleric feat, skill feat
11 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 6th-level spells, general feat, skill increase
12 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Expert spellcaster, skill feat
13 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 7th-level spells, ancestry feat, skill increase
14 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
15 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 8th-level spells, ability boosts, general feat, skill increase
16 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Master spellcaster, skill feat
17 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, 9th-level spells, ancestry feat, skill increase
18 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Cleric feat, skill feat
19 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, General feat, legendary spellcaster, skill increase
20 Proficiency increase, Hit Points, Ability boosts, cleric feat, skill feat

Cleric with bilevels
1 Gains immediately: Anathema, ancestry feat, background, channel energy, deity and domain, divine spellcasting, initial proficiencies, initial hit points. Gains as dividends, one per 250 xp: cleric feat, extra hit Points, skill feat.
2 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 2nd-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: 3rd 2nd-level spell slot, cleric feat, extra hit points, general feat, skill feat, skill increase.
3 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 3rd-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 125 xp: 3rd 3rd-level spell slot, ability score boosts, ancestry feat, cleric feat, extra hit points, skill feat, skill increase.
4 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 4th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: 3rd 4th-level spell slot, cleric feat, extra hit points, general feat, skill feat, skill increase.
5 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 5th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 125 xp: 3rd 5th-level spell slot, ability score boosts, ancestry feat, cleric feat, extra hit points, skill feat, skill increase.
6 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 6th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: 3rd 6th-level spell slot, expert spellcaster, extra hit points, general feat, skill feat, skill increase.
7 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 7th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: 3rd 7th-level spell slot, ancestry feat, cleric feat, extra hit points, skill feat, skill increase.
8 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 8th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 125 xp: 3rd 8th-level spell slot, ability score boosts, extra hit points, general feat, Master spellcaster, skill feat, skill increase.
9 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase, 9th-level spells. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: 3rd 9th-level spell slot, ancestry feat, cleric feat, extra hit points, skill feat, skill increase.
10 Gains immediately: Proficiency increase. Gains as dividends, one per 150 xp: ability score boosts, cleric feat, extra hit points, general feat, skill feat, skill increase.

This is a crude conversion. It would look nicer if each level had the same number of dividends. Also, some dividends, such as four ability score boosts, are much more powerful than other dividends. In this conversion the classes match up almost exactly the same, with full-dividend nth bilevel the same as (2n)th level, except that a proficiency increase of +1 per bilevel is half of a proficiency increase of +1 per level.

The advantages of bilevels are:
1) Every level-up is similar. Currently, PF2 alternates class feats and skill/general feats and gives skill increases only every other level, so it is more confusing.
2) +1 to proficiency per level/2 works better for PF2 than +1 per level. Unfortunately, +1 per level/2 is actually alternating, +1 to everything at even levels and +0 at odd levels. That alternation would drastic enough to break the game by making even levels feel very different from odd levels. +1 per bilevel would feel natural.
3) Currently, +1 per level does not feel like advancing in proficiency modifier. I have noticed how people are talking about +1 per level in this subforum, as if it were not related to the concept of proficiency nor advancement. By making +1 the gateway to a new bilevel, it will feel more like earned advancement.
4) Spell level is the same as class level.
5) A character suffering indecision about chosing a particular feat can put off that choice to the last dividend.
6) The staggered advancement in the bilevels allows short-term customization. For example, a character roleplayed as clever can chose class feat as his first dividend, and a character roleplayed as simple can chose extra hit points as his first dividend.
7) A character can start a multiclass archetype at 1st bilevel.
8) Replacing dividends besides the class feat might allow other forms of multiclassing. This thread also has a discussion about commoner skills way beyond player character skills. If commoners were allowed to swap out adventuring dividends such as Extra Hit Points for better non-adventuring skills, that would provide a good explanation for the difference between commoners and adventurers.

The conversion has additional steps for non-characters. Converting magic item levels to bilevels might need to group them differently, such as 2nd and 3rd levels in items becoming 2nd bilevel. Converting monster levels will be even harder. That would have the same grouping as the characters: 1st and 2nd level become 1st bilevel, etc., but rather than rewriting all monsters in the same level to the same power, we split them. A 1st-level monster would have Bilevel 1 Low and a 2nd-level monster would have Bilevel 1 High. They would have different xp, the same xp as the level system gives.

Challenge rating, by which I mean Table 3: Hazard Experience and Table 4: Creature XP and Role on pages 13 and 21 of the Playtest Bestiary will need to reflect the difference between low bilevel and high bilevel creatures. Table 5: Encounter Budget on page 21 will need to reflect how far along on the staggered advancement the party is. My suggestion would be to create five subcategories in the staggered advancement: New (0-199 xp), crescent (200-399 xp), halfway (400-599 xp), gibbous (600-799 xp), and full (800-999 xp) (named after the phases of the moon). A new party would use the encounter budget of Table 5 as written after converting between level to bilevel, a crescent party would multiply the budget by 1.2, a halfway party would multiply the budget by 1.4, a gibbous party would multiply the budget by 1.6, and a full party would multiply the budget by 1.8.

Thus, Snowblind, that is everything necessary to convert Pathfinder 2nd Edition to a bilevel progression. It is realistic. I could do it as a homeruled system.

And staggered advancement on bilevels is the best suggestion I have seen in all these months of playtesting for correcting the +1 per level problem.

Davor wrote:
Instead of rebuilding the entire game around a 10 level system, why not just leave the current system mostly the same, but add 1/2 your level to things instead of full level? It's functionally identical (sans the whole HP per level issue).

I needed 4 hours to write the above, but I answered Davor's question in that wall of text. However, let me explain with more detail. Adding 1/2 your level to proficiency would cause rounding down at all odd levels, so leveling up from an even level to an odd level would be +0. Without further changes in PF2, that would make even levels stronger than odd levels, the same way even ability scores in PF1 are stronger than odd ability scores. PF2 could compensate by giving out more feats at odd levels, but then we would have a schism: even levels would be strong in numbers and weak in feats and odd levels would be strong in feats and weak in numbers. It would make level obvious enough to interfere with roleplaying and challenge design.


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Snowblind wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:

...

Hopefully we see this fixed in the final product.
...

Don't keep your hopes up.

I say this for the simple reasons that a) skills have combat uses now so massive unrestricted jacking up of numbers is a no-no, b) one of the aims of this edition is to make sure that PCs don't routinely fall off the RNG in either direction, and there isn't much room left to expand the range of PC skill check numbers without falling off in either direction, and c) the things we have seen like low CR students with extremely high skill bonuses (relative to the PCs) with no mechanical justification suggest that the PF2E team have already considered the "problem" of narrow and relatively low PC skill ranges and have rejected attempting to solve them, instead opting to designer fiat away the problem for NPCs.

It is far from unsolvable. To name one idea, moving bonuses away from items and over to something else (like skill feats) keeps the overall math the same. Item bonuses currently do allow for a decent math spread, they just aren't ideally implemented yet.(Making skill boosting items more available also alleviates this, though wouldn't be my favorite solution.)

Edit: Also, Jason has already said they are looking at ways to make the proficiency scaling matter more than it currently does. He said it within this most recent twitch in fact.

Also, the students have perfectly reasonable skill bonuses for people who have spent all of their time and energy studying instead of adventuring. You have to remember that in the context of the adventure, the skills the PCs would ask for a student to roll are going to be things like Lore (Dominion of the Black) that these students hyper specialized in.

A PC can't hyper-specialize to the same degree, because being a PC requires you to split your focus into a variety of things, especially combat.


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@Mathmuse

Numenera uses a similar advancement system to what you've proposed with the bilevel and dividend system - that game is divided into 6 "Tiers" that serve as a gateway to more advanced skills and features. When you reach a new Tier, you gain new class features for that tier. Within a tier, characters spend XP to purchase four advancements: Extra Stats, Extra Edge, Skill Increase, Extra Effort. You progress to the next tier only after you gain all four advancements within the tier. The price of an individual advancement is about equivalent to a "level", though that's kinda hard to gauge because Numenera allows players to spend XP just like PF2e's Hero Points, to reroll dice and perform other heroic feats. The system expects players to take an even split of spending XP in-play to banking XP for advancement. In general, players should be able to purchase new advancements around once a session.

It works, is easy to understand, is simple to execute, and it provides plenty of opportunity for players to see their characters improve outside of a 1-20 "D&D-style" leveling system. I could see such a system working out for PF2e as well.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
So I don't think I can convince you to like this approach, but I'd like to point out that deciding to give a character challenge appropriate individual skills isn't arbitrary. Or at the very least doesn't have to be. You as a GM can add narrative justification quite easily.

Hmm. I see two immediate issues with this:

The first is that justification is a slippery slope. I've been at the table as a player and GM with people who habitually see how far they can push things. The phrase "it's reasonable..." actually provokes an instant desire to kick someone these days. For example, if it is narratively justified that a 300 year old elf sage NPC has 12hp and a +20 in Arcana, then it is reasonable (or would be, according to some of the folks I have gamed with) that a 300 year old elf sage/1st level wizard PC have a +20 in Arcana too.

The second is the perception of fairness. Many players will be content for the GM to simply allocate the skills and abilities they deem appropriate. Many others will feel cheated that their bonuses and abilities have to be worked for and earned, while the NPC can simply 'have' what they want. This is especially true of the bonus weapon damage dice - many players can quickly reverse engineer numbers, and will be decidedly displeased with the NPCs lack of a potency rune as treasure, while still gaining all the benefits.

Captain Morgan wrote:
On the flip side, having NPCs follow the same level progression as PCs despite vastly different life styles is no less arbitrary and gamey. Why should one's improvement as a basket weaver be proportionate to their BAB, saves, and HP? Because that's how it works at PF1. You can only be so good at a thing without increasing your level, and that carries a bunch of other powers ups that don't make sense outside of Adventuring.

I'd disagree with you on this. NPC classes served the purpose reasonably well. Indeed, a 1st level human commoner 1 village blacksmith could comfortably be at a +9 in Craft (Int 10, 1 rank, 3 class skill, 3 skill focus, 2 prodigy), if that is what he spent his feats on (or higher if given an elite stat array). A 1st level PC can get similar numbers, but are very unlikely to as they have other priorities. Similarly a 10th level commoner blacksmith can hit a +24 while still having the combat capabilities roughly on par with the average town guard.

Don't get me wrong, I won't claim the NPC classes were without flaw, but the basic functionality of the system was sound, and I would advocate something like them being rolled out for Pathfinder 2. Inevitably, I find when people encounter a character with a particular ability, they are curious about where it comes from, at least in part as potential ideas for future characters. The system of feats, class levels and NPC class levels allows unique NPCs to be made from the same rulebook as the PCs.


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Disclaimer: While I am weighing in on the topic of Pathfinder 2 math and design philosophies, if nigh on two decades (oh god, already?) of professional engineering has taught me anything, it’s that there’s a big difference between “How I would do it” and whether or not something is “wrong”. Yes, there are some aspects of the playtest rules that I have strong concerns about, and do not believe the pros outweigh the cons, but I am not going to indulge in hyperbole. Instead, I will simply present how I would have preferred it.

Ray’s Critical Hits
Short Version: I would simply remove the +10/-10 rule from combat rolls altogether, and have crits on a nat-20 only (providing it would still hit). The concept sort-of-existed in Pathfinder 1 for skills, and it is still workable in that regard, but I sincerely do not believe that applying it to combat adds more than it detracts.

Long Version:
Critical Hit Frequency:In most editions of the game, critical hits are a big deal, and Pathfinder2 is no exception; doubling (or more) the damage of an attack has that effect. Indeed, at the right (or wrong, depending on your perspective) time, a crit can tip the balance of an encounter. The power was offset by the odds of them occurring – needing to roll within the critical threat range of the weapon, and then roll to confirm, ensuring that a single lucky die roll was usually not enough by itself. Even the 3.0 shift to make critical hits much more common due to weapons like the scimitar and rapier still required a confirmation roll, and rarely had broad crit threat ranges on monsters, who were usually 20 or 19-20, with exceptions being fairly rare.

In Pathfinder 2, generating critical hits is primarily a function of your attack bonus, and in that monsters really shine, often boasting numbers no PC could rival. This has the simple effect of making monsters not only crit a lot more than they used to, but having them crit even more than the PCs (at least in my experience).

Given that the basic assumption of almost every encounter that is considered “appropriate” is that the PCs will win, having the random damage spikes of critical hits be more common against the PCs rather than for them seems rather backwards. If the premise of appropriate encounters has changed to be something closer to, say, Shadowrun 4E (which assumes you’ll lose a PC every 3-4 sessions, or so) then the game is really, really not going to feel like Pathfinder. D&D 1st Edition, maybe, but not Pathfinder.

I would prefer that critical hits occur on a natural 20, with the proviso that the attack would still need to hit the target’s AC. This puts critical hits as being rare, but dramatic and notable. In other words, remove the +10/-10 rule from combat roll.

Broadening the Math: Without the +10/-10 critical range on attacks, there is the potential to broaden the math without obliterating the world with critical hits. The multiple attack penalty ensures relevance of AC and attack values significantly off from the median at a given level, and so there is room for more player freedom in character design. To me, a good thing.

Ray’s Weapon Damage
Short Version: I would actually prefer to go back to PF1 style damage calculations of scaling flat bonus and scrap the multiple weapon dice paradigm altogether – the value of weapons being driven by their properties, damage die (it still matters a bit) and critical specializations. It puts the focus on the character and their choices of class, feat, ability etc, rather than on the weapon base damage dice.

Long Version:
Potency Runes:Putting the lion’s share of weapon damage in the potency rune does work in terms of raw numbers, but I must admit to really disliking it. I like my PCs, and my players’ PCs, to be awesome. I want choices to matter, and what a character can do be driven by the abilities of the character and the current incarnation of the potency rune does the exact opposite.

It also mandates that I need to hand out potency runes regularly to ensure the PCs keep on track, as the assumption of weapon runes is built into the math. Noting that the front-line fighter in one of my campaigns (which started at 2nd level) only replaced the masterwork greatsword he started with at 12th level. And yes, he was still awesome the whole way. It also has some wording issues, as the rules are a tad confusing with the insistence on using “weapon damage die”, when, in truth, the 4th Edition [W] terminology would actually be a closer representation of the intent – at least going by some discussion I’ve seen the design team involved with on the forums.

In brief, I’d much rather weapon damage be a character-driven thing, not a potency rune thing.

Dice vs Flat Bonus:As far as I can tell, the numbers tally up reasonably well between Pathfinder 1 and 2 in terms of damage per hit – the difference is in how those numbers come about. In PF1, they were generated primarily from flat bonuses based on stats, feats, class features, buffs, magic items and so forth, and your choice of weapon was driven more about what properties (crit, reach, finesse etc) than what the damage die was. In PF2, the damage comes from multiples of weapon damage dice, with only a token amount from everything else (e.g. your Strength).

Now, the PF2 system does make the damage die more valuable (perhaps too valuable), but it also introduces a pile of interesting weapon properties to help differentiate weapons and make the choice not simply about crit properties, making me question whether the weapon die needed to be hyper-emphasized. Indeed, I find the concept of weapon properties to be a much more elegant and satisfying motivation behind choosing a weapon for a character, and having the damage die being such a massive contributor to combat effectiveness actually detracts from awesomeness that is the new weapon properties.

I would much rather go back to PF1 style math, with bonus Strength on two-handed weapons*, class and feat based flat bonuses, and no bonus damage dice except maybe when using the reskinned Vital Strike (and maybe have it scale up, much like the Vital Strike chain did?)…. But then I’d suggest it be a fixed die size – like maybe xd6, with x starting at 1 and scaling with level.

*The math actually works out okay, given that two-handed weapons deal more damage to hit, but light weapons (and Double Slice like effects) make a character more likely to hit with subsequent attacks, with the damage not being dramatically different between them when doing 3 attacks.

Ray’s Number Scaling
Short Version: I’d suggest allowing for broader numbers, with proficiency ranks granting +0/+2/+4/+6 for T/E/M/L, and Untrained not adding level at all (no penalty, just no level bonus); ability score boosts not reducing to +1 per boost over 16; and magic items giving less bonuses to skills, and not applying to AC and attack rolls for armor and weapons respectively (quality bonuses still do), but only saves and damage.

The point being to put greater emphasis on the abilities and choices of the character – especially compared with level bonuses - and less on their gear. And give people the choice of actually being untrained (i.e. ‘not improving’) at a skill. I would, in truth, keep the +Level otherwise – as long as other modifiers could make a significant impact next to it.

Long Version:
Taken by itself, I am actually ambivalent about the +level to everything concept, with the exception that I would much prefer untrained should not add level and be simply Stat + Other modifiers (e.g. armor check penalty) (and Perception be a skill again). What I dislike is the minimal numerical benefits that proficiency rank give; For most classes the difference between a “good” save and a “poor” save is a whopping… +1 (barring stat differences), and the fireball aimed at the party has its effectiveness determined not by choices and abilities of the individual, unique and lovingly crafted PCs it is targeting… but by their level, mostly.

I want characters to be able to push the numbers a bit further apart. It doesn’t need to be the gulf of PF1*, but I believe it a more satisfying if it wasn’t the point or two it currently is.

To this end, I would suggest:

  • Double (at least) the proficiency rank bonus from +1/+2/+3 to +2/+4/+6, to increase the impact these choices have on the game.
  • Make increased weapon and armor proficiencies at least partially available by general feat. Not everyone needs to be legendary with everything, but expert should be up for grabs at low levels, and mastery at high levels (though typically after certain classes grant it for free). A variant of this would be to include the old 2nd Edition AD&D concept of gaining “weapon proficiencies” you level, in addition to skill increases, allowing a character every few levels to pick a weapon group or armor category to increase their proficiency rank (with level caps, obviously) Possibly including schools of magic in that too.
  • Change Untrained to be “you never add your level”. No penalty, just no level bonus. It’s untrained, thus, you haven’t trained in it.
  • Scrap the attack bonus from potency runes and have them deal +1-5 damage per hit (and maybe some other stuff), leaving attack bonuses to weapon quality.
  • Remove the “ability score boosts grant 1 point if above X” and simply have it be +2 to a score per ability boost. Yes this makes bigger numbers, that is intentional.
  • Nerf skill boosting items to be +3 at best. Character > Gear, IMHO.
  • Grant proficiency boosts to magic earlier and more frequently for casters, and without costing a class feat (which weapon proficiencies don’t).

    Alternatively, if the base +level bonus was toned back to +1/2 level, and instead ability score bonuses and rank bonuses were allowed to increase further, you could probably wrangle a system generating similar numbers, but with greater real variability between characters. That said, this is more work. Dropping +level altogether would push the game much closer to the 5E paradigm, where groups of ‘lowbie’ monsters are usually more dangerous than a single powerful monster. You can do it, but it does change the entire feel of the game.

    *The Number Chasms of PF1: D&D has a weird system of increasing the differences between characters as you level. A wizard starts with 1 levels BAB at 1st level, but ends up 10 less by 20th. And so on. This inevitably meant that as characters reached the higher levels, the GM had the problem that a DC could be set that would be effortless for one character and virtually impossible for another, simply because their numbers had diverged to such an extent by that point. It was one of the things that made the game cumbersome at high levels (though not as much as full attacks).

    Narrowing that gap is important for high level play, but I’d argue there needs to be some gap, and it should be based on skill and ability – hence the suggestion to increase the numerical effect of proficiency rank as a starter, and reduce the effectiveness of magic items.

  • At least, that's my 2c :)


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    Raynulf wrote:


    The first is that justification is a slippery slope. I've been at the table as a player and GM with people who habitually see how far they can push things. The phrase "it's reasonable..." actually provokes an instant desire to kick someone these days. For example, if it is narratively justified that a 300 year old elf sage NPC has 12hp and a +20 in Arcana, then it is reasonable (or would be, according to some of the folks I have gamed with) that a 300 year old elf sage/1st level wizard PC have a +20 in Arcana too.

    See, this is just a problem with using level in these games. My response to that player would be "you should pick a backstory that actually jives with being a first level character." Which isn't hard-- say your elf has studied magic, but they have also studied lots of other things and can't always remember all of it. There's literally a couple elf feats based on this idea.

    I think this mentality is one of the biggest flaws in the character creation. Campaigns come with certain constraints, and characters should be built with those constraints in mind. That includes not causing alignment conflict, having a character that actually WANTS to adventure, and having a character who makes sense for their role in the game.

    Quote:
    The second is the perception of fairness. Many players will be content for the GM to simply allocate the skills and abilities they deem appropriate. Many others will feel cheated that their bonuses and abilities have to be worked for and earned, while the NPC can simply 'have' what they want. This is especially true of the bonus weapon damage dice - many players can quickly reverse engineer numbers, and will be decidedly displeased with the NPCs lack of a potency rune as treasure, while still gaining all the benefits.

    And this is also just an extension of that attitude. "Earning" numbers is a meaningless metric. PCs earn their numbers through XP, and 99% of NPCs aren't gaining XP on camera to level up. So NPCs never earn their stuff.

    And if a PC wants to earn numbers in those same way, you can start running "Fantasy Sims" and stop adventuring.

    Quote:

    I'd disagree with you on this. NPC classes served the purpose reasonably well. Indeed, a 1st level human commoner 1 village blacksmith could comfortably be at a +9 in Craft (Int 10, 1 rank, 3 class skill, 3 skill focus, 2 prodigy), if that is what he spent his feats on (or higher if given an elite stat array). A 1st level PC can get similar numbers, but are very unlikely to as they have other priorities. Similarly a 10th level commoner blacksmith can hit a +24 while still having the combat capabilities roughly on par with the average town guard.

    Don't get me wrong, I won't claim the NPC classes were without flaw, but the basic functionality of the system was sound, and I would advocate something like them being rolled out for Pathfinder 2. Inevitably, I find when people encounter a character with a particular ability, they are curious about where it comes from, at least in part as potential ideas for future characters. The system of feats, class levels and NPC class levels allows unique NPCs to be made from the same rulebook as the PCs.

    Building a PF2 PC by those standards, you won't have as a high a craft bonus at level 1, (1+Specialty Crafting= 3+INT) but interestingly enough the absolute gap between the specialist and an untrained PC isn't that far apart between editions. 6 for PF2, 9 for PF1, which isn't to bad considering the crit mechanics make those +1s matter more.

    And even with our somewhat disappointing skill feats, someone built like a human rogue can easily have 4 skill feats at level 1, which let them do stuff like autopass easy jobs a PC might fail, finish repair jobs in 1/10th the time, or never critically fail at Practicing a Trade.

    If we get more powerful skill feats and Assurance gets fixed, I think there is plenty of room to make a specialist using PC rules who feels pretty dang good even with bounded numbers. You can also remedy this by creating NPC classes which give out more skill related edges instead of increasing combat stats, but frankly at that point I question the need for such a thing to exist in the first place.


    I think Captain Morgan has the right of things here w.r.t. "verisimilitude issues". I do not think there is much to be gained for designing a system that models any possible NPC that you might need.

    Raynulf wrote:

    Disclaimer: While I am weighing in on the topic of Pathfinder 2 math and design philosophies, if nigh on two decades (oh god, already?) of professional engineering has taught me anything, it’s that there’s a big difference between “How I would do it” and whether or not something is “wrong”. Yes, there are some aspects of the playtest rules that I have strong concerns about, and do not believe the pros outweigh the cons, but I am not going to indulge in hyperbole. Instead, I will simply present how I would have preferred it.

    Ray’s Critical Hits
    Short Version: I would simply remove the +10/-10 rule from combat rolls altogether, and have crits on a nat-20 only (providing it would still hit). The concept sort-of-existed in Pathfinder 1 for skills, and it is still workable in that regard, but I sincerely do not believe that applying it to combat adds more than it detracts.

    ** spoiler omitted **...

    @Ray's critical hits: I think the game might be more interesting when a monster has a serious chance of hitting and critting characters, especially when it is going to be a fight of 4 PCs vs. a single monster.

    @Ray's weapon damage: I actually really like how weapon die still matters at higher levels. It keeps weapon balance from getting too uneven over the course of the game. I think the game is more interesting when it includes options to do more or less damage in exchange for different packages of abilities. I also do not care for how the proportion of damage that is variable becomes vanishingly small at higher levels.

    @Ray's # scaling: Not having level scaling to skills (untrained or otherwise) really throws a dent in the consistency of the ruleset as a whole which also limits the role that skills can have when interacting with the game's other systems.


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    If I giver the baker in the town infinite HP and nobody attacks him, does he actually have infinite HP?

    At some point both developers and players could truly, with all their heart, believe that the world could be reasoned and built from the class levels like building a castle from lego blocks. The "NPC Gallery" from the Game Mastery Guide, the 2010 book is to me kind of a ... bible of old faith. For example, let's take the humble "Beggar". One level commoner, one level rogue. I mean, when it comes to citizens in your world, this is one of the lowest positions you can be, and even then, the beggar is LEVEL 2 entity! Commoner levels in general are element of "non-importance" and one rogue level? Ah, the class "rogue" was after all meant to represent all kind of thuggish, criminal, backhanded level. In another way, his classes could read "non-important low life, lvl 2".

    You can see rogue class being treated as measurement of "rogueness" every where. Merchant Prince has rogue levels because being a shrewd merchant has to involve rogueness. Pirate Captain has rogueness. Criminals are plenty rogueness.

    Of course, this method of trying to build the world ran into many problems. First of all, there is not enough paper in the world to print enough NPCs for there to be one for every occasion. Second, NPC levels are also arbitrary. A generic King is a lvl 16 NPC. Alright, what does that actually mean? Why does it matter? So he can have +32 diplomacy modifier? If the king used his diplomacy on players, he could make it "illegal by the rules" to attack him. Ah, rules driven world! You can do anything you want, as long as it is written into the core rulebook!

    In a way, there is a lot of desire to expose the strings holding the puppet show together. Tabletop RPG challenges have always been completely arbitrary, PF2 is just lot more honest about it than DnD 3.0+ ever was.


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    Envall wrote:
    If I giver the baker in the town infinite HP and nobody attacks him, does he actually have infinite HP?

    If Dr. Oscilar has an undefined Will save and the player characters cast Zone of Truth around him, can he fail his Will save?

    That happened Tuesday in the playtest.

    Dr. Oscilar's known proficiencies:
    The advice is, "Now and then, the PCs might ask the professor or students for aid in a skill check, in which case you should decide how proficient the NPC is at the needed skill. The professor has a +17 bonus on skills with which he is highly familiar and a +13 bonus on skills he is less familiar with, while the three students have a +13 bonus on skills they are highly familiar with and a +9 bonus on less familiar skills." The PCs are 7th level, so +11 is a typical trained proficiency modifier based on their good abilities. My wife's bard's Performance modifier, with feats and items, is +15 and her Will save is +11.

    I am moderately annoyed at Paizo modules that assume that the party will approach the NPCs in only one way. I have seen several cases where the evil leader of an organization of evil henchmen has no Sense Motive skill. I presume his henchment are embezzling his funds terribly even before the PCs try bluffing him. The NPC Val Baine was supposed to be a sympathetic teenage girl who offers the adventurers room and board while they search for her lost father, but the party already had adolescents in it, so they recruited Val to accompany them. I created a boxer Dewey Baros to invite a party member to a friendly fistfight match at a lowlife party, and fortunately, I had created him myself as a full character, because later he was the only lowlife they trusted when they needed a hireling.

    The PF2 NPC creation system is going to encourage creating more one-dimensional characters that cannot hold their own in a two-dimensional story.

    Envall wrote:
    At some point both developers and players could truly, with all their heart, believe that the world could be reasoned and built from the class levels like building a castle from lego blocks. The "NPC Gallery" from the Game Mastery Guide, the 2010 book is to me kind of a ... bible of old faith. For example, let's take the humble "Beggar". One level commoner, one level rogue. I mean, when it comes to citizens in your world, this is one of the lowest positions you can be, and even then, the beggar is LEVEL 2 entity! Commoner levels in general are element of "non-importance" and one rogue level? Ah, the class "rogue" was after all meant to represent all kind of thuggish, criminal, backhanded level. In another way, his classes could read "non-important low life, lvl 2".

    That same NPC Gallery chapter with the 2nd-level CR 1 beggar also gives a 1st-level CR 1/3 foot soldier. The levels are all over the place; for example, the prisoner is 4th level and the minstrel is 6th level. That NPC gallery has a feature called NPC Boons that says, "NPC Boons presents an optional system for boons—minor in-game bonuses and benefits specific NPCs can grant to PCs who befriend them." All NPCs in the gallery are boosted in level until they have something to offer the party. Thus, a foot soldier can be 1st level because he might agree to accompany the PCs as a man-at-arms, but the beggar is 2nd level because he could spy for the party and needs more skills for that.

    Envall wrote:
    You can see rogue class being treated as measurement of "rogueness" every where. Merchant Prince has rogue levels because being a shrewd merchant has to involve rogueness. Pirate Captain has rogueness. Criminals are plenty rogueness.

    That sounds like lazy character creation that confuses class with personality. Likewise I remember the Scrapwall Fanatics from the Iron Gods adventure path: fighter 1/rogue 1. The writer probably wanted them to flip-flop between strong fighters and sneaky rogues as the plot demanded without considering how the NPCs acquired a mixture of classes.

    Envall wrote:

    Of course, this method of trying to build the world ran into many problems. First of all, there is not enough paper in the world to print enough NPCs for there to be one for every occasion. Second, NPC levels are also arbitrary. A generic King is a lvl 16 NPC. Alright, what does that actually mean? Why does it matter? So he can have +32 diplomacy modifier? If the king used his diplomacy on players, he could make it "illegal by the rules" to attack him. Ah, rules driven world! You can do anything you want, as long as it is written into the core rulebook!

    In a way, there is a lot of desire to expose the strings holding the puppet show together. Tabletop RPG challenges have always been completely arbitrary, PF2 is just lot more honest about it than DnD 3.0+ ever was.

    There is not enough paper in the world, but there is enough computing power on my laptop to generate an NPC that fits my needs whenever I need one. But I would prefer to hardcode some guiding principles into my scripts rather than going full arbitrary.

    Modules have limits on what they can include, but I appreciated Iron Gods telling me that some unimportant Technic League wizards were the Battle Mages from the Game Mastery Guide, so I could look it full details online. (My incognito PCs were sociable with those wizards to try to learn Technic League secrets.) The same works for Bestiary entries. The Battle Mages were slightly wrong for their role, since the Battle Mage used none of the special equipment available to the Technic League, but a slightly off full description was better than a one-line summary and it would have taken only 15 minutes to modify them.

    My most common method of creating an NPC is to find one in the Game Mastery Guide or d20pfsrd's list of NPCs or the Villain Codex that is close to what I want and modify it. The most common modification is adding a few levels. I fear that that will be difficult with the PF2 NPCs whose builds are not based on levels.

    Abritrary NPC builds would make my job as a GM more difficult. The NPCs are my puppets and I need the strings to manipulate them.


    Mathmuse wrote:
    The PF2 NPC creation system is going to encourage creating more one-dimensional characters that cannot hold their own in a two-dimensional story.

    Quite the opposite. An NPC creation system means it is easy to give Dr. Oscilar an appropriate Will save without laboriously building out a fully leveled PC.

    Instead of searching for a prebuilt option online and modifying it, you can quickly build the NPC and modify it.


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    GM OfAnything wrote:
    Mathmuse wrote:
    The PF2 NPC creation system is going to encourage creating more one-dimensional characters that cannot hold their own in a two-dimensional story.

    Quite the opposite. An NPC creation system means it is easy to give Dr. Oscilar an appropriate Will save without laboriously building out a fully leveled PC.

    Instead of searching for a prebuilt option online and modifying it, you can quickly build the NPC and modify it.

    I am sorry, but this does not make sense to me. Perhaps part of my problem is that Envall wrote some beautiful metaphors and I repeated them in a new context. I could fudge a Will save for Dr. Oscilar, as I did, but that is not giving him a Will save. He failed the save because that was more interesting for the plot, not because he was a character with a weak Will.

    I will try to explain my point of view in my usual over-analyzed storytelling.

    At this point in the playtest, the NPC creation system appears to based on the game role of the NPC. If we need uncivilized 0th-level goblins who can fight well enough to threaten a party of 1st-level characters, then we create a Goblin Warrior with Strength 10 who has a +6 to hit with a dogslicer. If we need a village blacksmith to outfit the party before the heroes defend his village from bandits, then we create a village blacksmith who has sufficient bonus to crafting to create the armor the party needs, but not enough hit points or weapon proficiency or good enough weapons and armor (never made a set for himself) to help defend the village beside the party members.

    Yet my players are storytellers. If I give them a plot hook of defending a village, the tale will grow into The Seven Samurai. Against those Goblin Warriors, the goblin paladin in the party was trying to save them from themselves--and succeeded, except for one dead goblin. I cannot build characters based on the needs of plot, because I cannot exactly predict the needs of plot. My players invent a full epic from the basic scenario in the module. It's their plot.

    My Iron Gods game went totally off the module's plot in the 6th module, The Divinity Drive. The party had found the 200 lost slaves--the number was about a dozen in the module as written but they learned the names of over a dozen--and I needed some slaves to serve as potential allies to the party. At the same time, I was theorycrafting with Isaac Zephyr in a thread Moving Forward. On March 2, 2018, four days before Paizo announced the playtest, he said that Pathfinder needed to move forward. For example, he had tried to create a Wildsoul Vigilante with the arachnid natural course, an archetype modeled after Marvel's Spider-Man, and found that Pathfinder 1st Edition's movement rules were not flexible enough to let his character fight in Spider-Man's highly mobile style. In my theorycrafting, I created my own Wildsoul Vigilante, Silkrose, saying, "I decided to see whether my system mastery was up to Isaac Zephyr's goals. Then my project shifted focus, because I realized that the character I was creating, Silkrose, could fill a plot-relevant NPC role in my next session of my Iron Gods campaign. Still, Spider-Man was the starting point."

    Silkrose would be one of the rescued slaves. She could do some exposition on the bad guys, help organize the evacuation of the other slaves, or fight alongside the PCs.

    The party went in a different direction and met her two or three game sessions later than I had planned. They no longer needed exposition and the stakes had grown much higher than rescuing slaves. Silkrose had about ten minutes of interaction with the party, a very intense ten minutes. They left her riding on the back of a friendly flying Annihilator Robot as they Dimension Doored over to fight the Overlord Robot before it destroyed the city of Starfall. That was not the role I had envisioned for her. Nevertheless, because she had been created as a full character, that was a role she could handle.

    Xanesha, Amaya of Westcrown, Omoyani, Shosaito Yugureda, Meida Renshii, Val Baine, Meyanda, Mad Paetyr, Mockery, Bastion--these were all NPCs in Paizo adventure paths who ended up with a significant role quite different from what the adventure path planned due to the choices of the players. That does not count the characters I created myself, such as Lost, Dewey Baros, or Silkrose, who also shifted into unexpected roles.


    One thing I think will be possible with the system design of PF2 is that it will be possible for a NPCs supplement to include blocks that give a range of bad to good for NPCs and then a chart that will let you plug in numbers for that NPC that will let you design BLack smiths from level 1 to 20 with relative ease. This will let modules and APs focus entirely on giving you narrative content about the NPC and one or two specific power the character has without having to take up so much text space listing every stat that isn't going to deviate from these basic numbers. Personally, I think that is an advantage over PF1 and I don't think it will result in one dimensional NPC unless the developers only ever make every NPC the exact same level as a the PCs.

    This system will make it far easier for PCs to estimate the power of NPCs if they can find out the exact level of them, so that is probably something that should not be too easy to determine with an untrained skill check, or else it will become the first thing that PCs do with everyone they meet.

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