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Thanks for putting the public playtest out there. It is really good to see what designers are thinking about, and having the oppourtunity for feedback. We all enjoyed it immensly despite some frustrations.
My current group regularily game and all have 30+ years of gaming experience. We played 1-2 sessions per week and we struggled to keep up with the playtest. We have just completed the 7th Doomsday Dawn module and will be returning to our regular Pathfinder 1 game next week.
We tried hard to play the rules as written and put as little interpretation on them as possible.
Doomsday Dawn Modules
We played all 7 adventures. We had no character deaths, and all of the blessings of Pharasma were still left unused at the end. This reflects our experience, and a bit of luck against the Demi Lich, and that we called time before the third wave of the Heroes on Undarin. Apart from that we completed everything successfully.
The party was Cleric (buffer), Wizard (evoker), Druid, Fighter(barbarian) and Rogue (archer)
We liked all of the modules apart from Red Flags. This was because stealth/diplomacy missions often give you good reason to split the party and we felt obliged to. The mechanic of the Goddess watching over was really hard to put parameters around and most of that party were casters and were therefore reluctant to cast till Necrion did. Hence frustrated and angry players. We finished it by using Ethereal Jaunt to check the final room and avoided the encounter with the Kracken. Which was probably good, when missing players, and not organised for combat.
The feel of the game
The action economy was really good and is quite promising. It was always crystal clear what we could and could not do. Definitely a major improvement over 1st edition.
Kudos to whoever designed the weapons. Armour, weapons and equipment were great. The balance between weapon and shield, or two handed, or reach, and range seemed great. Two weapon seemed a bit short but we never really tried that. The exotic weapons were interesting.
Backswing, Forceful, Sweep traits seemed too narrow to be worth thinking about
No one liked the Volley restriction or could see the sense.
How about a limitation for "can't be used while mounted", applying to at least longbows?
The difference in ranks of skills didn't seem significant. Only a little required a rank above Trained.
90% of skill feats were irrelevant, most because they were too narrow. Perhaps the few useful ones could be used to improve the importance of skill ranks.
The new critical successes and failures was fun.
Level dominates all other effects strongly. +2 levels is crushing because of the critical hit rules. +1 to hit (each level) represents about 10% increase in damage output and a 10% reduction in damage taken. We think you need to flatten it a bit.
It was very hard to defend non melee characters in this game. Very little in the way of attacks of oppourtunity. Combat in Doomsday Dawn tended to be very open and almost no fighting occured in corridoors.
Reducing the bonuses to conditional, circumstance and item was nice and simple. But there are far too many conditions like hampered and enfeebled and drained. A lot have numbers on them. It was very hard and time consuming to track this. Often monsters would end up with 3 or more conditions on them. Please limit what the non casters can dish out. The Rogue was Entangling and Enfeebling 1 every hit. Nice but keeping track of it was a pest. Can we have fewer but more effective conditions?
Buffing, utility and healing worked well. Direct damage spells were starting to get reasonable after v1.5 but I still think they could be increased further. Wall spells were too weak as they can all be easily destroyed with physical damage.
Generally save or suck spells were useless as
a) the saving throw DCs did not seem balanced.
b) many of the effects are just too weak to be worth while. For example spells like Fear and Entangle are only useful if the target critically fails their saving throw. Otherwise it was just not worth the casters actions, let alone spell slot.
The vast majority of the bloodline powers/domain powers/school powers/compositions are just too weak or too short in duration.
Magic has to be strong or it just destroys the whole feel of Fantasy RPGs. Especially at high level. Don't try to over balance things.
A few spells dominated: Sacred Ground, Heroism, Heal
Whole categories like Enlarge and the various Animal Forms spells are incredibly bad debuffs. Please throw them out and do them differently. Even 1.6 they are still no good at the minimum level that they can be cast at are still debuffs to AC. Too bad if its not your top level slot. I'd prefer something like add a small bonus to hit or a damage dice to the regular attack of the target. Maybe add a bonus to a skill. Plus movement and sense as they currently are. Allow some of them to be cast on willing targets.
Magic Fang doesn't have any effect on Animal Companions or polymorphed creatures - what is its purpose?
Glyph of Warding is abusable - Firey Body and 6 flasks trapped with a Glyph of a high level Fireball, or just Glyph of Heal incase any vampires open your empty flask.
Was not liked. Its pretty and all, but major rules were covered partially in multiple places with details buried here and there, the glossary contained really important rules like how to calculate your spell casting DC. It caused confusion and extended rule debates. It reminds me of Hackmaster 4th Edition (a parady game of excessive tables where character creation is buried in appendix I)
Asside from an alchemist and a monk we tried all the classes over the course of the playtest.
Alchemist - we tried hard to build one and gave up. Obviously a bit better now but we lacked the energy to try again. Most of the mutagens look terrible for the cost.
Bard - please give him a real reason to use a musical instrument. Facsinate is useless - it doesn't stop the fascinated target from moving toward you and attacking you. Please Fix. Please make his composition untyped so it can stack with everything.
Barbarian - a bit weaker than the fighter becasue no attack of oppourtunity early. Please make his rage damage untyped so it can stack with everything.
Cleric - your best caster because buffing works well
Druid - full elemental spell list is nice. Animal Companions are still not quite right.The item restrictions are too steep. STR based animal companions far very far behind in AC. Wild shape was improved by 1.6 but is still inferior. All the Animal Form spells are too weak even after v1.6. My level 17 Druid transformed into a heightened level 8 and v1.6 Dragon Form using wild shape while in Druids Vestments. It cost him his first round in combat. It lowered his AC as he can no longer use a Shield, it reduced his melee damage by an average of 5 (from his +4 Dogslicer with 2 damage runes), gave him a breath weapon thats only as good as his wand, and stopped him from casting spells. He gains size, senses and flight. All things he can get elsewhere with out the penalties. I did it just for fun.
The form spells are all very much worse that this as you can't even use Druids Vestments with them, and require you to give up points of AC and to hit.
Fighter - excellent, your best class, simple, some nice options, top attack and good defense.
Monk - needs an extra point of AC, no one would touch it with a ten foot pole. Don't pretend STR is a key ability, DEX all the way.
Paladin - Nice class, excellent defense. Retributive strike seemed to require reach to be of value. Could you please add a 5ft step to Retributive Strike to make it work with Sword and Board? I did a nice Paladin with a FlickMace. Never tried the later Paladins. Lay on hands is nesrly pointless after Channel Life is available.
Ranger - mixed up and doesn't know what its doing. No focus. Fighter is much better at combat, Clerics are better at Survival, Druids have a better Animal Companion. Tired it. Hated it.
Rogue - cool. Works. Even as an archer, which is clearly sub optimal, our rogue was churning out 100 points of damage in a round.
Sorceror - please don't make it a half pregnant spontaneous caster. Let every spell be freely heightened or get rid of the class.
Wizard - fix magic and he will be fine. Too easy for him to get into physical armour without penalty. That's just wrong.
Specific Bits and Pieces
Hero points - feels too much like other games. The GM allocated some but all the players refused to use them.
Snares seem like fun but do they really need to cost money and be destroyed when used? Can you simply make them require maintenance and disappear after a while. These shouldn't be another type of magical consumable like a potions or a scroll. This is something you make in the wild
Size isn't defined, please fix that.
Walls, Structure and Hardness. It quite easily to destroy even legendary stone walls by bashing it, even a level 9 Wall of Force is gettable by characters at that level. And I'm remembering that objects don't suffer criticals. Some things should be beyond the players normal means.
Comments on Encounters
We ran from the Lesser Fire Elemental. We tried twice but both times it critcalled and almost killed a character in one round, in the end we gave up on it and didn't need to go back.
The toughest encounter was the Sea Serpent. Our GM limited himself to one spine rake, but even so the level difference was far to great.
The other encounter of note was the Hall of Mirrors where we ended up facing off an evil version of the Rogue with just a Sorceror and a Wizard. Very tough.
Boss fights seemed too short. I think that some of the bosses could have done with 50% more hit points. None lasted long when they got surrounded my the PCs in melee.