Random Playtest Observations [Spoilers]


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback


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Some observations I've made during playtesting.

The playest scenarios have become more and more interesting as we play at higher levels, so its not all bad. Like always, however, its easier to point out the bad than the good.

Skills

The training modifier being less than the item modifier on skills is a bit silly. Not only is training less important than ability modifier, it is also less important that gear? This is bad.

Spells

Freedom of Movement is a very specific effect that avoids some very specific conditions - except it doesn't if the condition is magical. Is a creature's ability to grab magical? I'm thinking specifically of the Kraken in Red Flags. For such a specific counter, having it be conditional is lame.

Black Tentacles are so very easy to destroy these days. Necerion tried to use Black Tentacles to keep the PCs away from him. He only caught one of them, the rest could just saunter up to him as the area of the is not even difficult ground. The last one, a cleric using an unarmed attack (we did not use the Golarion gods, as this was set in Greyhawk), easily critted the tentacles and would have destroyed them even if the attack did not crit. In the moment we read it so that this ended the spell, this is not the reading I do now, but it does not matter - all the PCs were out of the area by then.

The Tounges spell used to be the best language tool in PF1, and it was a cleric spell. Its function is today subsumed under heightened Comprehend Languages, but this spell is not on the divine spell list. Not good.

A spellcaster has 3 spells per spell level. A typical party has 4-5 members. For spells like Water Walk, this means that a single caster cannot buff their entire party using spell slots of the right level. In the case of Water Walk, there is a heightened version that does this, but many spells don't give this option. Also, the spells that DO have such an option are not uniform - some target 5 creatures, some 10. Some spells that used to affect others - such as Dimension Door - no longer do. Our playstyle involves casters enabling the warriors through services like this, meaning that this becomes a nerf to warrior-types.

Terrain

The terrain descriptions are in 2 different books - the bestiary and the playtest rulebook. This is similar to the problem of having partially redundant rules in the Playing The Game and Gamemastering chapters of the rulebook. It makes things a LOT more difficult to find. For Mirrored moon, I could not find which terrain types constituted difficult terrain, so I had to fudge things.

Monsters

One awkward GM movement in In Pale Mountain's Shadow was B5. Approaching the Tomb. The gnolls there are described thus: "gnolls have become hungry and desperate. They viciously attack anyone who comes near, eager for food and supplies. Canny characters can convince the gnolls to let them by if they can prove the manticore is dead." The gnolls are vicious and attack immediately, yet there is a line about how they would act in a parley. What parley? The players might try to use Diplomacy: Request to start a parley, except that only works on friendly creatures. This is the worst case, but I feel Doomsday Dawn is full of situations like these, where one sentence of a monster description does not fit the next sentence.

I also sorely miss the "tactics" and "morale" sections that were standard in PF1, because it makes the monster idiosyncratic and not merely gamist play-pieces. I play all the monsters, but I don't want them all to feel like me. It would be nice to have some support for how to individualize them. I also want these things in the bestiary.

AoOs

AoOs are truly rare and also rather meek in the playtest. Except when a PC was a fighter, there have been almost no situations where they played a part. And PC fighters have mostly AoOed dumb animals that don't understand tactics. Many have missed because of the -2 penalty. In Red Flag, a 14th level adventure, no-one. PC or NPC, had AoOs. The rogue could simply walk around Necerion to outflank him.

Blind Fighting

One rules that we did like was the wording of the Rogue's Blind Fighting ability - except that it is ambiguous. Line numbers are mine.

Playtest Rulesbook p 122 wrote:


BLIND-FIGHT
FEAT 6 Prerequisites master in Perception

1 You are more aware of concealed and invisible enemies.
2 If you are adjacent to an unseen creature of your level or lower, you treat it as sensed.
3 When you are adjacent to a sensed creature, you treat it as concealed.
4 When adjacent to a concealed creature, you treat it as though it weren’t concealed.

Sentence 1 is fluff

Sentence 2 is a solid but conditional ability.
Sentence 3 and 4 is the meat of the feat. But are they subject to the level limitation from line 1? We ruled that they are not, which made the feat quite good, but it is unclear. This kind of writing, where it is hard to know if a rule element carries from one sentence to the next, is pretty common in the Playtest Rulebook, and needs to be made clear. The language is that of a computer program, with if statements, but it is unclear even for a professional computer programmer how to parse it unless you know the dialect of code in use. In this case, simply putting line 2 last would have sorted out the problem and made it human-readable.


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Starfox wrote:
Skills -- The training modifier being less than the item modifier on skills is a bit silly. Not only is training less important than ability modifier, it is also less important that gear? This is bad.

Agreed. We saw this clearly during exploration in the 4th adventure. The Cleric was a consistently better Ranger than the Ranger was. The ever-scaling DCs are making the abilities modifiers too important for too long. My preference would be for training to weigh heavier in the outcome than abilities as characters grow. Gating some skill features behind levels of mastery is useful, but the skill system's math isn't very compelling.


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Starfox wrote:
A spellcaster has 3 spells per spell level. A typical party has 4-5 members. For spells like Water Walk, this means that a single caster cannot buff their entire party using spell slots of the right level. In the case of Water Walk, there is a heightened version that does this, but many spells don't give this option. Also, the spells that DO have such an option are not uniform - some target 5 creatures, some 10. Some spells that used to affect others - such as Dimension Door - no longer do. Our playstyle involves casters enabling the warriors through services like this, meaning that this becomes a nerf to warrior-types.

Agreed, buff spells are some of the most dramatically nerfed. The combination of reduced number of targets and reduced number of spells (and need to heighten, which often acts as a further reduction of useful spells) combine to make a really nasty negative synergy. I'd also add the much reduced duration of spells to that. With so many spells reduced to just one minute, pre-buffing ahead of a fight is basically out as a tactic, they'll often all expire before you can even get started. And the other issues make it so they wouldn't be able to help the whole party anyway. The lack of bonus types also prevents stacking buffs, although this is a good thing to an extent, I think it might have gone too far. The alchemist gets the short end of the stick here, with alchemy being an item bonus and therefore competing with magic items.

I've really noticed this problem with flight and other mobility enhancers. Flying monsters are really difficult to deal with now, because all of those problems with buffing mentioned. But also, they're usually significantly faster than what the fly spell can provide and the three action system effectively multiplies movement speeds.


The blindflight thing is actually pretty straightforward, it, for lack of better phrasing, improves the level of "not seeing" by one (not seens to sensed -> Sensed to concealed -> concealed to not). I agree with everything else, and I do wish that spells and skills got the cleaning they need.


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nick1wasd wrote:
The blindflight thing is actually pretty straightforward, it, for lack of better phrasing, improves the level of "not seeing" by one (not seens to sensed -> Sensed to concealed -> concealed to not). I agree with everything else, and I do wish that spells and skills got the cleaning they need.

The confusion they are having on Blind-Fight isn't which effects it has, it's whether or not the "Your level or lower" requirement only applies to making Unseen creatures Sensed, or to all of the "not seeing" upgrades.


Starfox wrote:
A spellcaster has 3 spells per spell level. A typical party has 4-5 members. For spells like Water Walk, this means that a single caster cannot buff their entire party using spell slots of the right level. In the case of Water Walk, there is a heightened version that does this, but many spells don't give this option. Also, the spells that DO have such an option are not uniform - some target 5 creatures, some 10. Some spells that used to affect others - such as Dimension Door - no longer do. Our playstyle involves casters enabling the warriors through services like this, meaning that this becomes a nerf to warrior-types.

This is an important observation. How many spells of one level should a spellcaster cast in a day? The answer is at least enough to affect the entire party with a one-person spell that might be necessary for the adventure, such as Endure Elements (spell level 2, Targets one willing creature, Duration 1 day). We could handwave and claim that a 5-member party might have enough spellcasters to duplicate spells, but in a 4-member party, one spellcaster should be able to cast the spell without resorting to a higher-level spell slot. The caster will sacrifice an entirel level of spell slots in order to enable the party, let's not add a sense of futility to the sacrifice by forcing the caster to underuse a slot.

The simplest solution would be that at 4th level the spellcaster gains a 4th 1st-level spell slot, at 6th level the spellcaster gains a 4th 2nd-level spell slot, at 8th level the spellcaster gains a 4th 3rd-level spell slot, and so on so that at (2n)th level the spellcaster gains a 4th (n-1)th-level spell slot. Thus, an 6th-level spellcaster could cast Endure Elements on the entire 4-person party.


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nick1wasd wrote:
blindflight... for lack of better phrasing, improves the level of "not seeing" by one

So clearly, usability would be improved by creating an overt terminology for this 'meta-structure' which can be directly referenced ala "increases perception tier by 1". That really only takes 1 sentence in perception section, and vastly reduces word-count and improves readability every time cross-tier interactions are referenced in cases like this. Understanding that perception states are in linear/hierarchical relationship is already basic implicit concept in game, adding a name for that really is just dotting the "i".


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Doktor Weasel wrote:
With so many spells reduced to just one minute.

There's been talk of making the standard spell duration 10 minutes rather than 1 minute. That would be a major improvement. With all the essential tasks that take 10 minutes, this would create a viable choice; either proceed to use the buffs while we have them, or take a 10 minute rest to recover hits/dents/whatever. Mostly, I think this is a great idea.

A problem with this approach might be that once the 10 minutes are up, the group retreats for the day to have another 10 minutes of glory the next day. A literal 10 minute adventuring day. I use this tactic in the Kingmaker computer game.

The opposite problem exists as well. When Hp are effectively unlimited because of Medicine, while spells are strictly limited, martials may want to press on long after casters are out of spells. Having 10 minute buff durations would help a lot here.


Starfox wrote:

BLIND-FIGHT

FEAT 6 Prerequisites master in Perception

1 You are more aware of concealed and invisible enemies.
2 If you are adjacent to an unseen creature of your level or lower, you treat it as sensed.
3 When you are adjacent to a sensed creature, you treat it as concealed.
4 When adjacent to a concealed creature, you treat it as though it weren’t concealed.

Coming back to this as i re-read it, I thought about how a computer would execute this code. The effect would be to negate any kind of visibility problem, except that unseen has a level condition.

In line 2, unseen is made sensed when the if statement is true. Otherwise it does nothing.

In line 3, sensed is made concealed. This applies to creatures made sensed in line 2.

In line 4, concealed creatures are treated as having no concealment. This applies to creatures made concealed in line 3.

Making a text both human-readable and computer-executable is hard. :D


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Quandary wrote:
So clearly, usability would be improved by creating an overt terminology for this 'meta-structure' which can be directly referenced ala "increases perception tier by 1". That really only takes 1 sentence in perception section, and vastly reduces word-count and improves readability every time cross-tier interactions are referenced in cases like this. Understanding that perception states are in linear/hierarchical relationship is already basic implicit concept in game, adding a name for that really is just dotting the "i".

This would be similar to how fear works in PF1, a way they chose to not use in PF2. If they apply the typical PF2 methodology to this, it would look something like this:

Concealed
You are hard to see. Your concealed condition always includes a value. The maximum concealment value is 2. If you would increase your concealed value to 3 or higher, your concealment value remains 2 but you gain the unseen condition.

Creatures making an attack roll against you must make a flat check with a DC of 5 times your concealed value or the attack misses.

Unseen
Creatures cannot pinpoint your location. You cannot be targeted visually. Creatures can attempt to attack you by attacking a square they think you might be in. If they guess correctly, concealment miss chance still applies.


Starfox wrote:
Starfox wrote:

BLIND-FIGHT

FEAT 6 Prerequisites master in Perception

1 You are more aware of concealed and invisible enemies.
2 If you are adjacent to an unseen creature of your level or lower, you treat it as sensed.
3 When you are adjacent to a sensed creature, you treat it as concealed.
4 When adjacent to a concealed creature, you treat it as though it weren’t concealed.

Coming back to this as i re-read it, I thought about how a computer would execute this code. The effect would be to negate any kind of visibility problem, except that unseen has a level condition.

In line 2, unseen is made sensed when the if statement is true. Otherwise it does nothing.

In line 3, sensed is made concealed. This applies to creatures made sensed in line 2.

In line 4, concealed creatures are treated as having no concealment. This applies to creatures made concealed in line 3.

Making a text both human-readable and computer-executable is hard. :D

I think the level gate applies to all the effects, and that it would read as a "case"/"switch" based on starting condition (my software engineering skills are a bit rusty)

  • if (PCLevel >= NPCLevel)
  • case (enemy.condition.current)
  • { ("unseen" set condition="sensed")
  • ("sensed" set condition="concealed)
  • ("concealed" set condition=false)}
Or something like this (Again, been a few years since I did anything code related). But yeah, if Paizo could clean up the phrasing, that would be IMMENSELY helpful


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By my reading, the feat has some relevance in play. Which is part of the reason we chose to read it like this. :D

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