Does the game 'expect' an 18 in primary ability score?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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pauljathome wrote:
Bardic Dave wrote:


I’d say rolling 6 attack rolls for every 1 saving throw is a reasonable assumption, depending on character class. Is failing a save 6 times worse than missing an attack roll? In many cases it’s vastly worse than that, in others it’s not that bad.

And in quite a few cases missing that attack roll is far worse than missing the save.

We've all been in the situation where we HAVE to get the bad guy down before his next turn. Perhaps he is going to run away, or he is going to suicide with a maximized fireball, or he is going to kill the hostage, or he is just going to kill one or 2 PCs.

I have no clue whether a +1 to hit is worth a -1 to saves in the long run. I'm pretty sure none of you do either. You'd have to gather a LOT of data across a LOT of situations.

Yes, which was sort of my point, although you've articulated it a lot better than I did, so thank you for that. I wasn't trying to say maxing saves is more important than maxing attack rolls; I was arguing that making categorical claims about the relative importance of these two statistics is problematic and that any serious investigation of the question would involve considering more than just a single variable.


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pauljathome wrote:
Bardic Dave wrote:


I’d say rolling 6 attack rolls for every 1 saving throw is a reasonable assumption, depending on character class. Is failing a save 6 times worse than missing an attack roll? In many cases it’s vastly worse than that, in others it’s not that bad.

And in quite a few cases missing that attack roll is far worse than missing the save.

We've all been in the situation where we HAVE to get the bad guy down before his next turn. Perhaps he is going to run away, or he is going to suicide with a maximized fireball, or he is going to kill the hostage, or he is just going to kill one or 2 PCs.

I have no clue whether a +1 to hit is worth a -1 to saves in the long run. I'm pretty sure none of you do either. You'd have to gather a LOT of data across a LOT of situations.

No one except Voss is saying they know which is definitively more valuable.

It is clear that during the levels where a starting 16 is the same as a starting 18 a +1 to a save is more valuable. During the other times it will definitely contribute to offsetting the loss of +1 to your main thing.

From this we can say that yes an 18 is better for your main thing, but a 16 doesn't fall far enough behind to even come close to being dubbed non-viable. Extra options actually have the potential of making the overall character better, though that is not something that can be quantified easily.

A 14, however, is going to be conspicuous and somewhat painful, though not inherently unusable as an attack stat, especially if you attack infrequently or have other combat options at your disposal.


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WatersLethe wrote:
Lanathar wrote:
Voss wrote:
Given that most buffs have been obliterated from the game, I don't think that's even a role anymore.

Is this actually true?

Or is this referring to how there are fewer bonus types so it is not as easy to stack lots of different types

“Most buffs have been obliterated from the game” seems like hyperbole on the face of it. But I don’t have the book to check. I preordered through amazon so must accept an actual date release in exchange for no shipping costs from the US

I just assumed it was hyperbole and moved on. I'll be able to see the final list of spells soon, at which point I can go "Yep, I can still make caster focused on buffs."

Yeah, despite what Voss says this is very much hyperbole, even in the Playtest. There was plenty of good stuff to be done in the buffing department, particularly for Occult or Divine casters. Good stuff for Arcane too but more situational and/or self-defensive. Not so sure about Primal, but they had at least a few useful things.

The buff game doesn't absolutely shatter the math anymore, but buffing is VERY useful, especially against foes above your level. Buffs are useful in this edition to the point where I've seen them thrown out in battle quite often, where in PF1 I rarely did. Either you buffed beforehand or didn't bother with any buff you couldn't pull off as a Swift Action. At least among my groups.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Each time you roll to hit, you're looking for a given number or higher, right? It doesn't matter what the number is. Could be a 2. Could be a 10. You've got to hit that number or higher.

If you went with a 16 instead of an 18, there is only ONE number you can roll on that d20 that will screw you because you chose a 16 over an 18. only 5% of the time you'll roll that number. That's not so big of a chance.

So it becomes a decision: Do I want to up that number as much as I can? Or are there other interesting things I could be doing by having that stat increase somewhere else? Are those interesting things worth that 5% chance of "oh well, would have been a hit if I started with an 18 in my primary stat."?

I don't think anybody else can really tell you that...


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I think the game expects a 16. Whether or not a player expects an 18 from the perspective of "I need to do everything I can in order to be good at my schtick" is a different matter.


Captain Morgan wrote:


Wait, you're assuming Voss has the actual final book? I wouldn't.

They said they weren't being hyperbolic, having access to the final rules is the only way for them not to be being hyperbolic in such claims.

So I asked because that is where the burden of evidence lies to progress the discussion, otherwise it is near baseless conjecture.

Silver Crusade

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jdripley wrote:

Each time you roll to hit, you're looking for a given number or higher, right? It doesn't matter what the number is. Could be a 2. Could be a 10. You've got to hit that number or higher.

If you went with a 16 instead of an 18, there is only ONE number you can roll on that d20 that will screw you because you chose a 16 over an 18. only 5% of the time you'll roll that number. That's not so big of a chance.

Given criticals and fumbles there are often 3 numbers that you can roll where the +1 matters. And, of course, you get several rolls a round as well. That is precisely why a +1 is much more important in PF2 than it was in PF1.

I'm NOT saying that a +1 is therefore crucial, but it does all add up.

There is, of course, also the psychological side to it as well as the mathematical side. We all remember those times we missed by 1 (or just made it) far more than those times we missed by 5.

Shadow Lodge

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The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:


Wait, you're assuming Voss has the actual final book? I wouldn't.

They said they weren't being hyperbolic, having access to the final rules is the only way for them not to be being hyperbolic in such claims.

So I asked because that is where the burden of evidence lies to progress the discussion, otherwise it is near baseless conjecture.

Given it's a new system and due to the sheer mass of the rules to learn, it's going to take some actual play to know for sure. There's really only so much that analyzing the rules will tell you before you have to factor in the randomness of playing with them while being thrown into actual encounters where all of those rules mush together like a landslide of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Having spent a few hours looking at them now, I will say this much: the game is far, far more about getting conditions applied than it is about hit rolls (heck, that's pretty much all Rogues do in combat now), and from all indications the amount of mods from them seem to outweigh the benefits that general buffing will apply. Given the generally lower target numbers in the game, it feels to me like every save, attack roll, and check is going to be affected by a bonus as small as +1/-1 far more often than it did in PF1e. You are going to be making more attacks, more saves, and more checks than before, and since that 5% difference comes into play more often, it matters more.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
pauljathome wrote:
jdripley wrote:

Each time you roll to hit, you're looking for a given number or higher, right? It doesn't matter what the number is. Could be a 2. Could be a 10. You've got to hit that number or higher.

If you went with a 16 instead of an 18, there is only ONE number you can roll on that d20 that will screw you because you chose a 16 over an 18. only 5% of the time you'll roll that number. That's not so big of a chance.

Given criticals and fumbles there are often 3 numbers that you can roll where the +1 matters.

Well not quite. Due to the d20 only giving 20 results, and being able to achieve greater than or less than any given number by ten requires a span of 21 results you are only ever concerning yourself with 2 of those outcomes (the other being relegated to a nat 1 or nat 20 which occur regardless of your modifier.) In fact for checks you need a 10 on a dice to beat, having one less (needing an 11) doesn't change you chance of crit fail/succeed at all.


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Mechalibur wrote:
I'm not sure I understand this argument. Yeah, there were more stat buffs in PF1, but you'd still always be behind someone who started with a hugher stat and got the same buffs (because why wouldn't they?) with no way to catch up.

Generally the idea is that the more different ways there are to gain a certain type of bonus, the less individually important each instance of those bonuses is. If there are a hundred ways to get +X to hit, then it's less important to worry about a specific option like maximizing your main stat, while in a game where there are only a couple ways to improve your to-hit it's much harder to 'make up for' a lower mainstat after the fact.

Obviously for some people this will be a good thing, because tighter system math keeps the game from going out of control and it makes stat choices more meaningful, while other people might see it as a hit to build diversity and create a more min-maxy mentality.

Either way I think it's something to keep in mind when designing a tightly regulated system like PF2.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I think the game expects a 16. Whether or not a player expects an 18 from the perspective of "I need to do everything I can in order to be good at my schtick" is a different matter.

Plus you have to consider what you're doing with those extra attribute points; a character that chose to keep strength at 16 to make their charisma score competitive may be applying fear effects, which will often be better than a simple +1 to your own attack rolls.


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MongrelHorde wrote:
Voss wrote:
Save or die is gone. Save or suck is now mostly save or minor penalties for very short durations.

Is this 100%? I don't have my books yet, and I wasn't too heavily into the Playtest, But weren't people saying spells like Sleep, grease, etc. . .were good now because they scaled to level 20?

We also for sure don't have a strong grasp on what Monsters can do and how saves tie into those. Maybe players don't have save or suck spells, but Monsters might.

Save-or-suck spells have been changed from success (caster feels they wasted their turn) and failure (caster takes enemy out of the fight) to the 4 degrees of success.

Here's an example from the playtest, and keep in mind that spells have generally been buffed for the final release:

Blindness - Spell 3

Success The target is blinded until its next turn begins.
Critical Success The target is unaffected.
Failure The target is blinded for 1 minute.
Critical Failure The target is blinded permanently.

So, even if the creature makes it's save, the caster doesn't totally waste the spell, and if it fails, it's blinded for the fight. Blind is nasty but not totally incapacitating.

Paralyze - Spell 3

Success The target is slowed 1 for 1 round.
Critical Success The target is unaffected.
Failure The target is paralyzed for 1 round.
Critical Failure The target is paralyzed for 4 rounds. At the
start of each of its turns, it can attempt a new Will save to
reduce the remaining duration by 1 round or end it entirely
on a critical success

Similarly, there are options other than "paralyzed" and "not".


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Everything I've seen aligns with the idea that the game expects characters to have at least a 16 in their primary stat, with 18 being optimal but also optional.


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jdripley wrote:
If you went with a 16 instead of an 18, there is only ONE number you can roll on that d20 that will screw you because you chose a 16 over an 18. only 5% of the time you'll roll that number. That's not so big of a chance.

Increasing your prime stat modifier by +1 does more then just increase your succes chance by 5%

It also modifies the chance for a critical succes effect by 5% and modifies the chance for a critical failure by 5%.
So 3 effects are modified.

Liberty's Edge

Dystichon wrote:
jdripley wrote:
If you went with a 16 instead of an 18, there is only ONE number you can roll on that d20 that will screw you because you chose a 16 over an 18. only 5% of the time you'll roll that number. That's not so big of a chance.

Increasing your prime stat modifier by +1 does more then just increase your succes chance by 5%

It also modifies the chance for a critical succes effect by 5% and modifies the chance for a critical failure by 5%.
So 3 effects are modified.

On attacks, critical failures almost never matter, so in practice it's only two, but this is true of spells.

So it's a 10% difference half the time for martials, and a 15% difference half the time for spellcasters.


An alternate way of asking this question : if a GM in a home game set a max starting stat of 16 would that cause the party to really struggle against challenges

All signs point to “no” based on the couple of examples points

Meaning the answer to the title question also seems to be “no”. But it is not the element of the question that not many people are really engaging with (or at least I don’t think so)

If you are arms racing against fellow PC builds then an 18 is expected. Which is odd because thinking about it my rephrase is surely what is being asked

(If i am overtired and misreading or misremembering the responses then I apologise. But most seems to be just trying to point out why 18 is better than 16. Which goes without saying )

Paizo Employee Designer

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WatersLethe wrote:

In short, it can be easily argued that 16 and 18 are both highly viable starting values.

A 14 is getting to the point where your reduced effectiveness in your main thing will start being noticeable, and hard to offset psychologically, even if your other bonuses are technically making up the difference.

It's also not super easy to wind up with a 14 as your highest stat in the first place. There's only two possible arrays: 14 14 14 14 12 10 or 14 14 14 14 14 8. If you aren't playing one of those two arrays, you will have a 16 in your highest stat.


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Bardic Dave wrote:
I’d say rolling 6 attack rolls for every 1 saving throw is a reasonable assumption, depending on character class. Is failing a save 6 times worse than missing an attack roll? In many cases it’s vastly worse than that, in others it’s not that bad.

Worth pointing out that increasing your primary stat raises your chance to hit & crit on all attacks while +1 to boost a save will only increase in one of three saves. So aren’t you really comparing 1 vs 18?

Then you have the lucky classes who’s primary stat is also a save like a Thief Rogue or Cleric.

Not saying that 16 isn’t viable, it certainly is but I think 18 will be optimal.


Rek Rollington wrote:


Worth pointing out that increasing your primary stat raises your chance to hit & crit on all attacks while +1 to boost a save will only increase in one of three saves. So aren’t you really comparing 1 vs 18?

Yeah, I thought about correcting myself on that, but then I realized the whole thing was kind of a silly exercise anyway. In reality, the math can't be reduced to simple ratios like that; it's all super context dependent. I was mostly just trying to get Voss to take off their blinders and see that there can be some upside to making a character who doesn't start with an 18 in their primary stat.


The Gleeful Grognard wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:


Wait, you're assuming Voss has the actual final book? I wouldn't.

They said they weren't being hyperbolic, having access to the final rules is the only way for them not to be being hyperbolic in such claims.

So I asked because that is where the burden of evidence lies to progress the discussion, otherwise it is near baseless conjecture.

Sorry, that wasn't meant to be an attack. I just thought you might have been giving Voss a little more credit than he needs to say the sky is falling.


Mark Seifter wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:

In short, it can be easily argued that 16 and 18 are both highly viable starting values.

A 14 is getting to the point where your reduced effectiveness in your main thing will start being noticeable, and hard to offset psychologically, even if your other bonuses are technically making up the difference.

It's also not super easy to wind up with a 14 as your highest stat in the first place. There's only two possible arrays: 14 14 14 14 12 10 or 14 14 14 14 14 8. If you aren't playing one of those two arrays, you will have a 16 in your highest stat.

Consider the array 16 14 14 14 10 10.

This character's primary function keys to that 16.

My question is, those three 14's, can they viably serve as three secondary functions? Or will the game render that math obsolete?

My gut tells me that yes, having a primary at 16, and a few secondaries at 14, is a fine way to play a character who is "well-rounded" and can have fun succeeding at their primary and secondary functions with reasonable frequency.

Paizo Employee Designer

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rainzax wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:

In short, it can be easily argued that 16 and 18 are both highly viable starting values.

A 14 is getting to the point where your reduced effectiveness in your main thing will start being noticeable, and hard to offset psychologically, even if your other bonuses are technically making up the difference.

It's also not super easy to wind up with a 14 as your highest stat in the first place. There's only two possible arrays: 14 14 14 14 12 10 or 14 14 14 14 14 8. If you aren't playing one of those two arrays, you will have a 16 in your highest stat.

Consider the array 16 14 14 14 10 10.

This character's primary function keys to that 16.

My question is, those three 14's, can they viably serve as three secondary functions? Or will the game render that math obsolete?

My gut tells me that yes, having a primary at 16, and a few secondaries at 14, is a fine way to play a character who is "well-rounded" and can have fun succeeding at their primary and secondary functions with reasonable frequency.

That should work just fine. You'll be looking pretty with 4 stats at 18 or above at level 10-14, for instance. It's pretty much the only way to end up with 4 stats at +5 or better at level 20 other than those 14-heavy ones I mentioned. And if your game isn't likely to hit 20, you can instead branch out and end with 22, 18, 18, 18, 16, 10 or 22, 18, 18, 18, 14, 12.


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The 3 14's array is likely appropriate for an archer or some other character that's keyed off of dex but still needs strength for damage. I think most of my characters are going to be:

16 / 16 / 14 / 12 / 10 / 10

Having a 16 in a physical stat and a 16 in a mental stat should make you quite competitive in two very different areas; this array could be a muscle monk who is still quite charming and clever, or a sneaky rogue who's read up on the enemies she's scouting and can report back their weaknesses.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Arachnofiend wrote:

The 3 14's array is likely appropriate for an archer or some other character that's keyed off of dex but still needs strength for damage. I think most of my characters are going to be:

16 / 16 / 14 / 12 / 10 / 10

Having a 16 in a physical stat and a 16 in a mental stat should make you quite competitive in two very different areas; this array could be a muscle monk who is still quite charming and clever, or a sneaky rogue who's read up on the enemies she's scouting and can report back their weaknesses.

Yeah, I don't foresee myself going for 18s very often. Maybe a feeble wizard build...


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Arachnofiend wrote:
The 3 14's array is likely appropriate for an archer or some other character that's keyed off of dex but still needs strength for damage.

You can boost Str and Dex pretty high together but it is at a cost of mental stats.

A human archer might go:

16 Str / 18 Dex / 12 Con / 10 Int / 12 Wis / 10 Cha

A goblin archer can go:

16 Str / 18 Dex / 12 Con / 10 Int / 10 Wis / 12 Cha

Either could tank two mental stats and boost con up to 14.

Might be a bit of a boring build to give up all those mental stats just to boost Str for damage on a composite bow. But the 18 Dex still seems totally worth it for the hit and crit chance.

My first character is going to be a thief rogue 18 Dex & 16 Int. High chance to hit with sneak attack and also lots & lots of skills available. I’ll pick up either alchemist or wizard dedications to make use of that Int too.


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Rek Rollington wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
The 3 14's array is likely appropriate for an archer or some other character that's keyed off of dex but still needs strength for damage.

You can boost Str and Dex pretty high together but it is at a cost of mental stats.

A human archer might go:

16 Str / 18 Dex / 12 Con / 10 Int / 12 Wis / 10 Cha

A goblin archer can go:

16 Str / 18 Dex / 12 Con / 10 Int / 10 Wis / 12 Cha

Either could tank two mental stats and boost con up to 14.

Might be a bit of a boring build to give up all those mental stats just to boost Str for damage on a composite bow. But the 18 Dex still seems totally worth it for the hit and crit chance.

My first character is going to be a thief rogue 18 Dex & 16 Int. High chance to hit with sneak attack and also lots & lots of skills available. I’ll pick up either alchemist or wizard dedications to make use of that Int too.

Consider the human at level 5:

18 str / 19 dex / 14 con / 10 int / 14 wis / 10 cha

vs a different character starting with a 16 in dex and, lets call it a 14 in wis for the will save, perception and initiative.

18 str / 18 dex / 14 con / 10 int / 16 wis / 10 cha

Then at level 10:

18 start:
19 str / 20 dex / 16 con / 10 int / 16 wis / 10 cha

16 start:
19 str / 19 dex / 16 con / 10 int / 18 wis / 10 cha

Then at 15:

18 start:
20 str / 21 dex / 18 con / 10 int / 18 wis / 10 cha

16 start, at this level, we can go int instead of wis, diminishing returns have kicked in:
20 str / 20 dex / 18 con / 12 int / 18 wis / 10 cha

The thing you notice about these characters, is that they have nearly identical stat arrays.

One is slightly better at archery for a few levels. The other is slightly better at will saves, and maybe picks up a skill.

Honestly? They're the same character, whether they started with an 18 or a 16.

TL;DR - No, you don't need to start with an 18. Starting with an 18 isn't a bad choice either, it's just another choice.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:

In short, it can be easily argued that 16 and 18 are both highly viable starting values.

A 14 is getting to the point where your reduced effectiveness in your main thing will start being noticeable, and hard to offset psychologically, even if your other bonuses are technically making up the difference.

It's also not super easy to wind up with a 14 as your highest stat in the first place. There's only two possible arrays: 14 14 14 14 12 10 or 14 14 14 14 14 8. If you aren't playing one of those two arrays, you will have a 16 in your highest stat.

Also 14 14 14 12 12 12 for the ultimate well rounded character.

Fighter adds +2 Str

Background adds +2 Str and Cha

Human adds +2 Dex and Con

4 free bonuses to Dex, Con, Int, and Wis.

Unless I've mistaken something.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Vali Nepjarson wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
WatersLethe wrote:

In short, it can be easily argued that 16 and 18 are both highly viable starting values.

A 14 is getting to the point where your reduced effectiveness in your main thing will start being noticeable, and hard to offset psychologically, even if your other bonuses are technically making up the difference.

It's also not super easy to wind up with a 14 as your highest stat in the first place. There's only two possible arrays: 14 14 14 14 12 10 or 14 14 14 14 14 8. If you aren't playing one of those two arrays, you will have a 16 in your highest stat.

Also 14 14 14 12 12 12 for the ultimate well rounded character.

Fighter adds +2 Str

Background adds +2 Str and Cha

Human adds +2 Dex and Con

4 free bonuses to Dex, Con, Int, and Wis.

Unless I've mistaken something.

Nope, completely correct, I missed that iteration. So there are three possibilities available.


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I just have to stop by and say again that I absolutely love how hard it is to make a non-viable character in this game. It makes trying out all of the various options so much more attractive.

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