Combat texture in PF2: Reactions and Attack of Opportunity


Rules Discussion


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Background:

This past Friday my gaming group (all of us 20+ vets of RPGs mostly D&D 3rd and 4th, PF1) got together to make characters for PF2.

None of us had played the playtest or really paid it much attention, but we ended up picking it up at Gencon and have been rabidly consuming it over the past two weeks.

Due to time, I ended up picking up the Plaguestone adventure to ease the first "demo" run of the game.

We had a great time, we loved the action economy and the character creation was robust and a lot of fun. Skills are integrated well and we love the holistic proficiency mechanic.

After the game in our post-first session discussion came up. Our party consisted of a Fighter, Cleric (warpriest), Monk, and Sorcerer, so the only character with an Attack of Opportunity reaction was the Fighter (and I believe no other class can start with such a reaction).

The first several fights all featured creatures that didn't have the Attack of Opportunity reaction as well.

Due to the lack of attack of opportunity, PF2 combats felt like they lacked texture. By texture I mean a certain amount of "stickiness" that characters possess, especially when you 'base' up an opponent by getting them into melee. In prior versions of the game everyone had the opportunity to at least take a free swing at you if you chose to leave combat with them; PF2 has no such mechanic (unless you are a fighter).

As a result, when the monk or the warpriest got in the face of creatures to "protect" the sorcerer (or other vulnerable NPCs); the enemy was able to simply move past them with no consequence. Additionally, the character were able to move around any kind of "frontline" of the enemies and simply engage whatever foes they so desired.

It felt considerably less tactical than I expected due to this effect. Movement and who you engage didn't seem particularly important since you could just stride to whoever you actually wanted to engage and do so with impunity.

A quick look through the bestiary seems to indicate that the majority of creatures do not have AOO and as a result its very easy to "ignore" most creatures on the battlefield; casters or ranged attackers (for example) can simply use their abilities despite being in melee with impunity the great majority of the time.

We've only played the one session; so I'm interested in what veterans of the system who have played considerably more PF2 think of the above scenerio and whether or not the game gains tactical texture in other ways or if it's intended to be a bit more of a chaotic free-for-all?


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The tactics come from the fact you dont have an automatic disinsentive to move. You actually have to take steps to keep yourself safe or an enemy pinned.

If you are faster than an enemy you should quickly realize that moving away for 1 action costs the enemy 2 of theirs. Even if you are slower having a superior athletics means you could jump or climb to places the enemy might struggle to move to. At later levels things like wall spells.

If you want to keep someone in place grappling or tripping are a good idea, but also things like difficult terrain are of more importance in a more highly mobile game. Chole points are more important now.

Combat is way more tactical now the best choice isn't "engage and then attack as much as possible"


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Yeah, as someone who's played PF1 for years I've found battlefields feeling FAR more dynamic and tactical than ever. Even when I tried to make interesting terrain in PF1 it felt like things always defaulted to get in melee and full attack or stay at range and full attack if Archer. In PF1 you never did things that provoked AoOs because everyone has AoOs and everyone knows what provokes them. So in practice loads of options were just walked off into the basically-never-use pile.

But now most creatures don't punish those tactics so you feel free to move about as it's tactical, draw and drink potions in melee, run back before casting or even cast in melee, etc. There's loads of variability I never saw in PF1.

And for those who actually do have AoO? Well, they actually get to USE it. Since most creatures don't have AoO, you usually are willing to take the risk to use abilities and tactics that provoke, at least until you know your foe has AoO. So it actually gets to be pulled out as a surprise move fairly often, and when it is in the open it causes you to hold a bit more sway over the battlefield than others.


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To use the texture and stickiness analogy, everyone had that stickiness so battle almost always resulted in the frontlines getting flung together and sticking to each other for the whole fight, making very static battles. Having most units able to slip around makes for much more dynamic combat and makes non-5-ft-step movement actually part of combat past round 1.


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Those are all excellent points and I certainly concede that fights did tend to get "bogged" down in 3.x/PF (although I believe that was mostly because of full-attack vs single attack).

While dynamic movement and zipping around is great; it is a bit disheartening to be a melee-centric character and feel very incapable of "protecting" or even giving a disincentive to your opponent once you've engaged them however (unless you are the fighter of course).

In our example games, it was bit sad to see the warcleric engage two orcs and then have those orcs simply walk around said dwarf and continue on their way to pummel the sorcerer.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
AsmodeusDM wrote:

Those are all excellent points and I certainly concede that fights did tend to get "bogged" down in 3.x/PF (although I believe that was mostly because of full-attack vs single attack).

While dynamic movement and zipping around is great; it is a bit disheartening to be a melee-centric character and feel very incapable of "protecting" or even giving a disincentive to your opponent once you've engaged them however (unless you are the fighter of course).

In our example games, it was bit sad to see the warcleric engage two orcs and then have those orcs simply walk around said dwarf and continue on their way to pummel the sorcerer.

It's not just fighters though. Monks can take Stand Still, Champion's have their various reactions, Barbarians can just follow the opponent or take Attack of Op. Rangers can Attack of Op their target.

All characters can also trip/grapple etc, rogues can debilitate targets. PC's need to actively implement tactics instead of passively relying on attack of op.

Casters need to use movement and not just stand in one place like a turret. But yea if you have monsters that ignore the person in their face stabbing them to always chase the caster it might not work as well.


Vlorax wrote:


All characters can also trip/grapple etc, rogues can debilitate targets.

This was an idea we discussed after the session; especially as you no longer need improved trip or improved grab to even begin to make these a viable option.

However, both Trip and Grab require a free hand which seems pretty likely to only be the case of the one-handed fighter specialist; every other combative character (sans monk) is likely to have a sword&board, two-weapons, or a two-handed weapon.


AsmodeusDM wrote:

Those are all excellent points and I certainly concede that fights did tend to get "bogged" down in 3.x/PF (although I believe that was mostly because of full-attack vs single attack).

While dynamic movement and zipping around is great; it is a bit disheartening to be a melee-centric character and feel very incapable of "protecting" or even giving a disincentive to your opponent once you've engaged them however (unless you are the fighter of course).

In our example games, it was bit sad to see the warcleric engage two orcs and then have those orcs simply walk around said dwarf and continue on their way to pummel the sorcerer.

you can still protect the backline, it's just not that simple as "i get in the front, you stay in the back" that it was.

if you want to play someone who controls the battlefield as an example, you get grapples, trips, slows/stuns, and appropriate reactions, you don't just slap on yourself some thick armor and HP and just stand still in front of the mobs.


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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
AsmodeusDM wrote:
Vlorax wrote:


All characters can also trip/grapple etc, rogues can debilitate targets.

This was an idea we discussed after the session; especially as you no longer need improved trip or improved grab to even begin to make these a viable option.

However, both Trip and Grab require a free hand which seems pretty likely to only be the case of the one-handed fighter specialist; every other combative character (sans monk) is likely to have a sword&board, two-weapons, or a two-handed weapon.

That what weapons with trip/disarm/etc traits are for. There's still a variety of ways to protect the backline, but every character will likely have a different approach. And a character's default strategy won't work in every combat.

Group tactics matter more than before. Someone makes an area of difficult terrain, a fighter (or someone else with a reaction) stands near one corner. Now the opponent needs to likely spend two move actions to go through the difficult terrain, or far around the fighter. Someone with a trip/disarm/shove pushes the opponent around, again making them need to spend at least 1 if not two extra actions to get past the front line. A highly mobile melee (fighter, barbarian, monk, etc) rushes the opponents' back line making your melee opponent have to choose between engaging them or pressing forward.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
AsmodeusDM wrote:
Vlorax wrote:


All characters can also trip/grapple etc, rogues can debilitate targets.

This was an idea we discussed after the session; especially as you no longer need improved trip or improved grab to even begin to make these a viable option.

However, both Trip and Grab require a free hand which seems pretty likely to only be the case of the one-handed fighter specialist; every other combative character (sans monk) is likely to have a sword&board, two-weapons, or a two-handed weapon.

PC's also use weapons that have those traits.

Mace,Great Club, Maul, Warhammer can all shove.

Whips, Sickle, Flail, Bo Staff, Guisarme, Horsechopper, Kama, Kukri, Scythe, Spiked Chain, Temple Sword, War Flail, Aklys, Ogre Hook can all Trip.

The big thing though is that you have to invest in being a frontliner, can't just roll up and stand in front of an enemy.

That and casters/ranged need to be aware of their positioning and vulnerabilities.


Vlorax wrote:


PC's also use weapons that have those traits.

Mace,Great Club, Maul, Warhammer can all shove.

Whips, Sickle, Flail, Bo Staff, Guisarme, Horsechopper, Kama, Kukri, Scythe, Spiked Chain, Temple Sword, War Flail, Aklys, Ogre Hook can all Trip.

The big thing though is that you have to invest in being a frontliner, can't just roll up and stand in front of an enemy.

That and casters/ranged need to be aware of their positioning and vulnerabilities.

There are also knockdown crit effects on hammers and flails or moves on polearms. I think fighters can crit fish a bit.

The Guisarme looks very solid with reach & trip - reach being very, very good much better than +1 damage from a d12 weapon.


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Another part of the new tactics is that reducing move speeds is a solid debuff given that enemies can just walk around the fighter. Before having your speed halved didn't matter so much because most of what you did was 5' step anyway, now giving an enemy -10' speed means the difference between taking 2 attacks and taking just 1 attack. Or then engaging with you or targeting the closer front line.


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When I was looking at higher level monsters for summon purposes, I did notice that a lot of them actually start condensing power into multi-action actions. Denying even a single action and then forcing opponent to move can be actually a difference between having to eat 3 or 4 special attacks compacted into 2-action activation. It made me respect Grease and difficult terrain/movement reductions a lot. It seems less impactful against beginning level opponents who generally get by with 1 action activations.


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WHW wrote:
When I was looking at higher level monsters for summon purposes, I did notice that a lot of them actually start condensing power into multi-action actions. Denying even a single action and then forcing opponent to move can be actually a difference between having to eat 3 or 4 special attacks compacted into 2-action activation. It made me respect Grease and difficult terrain/movement reductions a lot. It seems less impactful against beginning level opponents who generally get by with 1 action activations.

This is a key point.

Even some lower level creatures have tough 2-action combos, or a free follow up action (i.e. Trip or Grab). Perhaps w/ a Constrict at the end.
Reducing them to 2 actions if they have to move often means you just face a Strike.

And flyers have to maintain flight, a nice balancing choice for PF2.
You take an action from a Dragon and they can't fly & use their breath weapon in the same round. Quite important.

So Slow, though it looks terrible now, has a significant effect on bosses even if they save (which they're most likely to). Your turn messed up their turn, and your team gets a lot more turns.
Can't move & cast, buddy.


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Before 3e there were no attacks of opportunity. Protecting the squishies was all about chokepoints, battlefield control, and limiting exposure, and that still works just as well. Put the caster in a corner and have three melees surround him. Use pits, grease, walls, etc. to limit enemy access. Flight, levitation, corridors, shield walls, the list of options goes on. In many ways the ubiquity of AoOs really limited tactical options before. I'm personally not sorry to see fewer of them.


These have all been really interesting points; thanks everyone. Can't wait to explore the system further!


Yep. Some of us have been pointing this out since all of this was announced.


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Schmoe wrote:
Before 3e there were no attacks of opportunity. Protecting the squishies was all about chokepoints, battlefield control, and limiting exposure, and that still works just as well. Put the caster in a corner and have three melees surround him. Use pits, grease, walls, etc. to limit enemy access. Flight, levitation, corridors, shield walls, the list of options goes on. In many ways the ubiquity of AoOs really limited tactical options before. I'm personally not sorry to see fewer of them.

Depending on the version and rulebook you were using, there was indeed some form of AOO or stickiness. Not to mention you couldn't always move + attack in the same turn. It isn't that hard to stay "in the back" in OSR stuff.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I wonder if there could be an interesting option for a feat that would grant the AoO reaction to a someone who doesn't normally have it, if they use a special strike action. Perhaps then as simple as a general feat. It would be a one action action activity, strike resolved as usual. However, if you don't critical fail your attack, (or perhaps require that they hit with the attack) they gain the ability to take the AoO reaction, but only against the foe they targeted.

Someone wouldn't be able to utilize a different custom action to do extra damage or other effects, but might, for instance be a potentially good use of a third attack (especially if the AoO is available even on a failed attack roll).

Also, I think it might be interesting to see a Rogue version of AoO as a class feat that requires their target to be flat-footed to them to make the AoO.

I remember some of the AoO options in first edition sometimes felt worthless, since frequently player/gm's refused to move once 'set' or in some cases the GM just didn't want to bother with AoO, so they didn't track/allow them generally. At first I found it odd the idea that losing it would make things strange. But, I thought it was interesting to actually seeing people not assume people get an AoO, so people would actually try to move now sometimes.

Granted, playing with player too used to first edition, and old AoO rules may naturally avoid actions that would provoke AoO out of habit... which might leave movement stunted like in first edition. But over time, I think they'd get used to it when monsters move around them and get away with it.

So I was concerned about it at first, but kind of like it now.


Malk_Content wrote:
If you are faster than an enemy you should quickly realize that moving away for 1 action costs the enemy 2 of theirs.

Maybe....some classes and people can stride twice and then attack as a two action ability. At the very least fighters, and barbarians can. And I'm pretty sure some monster get something equivalent.

So you sort of cost them an action to move, but since they can move up to double their speed you don't cost them two uses of movement unless you're movement speed is twice theirs. Which is possible....so again, maybe.

But in any event, I generally agree with everything you said.

Having a lot less AoO makes the game much better in my opinion. Because previously every combat was ranged martials and casters stay as far away as possible, melee characters engaged with an enemy and full attacked until they died.

It was pretty repetitive and boring. Nowadays, making 3 attacks in a round is usually a bad idea. You hopefully have something better to do with your third action.

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