Is Paizo using arbitrary DCs in their adventures?


Rules Discussion


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I’ve got a one shot coming up, people completely new to Pathfinder. I decided to use a PFS module as I’m already GMing another campaign. I decided on Escape from the Grave. Simple premise, provides a dungeon-esque experience and is nice and easy to get into. It seems to have a good setup with consequences for taking too long in the adventure. Exactly what I want in an adventure.

However on page 10 we have the same information being provided to PCs with two separate DCs depending entirely on their level. There is no in setting reason for the higher DC if the PCs are higher level. The DCs are simply arbitrary and exist solely to provide level appropriate challenges.

Now I’m not running this as a PFS module so I can change whatever I want. But we are a few months into the new rules. We have several PFS modules, 3 AP books and one stand alone module. So we should have a good grasp on how Paizo is handling setting DCs.

So the question is: do the DCs match the in world reality of Paizo’s adventures? Or are they being assigned arbitrarily to provide level appropriate challenges?


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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

In the case of PFS scenarios, each typically written for two tiers, and due to word count restrictions, they aren't adding the text that would justify the change in DCs. Yes, its a flaw, IMO, and encourages the lazy-gm/adventure author to always pick level appropriate, rather than world appropriate DCs.

The DC's I've seen in Fall of Plaguestone and Age of Ashes so far have seemed more reasonable, but still a little suspect as times.


The higher DC is for identifying traits to do with a stronger monster and maintaining the odds between levels for that creature (providing consistent experiences is a goal of PFS to some degree).

A plague zombie is 3 levels higher than a zombie shambler.


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The Gleeful Grognard wrote:

The higher DC is for identifying traits to do with a stronger monster and maintaining the odds between levels for that creature (providing consistent experiences is a goal of PFS to some degree).

A plague zombie is 3 levels higher than a zombie shambler.

Not really accurate at all:

Society (10 minutes): A PC who succeeds at a DC 16 Society check (DC 19 in Subtier 3–4) recalls that this type of fine clothing was very popular among minor nobles in Taldor.

All the checks are like that.

It’s disappointing to hear Paizo are using suspect DCs. I’m glad to hear it’s not the rule though...


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

It seems that because of the nature of PFS and the tier system, yeah, the DCs need to be arbitrarily inflated to make it a challenge. But for the rest of their published material, it's based on the tables set out in the Core Rulebook and the relative difficulty level of the task.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
The Gleeful Grognard wrote:

The higher DC is for identifying traits to do with a stronger monster and maintaining the odds between levels for that creature (providing consistent experiences is a goal of PFS to some degree).

A plague zombie is 3 levels higher than a zombie shambler.

Not really accurate at all:

Society (10 minutes): A PC who succeeds at a DC 16 Society check (DC 19 in Subtier 3–4) recalls that this type of fine clothing was very popular among minor nobles in Taldor.

All the checks are like that.

It’s disappointing to hear Paizo are using suspect DCs. I’m glad to hear it’s not the rule though...

I totally agree they should use the same DC in this instance.

As in, perhaps that sort of "challenge" shouldn't be challenging for somebody of higher level/tier. The language/word count should be included so that the higher tier needs to know something more particular, or the walls get smoother, or the person they're dealing with gets more perceptive, etc.
I guess it may be up to GMs to flavor it that way. :/


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Given how much space is used up when they have to post multiple statblocks for the same enemy at different levels in PFS, I have a feeling that word-count is not the main limitation here and they could justify the higher DC if they wanted by adding an extra sentence.


Sometimes a DC is set because that's the intended objective difficulty and there is no particular expectation being made of how likely the PCs are to succeed.

Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.


thenobledrake wrote:


Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.

This is emphatically not how DCs are meant to work in PF2 (based on dev comments). In addition we already have a mechanic for that. It’s called a flat check.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:


Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.
This is emphatically not how DCs are meant to work in PF2 (based on dev comments). In addition we already have a mechanic for that. It’s called a flat check.

my DM screen has DC for every level and then modifiers for how easy or hard you think it is... i believe the same table is somewhere in the gamemasters section as well.

it's so you can make a level appropriate challenge if needed.


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thenobledrake wrote:

Sometimes a DC is set because that's the intended objective difficulty and there is no particular expectation being made of how likely the PCs are to succeed.

Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.

Well that would be cool if the devs didn't emphatically state that wouldn't happen in PF2 adventures (there wasn't a "society might be different" or anything).

I feel like this is the same argument - had over and over - there seem to be two camps playing the game:

Camp 1: Wants to level up and be better at what they do - even to the point that they are the best and can easily do what others have a hard time doing.

Camp 2: Wants every single roll to be a nail biting challenge.

I mean PF2 is already geared at camp 2 - does recognizing a pattern really deserve to get harder because you are higher level?


I don't know about premades as I don't run them, but if the encounters are writen for two different CR parties try subtracting the difference in car from the higher encounter. If the DC is similar it is likely that CR was taken into account when designing the DC.

For example, in my current adventure I'm running I have an NPC that can permanently charm a male character. The DC I set at 10+Chaisma mod+CR. So at level 5 the DC is 20. But at level 1 the CR is 16.

Scarab Sages

That's pretty standard for Society, annoying as it is. I really wish they just added more tiers to the check instead of inflating the DC.

However, my first 2e PFS games went wildly different on difficulty - I think the writers are still dialing it in at this point. I'll give them benefit of the doubt for now, but we really should give this kind of feedback some the iron is hot.


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I'll add another voice saying that PFS adventures normally work this way, yes - if you look at any PF1 scenario that can be done at multiple levels you see the same thing.


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FowlJ wrote:
I'll add another voice saying that PFS adventures normally work this way, yes - if you look at any PF1 scenario that can be done at multiple levels you see the same thing.

I had forgotten that (it’s been 7 years since I ran PFS so I had forgotten. Yet another reason to dislike organised play).

Although I am curious what the non PFS adventures are like. So far we have the following answers: sometimes they’re arbitrary, they are never arbitrary and they’re always arbitrary.

I’m definitely curious to hear people’s thoughts who’ve read the (non-PFS) adventures.


Bandw2 wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:


Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.
This is emphatically not how DCs are meant to work in PF2 (based on dev comments). In addition we already have a mechanic for that. It’s called a flat check.

my DM screen has DC for every level and then modifiers for how easy or hard you think it is... i believe the same table is somewhere in the gamemasters section as well.

it's so you can make a level appropriate challenge if needed.

I don’t understand the relevance of this post to mine. Is it your position that PF2 is meant to have arbitrary DCs?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
FowlJ wrote:
I'll add another voice saying that PFS adventures normally work this way, yes - if you look at any PF1 scenario that can be done at multiple levels you see the same thing.

I had forgotten that (it’s been 7 years since I ran PFS so I had forgotten. Yet another reason to dislike organised play).

Although I am curious what the non PFS adventures are like. So far we have the following answers: sometimes they’re arbitrary, they are never arbitrary and they’re always arbitrary.

I’m definitely curious to hear people’s thoughts who’ve read the (non-PFS) adventures.

Running Age of Ashes currently and so far the DC's have just been presented as a single DC with no tiers etc. PC's found some scraps of cloth and had to make like a DC 16 (i think) Society or Religion check to see if they were important. No adjustments based on level.


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

I think you've identified a philosophy of organised play, not "Pathfinder Second Edition" (I haven't done much with PF1 society play, but Starfinder is the same - DC's of a given task often depend on what level the PCs are in SFS scenarios but not in SF AP scenarios).

I don't think there's an answer for PF2-as-a-whole. I think there's a different philosophical underpinning for organised play vs homegames. I'd quibble with the term arbitrary but essentially I think they're ensuring level appropriate challenges for organised play and not doing so in more open adventures.

If I had to define a default, I'd go with the AP and modules line and treat PFS as a special case (ie default+restrictions/alterations) so I guess if I had to pick, I'd say no.

(It's going to be hard to tell unless we get two identical challenges in modules for differing levels though).


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Bandw2 wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:


Sometimes a DC is set because the desired chance of success is known - effectively it's just saying "there is an X% chance of this", but allowing for outliers and not calling for a different die roll than players are used to. That's what DCs that scale relative to the level of the character making the check are.
This is emphatically not how DCs are meant to work in PF2 (based on dev comments). In addition we already have a mechanic for that. It’s called a flat check.

my DM screen has DC for every level and then modifiers for how easy or hard you think it is... i believe the same table is somewhere in the gamemasters section as well.

it's so you can make a level appropriate challenge if needed.

I don’t understand the relevance of this post to mine. Is it your position that PF2 is meant to have arbitrary DCs?

no just saying regardless of what the devs comments were, they're there as level based DCs written on my GM screen and somewhere in the book.


Bandw2 wrote:
no just saying regardless of what the devs comments were, they're there as level based DCs written on my GM screen and somewhere in the book.

Ok?

The Exchange

Have you got a link to the dev comments that say it's not how DCs are meant to work?
Not challenging. Curious to read on my own.

But as others have said, this works exactly as intended. The nature of PFS is that scenarios are usually written for multiple level ranges. This provides more "bang for the buck" and makes an adventure accessible to a wider array of characters.

If you were writing an adventure for a group of level 1 PCs and wanted to create a challenge, you would create a task with a DC appropriate for level 1 characters. (Exact DC would depend on whether you wanted the task to be easy or hard.) If you were writing an adventure for a group of level 3 PCs, you would put in a different challenge that was level-appropriate.

In order to get that bang for the buck, PFS writers create the task at one level and use scaled DCs for the other instead of creating another challenge.

I know that of which I speak. I have written for PFS1, and have talked to people who write for PFS2 about the process.


This is one time it’s mentioned. It was repeated several times in different ways though.


The way I see it for environmental things like locks on doors is that all of the lower level locks still exist if you are a higher level, it is just that those locks are now trivial and not worth a dice roll - they still exist in universe, but one of the golden rules of rpgs is not too waste time on a dice roll unless there is a reasonable chance of failure and a notable consequence for failure. Keeping a lower level DC in the adventure breaks this rule.

So the rogue rolls to pick the serious locks, and maybe 10% of the doors that are opened that you don't roll for have locks that are just automatically unlocked because they are so trivial that they aren't even worth mentioning (the rogue picks it without even really having to think about it, or the fighter just pulls open the door despite it being locked because she is that strong).

The Exchange

Aha. Got it now. That's Mark talking about the ideas they had before the playtest document was finalized. They went with that for a fair number of things. Where someone of a certain proficiency level - such as a master - should be able to succeed, that should set the DC (Simple DCs on page 503). For example if you want to use the Acrobatics skill to walk across a wooden beam, that should use the Trained Simple DC (page 240). So it should always be DC 15.

If you are performing a task that is opposed or in some other way dependent on an NPC - such as identifying a 4th level monster or picking a lock that was made by a 9th level craftsman, you can use the Level-Based DCs (page 503).

The Exchange

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I went back and reread the scenario you cited in your first post, and I think you may have slightly overstated how big of a deal the scaled DC was. There are a LOT of skill checks in this scenario. Most of them are scaled properly (a Perception check to find something hidden by someone). Some are a fixed DC (there's a DC 12 Society check at both tiers to recognize national colors on the same page as the example you cited). There's some that could have used either simple or level-based DCs (a Medicine check on a corpse). And there's some that the author scaled that probably should have been fixed (your example, or a religion check to identify religious iconography).

But it's not "Paizo choosing arbitrary DCs." I'd chalk the problem checks up to the author not being fluent with the system yet.

There's going to be a learning curve for PFS authors. Not only for whether a check should be Simple or Level-Based, but when to use each type. Checks that advance the story should be Simple DCs so both tiers can succeed. On the other hand since you want both the high and low tier parties have an equal chance to get full rewards, authors are going to have to learn to avoid making rewards dependent on checks that should be a Simple DC. (Since high-tier parties would have a greater chance of success.)


PFS has the issue that the same module is meant to represent separate adventures, varying by challenge depending on what group plays them.
Of course it has different DCs, it's not the same adventure.

If you had a single adventure, with a section where players may run into a check at different levels depending on the order in which they do things, it wouldn't change.


Belafon wrote:
But it's not "Paizo choosing arbitrary DCs." I'd chalk the problem checks up to the author not being fluent with the system yet.

Given Paizo outsources most adventures to freelancers (feel free to correct me on this, but I'm under the impression most AP adventures are written by freelancers), you could say "Paizo isn't doing anything." Except that's a silly position to take because Paizo puts their name on these adventures and sells them.

And you are correct, some of the DCs are well chosen. Others are not. But I'm more than happy to move the discussion away from that specific adventure and talk more about their adventure paths and Fall of Plaguestone.


Ediwir wrote:
If you had a single adventure, with a section where players may run into a check at different levels depending on the order in which they do things, it wouldn't change.

Sure. But Paizo can also choose arbitrary DCs in their adventures. It won't be as obvious as PFS, but they could still definitely do it (and potentially get away with no-one noticing for a good while). Hence my query: Do the DCs seem to make sense in the adventures? Or are they somewhat arbitrary.

Unfortunately we have gotten literally every possible answer to the question and most people aren't weighing in so we can't really tell what's in the eye of the beholder vs what is actually happening.


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Tender Tendrils wrote:
So the rogue rolls to pick the serious locks, and maybe 10% of the doors that are opened that you don't roll for have locks that are just automatically unlocked because they are so trivial that they aren't even worth mentioning (the rogue picks it without even really having to think about it, or the fighter just pulls open the door despite it being locked because she is that strong).

That's actually a really dangerous habit for a GM (and adventure writer) to get into. I played in a river journey adventure and every time there was a port that we stopped at we would get off the boat to explore and we would get attacked. After 3 or 4 sessions of this happening when we got to the next port we said "we stay aboard because all we're getting are murder jetties and there is no actual compelling reason for us to ever get off the boat before we get to our destination." The GM obviously wasn't happy at his railroad getting derailed (despite the fact we were almost literally on a set of train tracks). The GM tried to force the combat onto us anyway and we defeated it. Afterwards he complained we weren't really getting into the spirit of the adventure. When we explained how every port had been a murder jetty he said "Oh no. You've stopped at lots of ports. I just didn't bother narrating those because nothing interesting happened." By not describing the peaceful ports in addition to the murder jetties, our perspective of the region (and the adventure) was substantially warped.

By saying "What do you mean the world keeps leveling up with you? Last adventure you unlocked 20 doors! I just didn't bother narrating 15 of them because you were guaranteed success" you substantially warp the perspective of the players of the game world and potentially ruin their enjoyment of the adventure.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Ediwir wrote:
If you had a single adventure, with a section where players may run into a check at different levels depending on the order in which they do things, it wouldn't change.

Sure. But Paizo can also choose arbitrary DCs in their adventures. It won't be as obvious as PFS, but they could still definitely do it (and potentially get away with no-one noticing for a good while). Hence my query: Do the DCs seem to make sense in the adventures? Or are they somewhat arbitrary.

Unfortunately we have gotten literally every possible answer to the question and most people aren't weighing in so we can't really tell what's in the eye of the beholder vs what is actually happening.

Deadmanwalking talks about specific DCs in book 1 of Age of Ashes here.


Joana wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Ediwir wrote:
If you had a single adventure, with a section where players may run into a check at different levels depending on the order in which they do things, it wouldn't change.

Sure. But Paizo can also choose arbitrary DCs in their adventures. It won't be as obvious as PFS, but they could still definitely do it (and potentially get away with no-one noticing for a good while). Hence my query: Do the DCs seem to make sense in the adventures? Or are they somewhat arbitrary.

Unfortunately we have gotten literally every possible answer to the question and most people aren't weighing in so we can't really tell what's in the eye of the beholder vs what is actually happening.

Deadmanwalking talks about specific DCs in book 1 of Age of Ashes here.

Thank you :)

The Exchange

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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Belafon wrote:
But it's not "Paizo choosing arbitrary DCs." I'd chalk the problem checks up to the author not being fluent with the system yet.

Given Paizo outsources most adventures to freelancers (feel free to correct me on this, but I'm under the impression most AP adventures are written by freelancers), you could say "Paizo isn't doing anything." Except that's a silly position to take because Paizo puts their name on these adventures and sells them.

And you are correct, some of the DCs are well chosen. Others are not. But I'm more than happy to move the discussion away from that specific adventure and talk more about their adventure paths and Fall of Plaguestone.

I wasn't intending to imply "give Paizo a break, it's all the author's fault," though I can see how it could read that way. (Amusingly enough the author of this scenario - like all the material released on the same day as the new Core Rulebook - is an actual Paizo employee.)

I meant that the designers did not intend for all DCs to be level-based and this was an error; likely due to the newness of the ruleset. Once people play more and everyone gets more familiar with the rules, including writers and developers, you'll see less of this kind of thing.

tangent:
As a side note, here are the three groups in the chain when we're trying to figure out if something is an error.
1) Designers - The people who actually wrote the rules. (This gets confusing because in video game terms these people are usually known as developers or "devs." That's a different job in the RPG world, see #3. Mark Seifter is a Designer.)
2) Writers - Those who write the actual adventure.
3) Developers - Assign the adventures to writers (usually with a paragraph or so general idea of what the plot should look like). Work with the writer, taking one or more passes back and forth. Make sure the adventure is of appropriate challenge and length. Make sure the adventure is lore-appropriate. (The writer should only change the world when requested to do so.) Order appropriate maps and artwork to be included in the adventure. Check for inconsistencies and errors. Pass on to layout and publishing.

The Designers, the people who really, really know the rules, are rarely involved in the publication of an AP book, module, or PFS scenario unless they actually wrote it. The designers are usually busy working on the next hardcover. The Developers are Paizo employees who have a good grasp of the rules but not as complete as the Designers. Developers have a broader range of responsibilities and do a lot of what might be called "project management." Writers are usually freelancers (or Paizo employees picking up some extra money by writing freelance in their spare time). Writers have varying degrees of rules knowledge.

Dark Archive

My experience from 1e was that PFS Scenarios are designed in VERY different manner from normal adventures. Like one example is that normal adventure combat encounters tends to be more about flavor or "scene"(e.g. its purpose in story) while PFS Scenarios are designed to be challenging tactics wise, meaning some of them are straight up sadistic. (and sometimes encounters feel like they are there just for combat quota).

I don't have any reason to believe yet that has changed in 2e since it also applies to Starfinder Society and regular Starfinder APs :p


DC not scaling automatically with level was one of the major opposition point brought up by dev against the concept of threadmill. In the end, I still see a threadmill.

Dark Archive

Dekalinder wrote:
DC not scaling automatically with level was one of the major opposition point brought up by dev against the concept of threadmill. In the end, I still see a threadmill.

Only in Society Scenarios though :p Unless you have seen one in modules or APs?

Sovereign Court

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Dekalinder wrote:
DC not scaling automatically with level was one of the major opposition point brought up by dev against the concept of threadmill. In the end, I still see a threadmill.

Yeah I pushed this topic heavily in the playtest. And I have to say, there is a big difference between the playtest and the final version:

* The introduction of Simple DCs as a prominent tool for setting DCs. This guidance was largely absent in the playtest and as a result the playtest leaned more heavily on level-appropriate DCs. Simple DCs as well as static DCs for known tasks that don't depend on the quality of the enemy, do a lot to feel like the world isn't just a treadmill.

* The DCs on the level-based DC table were re-scaled to focus more on trained/expert, instead of being set up to challenge a master/legendary character. The playtest was particularly treadmilly because only by running as fast as you possibly could, could you stay in place. In the final version, someone investing in a skill will eventually start getting relatively very good at the skill instead of just staying average.

There was a lot of talk in the playtest on how you should set DCs. Ostensibly, you would use level-appropriate DC benchmarks to figure out what DC you need to put in a challenging problem, then go shopping for a task that has that DC. "I want to challenge my level 10 party with climbing", and then you go figure out what kind of wall would be challenging to a level 10 party. It's probably covered in barbecue sauce and guarded by a dragon. But what happened a lot in practice was doing it the other, wrong, way around: I got this wall and I want it to be challenging, so what DC to I give it? And then the DC just becomes arbitrary, not linked to the flavor of the challenge anymore.

The risk of this kind of bad writing still exists, but I think the addition of Simple DCs has given good writers more tools to avoid it.

And then we come to PFS. PFS is weird because you're trying to write the same adventure for characters of different levels. One of the design goals for PFS adventures is that people basically experience the same story regardless of whether they play the low or high tier. So while minor details can vary ("in high tier, the butler has had a bad day, and the Diplomacy DC is 2 higher") it's not easy to put in completely different problems to justify high enough challenges. Word count limits really are a thing.

Take a scenario like Trailblazer's Bounty for example (I helped playtest it so I know some about how it got written). It involves a trek across terrain where at some points you get to examine an area to determine how suitable it would be. There's like 7 different things you can examine in an area, spread out across a range of different skills so that many different characters can contribute. And some skills are easier (specific lore) and others are harder (more ambitious task), and then you have perception that should be a bit harder still because everyone has it and this is a "everyone can try" check, so it's easy because so many people are trying.

Now imagine having to justify higher DCs for each of these. That gets very hard. If you parenthesize all of them the section will start to resemble LISP code. So what are your practical alternatives as a writer?

- You can just not justify it. People are playing only one tier at a time, so as a player you don't actually see this. And because of the way DCs have been scaled, it's not actually a treadmill; as you go up in level, you start to pull ahead of the level-based DCs in the skills you specialize in, while staying on track fairly easily on your trained skills.

- You could keep the DCs the same, so that people in high tier just score more successes than people in low tier because they win more checks. You could balance that by requiring more total points at the end of the adventure for full rewards. But the downside of this is that at one tier it's either like a cakewalk (if you use the low-tier DCs everywhere) or at the other it's a grind (if low tier has to play against high-tier DCs). Even if you only need a handful of points for full reward, is it really fun to miss most of the checks because you're playing up?

So I would say: what PFS is doing is not "pure" by design standards, but I think it's a defensible pragmatic choice to do it that way, and it's not actually unpleasant for players.

Liberty's Edge

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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Joana wrote:
John Lynch 106 wrote:
Ediwir wrote:
If you had a single adventure, with a section where players may run into a check at different levels depending on the order in which they do things, it wouldn't change.

Sure. But Paizo can also choose arbitrary DCs in their adventures. It won't be as obvious as PFS, but they could still definitely do it (and potentially get away with no-one noticing for a good while). Hence my query: Do the DCs seem to make sense in the adventures? Or are they somewhat arbitrary.

Unfortunately we have gotten literally every possible answer to the question and most people aren't weighing in so we can't really tell what's in the eye of the beholder vs what is actually happening.

Deadmanwalking talks about specific DCs in book 1 of Age of Ashes here.
Thank you :)

I was gonna mention this, glad someone beat me to it. :)

IMO, this sounds like an Organized Play problem rather than a PF2 problem. The DCs in the non PFS adventures certainly trend upwards, but they do so because the challenges are more difficult, not arbitrarily higher numbers on the same sorts of check.

The Exchange

The key to keeping in the spirit of Simple DCs vs Level-Based is for writers to choose tasks for the players to do that could reasonably be considered to be “opposed” by an NPC so that the DC should scale up with the hypothetical NPC’s level.

- “Hide a campsite” instead of “climb a tree”
- “Ask townspeople for a description” instead of “identify a heraldic emblem”


Or just make their environments progressively more exotic and difficult to make skill checks in. The mysterious elven glade where the trees are barren of lower branches and the bark is as smooth as glass. The obscure heraldic emblem which hasn't been seen in this land for over a century. Etc. It lends itself naturally to your players feeling like they're able to accomplish more difficult tasks too, as long as you describe the tasks as difficult. I think this is what you're supposed to do with simple DCs, use them to determine just how tough of a challenge this would be for your average person so you can flavor correctly.

Of course not every challenge should be at-level either, gimmes need to be thrown in as well as over-level challenges where either makes sense so the players don't question why the whole world's locksmiths suddenly got better at making locks. But they should generally be playing against at-level challenges.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Like Ascalaphus said, this is not anything new in Organized Play scenarios for 2nd edition; that's how subtiers work in PF1 and Starfinder too. That said, the fact that people are noticing it here for the first time is understandable for players who weren't as into reading the OP adventures for the other systems and decided now is a good time to check them out. I'm glad so many more players are giving them a look: there's a lot of creative ideas and adventures in Organized Play that would work great as one-shots for anyone to use!

Silver Crusade

As others have said, there are good reasons for higher DCs for higher-level characters in the organized play, and you are not always going to have the word count to explain that the task is harder because the item is in a much worse state.


Mark Seifter wrote:
That said, the fact that people are noticing it here for the first time is understandable for players who weren't as into reading the OP adventures for the other systems and decided now is a good time to check them out.

Just to put my own post in the right context: I started out gaming with D&D 4th ed in 2008. I then moved onto PF1e and specifically PFS (playing in lots of APs and running Carrion Crown myself). I haven't played PFS for the past 7 years (Green Market Square was the last PFS game I GM'd and it was a damn good adventure). So I've definitely grown and developed as a GM since I last looked at PFS and I have definitely gotten different expectations over the years.

The reason I did consider a PFS adventure is they're good for one-shots because they're designed to be completed in 4 hours. Escape from the Grave is a damn good adventure and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. We didn't get it finished unfortunately (I skipped the initial travel in order to just get the players straight to the action and I had to skip the second level of the college). But everyone had a good time with it and it was a well written adventure. While I did make changes (I have the advantage that I was running for 4 level 1 PCs and not a mixture between level 1 and level 4 PCs), it provided the perfect foundation which required minimal work in getting it ready to GM and run (I prepped it the night before).

So yeah, definitely a good adventure.

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