Is combat more brutal in this edition?


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martryn wrote:

Pathfinder 2nd Edition:

Where every melee PC is a coward unwilling to be the first to engage an enemy.
Where no man can stand alone against foes.

I'm remembering why I stopped trying to post on the Paizo forums. Concerned about something in game? It's your fault for being bad at the game. It's your players' fault for being too stupid to use optimized tactics. Your fighter charged an enemy? He deserves to die for not first firing arrows from a distance and allowing the enemy to close to him so he could better take advantage of the action economy in the game.

It seems to me that the combats have become TOO tactical. I have an experienced player who built a headstrong fighter that likes to be in the thick of it. He had a great backstory of being an orphan of war that despises the organized military, raised in war camps, growing up in the wild, uncultured, uneducated, full of ambition, bitterness, and spunk. The first real combat of the campaign the character boldly swings open the front doors to an abandoned castle and strolls in like she owns the place, only to be confronted with three mangy looking goblin dogs. The dogs look up and growl at her. She growls back. They step forward, not backing down. She charges.

In 2nd edition, she charges, hits, and does not drop a goblin dog. Now she is subjected to 7 attacks instead of 3. The first attack from each dog hits with greater than 50% accuracy, and...

I don't think anyone is trying to say that you or your players did anything wrong. If anything most people agree with you and just mentioning how they have worked with it in 2nd edition. From the description you gave of the fighter I don't think anything should or needs to change about the background beyond now knowing goblin dogs are a bit tougher than they look.

If you think it is getting too tactical on the maps then maybe you could try 'theater of the mind' style like in the 'knights of ever flame' podcast game. It seems to work pretty well and gives them a lot of flexibility in using their abilities how they make sense rather than worrying about how many squares here to there.

I hope things smooth out a bit and you can finish the AP. I for one would love to hear how a mid-high level game goes. Good luck and hopfully happy gaming going forward.


It defiantly more brutal I had my first party tpk in the plaguestone game, I went in as a level fighter hit a bad guy twice (double slice) doing about 15hp and then the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

The rest of the party flailed in effectively against his AC as he took 1 out per turn. Unfortunately we didnt have a healer because the gm told me afterwards he didn't have that many hit points and if I hit with another double slice I could have taken him out. It kind of killed the game but that roll20 for you.


siegfriedliner wrote:

It defiantly more brutal I had my first party tpk in the plaguestone game, I went in as a level fighter hit a bad guy twice (double slice) doing about 15hp and then the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

The rest of the party flailed in effectively against his AC as he took 1 out per turn. Unfortunately we didnt have a healer because the gm told me afterwards he didn't have that many hit points and if I hit with another double slice I could have taken him out. It kind of killed the game but that roll20 for you.

..didn't have a healer? This might be a party composition issue. You don't want your cry for 'Medic!' being answered by Pharasma. Healing was generally considered relatively subpar in PF1, but even then it had its place of 'get the damage dealer on their feet'. My group came close to one in our 1e Rise of the Runelords campaign, and our cleric used up all of his healing (but did it at the right times and tossed some buffs and spells and summonses too), and our barbarian ended the fight with about ten HP ... and on her feet covered in the blood of her enemies. (The bard needed Raise Dead, tho even there he took a nasty shot, got Breath of Life, used his action to land some nasty debuff, and THEN got whacked for good).


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It isn't that combats are more brutal. It is that they are better balanced. The new level system is light years more useful than the previous CR system for judging encounter difficulty. A CR 1 goblin dog was always meant to be about even with a level 1 PC in PF1. That's what being CR 1 meant. The issue is that optimization varied so much this became meaningless. My fighter might have been a 50/50 shot against a goblin dog, but yours might be built so well it could beat me and the goblin dog at once easily.

martryn wrote:
I'm just concerned about future problems with combat if my group is going to move into encounters with misconceptions of how dangerous a foe is.

You could also remind your players not to metagame. Assuming that something should be a cakewalk because it was in a previous edition with different characters and mechanics is fundamentally an assumption their characters wouldn't make. Instead of picking fights with creature based on what the players know, stop and figure out what the characters know. Have someone roll a knowledge check to recognize what they are looking at, and if they succeed tell them the level of the creature and that 3 of them make for a very dangerous fight indeed.


Qaianna wrote:
the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

minor advice might be not to throw +4 level encounters so trivially. that's top end extreme, "likely to be an even match" = 50/50 chance of winning/losing, and advice is only to use when fully rested... and i would say somewhat prepared for the specific fight. even +3 level is described as "severe or extreme". extreme threat like this should be taken even more seriously than in 3.x/P1E, imho. i mean, if you think the game is brutal that should already be your inclination, but specifically this is true for +4 level encounters, so those shouldn't be example for the game's general dynamic... that is intended to be a 'lucky to get thru it' level of difficulty if not very well prepared.

Quote:
Extreme-threat encounters are so dangerous that they are likely to be an even match for the characters, particularly if the characters are low on resources. This makes them too challenging for most uses. An extreme-threat encounter might be appropriate for a fully rested group of characters that can go all-out, for the climactic encounter at the end of an entire campaign, or for a group of veteran players using advanced tactics and teamwork.


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Oh, I'd also note that some monsters did get their CR/level tweaked. A Shadow is not level 4 instead of CR 3, but I'd argue Shadows were way more brutal in PF1. Ropers got downgraded a bit. Harpies got nudged up.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
siegfriedliner wrote:

It defiantly more brutal I had my first party tpk in the plaguestone game, I went in as a level fighter hit a bad guy twice (double slice) doing about 15hp and then the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

The rest of the party flailed in effectively against his AC as he took 1 out per turn. Unfortunately we didnt have a healer because the gm told me afterwards he didn't have that many hit points and if I hit with another double slice I could have taken him out. It kind of killed the game but that roll20 for you.

I do not know the particulars here so I might be completely wrong but from what I read.

Immediately going full attack.
Facing a +3 lvl threat with the intent of killing it quickly.
Having no healer.

Those are efficient, even optimized tactics in PF1.

They are extremely risky in PF2.

PF2 combat evolved to completely avoid the extremes of PF1 combat.

Most logically tactics well adapted to the first are particularly prone to failure in the second.

Because they were built to take advantage of the very same PF1 specificities that PF2 was designed to eliminate.

Shadow Lodge

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Qaianna wrote:
siegfriedliner wrote:

It defiantly more brutal I had my first party tpk in the plaguestone game, I went in as a level fighter hit a bad guy twice (double slice) doing about 15hp and then the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

The rest of the party flailed in effectively against his AC as he took 1 out per turn. Unfortunately we didnt have a healer because the gm told me afterwards he didn't have that many hit points and if I hit with another double slice I could have taken him out. It kind of killed the game but that roll20 for you.

..didn't have a healer? This might be a party composition issue. You don't want your cry for 'Medic!' being answered by Pharasma. Healing was generally considered relatively subpar in PF1, but even then it had its place of 'get the damage dealer on their feet'. My group came close to one in our 1e Rise of the Runelords campaign, and our cleric used up all of his healing (but did it at the right times and tossed some buffs and spells and summonses too), and our barbarian ended the fight with about ten HP ... and on her feet covered in the blood of her enemies. (The bard needed Raise Dead, tho even there he took a nasty shot, got Breath of Life, used his action to land some nasty debuff, and THEN got whacked for good).

The utility of a healer is a bit 'hit or miss' in PF2: Yes, one could have gotten the fighter back up, but he'd probably have to take multiple actions picking up his weapons and standing up (possibly provoking an AoO), and he'll have Wounded 1 at best and probably not be at full health, which makes it much more likely he will actually die the next time he goes down (which might be when trying to stand up).

Healers work best if they can keep you from going down in the first place, which was not really an option in the 'sudden character drop' example given. I'd probably recommend Shield Other if my group hadn't been AoE'd so horribly last session (Our cleric did go down, but I used my brand new Healer's Gloves to get him back up before my own inability to roll better than a 4 on a saving throw put me down: Apparently, I play on Roll4 instead of Roll20).

Speaking of our last session and PF2 Brutality, my Rogue's saves that fight were:

  • Critical Fail vs. Sound Burst
  • Failure vs Fireball
  • Critical Fail vs AoE Harm (rolled a 4, spent a Hero Point for a reroll and got a 3 instead)
So, critical failures on saving throws is another thing that can make PF2 brutal.


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I've noticed you can't play "Big damn heroes" in this edition, cause the monsters are more powerful than you are. It's more survival horror than high fantasy to me. Teamwork, sound tactics, and alot of luck are the only ways to stay alive.

It's certainly more gritty than 1e was. Some people prefer that but I don't. 2e isn't a bad game at all, but after my group finishes Age of Ashes I'll be quite ready to go back to 1e. If I wanted survival horror where everything is more powerful than the PCs, I'd play Call of Cthulhu, not Pathfinder. I play Pathfinder for the "Big damn heroes" feeling.


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The monsters aren't more powerful than the PCs are: their power is clearly expressed by their level. A monster that equals a PC level is more or less as strong as the PC.
It's the campaigns that may be using encounters that are harder then you would expect.


Megistone wrote:

The monsters aren't more powerful than the PCs are: their power is clearly expressed by their level. A monster that equals a PC level is more or less as strong as the PC.

It's the campaigns that may be using encounters that are harder then you would expect.

You may be right, I don't have a statistical breakdown of PCs vs monster power levels. I'll just say that they feel more powerful and that PCs feel significantly weaker than in 1e.

I know plenty of people prefer it that way. I just happen to not be one of them. I liked how powerful 1e characters could get over time. That's not to say I dislike 2e, because I actually do enjoy it. Just not as much as I enjoy 1e.


Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Qaianna wrote:
siegfriedliner wrote:

It defiantly more brutal I had my first party tpk in the plaguestone game, I went in as a level fighter hit a bad guy twice (double slice) doing about 15hp and then the boss who was 3 to 4 levels higher than the partycrit me (on a 14 or 15) which put me down to 5 hp and got a free action shove which pushed me in a trap which knocked me out.

(snip)

..didn't have a healer? This might be a party composition issue. You don't want your cry for 'Medic!' being answered by Pharasma. Healing was generally considered relatively subpar in PF1, but even then it had its place of 'get the damage dealer on their feet'. My group came close to one in our 1e Rise of the Runelords campaign, and our cleric used up all of his healing (but did it at the right times and tossed some buffs and spells and summonses too), and our barbarian ended the fight with about ten HP ... and on her feet covered in the blood of her enemies. (The bard needed Raise Dead, tho even there he took a nasty shot, got Breath of Life, used his action to land some nasty debuff, and THEN got whacked for good).

The utility of a healer is a bit 'hit or miss' in PF2: Yes, one could have gotten the fighter back up, but he'd probably have to take multiple actions picking up his weapons and standing up (possibly provoking an AoO), and he'll have Wounded 1 at best and probably not be at full health, which makes it much more likely he will actually die the next time he goes down (which might be when trying to stand up).

Healers work best if they can keep you from going down in the first place, which was not really an option in the 'sudden character drop' example given. I'd probably recommend I'd probably recommend Shield Other if my group hadn't been AoE'd so horribly last session (Our cleric did go down, but I used my brand new Healer's Gloves to get him back up before my own inability to roll better than a 4 on a saving throw put me down: Apparently, I play on Roll4 instead of Roll20).

Speaking of our last session and PF2 Brutality, my Rogue's saves that fight were:

Critical Fail vs. Sound Burst
Failure vs Fireball
Critical Fail vs AoE Harm (rolled a 4, spent a Hero Point for a reroll and got a 3 instead)

So, critical failures on saving throws is another thing that can make PF2 brutal.

Good point, although in our case we use d20Pro (and at times it decides to be d4Pro). And the healer could've tried to do his thing while the monster was doing other stuff, but that digresses.

I've also, even in 1E, gotten out of the habit of charging the enemy. Unless there's a really, really good reason, she'll stay back, hold the line, and let the enemy use up their actions. Which is kind'a how 2e's going too?


HeHateMe wrote:

You may be right, I don't have a statistical breakdown of PCs vs monster power levels. I'll just say that they feel more powerful and that PCs feel significantly weaker than in 1e.

I know plenty of people prefer it that way. I just happen to not be one of them. I liked how powerful 1e characters could get over time. That's not to say I dislike 2e, because I actually do enjoy it. Just not as much as I enjoy 1e.

In regards to PC power level, PF2 seems like it starts a bit higher power than PF1 but doesn't scale up as intensely... i haven't gotten to the higher levels yet to confirm this, just going off of stuff like low-level characters surviving critical hits and dishing out potent-feeling debuffs and damage totals.

Age of Ashes definitely makes characters feel less potent, though, because of how frequently the encounters involve enemies that are equal level to the PCs or higher - which I'd not the encounter building part of the core rules says "...or low-threat boss" in the suggested role column of the table for creatures of the party level, and other "boss" levels for those levels higher.

Just in the portion where the encounters are rated for level 1 characters, there are 12 encounters (unless I miscounted), and of those 12 encounters 4 involve monsters that are the party's level, and 5 involve monsters that are higher level than the party. So in essence 3/4 encounters in the beginning of the adventure are "boss fights." Which definitely skews the perception of how powerful the PCs are since many of those say something like "Low 1" for the difficulty because of how XP budget-based difficulty ratings intersect with monsters that are higher level than the party.


thenobledrake wrote:
HeHateMe wrote:

You may be right, I don't have a statistical breakdown of PCs vs monster power levels. I'll just say that they feel more powerful and that PCs feel significantly weaker than in 1e.

I know plenty of people prefer it that way. I just happen to not be one of them. I liked how powerful 1e characters could get over time. That's not to say I dislike 2e, because I actually do enjoy it. Just not as much as I enjoy 1e.

In regards to PC power level, PF2 seems like it starts a bit higher power than PF1 but doesn't scale up as intensely... i haven't gotten to the higher levels yet to confirm this, just going off of stuff like low-level characters surviving critical hits and dishing out potent-feeling debuffs and damage totals.

Age of Ashes definitely makes characters feel less potent, though, because of how frequently the encounters involve enemies that are equal level to the PCs or higher - which I'd not the encounter building part of the core rules says "...or low-threat boss" in the suggested role column of the table for creatures of the party level, and other "boss" levels for those levels higher.

Just in the portion where the encounters are rated for level 1 characters, there are 12 encounters (unless I miscounted), and of those 12 encounters 4 involve monsters that are the party's level, and 5 involve monsters that are higher level than the party. So in essence 3/4 encounters in the beginning of the adventure are "boss fights." Which definitely skews the perception of how powerful the PCs are since many of those say something like "Low 1" for the difficulty because of how XP budget-based difficulty ratings intersect with monsters that are higher level than the party.

I think this illustrates the issue folks are finding. Everything's more lethal if you're in harder fights, and as a GM you're really not limited in what you send at a party. 'Done rolling up your level one heroes? Good. Here comes the archwizard and his army..'


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Basically if you were used to optimizing, it's going to feel more brutal because threats are closer to where they should be. As previously noted, a goblin dog is technically the same CR as a ghoul, but I'd always bet on the ghoul to win in a fight. (Actually, I just checked their stats, and wow they're not even close. The ghoul would probably destroy the dog even without paralysis.) Similarly, those should be the same power level as a 1st-level character, and again that's usually not the case, unless your first level fighter has 14 Str/Dex and leather armour.

There are quite a few more standouts, but really it's bringing the more optimized characters significantly more in line with an equal level monster, which means that they won't just roll over those threats anymore.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
HeHateMe wrote:

I've noticed you can't play "Big damn heroes" in this edition, cause the monsters are more powerful than you are. It's more survival horror than high fantasy to me. Teamwork, sound tactics, and alot of luck are the only ways to stay alive.

It's certainly more gritty than 1e was. Some people prefer that but I don't. 2e isn't a bad game at all, but after my group finishes Age of Ashes I'll be quite ready to go back to 1e. If I wanted survival horror where everything is more powerful than the PCs, I'd play Call of Cthulhu, not Pathfinder. I play Pathfinder for the "Big damn heroes" feeling.

I think the Big Heroes feeling is quite easy to implement, as you just need monsters that are 1 or 2 levels below PCs.

Obviously this does not work at 1st level but still PF2 can easily be tweaked in that direction in later levels.

It is indeed problematic if the PF2 AP and modules always put at or above level monsters in front of PCs as this robs them of the Big Heroes facet of play. A variety in the level of opponents and threats the PCs face is better for the game and the verisimilitude of the world IMO.


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Yeah, I've been running one of the later PF1 APs converted, and it actually very rarely uses creatures of a higher level than the PCs. Age of Ashes does it significantly more. Those looking for an easier experience might apply the weak template to a lot of the creatures, or not adjust enemy numbers for a larger party.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:


I think the Big Heroes feeling is quite easy to implement, as you just need monsters that are 1 or 2 levels below PCs.

Obviously this does not work at 1st level but still PF2 can easily be tweaked in that direction in later levels.

It actually works reasonably well at first level, still. There's a rather lot of level 0 and -1 monsters available, not to mention the weak adjustment.


I guess the issue might not be the system itself but the encounters built into Age of Ashes. Hellknight Hill has been a real grind so far.


martryn wrote:

Running a group through the 1st Adventure Path, and some of the veterans from the previous edition are complaining. We wasted 30 minutes of our last gaming session discussing combat math. The party saw goblin dogs and assumed they were roughly as dangerous as they were in the past, but a single goblin dog now has close to even money chances to down a 1st level fighter, and more than one almost certainly will do the job.

Which is radically different than previously. Running through Rise of the Runelords, goblin dogs were attacking at a +2, and a 1st level fighter might have a 17 AC. A fighter could engage a group of three goblin dogs and excepting lucky crits or a string of high rolls on the GM's part, could be expected to stand his ground for several rounds and potentially finish them off solo. I mean, a 13 AC and 9 HPs, a single dog would likely drop in one hit to a two-handed fighter.

Now we have goblin dogs with a 17 AC and 17 HPs, with an attack bonus of +9, with the potential to strike 3 times in one round, inflicting pox on a hit... A single goblin dog looks, from a stat standpoint, very similar to your typical 1st level fighter. Which led to immediately problems for experienced gamers who thought they knew what a goblin dog was capable of being quickly over-whelmed in a single round. Tempers flared. My group felt cheated. Should not have walked into this edition blind.

I've only had a few sessions of experience with this edition so far, and the second session went very well for my party, but these guys are still 1st level. I had to assure my group that I was sure that things would balance out better as they leveled up, they picked up magic items and acquired more abilities, and were more likely to encounter creatures of lower levels. Is this the case, though? Is anyone else having issues with this?

It's as brutal as it is beautiful


Anecdotally, my own group at level 2 feels much more powerful then they did at level 1. I think part of this is that level 1 PCs still have the risk of dropping in one round, because even with higher HP pools all low level enemies can make multiple attacks each round and have strong attack modifiers. Additionally, I think this has to do with the fact that enemies can only go down to level -1, which means at first level the weakest thing you can fight is at party level - 2. After level 1 encounters can be designed with enemies farther below party level, and then the party really feels significantly stronger as a result.

Lastly, with only one Bestiary I don't think there's enough variety in level -1 critters, so adventure writers may be using higher level monsters to make encounters more interesting, but as a result first level adventures are really tough (speaking to the Age of Ashes comments above).


BellyBeard wrote:

Anecdotally, my own group at level 2 feels much more powerful then they did at level 1. I think part of this is that level 1 PCs still have the risk of dropping in one round, because even with higher HP pools all low level enemies can make multiple attacks each round and have strong attack modifiers. Additionally, I think this has to do with the fact that enemies can only go down to level -1, which means at first level the weakest thing you can fight is at party level - 2. After level 1 encounters can be designed with enemies farther below party level, and then the party really feels significantly stronger as a result.

Lastly, with only one Bestiary I don't think there's enough variety in level -1 critters, so adventure writers may be using higher level monsters to make encounters more interesting, but as a result first level adventures are really tough (speaking to the Age of Ashes comments above).

It also seems to be true in book 4, though. I've only compared the book 4 encounters of Ashes and this other AP, but there's a lot more equal level or higher enemies in Age of Ashes.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Yeah, I've been running one of the later PF1 APs converted, and it actually very rarely uses creatures of a higher level than the PCs. Age of Ashes does it significantly more. Those looking for an easier experience might apply the weak template to a lot of the creatures, or not adjust enemy numbers for a larger party.

There's a different design philosophy in this edition, and it's immediately apparent when you see the encounter balancing chart in the Gamemastering chapter. The designers call an encounter that is one-half the party's strength a "Moderate" encounter. In first edition, an encounter that was 1/4 of the party strength was considered appropriate for the party. The idea was explicitly laid out, that your party was to expend about a quarter of its daily resources in a level appropriate encounter.

The assumption in 2nd edition is that the party is going to heal between combats, using the Medicine skill and other healing resources. In this sense, its design philosophy is similar to 4th edition's, where the party would get healing surges between encounters, and individual encounters generally were more challenging and tense. It's a change I quite like.

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