(GM Advice) Official pacing


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Sovereign Court

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(My impression is that) Zapp looks at adventures as a sort of objective challenge. They would like to say "we beat Age of Ashes and we didn't take shortcuts or easy mode". It's not a player vs. GM mentality so much as the GM as fair tournament judge as the players attempt a published adventure.

And that's a perfectly legitimate way to want to play. A lot of the camaraderie in gaming comes from swapping stories of "how did you beat that boss in there?". I mean, PFS is actually a lot like that: fairly standardized scenarios.

But yeah, the pacing issue is vague. We've had references to an adventure design philosophy from first edition, and signs point to the same philosophy still being in use in second edition. It's the same people working on adventures, writing them in the same "vague hurry" style. A major reason to publish second edition was that Paizo wanted a game system that would let them write the adventures they wanted to write, so it's likely that if they liked "flexible urgency" in the past, they intended to keep it around in the second edition.

But I think Zapp has a point that pacing has become more high impact in this edition.

I don't think Paizo is going to drop their intentional vagueness policy. They like it because it allows GMs to dial the difficulty up or down as needed for their groups. And because they don't want to give players a hammer to bludgeon the GM with saying "no fair, you're not giving us as many breaks as the holy book says you must".

What I think they should do though, is write a thorough essay on exactly how you can use these dials to get the difficulty you want in your game.
- What kind of effect can you expect if you put three moderate encounters back to back? Is it the same at low and high level? Does it matter if the encounters are solo bosses or a gaggle of mooks?
- If you want to realistically use a dungeon flipmat where all the encounters are in hearing distance of each other, what does that mean for how you build your encounters? (I think a tendency to want to cram the dungeon map into a certain size frame has a distorting effect on encounter planning/plausibility.)
- How many encounters of what heftiness can you put in a day, and what does class makeup of the party have to do with it?
- How can you have both some high and low urgency days in your campaign?

The point of the essay shouldn't be to write rules, but to give understanding of how all the dials affect each other, and give the GM the ability to both understand how the dungeon design is creating whatever difficulties the PCs are experiencing, and how to manipulate that if a different difficulty is desired.

That does run counter to the "objective right difficulty" that Zapp is asking for; I don't think Paizo is going to do that. But with such an essay, an individual gaming group can decide that that's the sort of game they want, and elect to play at a certain difficulty level.


I'll just answer to this question:

Ascalaphus wrote:
- What kind of effect can you expect if you put three moderate encounters back to back? Is it the same at low and high level? Does it matter if the encounters are solo bosses or a gaggle of mooks?

It depends on the party.

If your party is full of martials with Medecine being the only out of combat healing available, it will be extremely hard.
If your party uses quick out of combat healing (Chirurgeon Alchemist, many healers) it can be as hard as having 3 non-back to back encounters.
So, I think you can't make guidelines.

I currently play quite some healers, so, most of the time, we don't use Medicine at my tables, I generally put everyone to full in a few rounds so we can continue on without stopping.


Depends on the party and on the rolls, I think. One moderate encounter could be a cakewalk because the party wins on initiative and gets some good crits, with maybe only a hit or two from the enemies.

One moderate encounter could be nearly a TPK if everyone in the party is fumbling and getting crit. If the encounter has an enemy with some sort of SOS spell/ability and they get a lucky critical success off that's significantly different--pacing wise--than if that enemy's SOS critically fails and the party womps them on the following round.

I think it'd be too hard to have much more than rough guidelines because there are so many variables and so many ways that the dice can come out.

For example, in Fall of Plaguestone:
The party got to the orcs at the final dungeon and tried to sneak in. Two players got in pretty far, got to the watchtower without being spotted, but ultimately the alarm was sounded. I had every orc rally and it was a huge fight.

Rogue and Ranger managed to take control of the tower and enemies were bottlenecked there. The Ranger took pot shots at enemies and succeeded in doing a lot of damage to the boss guy and the archer orc. The Rogue used the +1 kukri and the watchtower ladder to her advantage, able to take on orcs one by one for the most part. The Fighter got some good shield blocks off and his high armor held alongside four(!) crits. The Druid got a nice burning hands off that evened the odds in a big way, and then resorted to flaming sphere for the rest of the encounter while mixing in cantrips or moving.

Overall, the party was battered and needed healing, but a big encounter was resolved and they were able to press on with goodberries and accumulated healing draughts used up. The party got pretty lucky with their rolls, and my rolls weren't great. If the dice had gone a different way or if tactics had been different it could have been a TPK. If the party had been composed of different classes things probably would have gone differently. If I were a different DM I might have let the party be even stealthier, or sounded the alarm immediately, or had the orcs behave differently.


Different party composition (not to mention hot or cold dice, which play a larger role in P2e than P1e with its static bonuses) mean the same encounter will be easier or harder at different tables. The classic example from 3.x was undead-heavy encounters, which felt over-CRed for parties with positive-energy clerics and under-CRed for parties without that resource. (That's probably even more the case in P2e as well, with non-magical healing being far more viable than it was.) Parties with lots of casters using per-day spell slots generally need to rest more often than more martial parties who don't have a limited number of times per day they can swing their weapons.

Not to mention that not all adventures are linear, with encounters that come in a prescribed order. In the first dungeon of Hellknight Hill, for example, there are multiple possible entrances and parties choosing different ways to turn or doors to open first won't meet the encounters in the order they're laid out in the book. I'm running two tables through Hellknight Hill, and one had one encounter on entering the dungeon and then managed to go straight to the BBEG of the level; my other table went in by the same entrance but opened a different door from the first room and will likely have a very different order of encounters.

Sovereign Court

That's a good point, talking about highly linear vs. multiple choice dungeons. It's very hard to give people freedom to pick their own path, and at the same time insist they do it at one particular speed.

At that point you start to shift a bit from storyteller to schoolteacher complaining about lazy students.


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Nobody's trying to "insist" on anything so please don't frame it that way.

Look, this boils down to Paizo being completely silent on a frikkin huge factor in how the game sets the difficulty.

Please tell me y'all don't think it's unreasonable to question that?


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I don't think Paizo really cares about the difficulty, outside of Organized Play that has its own guidelines. I absolutely don't think Paizo is going to issue a guideline ("x encounters before resting") that's going to be used (not by you, to be clear, but by someone out there) to put down players or play-styles as "slacking" or "underachieving."

There were actually some adventures in P1e that had a timer or a running clock on them. There's a section, for example, in Giantslayer where PCs go from 2nd to 4th level during the course of a single battle that is ongoing around them. Kingmaker, otoh, is designed in such a way that it would be extremely unlikely for the PCs to fight more than one encounter in a day for long stretches of the adventure. Different narratives have different expectations; most leave it up to the taste of the individual playgroup.

Scarab Sages

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Zapp wrote:


Look, this boils down to Paizo being completely silent on a frikkin huge factor in how the game sets the difficulty.

Please tell me y'all don't think it's unreasonable to question that?

I do think the question is a bit unreasonable. Paizo isnt being silent on a huge issue. This is an incredibly minor issue, that honestly would have never even occurred to me as a problem that anyone would have had until it was brought up in this thread.

I've been running games for almost 30 years now, typically as the primary GM of my group. I don't think I have ever forced any kind of pacing on groups except in the rare occasion when an adventure calls for it, and even then its usually on the scale of days/weeks/months, not minutes/10 minutes/hours.

When the players want to rest, they rest. When they don't they don't. Its not a GM decision, its a player decision. If that resting would logically have story consequences, it has story consequences. But the resting or not isnt something that should be up to the GM, but the players.

So for examples:

The last 1e AP I ran was Return of the Runelords. Something was obviously going on behind the scenes, and the PCs could perceive the effects of it, but didn't have a firm idea of why. This lead a rushed feel to the game, a frantic pace that the PCs enjoyed. But even still the rushing was on the scale of days. During the course of adventures, PCs would spend a few minutes healing up after fights and carry on. Once the casters were running out of slots, they would pull back and set up camp, frequently using spells to secure their camp. (Alarm, Magnificent Mansion, etc) There were a few times when the dungeon they were in was already occupied and time mattered, so they didn't get any full days rests in those, but still had basically all the time they needed between encounters. If what they were doing was loud enough for someone somewhere else in the dungeon to hear it (it happened several times) they would end up fighting most of the dungeon at once.

Now in 2e I am running a group through Extinction curse. There has not been a single encounter where they have not had a 10 minute rest after. Most of them they get several 10 minute blocks to rest and heal up. There is no good in world reason why they wouldn't. They are almost done with book one, and only once did they have to stop mid dungeon to recuperate. In that instance they went into a room, boarded up the door with heavy furniture, set watches, and rested for the night. They didn't know it at the time, but they had already killed everything in the dungeon that could have stumbled across them, but if they hadn't the probable result would have probably been the rest of the dungeon swarming their resting spot in the middle of the night. Because that is the logical in world consequence of their action.

No need for artificial pacing constrains. Let the narrative and your PCs drive the pacing.

Sovereign Court

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Zapp wrote:

Nobody's trying to "insist" on anything so please don't frame it that way.

Look, this boils down to Paizo being completely silent on a frikkin huge factor in how the game sets the difficulty.

Please tell me y'all don't think it's unreasonable to question that?

I don't think they've been completely silent. Any time they're cornered the reply boils down to "that's too complicated to give a single answer to".

Which I think is the right response. The right difficulty means something different to different groups. Some people want to glide through an AP and just kinda enjoy the ride, they don't necessarily want all kinds of heavy challenge. Other people want a hellride. Which one is right? Who should the "objective" pacing be calibrated for?

Well, the right response, sorta. I think they should say more about how you can manipulate pacing to create the difficulty and tension that you enjoy. It's an art, and new GMs can definitely use some advice on how to paint with it. You can teach someone painting techniques without telling them what they should be painting.


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So I've read the thread and am missing one answer to the question. It's still not very precise, but you can find it in the section on encounter difficulties:

Quote:

Low-threat encounters present a veneer of difficulty and typically use some of the party’s resources. However, it would be rare or the result of very poor tactics for the entire party to be seriously threatened.

Moderate-threat encounters are a serious challenge to the characters, though unlikely to overpower them completely. Characters usually need to use sound tactics and manage their resources wisely to come out of a moderate-threat encounter ready to continue on and face a harder challenge without resting.

Severe-threat encounters are the hardest encounters most groups of characters can consistently defeat. These encounters are most appropriate for important moments in your story, such as confronting a final boss. Bad luck, poor tactics, or a lack of resources due to prior encounters can easily turn a severe-threat encounter against the characters, and a wise group keeps the option to disengage open.

Emphasis mine. Resources are of course hit points, focus points, spell slots, items, etc. Some resources take a full day to recover (e.g. spell slots), some take only 10 minutes (e.g. focus points). It seems clear what Paizo intended in terms of pacing according to these descriptions, though it's still not very precise.

So, a rule of thumb might be this one: after a low-threat encounter, the party is assumed to be able to continue right away (having used some of the party's resources). After a moderate-threat encounter, it is assumed that the party is ready to continue on without resting but only if they did well, so a 10 minute break might be reasonable. Before a severe-threat encounter, it is assumed that the party has had some time to rest, maybe even a full night, or else the fight might be too tough for the party.

Sovereign Court

I wonder if by "resting" they mean a 10m treat wounds break, or resting for the night?


Lawrencelot wrote:
So, a rule of thumb might be this one: after a low-threat encounter, the party is assumed to be able to continue right away (having used some of the party's resources). After a moderate-threat encounter, it is assumed that the party is ready to continue on without resting but only if they did well, so a 10 minute break might be reasonable. Before a severe-threat encounter, it is assumed that the party has had some time to rest, maybe even a full night, or else the fight might be too tough for the party.

Thank you.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I wonder if by "resting" they mean a 10m treat wounds break, or resting for the night?

I will keep assuming a 10 minute break is nearly always available without significant consequences. Sometimes circumstances make it obvious there is no 10 minutes to be had. In a few cases the party's rest will be interrupted before 10 minutes has passed. But as I said, I will assume these to be exceptions.

Now there's the argument "if you can have 10 minutes you can likely have an hour". And logically, I can't argue.

But since the game is built around the expectation 10 minutes are "free", I'm going to start the random rolls for interruptions (such as wandering monsters) only when the party rests for LONGER than 10 minutes.

In this context, each additional rest period should yield one extra check for interruptions, whether it is 10 minutes or 1 hour. That is, I might check for wandering monsters after 15, 25 and 85 minutes have passed. (Again this is game logic)

Assuming you have at least one party member specializing in Medicine and the Treat Wounds feats, the only reason to ever rest for longer than a couple of hours is to regain spells (and sleep).


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

There’s a lot of talk about Paizo’s expectations of how an AP should be run, but I think the quote from James Jacobs and the absence of any comment on encounter pacing in the CRB or GMG align with Paizo’s actual expectations.

Paizo expects that you are going to take their product and make it your own. The CRB doesn’t have a lengthy section about how to run AP’s because the expectation is that you will run or not run AP’s in a manner that suits your game and your players.

The default assumption is that you will take the setting materials and populate it with the adventures and encounters you feel are appropriate - the CRB and the GMG reflect that ideology.

The default assumption of an AP is that you will the adventure materials and run them in the way you feel is best appropriate for your table - the published content likewise reflects that ideology.

The places where the devs become silent on how to run something isn’t a place where the devs are failing to fulfill a need, it is a place where you as the GM have been given the agency to decide the direction for yourself.


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dirtypool wrote:

There’s a lot of talk about Paizo’s expectations of how an AP should be run, but I think the quote from James Jacobs and the absence of any comment on encounter pacing in the CRB or GMG align with Paizo’s actual expectations.

Paizo expects that you are going to take their product and make it your own. The CRB doesn’t have a lengthy section about how to run AP’s because the expectation is that you will run or not run AP’s in a manner that suits your game and your players.

The default assumption is that you will take the setting materials and populate it with the adventures and encounters you feel are appropriate - the CRB and the GMG reflect that ideology.

The default assumption of an AP is that you will the adventure materials and run them in the way you feel is best appropriate for your table - the published content likewise reflects that ideology.

The places where the devs become silent on how to run something isn’t a place where the devs are failing to fulfill a need, it is a place where you as the GM have been given the agency to decide the direction for yourself.

Why then do the rules tell us exactly how many monsters that make up a "moderate" encounter? Or how much money a level 7 character gets when Earning Income? Or the DC for treating wounds that heal 4d8 damage? Or how much money to add to the loot pile when a fifth character joins a level 15 party (3,250 gold)?

In all these cases I'm allowed to make the material "my own". In all these cases I feel empowered to "decide directions" for myself. Yet, a baseline, a guideline is given in all of them. Sometimes with absurd levels of minutae...

In other words, you're just repeating the boilerplate reply, not really answering the question.

Why of all the dozen subsystems that regulate difficulty is THIS one left wide open, with complete silence as the only "advice" given? If absolutely nothing else, why don't the CRB and GMG even address the issue, even to just say what you did?

Do you see?


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:

Why then do the rules tell us exactly how many monsters that make up a "moderate" encounter? Or how much money a level 7 character gets when Earning Income? Or the DC for treating wounds that heal 4d8 damage? Or how much money to add to the loot pile when a fifth character joins a level 15 party (3,250 gold)?

In all these cases I'm allowed to make the material "my own". In all these cases I feel empowered to "decide directions" for myself. Yet, a baseline, a guideline is given in all of them. Sometimes with absurd levels of minutae...

In other words, you're just repeating the boilerplate reply, not really answering the question.

Why of all the dozen subsystems that regulate difficulty is THIS one left wide open, with complete silence as the only "advice" given? If absolutely nothing else, why don't the CRB and GMG even address the issue, even to just say what you did?

Do you see?

I do see, do you see the difference between the relative size of an encounter (something dependent upon an XP budget and the static costs of designed mechanical elements) and the pace of an encounter (something dependent solely on you and your players whim at the moment of play)?

All of the things you list are mechanical elements that are easy to clearly define . There is no such mechanic to govern how your human players react to things in the real world space of your table during real world time.

The dozen subsystems that regulate difficulty are there because those are things that are in the designers absolute control, this one isn't. Someone even pointed you to comments from the creative director of the game in which he explained the absence of specific "default pacing"

Lots of people are answering your question with recommendations and advice and commentary from the designers of the game that speak to your specific questions. Could you for once please stop being dismissive of people who aren't answering it in exactly the narrow way you want it answered?


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Ascalaphus wrote:
I wonder if by "resting" they mean a 10m treat wounds break, or resting for the night?

I checked the references to "rest" in the sense of refreshing period of inactivity in the PF2 Core Rulebook. Rest can mean a 10-minute break, a full night's rest of 8 hours of sleep, or a long-term rest of 24 hours or more. I even found a few references to rest meaning death, the eternal rest.

In a few cases, the unadorned phrase "rest" appears to mean a full night's rest, such as in the ranger's Second Skin ability, "When wearing light or medium armor, you can rest normally, rather than receiving poor rest that leaves you fatigued." The general feat Fast Recovery might be another example, giving twice the healing on a rest, which otherwise would be a powerful combination with the 10-minute healing rests from Vivacious Conduit or Verdant Metamorphosis.

Lawrencelot's quote from BUILDING ENCOUNTERS, page 488, about not needing to rest after a well-handed moderate encounter did not quote all the way to extreme encounter, "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." Fully rested means after a full night's rest.

The recommendations are:
• Typically, a moderate combat encounter won't require a 10-minute rest afterwards.
• The party should be fully rested, i.e., 8 hours sleep, before an extreme combat encounter.

39 references to rest:

page 45, VIVACIOUS CONDUIT gnome feat 9: If you rest for 10 minutes, you gain Hit Points equal to your Constitution modifier × half your level.
page 51, Hillock Halfling, halfling heritage: Accustomed to a calm life in the hills, your people find rest and relaxation especially replenishing, particularly when indulging in creature comforts. When you regain Hit Points overnight, add your level to the Hit Points regained. When anyone uses the Medicine skill to Treat your Wounds, you can eat a snack to add your level to the Hit Points you regain from their treatment.
page 89, FURIOUS FINISH barbarian feat 2: After this Strike, your Rage immediately ends, and you are fatigued until you rest for at least 10 minutes.
page 89, SECOND WIND barbarian 2: ... but when you end this second Rage, you’re fatigued until you rest for 10 minutes.
page 110, SHINING OATH champion feat 2: You’ve sworn an oath to put the undead to rest.
page 139, VERDANT METAMORPHOSIS druid feat 14: If you rest for 10 minutes while transformed into a noncreature plant during daylight hours under direct sunlight,
you recover half your maximum Hit Points. If you take your daily rest in this way, the rest restores you to maximum Hit Points and removes all non-permanent drained, enfeebled, clumsy, and stupefied conditions, as well as all poisons and diseases of 19th level or lower.
page 170, Second Skin ranger class feature 19th: Your armor has become akin to a second skin for you. Your proficiency ranks for light armor, medium armor, and unarmored defense increase to master. When wearing light or medium armor, you can rest normally, rather than receiving poor rest that leaves you fatigued.
page 261, FAST RECOVERY general feat 1: Your body quickly bounces back from afflictions. You regain twice as many Hit Points from resting. ... In addition, you reduce the severity of your drained condition by 2 when you rest for a night instead of by 1.
page 275, Comfort armor trait: The armor is so comfortable that you can rest normally while wearing it.
page 353, MOMENT OF RENEWAL spell 8: The targets regain Hit Points and recover from conditions as if they had taken 24 hours of rest, but they do not make their daily preparations again or gain any benefits of rest other than healing.
page 376, TALKING CORPSE spell 4: Critical Success The target can lie or refuse to answer your questions, and the target’s spirit haunts you for 24 hours, bothering you and causing you to be unable to gain any rest for that time.
page 408, Casting Rituals: Each day of casting requires 8 hours of participation in the ritual from all casters, with breaks during multiday rituals to allow rest. One caster can continue a multiday ritual, usually with some light chanting or meditation, while the other casters rest.
page 410, CALL SPIRIT ritual 5: You tear the veil to the afterlife and call a spirit from its final resting place.
page 439, Pharasma: Edicts strive to understand ancient prophecies, destroy undead, lay bodies to rest
page 459, Hit Points, Healing, and Dying: Your maximum Hit Point value represents your health, wherewithal, and heroic drive when you are in good health and rested.
page 459, Hit Points, Healing, and Dying: Some spells, items, and other effects, as well as simply resting, can heal living or undead creatures.
page 460, Unconscious: If you’re unconscious and have more than 1 Hit Point (typically because you are asleep or unconscious due to an effect), you wake up in one of the following ways. ... • You receive healing, other than the natural healing you get from resting. ... • If you are simply asleep, the GM decides you wake up either because you have had a restful night’s sleep or something disrupted that rest.
page 460, Wounded: The wounded condition ends if someone successfully restores Hit Points to you with Treat Wounds, or if you are restored to full Hit Points and rest for 10 minutes.
page 460, Doomed: Your doomed value decreases by 1 each time you get a full night’s rest.
page 479, Exploration Mode: Rather than deciding on each action every turn, you’ll engage in an exploration activity, and you’ll typically spend some time every day
resting and making your daily preparations.
page 480, Rest and Daily Preparations: You perform at your best when you take enough time to rest and prepare. Once every 24 hours, you can take a period of rest (typically 8 hours), after which you regain Hit Points equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1) times your level, and you might recover from or improve certain conditions (page 453). Sleeping in armor results in poor rest that leaves you fatigued. If you go more than 16 hours without resting, you become fatigued (you cannot recover from this until you rest at least 6 continuous hours).
After you rest, you make your daily preparations, which takes around 1 hour. You can prepare only if you’ve rested, and only once per day.
page 481, Downtime Mode: Downtime gives you time to rest fully, engage in crafting or a professional endeavor, learn new spells, retrain feats, or just have fun.
page 481, Long-Term Rest: You can spend an entire day and night resting during downtime to recover Hit Points equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1) multiplied by twice your level.
page 488, BUILDING ENCOUNTERS: Characters usually need to use sound tactics and manage their resources wisely to come out of a moderate-threat encounter ready to continue on and face a harder challenge without resting. ... 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.
page 490, STARTING A SESSION: • Establish where the characters are at the beginning of this session. Have they been resting since their last challenge? Are they in a hallway, preparing to raid the next room of a dungeon? Tell players whether their characters had time to rest or recover since the last session.
page 499, RESTING: Characters require 8 hours of sleep each day. Though resting typically happens at night, a group gains the same benefits for resting during the day. Either way, they can gain the benefits of resting only once every 24 hours. A character who rests for 8 hours recovers in the following ways:
• The character regains Hit Points equal to their Constitution modifier (minimum 1) multiplied by their level. If they rest without any shelter or comfort, you might reduce this healing by half (to a minimum of 1 HP).
• The character loses the fatigued condition.
• The character reduces the severity of the doomed and drained conditions by 1.
• Most spellcasters need to rest before they regain their spells for the day.
A group in exploration mode can attempt to rest, but they aren’t entirely safe from danger, and their rest might be interrupted. The 8 hours of rest do not need to be consecutive, however, and after an interruption, characters can go back to sleep.
Sleeping in armor results in poor rest and causes a character to wake up fatigued. If a character would have recovered from fatigue, sleeping in armor prevents it.
If a character goes more than 16 hours without going to sleep, they become fatigued.
Taking long-term rest for faster recovery is part of downtime and can’t be done during exploration. See page 502 for these rules.
page 499, Watches and Surprise Attacks: Adventuring parties usually put a few people on guard to watch out for danger while the others rest. Spending time on watch also interrupts sleep, so a night’s schedule needs to account for everyone’s time on guard duty. Table 10–3: Watches and Rest on the next page indicates how long the group needs to set aside for rest, assuming everyone gets a rotating watch assignment of equal length.
If a surprise encounter would occur during rest, you can roll a die to randomly determine which character is on watch at the time.
[Table 10–3, Watches and Rest, has the word rest only in its title.]
page 500, DAILY PREPARATIONS: Just before setting out to explore, or after a night’s rest, the PCs spend time to prepare for the adventuring day. This typically happens over the span of 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, but only after 8 full hours of rest.
page 500, Downtime: This section describes ways to handle downtime and details several activities and considerations specific to downtime, such as cost of living, buying and selling goods, long-term rest, and retraining.
page 500, Actions and Reactions: If you need to use actions and reactions, switch to exploration or encounter mode. A creature that can’t act is unable to perform most downtime activities, but it can take long-term rest.
page 502, LONG-TERM REST: Each full 24-hour period a character spends resting during downtime allows them to recover double what they would for an 8-hour rest (as listed on page 499). They must spend this time resting in a comfortable and secure location, typically in bed.
If they spend significantly longer in bed rest—usually from a few days to a week of downtime—they recover from all damage and most nonpermanent conditions. Characters affected by diseases, long-lasting poisons, or similar afflictions might need to continue attempting saves during downtime. Some curses, permanent injuries, and other situations that require magic or special care to remove don’t end automatically during long-term rest.
page 524, BOTTOMLESS PIT hazard 9: Since the creature falls endlessly, it can rest and even prepare spells while falling, though items dropped while falling are usually lost forever.
page 619, Doomed: Your doomed value decreases by 1 each time you get a full night’s rest.
page 619, Drained: Each time you get a full night’s rest, your drained value decreases by 1. This increases your maximum Hit Points, but you don’t immediately recover the lost Hit Points.
page 620, Fatigued: You recover from fatigue after a full night’s rest.
page 623, Unconscious: • You receive healing, other than the natural healing you get from resting. ... • If you are simply asleep, the GM decides you wake up either because you have had a restful night’s sleep or something disrupted that rest.
page 623, Wounded: The wounded condition ends if someone successfully restores Hit Points to you with Treat Wounds, or if you are restored to full Hit Points and rest for 10 minutes.
page 632, haunt (trait) A hazard with this trait is a spiritual echo, often of someone with a tragic death. Putting a haunt to rest often involves resolving the haunt’s unfinished business. A haunt that hasn’t been properly put to rest always returns after a time.
page 635, rest Characters recover HP (normally Con modifier × level) and resources with 8 hours of sleep. 480, 499–500
GM advice 499–500, 502
long-term rest 481


So you can't really cap a gauntlet with an extreme combat encounter. Those are meant for stand-alone or once/day fights.

And most likely we need to have bosses nestled in their final lairs for a reason so the party can sneak in a lull before intruding.

Also, strings of moderate (or lower) encounters aren't so bad, as long as there's a lull before the party moves on to anything more severe.

So you can chop willy-nilly through hordes of the evil king's guards before facing a boss henchman. Then recover to penetrate the throne room where the king has assembled the rest of his men. Then wait a day before you uncork the evil demon lord behind it all.
Got it.
And now to tweak that as needed. :)

(I'm reminded of some of the adventures that start w/ the hardest or second hardest encounters, as the main forces converge.)


Castilliano wrote:

So you can't really cap a gauntlet with an extreme combat encounter. Those are meant for stand-alone or once/day fights.

And most likely we need to have bosses nestled in their final lairs for a reason so the party can sneak in a lull before intruding.

Also, strings of moderate (or lower) encounters aren't so bad, as long as there's a lull before the party moves on to anything more severe.

So you can chop willy-nilly through hordes of the evil king's guards before facing a boss henchman. Then recover to penetrate the throne room where the king has assembled the rest of his men. Then wait a day before you uncork the evil demon lord behind it all.
Got it.
And now to tweak that as needed. :)

The 160-xp extreme encounter could be built as four characters of equal level to the 4-character party. With a good design of the enemy party, that would be an even match with a 50% chance of Total Party Kill. Assuming that the enemy party is well rested, the players' party running short on resources would increase the chance of TPK beyond 50%.

A 160-xp extreme encounter against a solo boss could let the players overwhelm the boss by superior action economy and avoid TPK that way. This presumes that the solo boss has no battlefield control that would cancel out their superior action economy.

A lot of extreme-threat final bosses are located at the end of a gauntlet of moderate encounters. For the final boss to be balanced, the player characters need to know in advance that the gauntlet has the boss at the end, so that they conserve their strongest resources, and know which room contains the boss, so that they can drink potions and restore themselves to as close to fully rested as possible. Sending the party in blind will kill them. Mixing a severe threat into the gauntlet will kill them.

The GM can be more challenging if the players use intelligent tactics and teamwork like my players do. Then the GM can throw extreme threats at them as if they were mere severe threats, provided that the GM does not use tactics as intelligent as the players' tactics.

On the other hand, suppose the party is guarding a caravan and a bandit horde charges the caravan. We can make sure the party is well rested by providing no encounters before the bandits, so we can risk a 160-xp extreme horde of 8 warriors two levels below the party's level. Actually, we can throw 12 bandits warriors against them, because we can spread them out so that 4 warriors are useless until the party has defeated 4 early warriors. If the party rolls badly, then those 4 extra warriors become cowardly and greedy and flee with some loot instead of fighting the party.

Castilliano wrote:
(I'm reminded of some of the adventures that start w/ the hardest or second hardest encounters, as the main forces converge.)

An extreme-threat encounter leaves a party in extreme need of rest and recuperation, so they need a break afterwards. Thus, starting with a very difficult encouter has to give a lull after the start.


dirtypool wrote:


I do see, do you see the difference between the relative size of an encounter (something dependent upon an XP budget and the static costs of designed mechanical elements) and the pace of an encounter (something dependent solely on you and your players whim at the moment of play)?

All of the things you list are mechanical elements that are easy to clearly define . There is no such mechanic to govern how your human players react to things in the real world space of your table during real world time.

The dozen subsystems that regulate difficulty are there because those are things that are in the designers absolute control, this one isn't. Someone even pointed you to comments from the creative director of the game in which he explained the absence of specific "default pacing"

Lots of people are answering your question with recommendations and advice and commentary from the designers of the game that speak to your specific questions. Could you for once please stop being dismissive of people who aren't answering it in exactly the narrow way you want it answered?

I am not dismissive - I am engaging with you to make you see my point.

You might think this is an area where you step in with the authoritative answer.

I question that answer, and point out where and how it fails to address the question. Is that dismissive? I think not.


Mathmuse wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
I wonder if by "resting" they mean a 10m treat wounds break, or resting for the night?

I checked the references to "rest" in the sense of refreshing period of inactivity in the PF2 Core Rulebook. Rest can mean a 10-minute break, a full night's rest of 8 hours of sleep, or a long-term rest of 24 hours or more. I even found a few references to rest meaning death, the eternal rest.

In a few cases, the unadorned phrase "rest" appears to mean a full night's rest, such as in the ranger's Second Skin ability, "When wearing light or medium armor, you can rest normally, rather than receiving poor rest that leaves you fatigued." The general feat Fast Recovery might be another example, giving twice the healing on a rest, which otherwise would be a powerful combination with the 10-minute healing rests from Vivacious Conduit or Verdant Metamorphosis.

Lawrencelot's quote from BUILDING ENCOUNTERS, page 488, about not needing to rest after a well-handed moderate encounter did not quote all the way to extreme encounter, "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." Fully rested means after a full night's rest.

The recommendations are:
• Typically, a moderate combat encounter won't require a 10-minute rest afterwards.
• The party should be fully rested, i.e., 8 hours sleep, before an extreme combat encounter.

** spoiler omitted **...

Thank you. Why weren't you on Paizo's writing team? :)


Castilliano wrote:
So you can't really cap a gauntlet with an extreme combat encounter. Those are meant for stand-alone or once/day fights.

Worth mentioning is that I don't think official adventures feature Extreme encounters regularly at all.

They do feature lots of Severe encounters that the heroes will face after lots of other encounters, if the players themselves don't decide they have had enough for the day.

---

If the GM isn't given adventure-specific instructions on how the monsters react to this partial intrusion (which happens all the time) it would have been VERY NICE to have a general CRB guideline to fall back on (or ignore, as circumstances dictate).


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Honestly Zapp, there won't ever be a set answer to what you are looking for. Everyone, even among the Paizo team, runs adventures differently. If you want the adventure to be more realistic, then you set real time advancement and figure out what that means in the adventure. As per our previous conversation, if your players take too long to get to the family in the barn, then the family dies and your party gets to make the decision of how that affects them. Maybe it encourages them to act more quickly and as such take less breaks since they know lives are on the line. This can be a great push story wise for your group.

As others have mentioned, many of the encounters are setup to be scripted encounters. Paizo has found that this kind of encounter makes for a better adventure and helps players feel more empowered and heroic. If you want to drive a more heroic adventure then you should probably stick to these scripted encounters. Along with that though, if you want to provide a sense of urgency, most if not all dungeons I have seen presented by Paizo have a standard set of enemies that dwell there and can constantly be tossed at the party to keep them from healing up all the way after every encounter.

I have played with many different pen and paper systems and none of them tell you how to pace things out in the way you are asking for. The best you can hope for is other GMs experience. An AP like Rise of Runelords has been run thousands of times and people are happy to relay their experiences with it and tell you what pace made it fun for their group. If you want to mimic the pacing of a particular GM, then you do that. There is a blog on this site every Monday about streaming. That is probably the closest you'll ever get to a real answer. I just wouldn't ever expect the game system itself to tell me how to pace something outside of a scripted event.

Sovereign Court

CRB p. 488 wrote:

Moderate-threat encounters are a serious challenge

to the characters, though unlikely to overpower them
completely. Characters usually need to use sound tactics
and manage their resources wisely to come out of a
moderate-threat encounter ready to continue on and face
a harder challenge without resting.

I think "resting" in this case refers to "resting for the night", based on what I've seen in actual play. And that "sound tactics" include "remembering to Treat Wounds in between encounters".

What I've seen a lot of is a party going through a dungeon, facing several moderate encounters. Usually in a moderate encounter, some HP is lost, maybe one or two spells get expended, but a lot of the work is done with feats/strikes/cantrips. So after taking 10+ minutes rest the party is fresh enough to continue and take on another moderate encounter. Played like this, the party can do a log of encounters that day.

When the party doesn't manage to heal up after an encounter, they're probably going to have to spend more spells in the next one - using Heal spells to keep people on their feet or get them back into the fight, using bigger blasts because the monster has to die this round, can't afford to peel it down with strikes and cantrips. So two back to back encounters expend a lot more daily resources because you can't use "per encounter" resources. I'm basically saying that if you can heal up in between encounters, HP are a per-encounter resource.

I don't think you can really say that "10 minutes and no more" is the expectation in between encounters. For one, you're not expected to always succeed at your Medicine checks. By the time you can consistently succeed at DC 15, that 2d8 healing isn't enough anymore to heal you up in one shot, and you're probably Expert so you can roll the dice for DC 20 instead. You won't always succeed but the average expected healz are higher. Likewise for using Craft to repair a shield, that doesn't always succeed because the DC for higher level shields also goes up.

Also, a too-firm belief in strictly one 10m break in between encounters runs into the 1-hour limit on Treat Wounds. If you have a first encounter, then a 10m healing break, and then another encounter, the cooldown of the healing from the first encounter hasn't spun down yet.

And while Continual Recovery is a thing, a cleric won't be having it before level 4, and then by level 6 he could also have Ward Medic; so by then you can finally heal multiple party members every 10m. That leaves the first five levels of the game in contradiction to the "only one lull intended" doctrine.


A healer can have both ward medic and continual recovery by level 4 by spending their general feat on a skill feat. Indeed my druid player has done just this.

Sovereign Court

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Zapp wrote:

Why then do the rules tell us exactly how many monsters that make up a "moderate" encounter? Or how much money a level 7 character gets when Earning Income? Or the DC for treating wounds that heal 4d8 damage? Or how much money to add to the loot pile when a fifth character joins a level 15 party (3,250 gold)?

In all these cases I'm allowed to make the material "my own". In all these cases I feel empowered to "decide directions" for myself. Yet, a baseline, a guideline is given in all of them. Sometimes with absurd levels of minutae...

In other words, you're just repeating the boilerplate reply, not really answering the question.

Why of all the dozen subsystems that regulate difficulty is THIS one left wide open, with complete silence as the only "advice" given? If absolutely nothing else, why don't the CRB and GMG even address the issue, even to just say what you did?

Do you see?

I don't know the answers, but I do have theories.

The stuff that's described in detail (how much treasure in a given level, how many monsters of what level for an encounter of what difficulty) all involves a lot of calculation to find out. It took years to fine-tune that math and put it in the book. And it all interlocks; the amount of treasure that people should get relates to the cost of items of their level and the sort of bonuses they should be able to get from them and the DCs of checks that they have to make at their level. If you start changing one of them, the rest also starts wobbling.

I would say that wealth by level, and amount of monsters to put in an encounter if you want it to be "moderate", are kind of rules, while the decision to use moderate or severe encounters is a choice.

Rules (hard guidelines): how much XP worth of monsters makes a trivial/easy/moderate/severe/extreme encounter; how much treasure to give in a level. If you diverge from these then the mathematical expectations in the game start breaking down.

Choices: do I want an easy or a hard dungeon? I can make an easy dungeon by having lots of low-intensity encounters and breaks. I can make a hard one with just a few heavy encounters, or few breaks.

Both the easy and the hard dungeon could amount to the same amount of XP and loot. Which is the right one? that depends on what your players enjoy.

The choices "how much time in between encounters" and "what difficulty encounters" are relatively easy for any GM to make. Figuring out the correct amount of treasure for a level 7 party, that's hard, you really need the table for that. Basically, you freeze a lot of parameters (loot vs. cost of items expected at a level) to bring things back to a few freely variable parameters that as a GM you can understand and use.

Sovereign Court

Garretmander wrote:
A healer can have both ward medic and continual recovery by level 4 by spending their general feat on a skill feat. Indeed my druid player has done just this.

It's possible, but to base your "rules for everyone playing the game ever" on one particular build isn't reasonable.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:

I am not dismissive - I am engaging with you to make you see my point.

You might think this is an area where you step in with the authoritative answer.

I question that answer, and point out where and how it fails to address the question. Is that dismissive? I think not.

This:

“Zapp” wrote:
In other words, you're just repeating the boilerplate reply, not really answering the question.

is literally dismissive. As is this:

“Zapp” wrote:
I can improvise reasons for a fast or slow pace myself - this thread is about finding out how Paizo runs the game, so perhaps we can offer advice for pacing things yourself in another thread?

And this:

“Zapp” wrote:
I just didn't have any comment since his comment likely isn't relevant in this new completely different game, and even if it is, doesn't explain why the official gamesmaster advice is completely silent on the issue

Everyone in this thread is engaging with you on the topic at hand. Choosing which answers aren’t really answers and which answers aren’t relevant and suggesting alternate branches of the same conversation should have their own thread is dismissive.

As for why Paizo doesn’t give specific encounter pacing guidelines the answer remains that each table is different. As James Jacobs said:

“James Jacobs” wrote:
the pace of the adventure path ALWAYS should be flexible for the party's preferred progression speed, and the plot shouldn't advance without the PCs pushing it on.

You don’t need an official baseline to base the pace off of, you just need to let your players set the pace they want and be flexible enough with running the adventure to allow them to go at that pace


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Though I understand Paizo's reluctance to provide answers on this issue I would really appreciate one. Sure this is all about GM style, group size and composition and a lot of other factors for each single table, but how hard can it be to at least provide some abstract figures?

Like: "If we consider this a console game, how many encounters of which severity can we pack in between save point A and B without the overall game experience being either too boring or simply frustrating for an average player/group?"

This would certainly be beneficial for many players and groups who like to gauge their own performance, i.e. how did we do vs expectations, as well as for all GM's that are unsure on how to build their own encounters and adventures. How many TPK's does it take unless you realize that 4 severe encounters back-to-back might not have been your best idea for your current adventure stage?

Note that we are talking about rule-of-thumb kind of guidelines here, i.e. something which you can, will and should be deviating from, depending on what your actual game table needs. Can't imagine them not having some inhouse rules when designing new adventure paths or stand-alone adventures.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I don't think you can really say that "10 minutes and no more" is the expectation in between encounters. For one, you're not expected to always succeed at your Medicine checks.

Or... you stop considering Medicine as the only out of combat healing.

Medicine is there to lighten the resource cost of out of combat healing, but it's not supposed to be the only way to patch everyone up.

Scarab Sages

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Ubertron_X wrote:


...This would certainly be beneficial for many players and groups who like to gauge their own performance, i.e. how did we do vs expectations...

...How many TPK's does it take unless you realize that 4 severe encounters back-to-back might not have been your best idea for your current adventure stage?...

... Can't imagine them not having some inhouse rules when designing new adventure paths or stand-alone adventures.

1. They can't answer this question because they don't have an expected baseline. Thats like asking how the protagonists in The Hobbit did compared to the baseline. Its a nonsensical question. It isn't a race. The adventurers handle encounters as the story flow and their comfort level permits. There is no above or below average. That would presume a right or a wrong answer, and there isn't one.

2. According to the rule book, a severe encounter has a roughly 50/50 chance of TPKing a fully prepared party. So you should never do them back to back unless your group likes that kind of story. They have already told you what to expect if you do it (50/50 chance of success each time, assuming full rest). What more do you need?

3. I'm pretty sure they don't. They have already said they don't. (see James Jacob's quote posted multiple times in this thread) Why is it so hard to take them at their word?


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Bartram wrote:
1. They can't answer this question because they don't have an expected baseline. Thats like asking how the protagonists in The Hobbit did compared to the baseline. Its a nonsensical question. It isn't a race. The adventurers handle encounters as the story flow and their comfort level permits. There is no above or below average. That would presume a right or a wrong answer, and there isn't one.

The question if there is an answer to the question raised within this thread is a difficult one, because it also is question about understanding game and adventure design. So if you are of the opinion that the players are the story's protagonists and everything is 100% and only about them and the story they tell, then you might have a point. If however you are of the opinion that the story is just that, aka a story that wants to be told, and will be told countless times as many different groups will progress through it, then perhaps you will allow a different point of view. In your version the players are the story, which to be honest is the ideal case, but in my experience and for most stand-alone adventures and AP's the players often "just" happen to be part of the story (at least unless you play 100% home-brew sandbox). Also part of this question is about the world turning even when the players are not looking, not about someones comfort zones. And as such the question is not nonsensical, it is imperative.

Bartram wrote:
2. According to the rule book, a severe encounter has a roughly 50/50 chance of TPKing a fully prepared party. So you should never do them back to back unless your group likes that kind of story. They have already told you what to expect if you do it (50/50 chance of success each time, assuming full rest). What more do you need?

I was exaggerating for sure, could also have used moderate or low-threat encounters in order to stress the need for encounter and as such such ressource management.

Bartram wrote:
3. I'm pretty sure they don't. They have already said they don't. (see James Jacob's quote posted multiple times in this thread) Why is it so hard to take them at their word?

Because to my ears it sounds a little bit unreasonable to not have one. How do you build an adventure that is not only fun but also provides at least some kind of a challenge? How do you build an adventure that is neither boring nor frustrating? Note that I am fully aware that any GM can adjust difficulty as he sees fit and as such I will do so, however as a GM I expect any adventure or AP to somewhat work "out of the box", at least as far as the more "mechanical parts" are concerned, as one of the main reasons for going for an AP in the first place (apart from the excellent story) is time. Time that I do not need to spend into creating or modifying the story or challenges because others already did this for me.

Scarab Sages

Ubertron_X wrote:

...If however you are of the opinion that the story is just that, aka a story that wants to be told, and will be told countless times as many different groups will progress through it, then perhaps you will allow a different point of view. ...

That to me is antithetical to the TTRPG experience. If the GM I was playing with (although most of the time I'm the GM) wanted to run games like this I would politely decline and find another GM. The PCs absolutely 100% should be the center of the story. What happens at any other table is completely irrelevant to the story being told with the PCs at your table.

Ubertron_X wrote:
...How do you build an adventure that is not only fun but also provides at least some kind of a challenge? ...

You follow the guidelines in the book. Moderate encounters provide moderate challenges, severe ones, severe etc. When the PCs want to rest, they rest, when they don't they don't. PC rest frequency is not something I feel the GMs should ever decide. That is 100% on the PCs. They control their characters, and their characters are the ones that decide when to rest. Things the GM set in place (encounter placement, dungeon layout etc) may effect what the PCS need to do to rest (retreat, ect), but it is always the PCs choice when to rest. They are the protagonists.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:
Also part of this question is about the world turning even when the players are not looking, not about someones comfort zones. And as such the question is not nonsensical, it is imperative.

And we've spoken to exactly that, several times in this thread by posting guidance from James Jacobs the creative director of Pathfinder in the form of this quote:

James Jacobs wrote:
the plot shouldn't advance without the PCs pushing it on.

The default assumption of the creative director is that your party are the story's protagonists, and the plots advancement is dependent upon them. That has been the fundamental assumption of adventure and module design going back all the way to the brown books.

Your approach and Zapps approach suggest that there is an objectively correct way to play an adventure path - that's not the case. They're meant to be engaged with in whatever manner you and your players decided they should be engaged with. If you're running Keep on the Borderlands and your players want to explore the Caves of Chaos and completely bypass the Keep... they absolutely can.

This is a game of collaborative storytelling, and time/pacing is a very collaborative element to the style of play.

Ubertron_X wrote:
I was exaggerating for sure, could also have used moderate or low-threat encounters in order to stress the need for encounter and as such such ressource management.

This is again an example of something that will vary from one table to the next. How do you expect them to create guidelines for something that is so subjective? The grognards at table A might want to run out of resources - to stress the system and see how far they can get before dying while table B might be full of players who want a 2 hour adventuring day. There is no hard and fast pacing rules that cover both styles of play seamlessly. That's why it's the GM's job to figure out pacing and speed of play, they know their players better than Paizo ever will.

Ubertron_X wrote:
Because to my ears it sounds a little bit unreasonable to not have one. How do you build an adventure that is not only fun but also provides at least some kind of a challenge? How do you build an adventure that is neither boring nor frustrating? Note that I am fully aware that any GM can adjust difficulty as he sees fit and as such I will do so, however as a GM I expect any adventure or AP to somewhat work "out of the box", at least as far as the more "mechanical parts" are concerned, as one of the main reasons for going for an AP in the first place (apart from the excellent story) is time. Time that I do not need to spend into creating or modifying the story or challenges because others already did this for me.

Adventure Paths DO work "out of the box" regardless of a specific directive on pacing. That "mileage may vary" component called time doesn't make an AP unplayable. Adventures are built not around the amount of time it will take to play, but around the size and level of the party it is suitable for. Some are designed to leave you resource starved and some are designed to give you all the resources you need.

That again is supported by the James Jacobs quote:

James Jacobs wrote:
An Adventure Path is a marathon, not a sprint. It's an Adventure PATH after all, not an Adventure Destination; the point is the journey, not rushing to the end.

The point is playing the game, not reaching the end of the narrative.


Why not use your imagination?


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The PCs are the protagonists, and hopefully nobody's questioning that or wants some MMORPG experience at the table.
And the calendar should be padded to allow the party to reasonably participate (as in, if they don't intentionally not participate).
I believe that's what James Jacobs was referencing in terms of timing and pacing. Funny thing, the bad guys weren't able to get their ritual prepped until just before y'all arrived. (Though hopefully not so blatant.)

Yet once the PCs hit that final leg of that final gauntlet, once the chanting of the last ritual begins to echo through the evil temple, there isn't a good reference in the guides of how to structure the toughness. I can imagine many GMs needing to backpedal on the difficulty (or timing), perhaps to the loss of any suspense.
I do like how Mathmuse laid it out above, to give a clearer idea of what events drain what resources on one's trek to the finale. (So maybe Paizo does think they covered this, only from the opposite direction!)
One major difference is to note that yes, in most cases you'll want to add story space for a lull before the final boss, i.e. a side room to hide in, an obvious lack of traffic, or some such so the party knows they do have at least 10 minutes (or more at lower levels).

I cannot agree that the party should rest whenever they wish to rest. Is there never a race-against-time? Nor a sense of impending danger? Heck, in some venues (i.e. Hell, the Abyss, et al) respite might well be a prize in itself. Not that I wouldn't let them try to rest, it's just there might be consequences. A word or two of warning about how this exacerbates the danger level would've been nice from Paizo.

I'm thinking many earlier modules (even PF1 APs) have to be run at levels above where they were because they often had strings of reactive enemies or brutal settings. Out of combat healing had seldom taken as long as a lull does now (though I much prefer the stick-less PF2). Yet even the oldest Gygaxian settings often featured safe rooms, even for overnight rest.


dirtypool wrote:

James Jacobs wrote:

An Adventure Path is a marathon, not a sprint. It's an Adventure PATH after all, not an Adventure Destination; the point is the journey, not rushing to the end.

The point is playing the game, not reaching the end of the narrative.

Of course it is.

If you are on a sightseeing cruise, the point is the sightseeing, not the cruise. However if somebody asked me how long it will take I could probably easily give that answer, or at least an approximation: "From A to B at normal speed in 2 hours, add another 2h for sightseeing because the attractions are of limited size and another hour as grace time and voila, there you are. 5h for the trip."

Nobody wants to hurry anybody or force players to rest or not to rest. If your party takes longer so be it, if they are faster that is fine too! All we want is a guideline for planning purposes.

Can my party manage 4 moderate encounters and one hazard on the last level of the dungeon that I have envisioned to be played in one go by using only 10 minutes of rest OR do I need to consider means of conducting an extended rest without things getting weird (best worst thing I have seen in a computer RPG was being able to rest in the middle of a chase)? How about 4 low-threat encounters instead?

Deviations are always possible, but where to start?


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:
If you are on a sightseeing cruise, the point is the sightseeing, not the cruise. However if somebody asked me how long it will take I could probably easily give that answer, or at least an approximation: "From A to B at normal speed in 2 hours, add another 2h for sightseeing because the attractions are of limited size and another hour as grace time and voila, there you are. 5h for the trip."

On a sightseeing cruise the point is sightseeing, and the captain of the tour boat could indeed tell you how long it should take to get from point A to point B. But there isn't a captain of the boat, your players own the boat and go as dangerously fast or excruciatingly slow as they desire. Further, they've never navigated these waters so they haven't a clue whether it should take 5 hours or 2.

The default design aesthetic is that everything waits until they get there to happen. They're never missing the sights, because the sights are there for them. They are the prime mover in the adventure. If there is a fireworks display waiting for them in town, it happens when they get to town - whether that is two hours after setting out or 5 hours after setting out.

Ubertron_X wrote:
All we want is a guideline for planning purposes.

There isn't one. There isn't an objectively accurate pace of the adventure that you scale up from or scale down to. YOU set that pace.

Uberton_X wrote:
Can my party manage 4 moderate encounters and one hazard on the last level of the dungeon that I have envisioned

I don't know, and no one at Paizo does either. We can't know the answer to that, because your party could be 6 people deep with an even spread of martials to casters - or it could be 3 guys named Steve who all chose a variation on a fighter - or it could be Todd and whatever friends he wrangled together this month, and Todd typically falls asleep after an hour of play. The ONLY person who can read your table and figure out what your party can and cannot handle is YOU.

Ubertron_X wrote:
Deviations are always possible, but where to start?

By running the encounters in the book as presented and noting as you progress how swiftly your players are moving through them.


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Ubertron_X wrote:
If you are on a sightseeing cruise, the point is the sightseeing, not the cruise. However if somebody asked me how long it will take I could probably easily give that answer, or at least an approximation: "From A to B at normal speed in 2 hours, add another 2h for sightseeing because the attractions are of limited size and another hour as grace time and voila, there you are. 5h for the trip."

"A Three hour tour. A three hour tour..."

Sorry. Carry on.


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I'm with Ubertron and Zapp here. The discussion is about balance, not story pacing. The following questions should have a simple answer regardless of the story:

1. How many moderate encounters in a row (without any rest) can the average party handle before the next moderate encounter actually becomes a severe encounter?

2. Same as 1., but with 10 minute rests in between.

3. Same as 1., but for low-threat encounters.

4. Same as 2., but for low-threat encounters.

Etc.

No one minds if there is no exact answer to this, but a guideline would be helpful. We would expect something similar to the rules for how terrain changes the difficulty, from the GMG:

Quote:

BUDGETING FOR TERRAIN

If you include terrain that’s tricky to navigate or takes
extra work to deal with, consider whether it should count
toward the encounter’s XP budget. A fight that requires
Climbing, Swimming, or pushing through difficult terrain
can be much tougher—especially if the enemies have
strong ranged attacks. Think about the impact of the
terrain in advance, especially if the battle would already be
a severe threat, or you might kill the party. You can pick
an equivalent monster level for your terrain and factor that
into your budget, or just assign extra XP at the end if the
threat without terrain is on the low or moderate end.

There are some guidelines in the 'building encounters' section as I mentioned in my previous post here. So there is something already. But I also expected something more precise, especially in the GMG.

Sovereign Court

Lawrencelot wrote:

I'm with Ubertron and Zapp here. The discussion is about balance, not story pacing. The following questions should have a simple answer regardless of the story:

1. How many moderate encounters in a row (without any rest) can the average party handle before the next moderate encounter actually becomes a severe encounter?

2. Same as 1., but with 10 minute rests in between.

3. Same as 1., but for low-threat encounters.

4. Same as 2., but for low-threat encounters.

Etc.

No one minds if there is no exact answer to this, but a guideline would be helpful. We would expect something similar to the rules for how terrain changes the difficulty, from the GMG:

(...)

There are some guidelines in the 'building encounters' section as I mentioned in my previous post here. So there is something already. But I also expected something more precise, especially in the GMG.

You ask about balance, not story pacing; and about what the "average" party can handle. But what do you mean by balance? And why do you need to know about the average party? Consider:

Case A: you're building an adventure for your own game group. Then why should you care about the average group? The only thing that's important is what works for this group. If the group is full of powergamers who want to be challenged to the max, an adventure tuned for average players isn't fun for them. If they're clueless beginners who don't care much for combat but just want to relax and enjoy a story, an average difficulty adventure is too harsh and un-fun for them.

Case B: you're building an adventure for an unknown group, or multiple groups. Perhaps you intend to publish the adventure. You'd like to have an idea of what the average group can handle, but you probably also should put in some notes on how the GM can tune the difficulty up or down to fit their particular group.

Case C: you want to write a "competition adventure"; it's not so important how hard the adventure is, just that every group playing it plays it on the same settings, so that you can then compare which group did it the best.


Ascalaphus wrote:
You ask about balance, not story pacing; and about what the "average" party can handle. But what do you mean by balance? And why do you need to know about the average party? Consider:...

Why then do companies care about the average customer, surly people are as diverse as there is sand in the Sahara desert and it surly is impossible to fathom what they will do? Or do they need to know about average age, sex and income in order to set meaningful marketing strategies and price levels for their products?

And while I surely agree about infinite table diversity to statistics this is a non-argument. As long as there are at least 2 things that share a common theme or attribute there is and will be a mean, an average to everyone and everything, always. And even if there is no average which comes to mind naturally then one will need to be defined: Classical set-up, 4 characters, all human, (sword and board) fighter, (universalist) wizard, (cloistered) cleric, (dual-wield, dex-based) rogue. There you go.

We don't care about outliers like powergaming or storytelling groups, nor do we care about group composition or number of players, all we do care about is the overall Gaussian distribution and the median in regards to how many back to back type x encounters can be expected to be handled by any (average) group with or without 10min of rest after each encounter.

Hard to determine? Perhaps. But this is why we would happily and gladly take Paizos best guess as additional piece of advice and not require the full scientific proof.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:
Hard to determine? Perhaps. But this is why we would happily and gladly take Paizos best guess as additional piece of advice and not require the full scientific proof.

I don’t understand how it makes more sense for Paizo to determine a metric for designing an encounter around a “median party” complete with guidance on how to scale up/scale down for parties of different size and make up than it does for you to simply observe the ways your specific players respond to encounters and build according to their preferences.

Paizo doing that work would take time and would never be applicable at all tables, you doing that work would take less time and would always be applicable at your table.

Beyond the simple piece where your observational skills speak more than Paizo’s white room theory - the idea that the “average party” has a specific and definable pace of encounter that they can handle neglects two main factors that simply cannot be planned for: 1. Player creativity and 2. Random chance.

A player can come up with something creative and bypass an encounter entirely or solve it quickly and succinctly thus fundamentally altering the pace of the encounters for the game session. Some players do this routinely.

A party that can usually handle a lot of intensive combat encounters in a row without getting bogged down, can have a night of bad rolls. A party that progresses slowly through encounters can have a night of amazing rolls.

A “median party” guideline can’t account for those two obvious cases, nor can it account for myriad other cases that are unique to your players.


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Ascalaphus wrote:


You ask about balance, not story pacing; and about what the "average" party can handle. But what do you mean by balance? And why do you need to know about the average party? Consider:

As Zapp said multiple times in this thread, the answer to these questions is the same as when we are considering how much XP worth of monsters makes up a moderate encounter, or how much gold pieces an item that can cast a level 2 spell once per day should be worth. We have precise balance rules for a lot of other things in the game, and they are presumably based on an average party, or else on some other assumptions. Just apply those same assumptions on my previous questions and we should be able to get some more or less precise answer.

Same with dirtypool: player creativity and random chance applies to all other aspects of the game too, so why do other aspects of the game get precise rules why this particular aspect does not? Maybe the players in one campaign get really clever with a wand of illusionary creature while this item is useless in another group, this item still has a certain price according to the rules and is assumed to be of a certain power level (item level).


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lawrencelot wrote:
Same with dirtypool: player creativity and random chance applies to all other aspects of the game too, so why do other aspects of the game get precise rules why this particular aspect does not? Maybe the players in one campaign get really clever with a wand of illusionary creature while this item is useless in another group, this item still has a certain price according to the rules and is assumed to be of a certain power level (item level).

You cannot create a precise rule for an imprecise thing that you don’t have all the variables for. The options are create a guideline that is only applicable to a handful of tables or define the metric of success so narrowly that it creates a purely pass fail mechanic and you might as well just have printed a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book instead of a role playing game.

As for comparing an in game item cost to the speed of encounter progression, that is an apples to oranges comparison if ever there was one.


dirtypool wrote:
A “median party” guideline can’t account for those two obvious cases, nor can it account for myriad other cases that are unique to your players.

Well apparently someone who is not Paizo can do it all:

Level-20-Test


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ubertron_X wrote:
dirtypool wrote:
A “median party” guideline can’t account for those two obvious cases, nor can it account for myriad other cases that are unique to your players.

Well apparently someone who is not Paizo can do it all:

Level-20-Test

Can do what? Choose what his interpretation of an average party is and apply his interpretation of an average build for that kind of party to get them to level 20 to run white room theory combats for them?

That does absolutely none of what you’re asking for. Because a level 20 party is certainly not “median” in any way. This layout gives him room to theory craft. His party can handle encounters at whatever rate they want - but that rate won’t be applicable at both your table and mine. It might not even be applicable at his table if different players showed up. God forbid he runs through it all again and the rolls don’t turn out the same.

If you want a game with a story that introduces encounters that you solve at a measurable and defined rate and all you need to do is make adjustments to match the default pace set by the game - they sell those on little silver discs


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Lawrencelot wrote:
I'm with Ubertron and Zapp here. The discussion is about balance, not story pacing.

We have two camps here: people who use pacing to enable the maximum challenge in the game and people who use pacing as a story element. That might explain why Paizo has not given clear rules about pacing, since the different camps will want different rules.

Lawrencelot wrote:

The following questions should have a simple answer regardless of the story:

1. How many moderate encounters in a row (without any rest) can the average party handle before the next moderate encounter actually becomes a severe encounter?
2. Same as 1., but with 10 minute rests in between.
3. Same as 1., but for low-threat encounters.
4. Same as 2., but for low-threat encounters.
Etc.

Unless the GM gives a bigger experience-point reward for that final moderate encounter in the question 1 chain of moderate encounters, it is still a moderate encounter. It just has a higher chance of seriously damaging the party that a usual moderate-threat encounter.

The PF1 paradigm was about encounters consuming resources, such as hit points, prepared spell slots, or potions. Google provided me a D&D quote, though the page it linked to lacked the quote: "Challenge Rating assumes that a party of a Fighter, a Cleric, a Wizard and a Rogue with an average level equal to the Challenge Rating will expend approximately 25% of their expendable resources during the encounter." A CR = APL+4 encounter is the mirror match with 50% chance of TPK, and is considered 4 times as hard as CR = APL. That would consume 100% of the party's expendible resources, because the party has to give their all to win.

The PF2 mirror match with 50% chance of TPK is the 160-xp extreme-threat encounter. If the math were the same, then a 40-xp trivial-threat encounter would consume 25% of the party's expendible resources. However, the math is not the same. PF2 has plenty of practical combat options that do not require resources, such as cantrips that scale by level. It also has 10-minute rechargeable resources, such as Refocus to restore a focus point and Treat Wounds to restore hit points. Against experienced players, a 40-xp trivial encounter would consume only non-resources and maybe one or two rechargeable resources. The wizard would throw only cantrips, the bard would sing and keep his distance, the fighter and clerics would raise their shields every turn and avoid most damage. Afterwards, the cleric would Treat Wounds on himself and the fighter and not tap into his divine font.

My guess would be:
40-xp trivial-threat encounter: Spend 10% of hit points and 10% of rechargeable resources.
60-xp low-threat encounter: Spend 20% of hit points and 25% of rechargeable resouces.
80-xp moderate-threat encounter: Spend 30% of hit points, 50% of rechargeable resources, and 10% of daily resources.
120-xp severe-threat encounter: Spend 50% of hit points, 100% of rechargeable resources, and 50% of daily resources.
160-xp extreme-threat encounter: Spend 90% of hit points, 100% of rechargeable resources, and 100% of daily resources. Or TPK.

The effect of chaining encounters back to back without a 10-minute rest would be to spend less-replaceable resources. For example, suppose that the party climbed a castle wall and fought the guards on the wall, a moderate threat. They were down 30% of their hit points, and saw that more guards were climbing the stairs to reach them. Without time for a Treat Wounds or a Refocus, the cleric gathered everyone together and cast a group Heal spell, a daily resource.

A pair of moderate-threat encounters would spend 60% of hit points, 100% of rechargeable resources, and 20% of daily resources. No-one wants to be at 40% hit points, so the party will want to rest to restore them with Treat Wounds. If they cannot, then they will spend more daily resources to restore them.

My guess is probably inaccurate, because two game sessions ago I threw a severe-threat encounter against my 3rd-level party and the druid responded with a cantrip and a focus spell. He did not use any daily resources during combat itself. He used 1st-level spells afterwards to heal other party members, because they were still in a dangerous place and chose not to risk a 10-minute break. Maybe he was still using 2nd-level tactics where his 1st-level spells were his most valuable resource and forgot that he had 2nd-level spells. Or maybe I misjudged how much my players want to conserve their resources.

Sovereign Court

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@Mathmuse: I think you're generally right, but the missing piece is that players can't always smell if they're doing a Moderate or Severe encounter.

Your analysis of isolated vs. chained encounters is more or less the same as I was thinking. When you keep encounters isolated (i.e. with enough time to heal and refocus) then the party can do a LOT of moderate encounters. I would say that maintaining a degree of isolation between encounters makes the GM's job of estimating difficulty easier - if you keep every encounter strictly isolated, its difficulty is highly predictable. If you chain encounters, you're basically multiplying the uncertain outcome/resource loss of the first encounter by that of the second one. Outcomes become more varied.

So if you want to write a highly balanced adventure with a difficulty curve that's easy to predict for the writer, keep the encounters strictly separated.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

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Even if they would never quantify any guidelines. I think it would be very enlightening to hear from the designers (in a blog post?) and how they run their own games. It would be great to hear from James J, Jason B, Mark S, etc just to hear how they pace their games under this new system, and how they deal with rests of all varieties. They are the experts, while most of us are just learning.

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