(GM Advice) Official pacing


Advice

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I've tried to find the answer - any answer - in the GM advice chapter of the CRB but found nothing.

What is the default assumptions on encounter pacing?

This thread assumes games masters talking to each other, so spoiler alert - feel free to use official adventures as illustration.

Sometimes the circumstances of a scenario makes things obvious ("the dragon will eat the Princess three days from now. Hurry!") Sometimes the adventure itself will address the issue ("This room is safe for the adventurers to take a long rest in, but in two days time Sir Evil will position new guardians here")

But what about scenarios that doesn't say either way? What is the default? How do you run these adventures in a way that feels as close to the "Paizo way" as possible?

After all, the rules spend A LOT of energy making sure encounters, loot and character powers are balanced, including detailed xp budgets for encounters...

...but none of that efforts matters in either making the game run on what I call God Mode or Nightmare Mode!

God Mode: "The party sleeps a full night after every single encounter, never getting disturbed"

Nightmare Mode: "The party feels compelled to take out the map before time runs out, with maybe just a single 10 minute breather during the entire time"

After all, what's the point of differentiating between a Moderate challenge and a Severe one when the Moderate challenge is much more difficult when every party member is down to single-digit hit points and no spells or consumables?

Best wishes,
Zapp

PS. I have a specific example in mind, concerning a chapter in the Extinction Curse AP: https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42woo&page=2?1-The-Show-Must-Go-On#100

Feel free to read the post and then respond either there or here. Thank you.


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I'd really hoped the GMG would've addressed this, with it being much more important in PF2 than before.
How does one balance 10-minute breaks (lulls) into the XP/threat budget?

Add that some players build/advise around the assumption there will always be a lull between encounters (unless specifically linked as a stretched out larger encounter). Yet I can't imagine playing with that mindset when parties so often attack bases that have alarms, patrols, and reactive forces. Ten minutes is a huge amount of time in a small keep.

And hardly any time at all in an ancient tomb where a designer can assume the party comes in mostly fresh and ramp up the difficulty per encounter.

Plus the dungeon-crawl campaigns like Undermountain or Castle Greyhawk where one might assume the party has easy access to urban resources and overnight recovery. Set to extra hard there, right? Yet I know of a PF1 module that's like that, and quite easy for it since you can actually sleep in the dungeon and you're more limited by food than other resources. Emerald Spire too, if you simply head up a level or two (and have enough casting to make a day's rest worthwhile).

My rule of thumb (tentative pending more input) would be to count a lull as a step or two back on difficulty. (Not that it changes XP gained.)
So a series of easy difficulty encounters might add up to eventual attrition, becoming harder as they progress. Adding lulls in between them would lower the difficulty of that string of encounters, pretty much to nothing if after each easy fight.
(That's not advice, since there should be some riskier battles, but an example for baseline.)
So a moderate + moderate would be tougher than a moderate + lull + moderate. Then again, maybe trying to reduce it to a formula makes it seem more rigorous than the base system really is.

Yet, with so many feats built around speeding up Medicine, time must mean something, right? Lulls can't just be stretched at will. Again, I'd hoped to have seen some guidelines for time pressure in the GMG, but it seems it's not to be.
(I think many of us will be fine, but what I really wanted to know was what the developers had in mind when designing Focus Spells & Medicine.)


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Most missions in an adventure path are built around plot-based pacing. The clock starts when the party enters the dungeon.

Rise of the Runelords has a fairly aggressive clock. The 1st module, Burnt Offerings, starts with the party in the streets of Sandpoint for a festival when goblins raid the town. Later, they hear of the goblins planning a much larger attack that will hit before the sheriff returns from the city of Magnimar with reinforcements. That sounds urgent. Nevertheless, the pace is limited by plot. If the party takes a few days to prepare to disrupt the attack, then the sheriff still does not arrive and the goblins don't attack yet.

On the other hand, if some character stopped to forge a masterwork sword before dealing with the goblin army, I would have that army at the doorstep of the smithy. The character disrespected the plot, so the deadline would be exceeded.

Let me look at the example Zapp provided:

Quote:
They have just enough room to move about the enclosure, but not to leave it. They’ve been working on fraying the ropes binding them, but haven’t yet made a lot of progress, as they can work at it only when the [guards] aren’t paying attention. [The prisoners] haven’t had any food or water since [the boss] left, but they have not otherwise been physically harmed.

If the party is delayed for a few days, then time resets and the prisoners are still trying to fray the ropes and not yet dead of thirst. Maybe they were captured a few days later than the module said and have not been captive as long. Maybe the boss or a subboss stopped by once and remembered to give them food and drink.

The reason for plot-based timing is that rewriting the story to have the deadline pass is work. And usually leads to a less heroic result. Why go to that work when it will reduce the fun?

Other times, we can have a time-based response that increases the adventure. Maybe the players really want to fight the entire goblin army. Maybe they are stalled and the GM is obliged to get the game moving again.

I have dealt with stalls. For example, in Fortress of the Stone Giants the party wanted to harass the army of giants camped outside the fortress, but were afraid to confront them head on or sneak past them to the fortress. They attacked isolated groups, such as hunting parties, and then teleported to a comfortable inn in Magnimar for the rest of the day--for two separate game sessions. The third game session had a surprise. They awoke for breakfast in the inn and a group of strangers attacked them. The wizard leader of the army (the party knew he was a wizard) had scryed them and teleported a commando team to Magnimar to take them out. It was an enjoyable combat, with the commandos chosen to neutralize the party members, such as a true neutral mercenary against the paladin and a grappler against the wizard, but due to the limitations of the teleport spell, the commando team was too small to succeed. After that, the party went directly to the fortress.

Another stall had been in Lords of Rust. The plot hook was to discover the secret of the Lords of Rust gang in the shantytown Scrapwall. This hazardous place was divided into gangs for mutual survival against the monsters in the area, and because residents were descendents of bandits and fugitives in hiding. Instead, of marching in to Scrapwall and immediately confronting gangs to make allies and enemies, the party disguised themselves as fugitives and moved into Scrapwall without a fuss. I had to invent daily life in Scrapwall, because the module did not cover that. Most of their fights were against random encounters of monsters. They slowly made the expected allies and enemies, not as a daring adventurers come to clean up town, but as combat-ready neighbors who would help the weak and poor. I did not rewrite the plot to speed up events, because the story had no natural deadline. Besides, the players enjoyed roleplaying as powerful, kind-hearted neighbors who would get together over beer rather than wave a sword in someone's face.

That same party later ran through the final dungeon in Valley of the Brain Collectors nonstop without a break because they feared the enemy rallying against them if they had any time. That dungeon was big enough that it ought to have exhausted their resources and forced a break halfway through. If they had left the dungeon to sleep for a night, I would have had the dungeon boss recall outside patrols in order to half restock the dungeon and keep them on high alert. Instead, the PCs carefully relied on lesser resources to keep on going, attacking the unready enemy in every room.

My players love trying out tactics, both fast and slow.


Mathmuse, those are good examples of calendar pressure and reactive encounters. Thanks.

Now how would PF2 balance within the Fortress itself?
There aren't long buffs + CLW Wands to keep them going, and the players are going to want to get a lull (or several) based on their chassis and supply of in-combat healing. When do the giants start hunting? Or call in troops from outside? And is the ability to Teleport/Dim Door the whole party out of immediate danger (perhaps to rest elsewhere) assumed? That's much harder to coordinate in PF2.

(I'm also not a big fan of adjusting the calendar for the party unless the error was on my part. Having a slow party member might actually lead to failure. Though yes, for published adventures that'd be quite difficult w/ so many forks.)


Castilliano wrote:

Now how would PF2 balance within the Fortress itself?

There aren't long buffs + CLW Wands to keep them going, and the players are going to want to get a lull (or several) based on their chassis and supply of in-combat healing. When do the giants start hunting? Or call in troops from outside? And is the ability to Teleport/Dim Door the whole party out of immediate danger (perhaps to rest elsewhere) assumed? That's much harder to coordinate in PF2.

Fortress of the Stone Giants had a good dungeon design that would work with PF2, credit to the author Wolfgang Baur. The players encountered an ally inside the fortress who could have hidden them in a private room if they needed time for Treat Wounds or Refocus. In the lower underground levels, traffic was so light that a 10-minute break in the hallway itself could have worked.

The module described the seven different armies that had answered the giant wizard Mokmurian’s call for war. He did not allow them into his fortress, pointing out it was too small for all of them, but also because he had dire secrets what would cause the armies to depart. That meant that if the party entered the fortress, they did not need to worry about the armies outside.

Since the party was afraid to get close after being chased by one of the armies, I invented the hunting parties to give them an enemy band small enough for them to confidently attack. My daughter was gleeful when I told her that her battle oracle had a full minute to buff herself before the hunting party reached the ambush location. She had never applied all nine buff spells to her oracle at once before. She could consume spells recklessly because the wizard planned on teleporting away after the ambush.

Teleport creates the classic 15-minute adventuring day. PF2 supplies rechargeable resources ,such as focus spells, that should stretch out that short adventuring day to 30 minutes or an hour.

Dimension Door was not as good for escaping. An enemy tried that once, and it led to a mile-long chase across farm fields: Never String Out the Party! How should I handle a mile-long chase? PF2 Dimension Door has been nerfed to transport only the caster.

Castilliano wrote:
(I'm also not a big fan of adjusting the calendar for the party unless the error was on my part. Having a slow party member might actually lead to failure. Though yes, for published adventures that'd be quite difficult w/ so many forks.)

In my current Ironfang Invasion campaign, I adjusted the calendar to be faster, because my players are finishing objectives in days rather than weeks. They would be ready for the final battle with the hobgoblin forces tracking them before the forces would be sent to hunt them down. Therefore, I retroactively sent those hobgoblins out weeks early.

Another mission foiled by the party's speed was in The Empty Throne at the end of the Jade Regent adventure path. The imperial capital of Kasai was starving, because the government had redirected their food supplies to the army and restricted passage in and out of the city. The party heard about an opportunity to steal food from the army overnight and deliver it to Kasai. They passed up that mission, pointing out that they would have the city free from the evil government by noon the following day. They were correct.


Okay, maybe I shouldn't have asked about that fortress directly, since I really meant fortresses in general. It sounds like that one did account for rests though, likely even overnight.
That's not uncommon. Gygax often had sanctuaries or hidey-holes, some even with resources (i.e. healing mushrooms) and larger 3.X modules often had rest spaces.
Yet I'm thinking those are so parties didn't have to travel overland to camp. Lulls present a whole new variant of such rests. It'd be odd to run back to a hidey-hole after every combat, though mechanics definitely encourage that. If you have such a space (and no wandering monsters or other time factors) then (nearly) all combats should begin with full h.p.
Yet is that what's intended in PF2? No commando clearing of room to room, just room-lull-room-lull-room?
It seems there are only so many excuses one can make for enemies to constantly camp out and not track down threats en masse (though having environmental advantage is an excellent one!)


Ideally, I would like specific examples of Paizo devs running the game, or blog/forum posts where they discuss pacing issues, or expand upon their expectations.

In other words, instances where they're forced to commit to a specific pacing.

To generalize my example; we're talking a low-level dungeon where there is zero guidance on wandering monsters, reinforcements or anything else. There is no notion of a timer running down, no NPC asking the heroes "please hurry", nothing.

Yet encounters are graded using the normal Low, Moderate, Severe etc scale.

What prevents the heroes from just taking their sweet time and trivializing any encounter that isn't by itself challenging? What prevents the heroes from breaking off any time they feel they could heal up a little or rest for new spells?

Or more specifically, what do Paizo expect?

Is it their intention to reward groups that refuse to move faster than necessary with much easier low-stakes combats (by not adding consequences for resting)?


Castilliano wrote:

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have asked about that fortress directly, since I really meant fortresses in general. It sounds like that one did account for rests though, likely even overnight.

That's not uncommon. Gygax often had sanctuaries or hidey-holes, some even with resources (i.e. healing mushrooms) and larger 3.X modules often had rest spaces.
Yet I'm thinking those are so parties didn't have to travel overland to camp. Lulls present a whole new variant of such rests. It'd be odd to run back to a hidey-hole after every combat, though mechanics definitely encourage that. If you have such a space (and no wandering monsters or other time factors) then (nearly) all combats should begin with full h.p.
Yet is that what's intended in PF2? No commando clearing of room to room, just room-lull-room-lull-room?
It seems there are only so many excuses one can make for enemies to constantly camp out and not track down threats en masse (though having environmental advantage is an excellent one!)

I'd say the likelihood of a lull is proportional to the difficult of an encounter.

A hard/extreme encounter? there should be a lull. before and possibly after. An easy encounter? You can probably string a few of those back to back, maybe even just call all of them together a 'hard' encounter. Moderate? You maybe want to only throw two or three at a party before a lull, keeping an eye on how hurt your players actually are.


That is a very good thread as we asked ourselves exactly the same question while playing the starting module of AoA.

We entered the first dungeon, had our first fight and then? Are 10 minute (or more) breaks for medicine and/or replenishment of focus spells a given, or should we simply press on after minor encounters? In the end we decided to (try to) press on because our goal hinted at a certain urgency, which however ultimately made us running low on ressources so we needed a good night of rest before we could clear the dungeon the next day.

In hindsight we might have been faster in clearing if only we would have used a 10 minute break after every single encounter, but during play it somehow mostly felt wrong. There was plenty of healing to be done after each fight for sure, but almost no actions for anyone else (fighter did some shield repairs here and there and our wizard tried to identify some items once we finally got interesting ones). I am quite sure that it also felt wrong because of a certain PF1 mindset but that's why we are here trying to figure how PF2 is meant to be played.

And as we did not squander time on purpose everybody was quite sure that any important events or cutscenes would also be there the next day, which of course they were (when deciding to go for a rest or not we often joke about how events in adventures are usually stalled until the heros actually arrive at the scene).


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In my opinion, the game is based on 10-minute breaks in between each encounters. Focus powers being the hint. For example, if you play a Wild Druid, you need to refocus between each fights, whatever their difficulty, as you need to use Wild Shape every combat. It is like that in Starfinder, and I find that it works wonder. It's quite logical for characters to take a moment to catch their breath between encounters, and 10 minutes is like a nice duration, short enough to be logical, long enough to avoid players to make bigger breaks unless the area is safe.


I think there is not a default pacing for encounter. Grading the grades for the encounters it´s on the vacum, not considering what hapens before or after them.

In the oficial adventures (AoA especifically), they imply tons of 10-30 minutes for non-combat activities (searching, etc). So it´s natural to hea/rest while someone searches the room.

The thing is, the players usually don´t know if taking their time after each combat is going to hit them back later. You as GM know, and if you don´t know, your job is to improvise.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Tension pools are a decent mechanic to add some cost to taking too long for 10 minute rests, but it only works in certain environments.


I think Garretmander's suggestion on the pacing is a pretty good one, although I also think that there's an assumption that you take 10 minutes after each fight to refocus. You should try to avoid having them take longer than that, though, unless they've just fought a fairly difficult encounter.

If you want to encourage a faster pace, event clocks are a good mechanic. Make a clock with a certain number of sections. Pick a time period in-game, or a number of combats if they don't stop to rest between, and then fill in a section of the clock after that time passes. Make sure the PCs know that once the clock is filled, something beneficial happens for their opponents. That may encourage them to push forward and have a few encounters in a row before stopping to rest in order to ensure that the enemy doesn't get their benefit.

The actual benefit could be an extra minion added to a battle or something minor like that. Once a clock is full, you start a new one, either with the same benefit or a different one. That might speed up the pacing, if you want the situation to feel higher pressure.

The time could be whatever you need it to be. For instance, in Burnt Offerings, each increment could be 1 day until the goblin invasion. In the Extinction Curse scenario above, maybe the time is every 1 hour. You can vary it based on how urgent the situation feels and what the PCs are doing when not continuing forward.


SuperBidi wrote:
In my opinion, the game is based on 10-minute breaks in between each encounters.

Does the GM advice in the CRB or GMG actually discuss this issue in any way?


Phntm888 wrote:
If you want to encourage a faster pace, event clocks are a good mechanic.

Thank you but just to be clear:

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? :)

I'm curious about the default pace. The expected pace. The canonical pace, even.


Zapp wrote:
Phntm888 wrote:
If you want to encourage a faster pace, event clocks are a good mechanic.

Thank you but just to be clear:

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? :)

I'm curious about the default pace. The expected pace. The canonical pace, even.

Need more data?

I've read of examples in the early releases where the party's schedule allows for lulls nearly always, even one case when the next encounter/enemy is within sight. And woe to the party of the GM that missed that those enemies remain in place since the two encounters are on the tougher side, and players have lamented moving forward yet felt odd about parking and resting so soon (having only battled once).
So not just do future designers need to know, but it seems players need to know the metagame too. And yet we don't want them to abuse it, do we?

This all falls under the banner of attrition, which would've been a good topic for design advice. Hit points seem like a poor method if PF2 (not that it has worked well since CLW wands became cheap). Wounded needs a lull, but is hard to directly inflict. Restorations have limited use, so there's that direction w/ many Conditions. And Doomed is downright sticky (and thus only seen at the highest levels, right?).

I suspect Paizo's avoiding attrition and building around max h.p., few conditions that carry over, and rest as you need.
Are the PFS2 scenarios developed the same way so far?
Did the higher level AoA's sections feature more pressure or stickier conditions? Or were there easy outs for unprepared parties like magic pools that refresh you? (Not that bad luck won't bypass preparation, given the limit to Restorations!)

ETA: And what about Heroism (and other 10 min buffs)? My first impression is it's supposed to last through multiple combats, but if lulls are the norm, then how often would they? Is it just that they last even through the biggest battles? Does the price in in-combat/non-lull healing worth keeping them active or would a player be risking death pushing on to maintain them (as an unintentional design norm)?


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I'm by no means as experienced or well read as most here, but I read somewhere that most encounters should be followed by ten minute breaks. If an encounter breaks out one after another, you should basically combine the crs to factor in the difficulty of the encounter (for example two creatures attack with equal cr to the party, that's a moderate encounter with 80 xp. If another of the same sort of encounter happens before the party can take a 10 minute rest, combine the xp to get the difficulty, which would make it and extreme encounter).

Like I said I don't remember where I read that, but that's what I go by in my games generally and it works well. Now if they rest in a very questionable area, then I might throw more baddies at them, but I keep in mind the difficulty.


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Zapp wrote:
Phntm888 wrote:
If you want to encourage a faster pace, event clocks are a good mechanic.

Thank you but just to be clear:

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? :)

I'm curious about the default pace. The expected pace. The canonical pace, even.

...you posted in the Advice forums, and the title of your thread literally says "GM Advice", but you aren't looking for advice, you're looking for a definitive rules definition?

I'll flag this thread to be moved to Rules Discussion, since that seems to be the more appropriate forum for this question.

If you want a specific answer, consider this: given the design philosophy behind Focus Powers that require 10 minutes to be recharged after every combat, the ability to use the Medicine skill to heal wounds between combats with a 10 minute rest, and other post-combat abilities that are supposed to be used in 10 minute post-combat increments (repair shields and such), the design philosophy seems to be that the default assumption is a 10 minute lull between fights.


Phntm888 wrote:


...you posted in the Advice forums, and the title of your thread literally says "GM Advice", but you aren't looking for advice, you're looking for a definitive rules definition?

I'll flag this thread to be moved to Rules Discussion, since that seems to be the more appropriate forum for this question.

Having had bad feedback on my previous choice of posting, I thought this one to the correct subforum:

"For soliciting or offering advice on play style (including strategy), character creation, or GMing under the rules as published." (my emphasis)

But of course the Rules subforum would work for me too.


Phntm888 wrote:
If you want a specific answer, consider this: given the design philosophy behind Focus Powers that require 10 minutes to be recharged after every combat, the ability to use the Medicine skill to heal wounds between combats with a 10 minute rest, and other post-combat abilities that are supposed to be used in 10 minute post-combat increments (repair shields and such), the design philosophy seems to be that the default assumption is a 10 minute lull between fights.

Yes, that's certainly part of the answer.

(But why isn't this actually said by the CRB or GMG?)

But it isn't the whole answer.

For my example "dungeon" (part of the Extinction Curse AP) I want to run the game as official-y as possible.

But not knowing whether resting for the night (regaining spells etc) should have consequences means there's a big gaping hole in the guidelines, since this aspect far outweighs most other considerations when it comes to encounter difficulty.

The rules spend a great deal of effort making sure you gain only the XP you deserve (more XP means a harder encounter), but is utterly silent on the question on going into the encounter full of resources or entirely depleted?


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Here's a post from James Jacobs on timers in APs:

James Jacobs wrote:


We almost NEVER hard-code timers into adventures. The plot of them often imply timers, but that's a false implication; 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. GMs should let players know that before the game and between sessions. 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.

Now, the thread he posted this in pertains to a specific PF1 AP, but I doubt the adventure path writing philosophy has changed based on the edition change.

I don't think you'll find any more specific answer. You might try posting the question in this thread to see if you can get an answer to the question, as well, since Paizo checks that thread regularly for questions to answer on stream.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Probably because that question is going to have a slightly different answer for almost every group. Even playing a premade adventure you as a GM hopefully know whether your group prefers high-tension rapid plot advancement, difficult resource management or relaxed lets dick around talking to the sheep with Speak With Animals for the next twenty minutes.

How to pace your game is something you could only ever get advice for, with that advice being "what pacing do you enjoy."


Zapp wrote:
Phntm888 wrote:
If you want a specific answer, consider this: given the design philosophy behind Focus Powers that require 10 minutes to be recharged after every combat, the ability to use the Medicine skill to heal wounds between combats with a 10 minute rest, and other post-combat abilities that are supposed to be used in 10 minute post-combat increments (repair shields and such), the design philosophy seems to be that the default assumption is a 10 minute lull between fights.

Yes, that's certainly part of the answer.

(But why isn't this actually said by the CRB or GMG?)

But it isn't the whole answer.

For my example "dungeon" (part of the Extinction Curse AP) I want to run the game as official-y as possible.

But not knowing whether resting for the night (regaining spells etc) should have consequences means there's a big gaping hole in the guidelines, since this aspect far outweighs most other considerations when it comes to encounter difficulty.

The rules spend a great deal of effort making sure you gain only the XP you deserve (more XP means a harder encounter), but is utterly silent on the question on going into the encounter full of resources or entirely depleted?

Yes, and if lulls are a given it really changes the flavor & dynamism of some locales. How would one run a base w/ alarms, like many classic modules featured? Would you have to be that much stronger to now contend?

While I already valued classes picking up Focus Spell abilities, I'd prioritize them if lulls were a given. Champions would move up a relative notch if their healing applied every battle rather than every few battles.
Then again, I'd also create harder battles. But then pity on the guy not metagaming lulls, one who actually feels the pressure of time.

I think the concept of a "lull budget" should've been introduced (along with attrition guidelines as I wrote above), but I also think PF2's easy access to healing serves to make adventure design easier (assuming the adventure as written allows such rests!)
Everyone's at full h.p. and for each battle. Buffs hardly carry over.
So why invest much in Medicine skill feats? Those seem really important to me, yet not so much if the default enemy remains passive.

Again, I'd like to see how the final chapters of AoA played out in this regard? (w/o spoilers, though near impossible I suppose when talking about the amount of poison/drain/timeframes/etc.)

And I like me some wear & tear on parties. A resilient hero seems the best kind of hero, i.e. John McClane.

I'm reminded of running a party through the final leg of Rise of the Runelords where they cleared out the main layer in the space of two Extended Haste spells (and a mini-lull in between). The level has many reactive enemies that swarm to you (as they self-buff!), plus they have points to retreat to as well and join forces.
I can hardly imagine a PF2 PC based around a Focus Spell (like Wild Shape) surviving such a gauntlet.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Here’s how I see it.

If the PCs are in a dungeon crawl, and they fight something without more than a single door between them, many things are going to check out what happened. Maybe not right away, but in a few minutes when they get the courage.

Thus, If the pcs rest, there is a chance they will get another encounter drawn in.

If they take precautions, withdraw to a known safe haven, and the return when healed, much will remain the same.

My group and AoA has done that... however at least once they returned to find the bodies they slaughtered had been moved ....

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Seeing how much the GMG puts tools and the power of decision in the hands of the GM, I think you will not get a definite answer from Paizo, except "you know your party and players better than we ever could, so your decision will always be the better informed one."

Even asking them directly how they would do it for themselves will likely end up with "this is how I would do it for my players. But your own gaming group could feel entirely different about this."

Note that I am ending up talking about how the players feel. Which is IMO the farthest from any RAW you can get.


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Malk_Content wrote:
Probably because that question is going to have a slightly different answer for almost every group.

But that's true of nearly every aspect of the roleplaying experience.

What's so special about this particular one?

Why not offer some guidance at all? (It would be easy to phrase it as soft advice rather than a hard rule)

Again:

Why have a ruleset that spends *considerable* effort in locking down imbalances only to leave perhaps the biggest influence on encounter difficulty wide open?

I mean, in some chapters the circumstances around the adventure plot makes it clear what pace is expected?

But let's take my first ever AP as an example:

Extinction Curse:

The first adventure/level/chapter doesn't say anything on pacing, but it places the main BBEG right into the heroes midst, ready to burst out if the heroes haven't found her already.

The strong implication (to the point it's the only logical conclusion) is that the whole chapter needs to be concluded in a single night. Whether there's time for hour-long recuperation or even ten-minute breaks is left unspoken.

The third adventure/level/chapter instead presents a pretty traditional dungeon, meaning a static one, with little to no advice on how NPCs react and reinforce against partial incursions.

This makes it impossible to tell whether the adventure authors or indeed ruleset developers are okay with a party minmaxing this aspect: taking one encounter at a time and resting after it to never ever enter a fight with resources depleted.

I'm asking why there isn't even a suggested baseline for when the adventure doesn't say, since this parameter all by itself can turn a trivial encounter into a severe one and vice versa (not really but close).

To really be helpful, Paizo needs to weigh in on this, even if only to explain why they aren't weighing in on this.


I should add that I'm definitely in the "give them 10 minutes unless there's a strong reason not to" camp, because so many abilities key on that: focus points, Medicine, you name it...

More than 10 minutes, however, is a whole other ballgame.

No really.

Give them much more than 10 minutes and hit point healing becomes a non-issue. Deny them 10 minutes and you've shut down a significant aspect of the game.

So 10 minutes for free it (nearly always) is (for me). After that, all bets are off - each additional 10 minute or 1 hour break should come with a cost...


The old BECMI D&D assumed that each combat lasted 10 minutes, including the time to make sure the enemies are really down, to quickly check them for loot, and a little breather.
If more monsters are coming from the next room before you can do that, you are just combining the two combats into a longer one.

I would do the same: a 10 minutes break is almost always a given.


I am on a page with @Zapp here. Some general (or in case of AP's even specific) guidance on how to run things would really be cool.

Something like:

"Expect an average party of 4 level 3 characters to be able to clear the first level of the Caves of Carnage in one go. If your players opt to retreat from the first level for any reason, e.g. because they need to rest do x, y or z (where x, y and z may also be nothing). Make sure that the players are fully rested and level 4 before moving on to the final fight on level two".


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Zapp wrote:
Malk_Content wrote:
Probably because that question is going to have a slightly different answer for almost every group.

But that's true of nearly every aspect of the roleplaying experience.

What's so special about this particular one?

Why not offer some guidance at all? (It would be easy to phrase it as soft advice rather than a hard rule)

Again:

Why have a ruleset that spends *considerable* effort in locking down imbalances only to leave perhaps the biggest influence on encounter difficulty wide open?

I mean, in some chapters the circumstances around the adventure plot makes it clear what pace is expected?

But let's take my first ever AP as an example:

** spoiler omitted **

I'm asking why there isn't even a suggested baseline for when the adventure doesn't say, since this parameter all by itself can turn a trivial encounter into a severe one and vice versa (not really but close).

To really be helpful, Paizo needs to weigh in on this, even if only to explain why they aren't weighing in on this.

While pacing does have an effect on balance, its primary concern is about the feel of the story. So it's in a unique place compared to more locked down things like jumping a gorge where its b4neficial to be always consistent.

In the Extinction Curse example the answer is, whatever you feel the group will enjoy best. If you run them ragged and you can see they are enjoying it, carry on! If they look like the struggle is going to overwhelm them give them a moments respite. Asking for this is like asking a writer how long a chapter should be.

Pace not having rules gives the gm an important dial they can tweak on the fly that can make the game easier or harder without the players questioning rule bending like an enemy suddenly becoming easier or harder to hit.


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Malk_Content wrote:
Pace not having rules gives the gm an important dial they can tweak on the fly that can make the game easier or harder without the players questioning rule bending like an enemy suddenly becoming easier or harder to hit.

This is not as much about rules, but about guidelines or even just average figures.

If an average runner will finish a marathon in about 4 and a half hours (at least according to wikipedia) then this is not a rule, but just a figure that however everybody can work with. Are you faster or slower than that? Do you fell the need to improve or can you cut yourself some slack?

In case of PF2 Zapp and I would like to have a similar measure in regards to encounter design.

And while story should have and will always have to have top priority even some players will ask those questions (usually the more competitive types).

* Is it normal that our group has to rest after every single encounter, however easy or hard it may have been? Is this by game design and therefore expected from our group and thus also considered by the modules timeframe?
* Is it normal that our group has/has not been able to finish the dungeon in one go? Did we do something wrong? Do we use wrong/weak feats, skills, spells, builds, equiment or tactics?

It is a totally different situation if e.g. both players and GM are on the same page regarding regular 10min lulls or if the adventure is going sideways because the players constantly feel they need to press their luck because nobody told them otherwise (mostly because their GM did not know better as well).


Ubertron_X wrote:

I am on a page with @Zapp here. Some general (or in case of AP's even specific) guidance on how to run things would really be cool.

Something like:

"Expect an average party of 4 level 3 characters to be able to clear the first level of the Caves of Carnage in one go. If your players opt to retreat from the first level for any reason, e.g. because they need to rest do x, y or z (where x, y and z may also be nothing). Make sure that the players are fully rested and level 4 before moving on to the final fight on level two".

Thank you. Yes, exactly. Even the smallest hint of what Paizo expects the default party to accomplish, and what countermeasures (including "none) they consider appropriate, would be immensely helpful.


Malk_Content wrote:

While pacing does have an effect on balance, its primary concern is about the feel of the story. So it's in a unique place compared to more locked down things like jumping a gorge where its b4neficial to be always consistent.

In the Extinction Curse example the answer is, whatever you feel the group will enjoy best. If you run them ragged and you can see they are enjoying it, carry on! If they look like the struggle is going to overwhelm them give them a moments respite. Asking for this is like asking a writer how long a chapter should be.

Pace not having rules gives the gm an important dial they can tweak on the fly that can make the game easier or harder without the players questioning rule bending like an enemy suddenly becoming easier or harder to hit.

Yes thanks but none of this explains why every dial in the game is strictly monitored and controlled and each change carries specific and detailed costs and consequences...

...except perhaps the biggest dial of them all, which is left completely undefined?!?

Why have a game where every +1 requires a corresponding -1 elsewhere (to speak metaphorically)... and then say nothing about the big +5 to -5 dial.

It is literally the figurative elephant in the room.

---

I mean, when it comes to challenge scaling elsewhere Paizo doesn't hesitate to set a default. Meaning that yes, you can make encounters easier... or you can hand out more XP... or you can give out less loot...

But in all those cases there is a clear baseline from which each and every such step deviates.

It is this baseline that is utterly nonexistant in this regard.

And since this regard changes the experience perhaps more than all others combined, it makes me believe my question is a sound one.

Thank you.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Encounter pacing in PF2 does feel like it requires a lot more attention from the GM than in PF1. It is possible to have a party of martial characters with good skill based healing who almost never have to spend more than an hour or two resting in the middle of serious adventure chain, but will end up TPK'd as soon as their primary healer goes down if they haven't taken precautions. Or to have a caster heavy party spending a major spell an encounter and end up spent after 3 combats. Cure Light Wounds wands extended the adventuring day significantly in PF1, but your casters were still the real powerhouse of the party so more weight went to when they were low on spells, especially because cantrips were a joke.

In PF2 it is dangerous to push on, but not suicidally so, and so it is possible to have adventures that incentivize that a little more. However, Boss encounters are way more deadly in PF2 so the balance is a lot more nuanced and requires that careful GM attention.


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I posted a quote from Paizo's Creative Director above, a link to the post he said it in, and a link to a thread where you can ask rules questions directly of the developers. I checked the thread, and since I posted that link, I see you didn't post your question yet. If you want a direct response to your question, that's probably your best option for getting one. I don't think you're going to get a response in this thread from anyone at Paizo, and the answers provided by the rest of us are clearly not to your satisfaction.

Perhaps you should tune into Mark Seifter's next stream (Arcane Mark) and see if you can ask your question there. Since Mark Seifter is one of the developers, he'll be able to give you an answer.

Again, I don't think you're going to get an answer in this thread that you will be happy with. I SUGGEST that you give your players 10 minutes after each fight if they want to take it, and then allow them to press on. If they are out of resources and want to retreat for the day, allow them to do so. If they want to retreat and get a full night's rest after every encounter, make all subsequent encounters tougher by adding extra enemies because they have time to reinforce.

If an alert is triggered, give 10 minutes between encounters before the next wave of guards arrives. If the guards arrive during an encounter, then it isn't two separate encounters according to the rules, its just one encounter.

That is all my advice for how you should handle it. You know your players, you know what they like, and you know what they don't like. I know this answer doesn't satisfy your question, but its the best you're going to get short of asking the question directly of the developers.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Putting an average expected timeframe on adventures would be really helpful, I agree. Wish we had 'em in 1E APs to know how long the party's dang buffs last...


Phntm888 wrote:
I posted a quote from Paizo's Creative Director above

I didn't mean to ignore you - 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: I mean, we don't all have a Phntm888 to pull quotes from Paizo's vast sea of a forum for us :)


I have a question for you, Zapp:

Let's say they give this information in an adventure. What would you do, as a DM, if:
- Your players are faster than the expected pace?
- Your players are slower than the expected pace?


I found that the pacing of the battles really change as the characters level up, at lvl 1 they kinda needed the time to lick their wounds after every battle, but now at lvl 9 they can manage around 3 moderated encounters in a row and I bet they could do 4 if they wished or were more bold.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I think you might be able to map necessary breaks to XP per encounter. I find you need some time to heal after any severe encounters, but high on down you can chain them back to back. I haven't figured out the magic number, but I'm guessing two to three 80 xp encounters in a row would work.

If you want to signal to your players that it is ok to take a break to heal, adding stuff for the rest of the party to do in that time can work nicely. A room to search, some Magic to Identify, some books with important information to skim. As long as the whole party is occupied people don't stress it too much.

But figuring out what the pace should be is harder. I think there's 3 major paces right now.

1) Racing the clock. Not extremely common, but good every now and then. Make the player aware that time counts, and they will set their own pace.

2) The plot waits for you. If you know the demon is stuck in a pit for the next 3 weeks, it makes sense to long rest before going in so you're fresh.

3) Stuff in between. This is where it gets hard. Tension pools can be really good for making time into a currency the players have to spend. Using that as a mechanic to decide when a patrol comes by or an enemy needs to use the bathroom makes the dungeon feel a lot more organic.


Zapp wrote:
Phntm888 wrote:
I posted a quote from Paizo's Creative Director above
I didn't mean to ignore you - 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: I mean, we don't all have a Phntm888 to pull quotes from Paizo's vast sea of a forum for us :)

I wouldn't be too sure - just because the system changed doesn't mean that the philosophy behind writing APs has changed. They are technically different departments within Paizo, after all.

That wasn't the only advice in that post, either. There's a link to a thread where you can post rules questions and they might get answered on Paizo's streams, and the post you quoted includes a suggestion of tuning into Mark Seifter's stream Arcane Mark and possibly asking there.

As for pulling quotes from Paizo's vast sea of forum, all of the Paizo staff's profiles are public. You could go to the page listing past posts and use the search function to see if they already answered the question. It took me two or three minutes tops to find that quote from James Jacobs.

Regardless, I don't think there's any official guidance because the pace at which a group handles encounters is going to largely be based on a combination of factors, including the playstyle of the group, the makeup of the party, and the number of players (a six-person group with two clerics probably isn't going to take a lot of out-of-combat healing).

I'm going to bow out of this thread now - I feel I've provided the best information I can, and that anything further is just me harping on the same subjects over and over again. Zapp, best of luck with your question and your gaming.


I had a party of five (Barbarian, Monk, Sorcerer, Druid, and Cleric) do the entirety of Plaguestone's final dungeon, which was about 10 encounters, without taking more than 10 minutes after each encounter.

So really, I have no idea.


SuperBidi wrote:

I have a question for you, Zapp:

Let's say they give this information in an adventure. What would you do, as a DM, if:
- Your players are faster than the expected pace?
- Your players are slower than the expected pace?

Hmm.

I see what you're aiming for here: if you don't actually do anything with the information, what is the value of having it?

Let's say the scenario is a dungeon with a dozen encounters of varying difficulty; enough to nearly level up (but not quite).

If I knew the adventure is okay with liberal 10 minute breaks but no day breaks, I would feel justified in doing nothing unless they break off for the day, in which case I would restock a couple of already-won encounters and maybe throw a nightly ambush at them.

Why? Because the challenge was intended to be "12 encounters in one day".

(This obviously assumes the players didn't break off because it was too much for them, but instead simply because they wanted to refresh all their cool stuff before fighting further)

So it is the very fact itself that my players are faster or slower that is the value here.

As for actual answers - well, my general reply is the old boring staple "it depends".

If they're faster... well, that's after all never the concern. The concern is artificially making things easier by voluntarily going slower than expected.

Going faster than expected is not a problem and in no need of fixing, unless its becoming a problem (players getting bored with the lack of challenge etc).

What inquiring minds want to know is how slow is "too slow" in the sense that players should not be able to circumvent the game's intended difficulty level.


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Zapp wrote:


What inquiring minds want to know is how slow is "too slow" in the sense that players should not be able to circumvent the game's intended difficulty level.

I think the important bit here is that as long as you and your group are having fun, you're at the intended difficulty level.


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Encounters have more than difficulty. They also have a tone. The players develop an attitude towards their enemy and their mission. You can see this in some action movies where the action heroes criticize the idiotic mission and other action movies where the heroes are determined to succeed at the noble mission.

The pace affects the tone more than it affects the difficulty.

In my currrent campaign in Trail of the Hunted, Pathfinder Adventure Path #115, the PCs are protecting refugee villagers from the invading hobgoblin legion. Their actions have a very strong tone of protection toward their refugees. Every night, they ensure that the refugees have a safe place to bed down--comfort is less important. Every day they go off on a mission to find food, find allies, or spy on enemies, leaving the refugees safely hidden and guarded by some NPCs with class levels. And by "go off" I mean that they walk at least 3 miles while using the Cover Tracks exploration mode. I often fudge the travel times rules (Table 9-2, Travel Speed, on page 479) to get them back to camp at the end of the day, because these PCs would travel beyond normal endurance to return to camp to ensure that the villagers are safe. Last game session, the night watch woke them up to investigate an oddity, possibly a will'o'wisp, during the night. They had no complaints about that.

The long walks are part of the tone, even though they limit the party to one encounter per day, unless the 2nd encounter results immediately from the 1st encounter.

Two game sessions ago, they tracked down some panicked villagers who stole food and set out cross-country toward a city 150 miles away. The party's goal was to rescue them before they encountered a hobgoblin patrol. While the party was talking to the runaways, trying to persuade them to return, a hobgoblin patrol found them due to the tracks they left. I threw two 1st-level soldiers and two 2nd-level soldiers against three 3rd-level PCs. That is the equivalent of a 133-xp encounter, severe threat, bwahaha. After victory, the players disliked the risk of remaining in the area--maybe the hobgoblin patrol had sent out a messenger that they had found tracks. They did not take a 10-minute healing break and instead healed with spells. Nevertheless, the runaways wanted to loot the armor and weapons off the hobgoblins, and that took several minutes.

The party delayed their planned mission until the next day. They no longer had time. If I were the kind of GM to think, "Hey, I will weaken them with a hobgoblin patrol on their way to area G4," then my players would not cooperate. Protection through foresight became the tone for this module. I rearranged pieces of the adventure to suit the tone that the players wanted.

I don't see how a formula about times between encounters can adapt to all the different kinds of adventures that Pathfinder offers. Even invading a castle can take several different styles, from assaulting the gate in broad daylight (fast pace), climbing the wall at night (cautious pace), or entering in disguise as guests (the longer the disguises hold the better). Instead, we GMs create the setting and try to plausibly enable the pace that the players want.

Sovereign Court

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You could also look at the Paizo run adventures on YouTube (Oblivion Oath and Knights of Everflame) to see how Jason Bulhman runs his games of PF2 with their expectation of rests after encounters. From what I remember most of the time they had for at least one if not a few 10 min breaks before moving on.


Zapp wrote:
(This obviously assumes the players didn't break off because it was too much for them, but instead simply because they wanted to refresh all their cool stuff before fighting further)

I think it's the main point.

In all games I've played, players are taking breaks because they don't feel they can handle anymore. I've never seen a party going for a break just because reasons.
In general, when someone asks for a break, the general point of view around the table is negative: "No, we don't take a break, we are fine". Mostly because it would be illogical and because sometimes there are invisible timers. I've seen far more often the opposite, which is players deciding to continue while being too weak and getting their a** kicked at the next encounter.

So, by forcing a pace, you would mostly punish the parties that are already struggling. If the players got difficulties in an encounter and threw most of their resources in it, they are not extremely proud of needing a break. No need to push them even more in continuing.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I would like to see a live stream where the developers talk more about pacing. However, I think their answer is going to be that PF2 doesn't lend itself as well to having a useful average for number of encounters as PF1 in large part because the dice determine so much more of how well or badly encounters go. What is important is making sure the party always has something to gain by pressing on and that it is comparable to what is gained by stopping to rest. Then the choice is theirs and the consequences are earned.
Sometimes this is as easy as having encounters move within the dungeon after the party has left. If the entry point was a well fortified position, A monster from deeper in the cave might move forward or station better guards there. They might use some of their treasure economically to reinforce their exposed weakness.
Any even easier way to make sure that there is a cost benefit analysis for the party to consider with resting is to make sure that the party has long term downtime goals that are important to them, and that days spent traveling back and forth between the dungeon and a place they can camp safely take away from the time they can direct into their downtime projects.


SuperBidi wrote:
So, by forcing a pace, you would mostly punish the parties that are already struggling. If the players got difficulties in an encounter and threw most of their resources in it, they are not extremely proud of needing a break. No need to push them even more in continuing.

Well, no, it's the reverse.

If the party is struggling to keep up the pace that's one thing and that's fine. It's when the party is slacking it would be logical to reinforce future encounters. And to make that decision, you need to know when they're slacking. Otherwise I would need to examine the characters and make a judgement call: are they depleted "enough" for their rest to be justified?

I would much rather not have to do that kind of judgement call. In a game where almost everything else is so nailed down and carefully calibrated it seems like a huge hole.

In my example dungeon; if they manage nine encounters out of twelve and then decide to retreat for the night - should I

a) just run the adventure as-is? If I do, won't I reward slacking off (since those remaining encounters will be decidedly easier)? Why does the game track encounter difficulty and character power so meticulously if all you need to do to change to Easy Mode is to take an early rest?

b) reinforce the remaining encounters, maybe even harassing the party during the night? So I maintain the "intended" difficulty level? If you're expected to enter the final Severe encounter running on fumes, shouldn't that be an Extreme encounter when you have most of your abilities replenished?

As you can see, to make these decisions I need to first know the expected pace.


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Zapp wrote:
As you can see, to make these decisions I need to first know the expected pace.

It won't tell you if your party is slacking off or not. It will just tell you if your party is holding the pace or not.

Also, if your party is taking too many rests for you, they may not take too many rests for them. They may perceive the fights as harder as you perceive them. And I'm pretty sure they are not resting to slack off, but because they feel they won't be able to prevail if they don't.

If your party is taking too many rests, it is most certainly a proof you need to tune down encounters, not up. So, by tuning them up, you are punishing them even more while they are already struggling.

As a side note, I don't understand the concept of "not rewarding slacking off". The players are your allies in telling a story, you are not there to reward or punish them for their behavior, but to help them tell the story they want to tell.

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