Importance of WBL in 2E?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


How important is character wealth to the power curve / challenge level of 2E?

I am looking at doing some converting and my basic principle is to try and look at the proportion of treasure given in a 1E module or AP chapter relative to the 1E wealth guidelines e.g if it gives 50% more in 1E then I should take the 2E basis and increase it by 50%

Is this the wrong approach? Do elements of the system break down if too much wealth is available ? And what if “extra” wealth was in the form of consumables instead - which are overpriced for their level from a purchase standpoint . So in the above example I would allocate normal items and monetary treasure up to the level guidelines and the extra 50% would be in things like talismans ...?

I partly ask because the treasure part looks potentially awkward from a conversion standpoint if you want to keep to the spirit of the 1E modules. For example plunder and peril seems to give out double what you would expect (in gross value) between levels 4 and 7.


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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

My experience so far...
Giving out too little treasure would be a problem - you want to make sure that everyone can get the basic armor and weapon enhancements when they become available. (Remember that includes the Striking enhancement that adds damage for weapons, and the Resilient enhancement for armor that adds to saves.)

Giving out too much treasure, on the other hand, doesn't appear to me to cause any issues, assuming you stay within the appropriate levels of treasure to match the PCs; that is, I wouldn't give out items that are multiple levels higher than the PCs. The system math means that everything stays pretty much right, and the extra treasure just gives the PCs extra Options. Sure, flexibility is valuable, but it doesn't break the game.

So I recommend not putting excessive effort into the decision. As long as you give out at least as much as the PF2 wealth by level guidelines indicate, and you focus on handing out items right around the PCs' level, you should be fine. (Giving the PCs downtime between levels, at least every other level or so, is also good, because that lets them use Crafting to sub out items they can't use for things they can. Which is particularly helpful to YOU, because it means you don't even have to pay close attention to each PC getting personalized items. But I guess that's no different from PF1 magic item economy.)


If the PCs can get the bonuses they need, they'll be fine.
What bonuses they need depend how closely you stick to the DC charts and what monsters you throw at them.
If the PCs get the weapon, armor, and skill bonuses (for main skills) about the level of the item, then they're on the right power curve for published adventures.
Adjustments could be made for larger or smaller groups too, though that makes the math messier.


If your characters have bonuses in the appropriate range for their level (meaning their getting the fundamental runes the game math expects at roughly the right level), the rest of what they are getting is able to be a wide range and still be functional.

Even over-loading the party with goods isn't that big of a deal if all they are getting out of it is more level-appropriate extras because the limits of how much they can actually bring to bear in practice will help prevent feelings of unbalance (diminishing returns, basically - doesn't make a difference if you have 5 or 8 consumables if you only have 4 times you actually feel the need to use one and have the opportunity to do it)


So with the above comments in mind that suggests if you use the ABP variant then you no longer need to half the remaining treasure?

Is looking at ABP for when bonuses are expected probably the easiest way of doing it? Rather than paying through the entire item section?

I have done some converting and was focusing on the amount rather than ensuring the right items were received. Thinking back to what I have drafted there is a good chance that what I have done is short on some expected items and given the nature of the adventure it isn’t easy to go and buy them (no downtime break between chapters that go up in level)

Sovereign Court

Combing through the AP and trying to figure out where it's higher and where it's lower than regular WBL seems tedious to me.

In Starfinder I've actually done the math and if you add up all the average loot values of all the encounters needed to level up, pretty consistently, it's 50% over the amount you need to keep up with WBL. This is because you're expecting the party to also leak capital in the form of items that become obsolete as the party becomes higher level and a low-level armor is no longer sufficient, and consumables used.

Instead of painstakingly determining the % above or below expectation the 1E AP is, why not just cut to the end: use the tables in PF2 that say how much the party should find each level and just use those. And if you're wondering which items they should be, you can look at the ABP rules and those should give you a good idea what "main" items there are.

Also note that the tables in PF2 are talking about what they should actually get; not potentially get if they pass all the Perception checks.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:

Combing through the AP and trying to figure out where it's higher and where it's lower than regular WBL seems tedious to me.

In Starfinder I've actually done the math and if you add up all the average loot values of all the encounters needed to level up, pretty consistently, it's 50% over the amount you need to keep up with WBL. This is because you're expecting the party to also leak capital in the form of items that become obsolete as the party becomes higher level and a low-level armor is no longer sufficient, and consumables used.

Instead of painstakingly determining the % above or below expectation the 1E AP is, why not just cut to the end: use the tables in PF2 that say how much the party should find each level and just use those. And if you're wondering which items they should be, you can look at the ABP rules and those should give you a good idea what "main" items there are.

Also note that the tables in PF2 are talking about what they should actually get; not potentially get if they pass all the Perception checks.

That's why I've liked using gold conversion formulas, so you can maintain the relative purchasing power of any given loot haul they happen to find. But lots of other folks prefer just writing their loot hauls from scratch.


What formulas have you used ?


FowlJ made a conversion table in this thread that I've been using. Not sure how it would hold up with automatic bonus progression though.

Sovereign Court

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I wouldn't bother trying to use any conversion formulas at all. What I would do is:

* Go through the adventure and look at the encounters. Encounters with EL = APL I will rebuild using 2E rules as Moderate encounters, encounters with EL = APL +2 as Severe encounters, and so on. I look at the page in the beginning of the AP and check when the PCs should be which level, and I make sure that together my encounters are indeed worth enough XP to level them by then.

* Using Table 10-9 from the 2E CRB, put approximately that much loot into each "level" of the AP. When seeking inspiration for what specific items to put in the loot, I look at the original AP. Especially for items that help build the story or feel of the location/creature. But I don't have to follow it religiously.

And that's it. I never have to look up the gold value of any 1E part of the AP. Since my encounters are balanced with 2E monster and encounter difficulties, I don't really need to look at the past, I just need to balance treasure with the current edition.


So only look to the past for inspiration for things like “fine artwork of x” and “a bejewelled scabbard depicting y” and the like

Interesting

Also the 1E APL = moderate is interesting . Is that really the takeaway? Because often when you do direct conversions that is not the case

An old CR3 encounter for a level 3 part often comes in at trivial or sometimes low. For example an ogre gives 40 XP as do 2 ghouls

Is this a wonky historic CR system?

Sovereign Court

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Well the theory behind the 1E APL/EL system was that after about four APL=EL encounters, the party should be running low on resources and seeking to quit for the day.

In practice, almost everything but the theory happened:

* A lot of APs have their story written in a style that suggests everything is urgent, you'll fail if you stop. I've seen parties do nine encounters in a row instead of the theoretical four, both because they could, but also because the story told them they had to.

* There's a common wisdom going around that APs are written with a 15pt party in mind, but that most parties play 20pt buy. I'm not convinced of that, definitely not consistently across all AP books. Quite a few of the Iron Gods books are harder than that. Also, if you use roll 4d6, drop lowest, then statistically you expect to end up with something closer to 18pt buy. I suspect that in later years, AP books get written expecting stronger parties than they did in the first years.

* Four or more encounters in an adventuring day to give the Proper Challenge™ is something a lot of gaming groups found tedious. An encounter takes some time to set up (battle mat, initiative, preparing statblocks) so there's an overhead cost to having a lot of easy encounters.

* In my experience, a lot of gaming groups play a game during weekday evenings and prefer one nice chewy combat, over a bunch of smaller ones. There's OOC time pressure to get something good in every session. On the other hand, it's nicer not to spread a single IC adventuring day over multiple OOC sessions. So you'd sooner have one big high EL encounter per day than those four separate EL=APL ones.

* Then there's power creep. Towards the end of ten years of splatbooks, characters were more powerful than at the beginning. But the monsters from Bestiary 1 didn't get any stronger. So you need to pick higher CR compared to the APL.

* The APL=EL thing is based on a four-player gaming group. If you have more than that, a lot of the mathematical assumptions are strained. But five-player groups are fairly common.

* Player skill also matters. The same players, with the same characters, after a year or two player together will probably be much more efficient at carving up encounters.

* When gamers grow up and they have less time for gaming, there's pressure to cut filler encounters that don't really matter to the story but only exist because this AP book was supposed to take you from level X to Y and you need Z XP for that. Paizo includes notes in their books saying "at this part of the story you should be level X", which has become a popular solution; just ignore the filler encounters, don't track XP, and level people up when it makes sense in the story.

---

So to summarize that: the math in the old system was almost entirely useless. Few people really used it as it was set up in theory because the theory was dated.

Second edition has a subtly different setup for encounter difficulty. The 3.x idea of "difficulty by attrition through multiple encounters" has been pushed into the background. Difficulty for encounters is done more on a standalone basis: a severe encounter should be severe on its own, not because you've been worn down by previous encounters. All classes have more all-day resources (cantrips, focus spells, rage) and you can recover a lot of health in between encounters. So you can also have much longer adventuring days than before without some classes feeling like they can't do anything fun anymore.

This is very helpful for groups who don't want to hew to some strict rhythm of how many encounters should be in a given IC or OOC session. If you prefer one big fight per game evening, that comes a bit more natural now. If you like tracking XP, you can, but if you don't it's not that necessary either. But you can still use the encounter building guidelines to say "I want a difficult encounter, so I'll pick Severe".


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:


* The APL=EL thing is based on a four-player gaming group. If you have more than that, a lot of the mathematical... (...)

Second edition has a subtly different setup for encounter difficulty. The 3.x idea of "difficulty by attrition through multiple encounters" has been pushed into the background. Difficulty for encounters is done more on a standalone basis: a severe encounter should be severe on its own, not because you've been worn down by previous encounters. All classes have more all-day resources (cantrips, focus spells, rage) and you can recover a lot of health in between encounters. So you can also have much longer adventuring days than before without some classes feeling like they can't do anything fun anymore.

Great analysis of 1E encounter design, Ascalaphus. :)

Reading the paragraph about longer adventuring days, however, I wonder how the general "casters get less spells per day" paradigm of 2E interacts with those longer adventuring days. Do players really use their better cantrips often enough to overcome this or are casters now expected to go on longer with fewer spells?

During playtest, I was theorizing that the smaller amount of spells per day would lead to shorter adventuring days overall, so I am wondering how it has played out in practical play, now that at least some people will have played through one 2E adventure path.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You use cantrips and focus spells and whip out your slot spells for when you really need them. You can go on much longer while being able to do something meaningful than you could in PF1 (so, less 15 min adventuring day).

On the other hand with fewer spell slots you need to be more mindful about your resource management than you did in PF1.

That's practical, empirical experience from 5/6 books of Age of Ashes with 2 casters in the group.

Also, what Ascaphalus said. I'd only add that the "X rounds/day" mechanic that was supposed to factor Barbarians, Bards, Alchemists and other classes into that didn't survive contact with reality as well, since from mid-levels on you simply never ran out of rage/bombs/songs within a timeframe that could possibly balance you in any way by limiting your resources.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'd disagree about the Alchemist's bombs, since you could chuck out a lot of them per round with the right set-up of spells, discoveries and feats, but otherwise, yeah, totally correct.

Interesting that the cantrips, which quite a lot of people (not only me) criticized as being really sub-par to physical damage dealer output, see so much play.

Are the focus spells the x/per day powers you had in the playtest?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, if casters had damage output of martials + "full" spells on the top of that, things would be a wee bit unbalanced.

Focus spells are something else - you cast them using Focus Points, which are a separate resource that replenishes during short re...I mean, 10-minute rests. They auto-heighten just like cantrips and sit somewhere between cantrips and "normal" spells in terms of power, at least as long as we're talking about full casters (Monks and Champions get Focus Spells too, but that's another story).


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Personally, I've found that using CR = level for creatures leads to pretty good encounter conversion. Some PF1 encounters wind up pretty easy, but encounters aren't all meant to be difficult. Some are meant to just let the players feel badass.

Speaking as someone whose played into the middle of book 3 of a converted Rise game, there are a lot of trivial encounters in there. Ghouls aren't really a credible threat to a level 5 party,for example. When I ran Fort Ralnick I was concerned about using level 3 ogres against level 8 players. But Age of Ashes has a very similar enemy stronghold you need to take out, with lots of level -6 enemies acting as fodder. In both cases, those guys go down quick, but there are enough credible threats to where even playing extremely smart gets some close calls. And those little dudes can provide flanking for the big dudes if not dispatched.

One thing I haven't never quite got to run was the big APL+6 encounter. Even with the caveats of just needing to survive that beast rather than kill it, that's going to feel different. You could potentially win that fight in PF1 with the right build or summons. Can't see that happening in PF1 so it basically seems to come down to casters doing strafing runs with magic missile to keep it distracted.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gorbacz wrote:

Well, if casters had damage output of martials + "full" spells on the top of that, things would be a wee bit unbalanced.

Focus spells are something else - you cast them using Focus Points, which are a separate resource that replenishes during short re...I mean, 10-minute rests. They auto-heighten just like cantrips and sit somewhere between cantrips and "normal" spells in terms of power, at least as long as we're talking about full casters (Monks and Champions get Focus Spells too, but that's another story).

Alright, seems there were some additional changes between the playtest and the release. I'll have to check them out some day. Thanks!


Captain Morgan wrote:

Personally, I've found that using CR = level for creatures leads to pretty good encounter conversion. Some PF1 encounters wind up pretty easy, but encounters aren't all meant to be difficult. Some are meant to just let the players feel badass.

Speaking as someone whose played into the middle of book 3 of a converted Rise game, there are a lot of trivial encounters in there. Ghouls aren't really a credible threat to a level 5 party,for example. When I ran Fort Ralnick I was concerned about using level 3 ogres against level 8 players. But Age of Ashes has a very similar enemy stronghold you need to take out, with lots of level -6 enemies acting as fodder. In both cases, those guys go down quick, but there are enough credible threats to where even playing extremely smart gets some close calls. And those little dudes can provide flanking for the big dudes if not dispatched.

One thing I haven't never quite got to run was the big APL+6 encounter. Even with the caveats of just needing to survive that beast rather than kill it, that's going to feel different. You could potentially win that fight in PF1 with the right build or summons. Can't see that happening in PF1 so it basically seems to come down to casters doing strafing runs with magic missile to keep it distracted.

You cite to Rise examples that I am wary of as well. I haven’t looked closely but I think I will be strengthening the ghouls . In 1E they perhaps weren’t a credible threat either but each getting 3 attempts to try and paralyse a turn (without MAP) was not insignificant

Ogres might call for a boost to gluttons .

That said i have been listening to a 1E Rise podcast where the Ogres go down super easily so maybe they are supposed to. That doesn’t feel right but maybe there is supposed to a be a “false sense of security” idea going on

Sovereign Court

magnuskn wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:


* The APL=EL thing is based on a four-player gaming group. If you have more than that, a lot of the mathematical... (...)

Second edition has a subtly different setup for encounter difficulty. The 3.x idea of "difficulty by attrition through multiple encounters" has been pushed into the background. Difficulty for encounters is done more on a standalone basis: a severe encounter should be severe on its own, not because you've been worn down by previous encounters. All classes have more all-day resources (cantrips, focus spells, rage) and you can recover a lot of health in between encounters. So you can also have much longer adventuring days than before without some classes feeling like they can't do anything fun anymore.

Great analysis of 1E encounter design, Ascalaphus. :)

Reading the paragraph about longer adventuring days, however, I wonder how the general "casters get less spells per day" paradigm of 2E interacts with those longer adventuring days. Do players really use their better cantrips often enough to overcome this or are casters now expected to go on longer with fewer spells?

During playtest, I was theorizing that the smaller amount of spells per day would lead to shorter adventuring days overall, so I am wondering how it has played out in practical play, now that at least some people will have played through one 2E adventure path.

I'm just into level 7 with my cleric right now, but it's been pretty satisfying.

I do use cantrips quite a lot, and I happen to have True Strike as a spell from my deity so I can get a lot of mileage out of my level 1 slots as well. One of my favorite tricks is True Strike + Charged Bolt, which does an okay amount of damage and can make an enemy easier to hit for the rest of the party. Alternatively, I can do True Strike + Weapon Surge + a longbow shot.

As a caster you have multiple pools to draw from:
- Regular spells, which are the most poweful but also the most limited. You often don't want to use more than a couple for an encounter, but they can make a dent.
- Cantrips, which aren't as strong, although if you have multiple then you can leverage that to target weaknesses/circumvent resistances. And you can use them at a safe distance.
- Focus spells, which are basically once per encounter spells. They're a bit more powerful than cantrips, and some of them take only one action so they can be combined with something else.
- Divine Font which gives me more Heal spells.
- And I have a longbow.

So I don't really lack for things to do in combat. My spells can hit fairly hard, and I can target every save. But if I do that all the time, I run out of juice. But it works if you need a hard hit in the beginning of combat to shift the situation to our advantage, and then the fighter and rogue can clean up with all-day violence.

Sovereign Court

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Captain Morgan wrote:

Personally, I've found that using CR = level for creatures leads to pretty good encounter conversion. Some PF1 encounters wind up pretty easy, but encounters aren't all meant to be difficult. Some are meant to just let the players feel badass.

Speaking as someone whose played into the middle of book 3 of a converted Rise game, there are a lot of trivial encounters in there. Ghouls aren't really a credible threat to a level 5 party,for example. When I ran Fort Ralnick I was concerned about using level 3 ogres against level 8 players. But Age of Ashes has a very similar enemy stronghold you need to take out, with lots of level -6 enemies acting as fodder. In both cases, those guys go down quick, but there are enough credible threats to where even playing extremely smart gets some close calls. And those little dudes can provide flanking for the big dudes if not dispatched.

One thing I haven't never quite got to run was the big APL+6 encounter. Even with the caveats of just needing to survive that beast rather than kill it, that's going to feel different. You could potentially win that fight in PF1 with the right build or summons. Can't see that happening in PF1 so it basically seems to come down to casters doing strafing runs with magic missile to keep it distracted.

I don't think you can really compare monster level / CR entirely. It's like the scale of CR vs. APL has been compressed a bit; the difference between a level X and X+2 monster is much bigger in PF2 than it is for a CR X and CR X+2 monster in PF1. So you would get good results if you converted a EL=APL encouter but get overtuned results if you converted an APL+3 encounter.

Basically, APL+2 is the new APL+4.

It also works the other way a bit - creatures significantly below your level can still hit you because monster to-hit scales quite fast, but you're also hitting them a lot and also critting them a lot, so it's going to be a fast and furious sort of fight. A level 5 party fighting a metric ton of ghouls is going to get scratched up a bit but is also going to enjoy a power trip, and won't have to worry too much about getting paralyzed. Due to the Incapacitation trait, hordes of low-level critters don't overwhelm PCs.


Ascalaphus wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:

Personally, I've found that using CR = level for creatures leads to pretty good encounter conversion. Some PF1 encounters wind up pretty easy, but encounters aren't all meant to be difficult. Some are meant to just let the players feel badass.

Speaking as someone whose played into the middle of book 3 of a converted Rise game, there are a lot of trivial encounters in there. Ghouls aren't really a credible threat to a level 5 party,for example. When I ran Fort Ralnick I was concerned about using level 3 ogres against level 8 players. But Age of Ashes has a very similar enemy stronghold you need to take out, with lots of level -6 enemies acting as fodder. In both cases, those guys go down quick, but there are enough credible threats to where even playing extremely smart gets some close calls. And those little dudes can provide flanking for the big dudes if not dispatched.

One thing I haven't never quite got to run was the big APL+6 encounter. Even with the caveats of just needing to survive that beast rather than kill it, that's going to feel different. You could potentially win that fight in PF1 with the right build or summons. Can't see that happening in PF1 so it basically seems to come down to casters doing strafing runs with magic missile to keep it distracted.

I don't think you can really compare monster level / CR entirely. It's like the scale of CR vs. APL has been compressed a bit; the difference between a level X and X+2 monster is much bigger in PF2 than it is for a CR X and CR X+2 monster in PF1. So you would get good results if you converted a EL=APL encouter but get overtuned results if you converted an APL+3 encounter.

Basically, APL+2 is the new APL+4.

It also works the other way a bit - creatures significantly below your level can still hit you because monster to-hit scales quite fast, but you're also hitting them a lot and also critting them a lot, so it's going to be a fast and furious sort of fight. A level 5 party fighting a metric...

Well, yes and no. I think it was definitely many people's experience that well made PF1 PCs could punch above their weight class to a degree much harder to achieve in PF2, which changes how they interact with the encounter levels a fair amount, but theoretically the differences aren't that extreme.

PF1 still had the ideas of 'CR X = Player Level X' and 'power doubles every two levels', so you still had things like a level+3 monster being considered the strongest you can reliably beat (most of the End-of-Book bosses in RotR are level+3 for this reason), and otherwise having the difficulties match up in a similar way. The main differences are probably that a) as Captain Morgan pointed out there are more situations where the adventure utilizes creatures outside the normal +/- 4 range that PF2 tends to, and b) the average encounter difficulty skews lower, where there's a lot of APL+0 (Trivial) and APL+1 (Low) encounters in RotR where in PF2 (or at least in Age of Ashes) typical encounters often land more around Moderate (APL+2).


So far it seems to have played out similarly to PF 1e for casters. My 1e experience was that casters could be amazing for one or two fights and then more-or-less useless.

Early levels can be very tough (but easier for healing because of Treat Wounds) and it is important to plan for meaningful other actions. My only slight gripe was that too many combats involved spamming electric arc because it tends to be the optimal choice with two targets (at low levels). From level 3 onwards I didn't find it an issue. Having really useful 1st level spells (3 action magic missile, fear, phantom pain etc.) meant I rarely had to burn through 2nd level spells quickly. The main casters also had scrolls as backups. This is a four person party going through Age of Ashes; fighter, bard, cleric, wizard.

Pacing of encounters is important. Presently in book 2 and there are lots of one per day encounters that pretty fun because you can burn through slots without too many worries. I think there could be an issue with forcing many encounters per day (though scrolls and staves will now make that manageable I think).


If you want to do the most authentic/faithful possible converion process from PF1 APs to PF2 and want to make sure WBL and power balance is respected, you'll have to do something like this:

1- List all PF1 items from the entire AP Chapter, level they're obtained at, and their gold cost. It's entire chapter spanning 3-4 levels to minimize the effect of lulls or spikes in wealth (it should average out over that period). Mark whether each item is consumable, permanent or cash equivalent.

2- Add up all the worth of the items and get the totals for permanent, consumable and cash. Mark in which spots the party is expected to level up.

3- Get what % of the total each of the 3 categories contribute for.

4- Use the PF1 WBL tables to see how much it deviates from the expected total. Combine all levels covered in the book to get the total.

5- Convert items to PF2 the best you can, ignoring "Big 6" that don't exist anymore (Cloaks of Res, Rings of Prot, etc). Use this opportunity to customize for your party. Write down the item level. Make sure you drop +1 Weapons around 2, Striking Runes around 4, etc... So that entire party has access to all fudnamental runes no later than 1 level after the item level.

6- Do the same with that list, except now using the PF2 "Treasure by level" tables to get the expected totals and percents. Compare your numbers between PF1 results and expected PF2 results and adjust accordingly. If PF1 dropped 150% of expected loot, you might be able to get away with 150% of PF2 loot too, it would balance out because they won't find/loot a lot of the items.

7- Count how many items per item level you dropped and compare with expected values. Change some items to get closer to this.

8- During gameplay, as the party gets or fails to get some items, observe whether the party is staying within expected parameters.

Here's an example of how I did it for Hell's Vengeance 3: The Inferno Gate (Spoilers). It was very time consuming.

Here's my improved PF2 WBL tables. In my case, this was for a party of 5.

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