Repetition and 2e / "Taking20"s Break Up Letter


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Shadow Lodge

Greg.Everham wrote:
"The eagle never wasted so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow." - William Blake, Proverbs of Hell.

A pity he's a pigeon.


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The funny thing is that crows are much smarter than eagles.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

Ah, even more apropos. Guess William was ignorant of reality.


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Y'alls... The Proverbs of Hell are all intentionally flawed. They sound really great at first blush, but break down under closer scrutiny. Like Cabbage said, the crow is smarter... which is why the boastful eagle ought give up that time to learn its ways, rather than refusing to hear any new information that might change his view of himself.

Dark Archive

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Yeaaaaah, they are meant to be paradoxical and provoke thought, there is two examples from google

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

"The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction"

...Though to be fair, book IS called Proverbs of Hell, did you assume diabolical proverbs would be helpful? ;D

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

Sounds like I have some reading to do! Thanks for the insight.


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I just wanted to pop into here and say, from my perspective, this discourse has overall been very insightful; or at least, it forced some insight on me in terms of how I'm running my own encounters.

It has made me think: Are my players stuck in a rotations, partially, because I'm not presenting them with opportunities to try anything else? Am I failing to 'lead by example' in having their opponents use their third action to do things that seem minor but will stack up later? Am I presenting them with enough dynamics in terms of terrain and variety of opponents to force creative party cohesion and synergies?


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Unicore wrote:

@Deriven, I think there might also be a "terms" miscommunication because I think that for people advocating for using maneuvers, taking higher level feats and abilities that fold maneuvers into them, with a strike is making choices to specialize in maneuvers. You keep building up the attributes and skills that will allow you to be nasty with them when you get the class feats and abilities that build on them. And as people have pointed out, at lower levels when you don't have those options, sometimes targeting a different defense with a first attack is going to yield a 10 to 15% bonus over targeting AC and allow your allies to get an easy 10 to 15% bonus on their own attacks, as well as do stuff like shut down a caster, or cause a slower brute melee monster with a power attack like ability to have to stand up and move every round, only having a 1 action attack instead of a 2.

I didn't see the ranger suggest they had a companion animal, so a first round of mark move up and trip (if they are specializing in athletics), is ok, but maybe the whole party tends to delay with the ranger in front. Then the monster takes the move action for the ranger and then Mark, trip and then still attack twice (with a very reduced MAP on the attacks from flurry), only for the rest of the party to move in and lay the hurt down is more optimal than moving, marking and attacking for sure.

Likely so.

My players have picked up feats that interfere with battle in different ways.

Ranger picked up this feat that if you hit twice with a bow or get a critical hit, you make the a target flat-footed for everyone. Damage and flat-footed at the same time. I think it is called Distracting Shot.

The champion picked up this ability that makes all terrain around him difficult terrain when using a shield, so they can't step and move avoiding reactions.

The rogue applies some nice debilitations now when attacking. They are a Ruffian Rogue and apply clumsy and weakness to a piercing or slashing.

You can't use their high value feats with maneuvers as they level up unless they are combined.


Staffan Johansson wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:

I also think a major reason my views differ is I often play to high level. The higher level you get the more you give up using a maneuver in place of a strike. For example, if my barbarian were to use his highest level strike for a grapple right now he would be giving up an average of 50 points of damage for a regular hit and 120 plus for a critical hit. This is not at all a good tradeoff.

Most of the people that seem to engage in these discussions on forums are playing lower level games where they're giving up maybe a 20 point hit in place of a maneuver. So perhaps to them that is an acceptable trade off. It becomes a far less acceptable trade off as you do more damage.

A thing to consider is that conditions tend to inherently scale. Sure, you're giving up more damage by using a maneuver instead of a straight attack, but on the other hand the damage your buddies will add because of the foe being flatfooted is also higher. I haven't done the math to see if they scale proportionally, but it's something to consider.

It also means that it might be more useful to have different party members specialize in different directions. If one of you is doing 50 points per hit, and the other is doing 30 points, it's probably better if the one dealing 30 points gives up an action for tripping or the like.

You definitely have a point though in that high-level characters are more likely to have abilities to inflict conditions without using maneuvers or other skill actions to do it. If you have Intimidating Strike, you're less likely to actually Demoralize someone.

Yep. Nearly every class except perhaps the monk get improving attacks as they rise in level beyond the runes.

Barbarian's rage damage gets bigger.

Fighter Power Attack feat does more dice.

Rogue sneak attack does more dice.

Swashbuckler finisher dice grows. Swashbuckler's really want to do a finisher every round and might use maneuvers to gain panache.

Ranger precision damage and flurry penalty gets better as they level.

Champion could probably do maneuvers and not change much.

It's so hard to talk yourself into doing a maneuver if you're missing out on all those abilities getting more and more powerful as you level.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

On the subject of usefulness in maneuvers, I actually was essentially forced to perform maneuvers to reduce enemy effectiveness, avoid AoOs, and outright defeat enemies, all in two turn in my latest session.

Half-elf Shelyn Paladin with a Glaive. I was prone from being knocked unconscious, surrounded by 2 enemies with AoOs, weapon on the ground, and with them having flight and massive resistances. I had 23 HP from Breath of Life. . Standing up meant certain death. So did grabbing my weapon, healing myself, and so on. I was basically a sitting duck. One was weak however, and Blade of Justice even with an unarmed attack would kill them. So I hit them and it killed them, or so I thought.

The enemy's soul was instead pushed out, tethered to the stony figure it used as a host. But I still had an action to shove the "statue" from the ground off the ledge to fall thousands of feet, breaking the tether. Even at a -5, the check of 30 was enough to kick the statue off. Had I not used my 3rd action to Shove there, they'd re-enter the next round, and these were tougher on-level creatures.

On the next creature's turn, the enemy fumbled its first attack, granting me a free Trip or Shove on the target. With a 37 check, 5 feet is pushed, and the action is wasted, meaning only 2 attacks went on me. Had that shove not have come, I may have been hit and downed again with a good roll. On my turn, I got the idea to shove him away so I can stand up and grab my weapon safely. Which works to my favor thanks to the skill investment.

Within the course of two rounds, I used the shove action 3 times to great effect on the battlefield.

Of course, maneuvers have their niche, they won't always be the best choice, but damn, I would have lost my character that night had I not relied on maneuvers to get me out of a very, very bad situation.

There are unique situations. When the party had to capture someone, they relied on maneuvers because beating them to death with weapons wasn't effective as a means to capture.


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An aside about crows-

If you ever see a dead crow on the ground, look around to see if there are a bunch of crows nearby in high places. If there are, turn around and go the other way. Because if you interrupt this "crow funeral" the local crows will hold this against you for *generations*. They remember faces and this is something that will set them against you for sure.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I've found Swashbuckler's maneuver panache to be really bad.

They're very unreliable because your Strength is probably going to be several points behind your Dex and they also advance your MAP, which makes landing that finisher kind of rough.

Before the maneuver nerf you could kind of justify it because you were more likely to succeed in the initial action (relative to other swashbuckler styles) in exchange for advancing MAP.... but now it's not uncommon for that trip/grapple/shove check to be at -4 or -5 compared to a Strike (I've seen as high as -7) and then rolling your actual finisher at -5 too.

It's not fun in practice.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

An aside about crows-

If you ever see a dead crow on the ground, look around to see if there are a bunch of crows nearby in high places. If there are, turn around and go the other way. Because if you interrupt this "crow funeral" the local crows will hold this against you for *generations*. They remember faces and this is something that will set them against you for sure.

So if you pay your respects, the crows will respect you?


Squiggit wrote:

I've found Swashbuckler's maneuver panache to be really bad.

They're very unreliable because your Strength is probably going to be several points behind your Dex and they also advance your MAP, which makes landing that finisher kind of rough.

Before the maneuver nerf you could kind of justify it because you were more likely to succeed in the initial action (relative to other swashbuckler styles) in exchange for advancing MAP.... but now it's not uncommon for that trip/grapple/shove check to be at -4 or -5 compared to a Strike (I've seen as high as -7) and then rolling your actual finisher at -5 too.

It's not fun in practice.

I am curious who would be any kind of Swashbuckler and not have 14/16 point in their secondary attribute at level 1? (Str or Cha)

It should barely be any different. The amount of STR vs DEX on a Swashbuckler should never be more than a -1 modifier past level 5 and sometimes it would be equal if starting at 16.

Good thing about Gymnast is they can target reflex or fortitude, bad news is it effects map which makes it kind if bad to do manuever to finisher.

Also I believe if they kept up on athletics wouldnt it actually be higher than their attack bonus? Since you can get legendary athletics but only master weapons?


Deriven Firelion wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:

An aside about crows-

If you ever see a dead crow on the ground, look around to see if there are a bunch of crows nearby in high places. If there are, turn around and go the other way. Because if you interrupt this "crow funeral" the local crows will hold this against you for *generations*. They remember faces and this is something that will set them against you for sure.

So if you pay your respects, the crows will respect you?

It's probably more about "you don't want the crows to think you have anything to do with the dead crow".

Scarab Sages

RPGnoremac wrote:

Good thing about Gymnast is they can target reflex or fortitude, bad news is it effects map which makes it kind if bad to do manuever to finisher.

Also I believe if they kept up on athletics wouldnt it actually be higher than their attack bonus? Since you can get legendary athletics but only master weapons?

You can get legendary proficiency to Athletics, but the same is true for every other skill. Furthermore, all Swashbuckler can target Reflex Saves via Tumble Through in order to gain Panache. So Gymnasts don't have an advantage there compared to other Styles, but they do incur MAP with their special action.

Sovereign Court

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Gymnasts have a couple of advantages compared to the other styles;
- If you successfully maneuver someone, it tends to be to the benefit of the whole party. As opposed to Bon Mot generally not being useful to you, or Feint not useful to anyone except you. So this is a bigger risk/bigger reward thing.
- The stat you use for your maneuvers also boosts weapon damage on its own.

I wouldn't say gymnasts are better, but they're also not all that worse off.


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But most importantly, they have the best Examplary Finisher, allowing them to reach way higher damage than the other Styles.

Liberty's Edge

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Deriven Firelion wrote:
Staffan Johansson wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:

I also think a major reason my views differ is I often play to high level. The higher level you get the more you give up using a maneuver in place of a strike. For example, if my barbarian were to use his highest level strike for a grapple right now he would be giving up an average of 50 points of damage for a regular hit and 120 plus for a critical hit. This is not at all a good tradeoff.

Most of the people that seem to engage in these discussions on forums are playing lower level games where they're giving up maybe a 20 point hit in place of a maneuver. So perhaps to them that is an acceptable trade off. It becomes a far less acceptable trade off as you do more damage.

A thing to consider is that conditions tend to inherently scale. Sure, you're giving up more damage by using a maneuver instead of a straight attack, but on the other hand the damage your buddies will add because of the foe being flatfooted is also higher. I haven't done the math to see if they scale proportionally, but it's something to consider.

It also means that it might be more useful to have different party members specialize in different directions. If one of you is doing 50 points per hit, and the other is doing 30 points, it's probably better if the one dealing 30 points gives up an action for tripping or the like.

You definitely have a point though in that high-level characters are more likely to have abilities to inflict conditions without using maneuvers or other skill actions to do it. If you have Intimidating Strike, you're less likely to actually Demoralize someone.

Yep. Nearly every class except perhaps the monk get improving attacks as they rise in level beyond the runes.

Barbarian's rage damage gets bigger.

Fighter Power Attack feat does more dice.

Rogue sneak attack does more dice.

Swashbuckler finisher dice grows. Swashbuckler's really want to do a finisher every round and might use maneuvers to gain panache.

Ranger...

Based on this and the previous post about your players, it clearly appears that your table is very focused on damage and they build for it. Which is quite fine actually, but you cannot expect damage-builds to be optimal maneuver-builds.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

"Way higher" is a bit of an overstatement. We're talking 4-8 damage. Definitely a nice boost, but more a matter of small percentage bumps, less if you're using a damage finisher, not a whole new league of DPR.

RPGnoremac wrote:
I am curious who would be any kind of Swashbuckler and not have 14/16 point in their secondary attribute at level 1? (Str or Cha)

Who said they didn't?

a 14 str/18 Dex Swashbuckler is -2 on their maneuver checks. -3 if they have a buff like inspire courage or heroism up. -4 if the enemy is flat footed, -5 if both of those are true. Not exactly rare circumstances.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I am still not sure why inspire courage needed to only work with attack rolls and not attacks. You are already losing out on the damage bonus when you chose to do a maneuver instead of a strike. I can conceptually understand reigning in some of the "attack" bonus shenanigans, and especially attribute swapping, which the system is designed to avoid, but taking away inspire courage from maneuvers does feel like a push towards making people just want to make 3 strikes a turn, rather than promote creative tactics.


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The Raven Black wrote:
Based on this and the previous post about your players, it clearly appears that your table is very focused on damage and they build for it. Which is quite fine actually, but you cannot expect damage-builds to be optimal maneuver-builds.

Well, the thing is the ultimate condition to be inflicted to any enemy is "dead". X_X

So in between the "oh noes, how can you be playing the game and be effective without maneuvers" crowd and Derivens "brute force still solves all your problems, no need for fancy maneuvers" approach my take is that apparently both styles of play or any in between are perfectly viable as long as the required teamwork is adhered to.


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You have exactly summed up every thread for the past year, yes.


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Squiggit wrote:


a 14 str/18 Dex Swashbuckler is -2 on their maneuver checks. -3 if they have a buff like inspire courage or heroism up. -4 if the enemy is flat footed, -5 if both of those are true. Not exactly rare circumstances.

Hmm but those numbers were the same before the clarification anyways though. The only difference it is just a difference on -2 until level 5 where it becomes -1 vs dex. Or were playing giving all those bonuses to manuevers? Also heroism effects skills :)

By level 5+ it should be very close for the most part even starting with 14. Since in general Athletics scales quicker then weapons. There will of course be levels that it is worse or better etc. I normally don't add every circumstance.

Anyway Gymnast pretty much have the same bonus as every other Swashbuckler. Yes we all know they effect MAP and that is the main reason a lot of people dislike Gymnast.

I do agree it is easier to raise attack vs saves. I actually wish it was easier to buff up casters. Unless I am missing something for casters all you can really do is -1/-2 with frightened. I am hoping PF2 balanced for this and made AC a little higher than saves because of this but I am not 100% sure.


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Unicore wrote:
I am still not sure why inspire courage needed to only work with attack rolls and not attacks. You are already losing out on the damage bonus when you chose to do a maneuver instead of a strike. I can conceptually understand reigning in some of the "attack" bonus shenanigans, and especially attribute swapping, which the system is designed to avoid, but taking away inspire courage from maneuvers does feel like a push towards making people just want to make 3 strikes a turn, rather than promote creative tactics.

I hypothesize that declaring that the skill checks of skill-based attack actions are not attack rolls is for stabilization rather than balance.

The PF2 Core Rulebook defines melee attack rolls and ranged attack rolls on page 446 and defines spell attack rolls on page 447 of the Playing the Game chapter under SPECIFIC CHECKS. It does not define attack rolls in general except on the first two sentences of the Attack Rolls section, "When you use a Strike action or any other attack action, you attempt a check called an attack roll. Attack rolls take a variety of forms and are often highly variable based on the weapon you are using for the attack, but there are three main types: melee attack rolls, ranged attack rolls, and spell attack rolls."

Thus, the rules have three well-defined attack rolls and a vague mention that other attack actions could have their own attack rolls in a variety of forms.

I took that to mean that the Athletics-based attack actions, such as Grapple, Shove, and Trip, use attack rolls. They are not straight skill checks, since they are not affected by the armor penalty and are affected by the multiple attack penalty. I figured the rolls were both skill checks and attack rolls and affected by the rules of both.

But having a single roll fall under two separate definitions could lead to contradictions. Also, we have elite kits that give +1 bonuses to various skill checks at a price of 50 gp, while attack rolls are improved by +1 weapon potency runes that cost 35 gp each. For rigor, one of the definitions, "skill check" or "attack roll" had to go. The Athletics-based attacks are described in the Skill chapter, so defining them as skill checks is more natural than defining them as attack rolls.

An alternative, which I adopted as a houserule, is to declare that Athletics-based attacks use a 4th type of attack roll, skill attack rolls. These rolls are primarily attacks, but they are also affected by abilities that affect skill checks unless those abilities don't affect attack rolls. Thus, they are immune to the armor check penalty (page 274). It is clearer to create a 4th type of attack roll than create 2nd type of skill check that is also affected by abilities that affect attack rolls.

The rigor of PF2 makes a solid foundation for houserules. I believe Paizo did this deliberately for versatility. Likewise, PF2 ought to play well with damage optimization or maneuver optimization or generalist teamwork due to the game's versatility. We just have to uncover why some obvious playstyles underperform.


The errata change to maneuvers made the gymnast swashbuckler (past level 10ish) have the most reliable access to a fortune effect on maneuvers, at least.


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I don't agree with the video I do respect the way he feels about the system. Not everyone can and should like the system. I prefer to hear from both sides when a product is reviewed not simply postive feddback.


Ubertron_X wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Based on this and the previous post about your players, it clearly appears that your table is very focused on damage and they build for it. Which is quite fine actually, but you cannot expect damage-builds to be optimal maneuver-builds.

Well, the thing is the ultimate condition to be inflicted to any enemy is "dead". X_X

So in between the "oh noes, how can you be playing the game and be effective without maneuvers" crowd and Derivens "brute force still solves all your problems, no need for fancy maneuvers" approach my take is that apparently both styles of play or any in between are perfectly viable as long as the required teamwork is adhered to.

Not exactly my position which is more akin to maneuvers become less valuable as you level up and come with an inherently greater risk-reward ratio as your other abilities become better meaning you give up a lot more to do a maneuver when your Sneak Attack is 4d6 or rage damage is +18 than when your rage damage is +2 or Sneak Attack one or two d6.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Not exactly my position which is more akin to maneuvers become less valuable as you level up and come with an inherently greater risk-reward ratio as your other abilities become better meaning you give up a lot more to do a maneuver when your Sneak Attack is 4d6 or rage damage is +18 than when your rage damage is +2 or Sneak Attack one or two d6.

That seems kind of napkin math-y and ignores how everything else scales.

Like, as a percentage of monster HP (based on averages from the monster creation guidelines), +2 rage damage at level 1 is greater than +18 rage damage at level 20. So in that instance the maneuver is actually more valuable later, not less.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
RPGnoremac wrote:
Squiggit wrote:


a 14 str/18 Dex Swashbuckler is -2 on their maneuver checks. -3 if they have a buff like inspire courage or heroism up. -4 if the enemy is flat footed, -5 if both of those are true. Not exactly rare circumstances.

Hmm but those numbers were the same before the clarification anyways though. The only difference it is just a difference on -2 until level 5 where it becomes -1 vs dex. Or were playing giving all those bonuses to manuevers? Also heroism effects skills :)

By level 5+ it should be very close for the most part even starting with 14. Since in general Athletics scales quicker then weapons. There will of course be levels that it is worse or better etc. I normally don't add every circumstance.

Anyway Gymnast pretty much have the same bonus as every other Swashbuckler. Yes we all know they effect MAP and that is the main reason a lot of people dislike Gymnast.

I do agree it is easier to raise attack vs saves. I actually wish it was easier to buff up casters. Unless I am missing something for casters all you can really do is -1/-2 with frightened. I am hoping PF2 balanced for this and made AC a little higher than saves because of this but I am not 100% sure.

I'm not sure why scaling against weapon skill is important. The alternative to a gymnast using Athletics to generate panache with a Trip, Grapple or Shove (Or any of the other styles using their style ability) is Acrobatics to Tumble Through. Panache is not really gained directly from using your weapons (There are some indirect options where you use a weapon but these are generally limited in application and tied to specific class feats and abilities).

Gymnast also suffers from the save it targets as well as MAP. The alternate save is Fortitude (Tumble Through targets Reflex) which is often the highest save. Other styles (Braggart, Battledancer and Wit) target Will which is usually a lot lower.

What balances Gymnast out is that it's panache ability (Trip, Grapple and Shove) is really useful for the group in its own right and can be used on pretty much anything (Bon Mot, Demoralise etc probably* don't effect mindless creatures for example). It's other advantage is that is can deal more damage than the other styles especially with its Exemplary Finisher.

* There are some questions about how these abilities work on mindless creatures etc.

In terms of this thread, each swashbuckler style requires you to play differently in combat. It even affects outside combat as it is going to be one of your three (Four if Acrobat Dedication) skills you take to Legendary.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:
The funny thing is that crows are much smarter than eagles.

That might be totally irrelevant. The life strategies (not to mention physiologies) of eagles and crows are so different that it might indeed be true that neither can learn much of use from the other.


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Squiggit wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Not exactly my position which is more akin to maneuvers become less valuable as you level up and come with an inherently greater risk-reward ratio as your other abilities become better meaning you give up a lot more to do a maneuver when your Sneak Attack is 4d6 or rage damage is +18 than when your rage damage is +2 or Sneak Attack one or two d6.

That seems kind of napkin math-y and ignores how everything else scales.

Like, as a percentage of monster HP (based on averages from the monster creation guidelines), +2 rage damage at level 1 is greater than +18 rage damage at level 20. So in that instance the maneuver is actually more valuable later, not less.

I've been analyzing scaling lately. That is not actually how it scales.

I'll give a rough overview of what I've found:

1st to about 6th: PCs are fairly weak compared to the environment. Few options for adjusting the math. Mistakes or bad rolls can lead to severe punishment. Casters feel pretty weak. TPK very possible.

7th to 10th: Survivability fairly good. Players rise in power with more options. Players can shift math better in their favor. Enough hit points and defense to take hits. Casters start to impact the game more with feats, special abilities, and spells.

11th to 14th: It takes a real hard encounter to challenge players well. Caster start to really pressure hit points with attack spells. Math can be heavily shifted in favor of the players. Players have tons of hit points and can take bit hits. Healing is powerful and can reverse damage in a round. Biggest worry is AoE attacks as single target martial enemies become pretty easy to beat.

15th to 18th: Players have the upper hand. They can rip encounters apart even against powerful creatures Cr+2. Casters are very powerful and can destroy encounters making them trivial. Capable of shifting the math or circumstances heavily in player's favor. Lots of hit points and little chance of TPK. Biggest fear fighting enemies with strong AoE capabilities in multiples.

I haven't played 19th and 20th yet, but I imagine players will become even more powerful. It's not PF1 level of insane power, but high level PF2 characters don't have a lot to fear. They have the upper hand in the game. They are clearly more powerful than what they fight against most of the time. I stopped worrying about TPKing my party about 12 levels ago.

A Qurasith went up against a lvl 14 party, they tore it apart. It landed a few things, but never really pressured the party for death or real danger. That was not the case when they were 3 or 4th level fighting a CR 5 to 6 monster.

The designers seem to have scaled for power tiers that eventually favor the players. It is not by as much as it was in PF1. But by enough that they feel like heroes able to defeat powerful foes without worrying about dying. It was a bit of a surprise to see these shifts as the players leveled given how hard 1st to 5th or 6th was. It was like some kind of power up happened around lvl 7 that changed things. Then around lvl 11. Then around 15th. Each time that math shift happened, suddenly the players were having an easier time winning.


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That is very interesting. I feel that is kind of how every game works with choices.

Low levels are always harder and easier to balance. I agree they are surprisingly hard in PF2 though.

Once you get to mid to high levels balance varies a lot because players have more choices. If you make "good" choices the game is easier, if you make "bad" choices the game is harder.

I am curious but shouldnt enemy casters also scale better too at high levels? Or is there something stopping them?

I find this happens a lot in video games. Since the game has to be "beatable" by bad players/choices so if you make good choices the game just gets easier every level basically.

I wouldn't be surprised if TTRPGs pretty much followed this trend too. Since the challenge should be around be based "mediocre" choices.

Luckily in TTRPGs if things get too easy GMs can adjust balance. I feel it would even be easier in PF2 then other games.


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Deriven Firelion wrote:

I've been analyzing scaling lately. That is not actually how it scales.

I'll give a rough overview of what I've found:

1st to about 6th: PCs are fairly weak compared to the environment. Few options for adjusting the math. Mistakes or bad rolls can lead to severe punishment. Casters feel pretty weak. TPK very possible.

7th to 10th: Survivability fairly good. Players rise in power with more options. Players can shift math better in their favor. Enough hit points and defense to take hits. Casters start to impact the game more with feats, special abilities, and spells.

That is not how PF2 has worked out for my players. I don't claim that Deriven Firelion's analysis is wrong. Rather, my players' style works exceptionally well with PF2.

At 1st level in my PF2 conversion of Ironfang Invasion I sent hundreds of hobgoblin soldiers against them and the village of Phaendar. Of course they ran, because the module intended that. They also took 40 villagers with them, twice as many as the module expected. Higher-level NPCs protected them and their refugees. One NPC died. The party saved a second high-level NPC.

At 2nd level in Trail of the Hunted they kept the refugees alive and hidden in the Fangwood Forest, also as the module intended. However, they went through the planned encounters at a rate of one per day rather than one per week and broke the timeline.

I remember one encounter, down to three players because the fourth had a schedule conflict, where they had to take on three enemies, creature 1. The rogue was able to hide, but he sprung out for a sneak attack to protect the druid. That enemy turned on the rogue, another went after the druid, and a third went after the ranger. But Electric Arc let the druid attack two enemies at once, so the enemy on the rogue went down quickly. Teamwork gave them an advantage that mitigated bad rolls. The caster, i.e., the druid, felt properly scaled rather than weak. She was hit pretty hard since the last enemy taken down was the one on her, but she was the healer and could have fixed herself up mid-combat if necessary.

At 3rd level, they took down a mini-dungeon through clever exploitation of the terrain. They used Impersonate (voice only) and Trip effectively. A Gelatinous Cube hurt them a lot because a PF2 Cube is pretty agile and engulfed three of them, but the ranger ruptured it from the inside. And then they won at an equal-strength encounter despite being at half hit points, by recognizing a tactically advantage that occurred unintentionally.

At 4th level, they wandered off the module's map to check on a nearby village. The hobgoblins had conquered the village and maintained a garrison of 25 soldiers there. I picked that number so that they would scout and move on. I was wrong. They used their Stealth skills to first whittle away at the garrison and then went on full assault and destroyed it. I decided that the hobgoblins hunting the refugees would be assigned to re-man the garrison. The PCs learned of this from a slave they rescued, and ambushed the hunters on the road and destoryed them, too.

I could go on, but the essence is that my players controlled the narrative through roleplaying and controlled the math through teamwork. For examples, I had my doubts about the snare mechanic. But the ranger took Snare Specialist and the party invented tactics for setting up snares before the encounter and then luring the enemies into the snares by retreating. That teamwork was pretty deadly. The math they manipulated was the action economy, using exploration time to lay down the snares rather than encounter time.

At 7th level, I challenged them with a hobgoblin army that was a beyond-extreme threat. Three players went down low. For a moment, we thought the halfling rogue/sorcerer had dropped to dying 1 at exactly 0 hit points, and then his player remembered the Barkskin spell protecting him, so he retconned back up to 4 hp. The catfolk monk with Speed 40 picked up the small leshy sorcerer healer and ran with her to 30 feet from the heavily-injured halfling so that the leshy could cast Heal on him immediately. The catfolk had been near the leshy because he was the first PC to become heavily injured. The third was the druid trying out his new Dinosaur Form spell, so the leshy had to race after her to keep her on her feet. Once again, teamwork mitigated the risk.

The catfolk is played by someone who never played a tabletop roleplaying game before and joined my campaign only two months ago but has been a good team player in an MMO, Elder Scrolls Online.

Is it the teamwork that distinguishes my players from Deriven Firelion's players? Or is there another factor?

Liberty's Edge

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I feel your players found the royal way to win at PF2 : use actions that will help your teammates get the best possible result from their abilities.

I played with several parties in PFS and the games where people act without considering the impact on what their fellow PCs will be able to do become more difficult real fast.

Often it involves other PCs having to spend actions on movement so that they can use their abilities (healing, AoE spells, Champion's reactions, flanking...).


I think part of the problem he has might be that he is running “age of ashes”. It has multiple level +2/3 encounters per adventuring day, and non-optimal play will easily lead to a tpk. There are mid combat traps in that adventure path with multiple attacks per round, doing massive damage, and with attack bonuses exceeding the AC of any non-champion character. The third book plays like a dark souls boss rush. The last chapter of book 2 is pretty much designed to have a high chance of tpk. Some people enjoy that sort of thing, most don’t.

Combat feels one-sided because it is in that module. NPCs have a 75% to 95% hit chance, and players have a 15 to 30% hit chance. Playing “non-optimally” takes that 15 to 30% and knocks it down to 5 to 20% (depending on class). Add to this the fact that NPCs are massive hit point sponges and combat does tend to get boring and frustrating for +2/+3 encounters. If your players are not into heavy strategy, they might not appreciate the challenge.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I hear that about Age of Ashes a lot, but it's not been my experience at all. I've GMed almost all the way through book 4 by now, and while it's true that I cut out some of the easier or less relevant combats on occasion, the players all do just fine with their non-optimized characters and tactics. They seek out non-combat resolutions to encounters from time to time too, so that I'm sure helps in their favor...

Neither of the +3 encounters by this point in the AP have been that rough. I've had no character deaths at all, let alone anything approaching a TPK. Some of the AP-tailored custom monsters in book 2 were pretty brutal in their math, but nothing to the point of serious sadness at our table.

Weird that experiences are so varied. I'm not discounting that some folks are struggling with the setup, but basically everything is totally in line with Pathfinder rules and it plays pretty reasonably often.


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Cutting those easier encounters means theres less resource drain on the party though. That's like saying a bag isnt as heavy as everyone says it is after you took a bunch of small things out of it.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Cutting those easier encounters means theres less resource drain on the party though. That's like saying a bag isnt as heavy as everyone says it is after you took a bunch of small things out of it.

I'm aware. But tossing a Low difficulty fight from a dungeon crawl doesn't suddenly mean the end boss isn't still hitting as hard. And I certainly haven't done that with every encounter sequence, by any means. I think aside from a like-for-like CR swap of a creature or two during Cult of Cinders, I didn't change anything at all. Though I should have, as that book really dragged at points...


Like I said, my own AoA party was amazingly "suboptimal" with three dedicated casters and a giant barbarian, and while they struggled in certain encounters, they didn't get TPK'd until book 4.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Sporkedup wrote:
TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Cutting those easier encounters means theres less resource drain on the party though. That's like saying a bag isnt as heavy as everyone says it is after you took a bunch of small things out of it.
I'm aware. But tossing a Low difficulty fight from a dungeon crawl doesn't suddenly mean the end boss isn't still hitting as hard. And I certainly haven't done that with every encounter sequence, by any means. I think aside from a like-for-like CR swap of a creature or two during Cult of Cinders, I didn't change anything at all. Though I should have, as that book really dragged at points...

My party is pretty good at using non-combat approaches to encounters when we can avoid it (the animal trainer is amazing for being able to always talk to all animals by level 4), but all three of our character deaths have occurred after our party pressed on without resting enough into a level +3 or level +2 encounters + more after having expended a fair bit of resources getting there. We don't always get to take a 10 minute break after each encounter and there are some dungeons in the second book in particular where players very easily end up drawing 6 or more encounters into one fight. I don't know how any party survives that, especially against monsters with dimensional door, without playing on extreme careful/paranoid mode. We dropped our guard and got hammered for it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

But we didn't experience TPKs because we were willing to let a party member die instead of having everyone make a stand in a hopeless situation. I think that might factor a fair bit into the TPKs vs, the occasional character death in AoA.


RPGnoremac wrote:

That is very interesting. I feel that is kind of how every game works with choices.

Low levels are always harder and easier to balance. I agree they are surprisingly hard in PF2 though.

Once you get to mid to high levels balance varies a lot because players have more choices. If you make "good" choices the game is easier, if you make "bad" choices the game is harder.

I am curious but shouldnt enemy casters also scale better too at high levels? Or is there something stopping them?

I find this happens a lot in video games. Since the game has to be "beatable" by bad players/choices so if you make good choices the game just gets easier every level basically.

I wouldn't be surprised if TTRPGs pretty much followed this trend too. Since the challenge should be around be based "mediocre" choices.

Luckily in TTRPGs if things get too easy GMs can adjust balance. I feel it would even be easier in PF2 then other games.

Enemy casters scale as well, especially in multiples. My party was fighting large group of 6 CR 13 martials and 2 CR 16 martials and 2 CR 15 casters. They were handling the martials fine. Then the casters started dropping AoE damage spells on them and they started to lose it, thought it was going to be a TPK. It wasn't because of what the martials were doing. It was the layered AoE spells putting hit point pressure on all of them every round. And the casters could see through their invisibility. And they turned invisibility with mind blank, which blocked their invisibility counter-measures while they were flying. Caster enemies scaled.

I believe it is caster scaling that enables those tiers. Casters start to shine as they get more slots and their abilities/spells become more powerful. They're nowhere near PF1 to be sure, but then again creatures don't have as many divination countermeasures and with unlimited damaging cantrips an invisible mage/caster with mind blank can be quite nasty as can a druid in dragon form with 120 foot mobility.


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Extinction Curse is much easier than Age of Ashes. Still not the faceroll fest that was PF1 thankfully. But the encounters are middle of the road and easier for a party to survive than some of the AoA encounters. I can generally boost up Extinction Curse encounters and not worry about destroying the party. A few of those AoA were pretty brutal. Book 1, 2, and 3 all had some real brutal encounters in them. Book 4 had maybe one. Book 5 has been pretty soft comparably so far.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Extinction Curse is much easier than Age of Ashes. Still not the faceroll fest that was PF1 thankfully. But the encounters are middle of the road and easier for a party to survive than some of the AoA encounters. I can generally boost up Extinction Curse encounters and not worry about destroying the party. A few of those AoA were pretty brutal. Book 1, 2, and 3 all had some real brutal encounters in them. Book 4 had maybe one. Book 5 has been pretty soft comparably so far.

That's hilarious. Extinction Curse has been a much harder one to run for me! Those g#~~!$n swarms are just brutal on a group that has no aoe to bear... Haha.


Sporkedup wrote:

I hear that about Age of Ashes a lot, but it's not been my experience at all. I've GMed almost all the way through book 4 by now, and while it's true that I cut out some of the easier or less relevant combats on occasion, the players all do just fine with their non-optimized characters and tactics. They seek out non-combat resolutions to encounters from time to time too, so that I'm sure helps in their favor...

Neither of the +3 encounters by this point in the AP have been that rough. I've had no character deaths at all, let alone anything approaching a TPK. Some of the AP-tailored custom monsters in book 2 were pretty brutal in their math, but nothing to the point of serious sadness at our table.

Weird that experiences are so varied. I'm not discounting that some folks are struggling with the setup, but basically everything is totally in line with Pathfinder rules and it plays pretty reasonably often.

A lot depends on the DM and the players. Each group plays a particular way. Some groups love going off script and coming up with some clever way to achieve victory using RPG solutions. Some players love to combat to the point where all they look forward to is battle. And everything between those two extremes.

Players can get tunnel vision sometimes. It can be irritating as a DM. I ran an encounter one time against oozes. The oozes were immune to their standard attack sequences. So a few players switched to using their weapons as improvised clubs to win, but 2/3rds of the group just ran out and sat around waiting for the other two players to kill the oozes because they were bored by not being able to use their standard attack sequences. It became apparent that if they did not help the other two players, the oozes were going to kill those two players. Sometimes players have to think outside the box to win.


Sporkedup wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:
Extinction Curse is much easier than Age of Ashes. Still not the faceroll fest that was PF1 thankfully. But the encounters are middle of the road and easier for a party to survive than some of the AoA encounters. I can generally boost up Extinction Curse encounters and not worry about destroying the party. A few of those AoA were pretty brutal. Book 1, 2, and 3 all had some real brutal encounters in them. Book 4 had maybe one. Book 5 has been pretty soft comparably so far.
That's hilarious. Extinction Curse has been a much harder one to run for me! Those g&!%+~n swarms are just brutal on a group that has no aoe to bear... Haha.

That book 1 encounter was rough. Our group had to run the first time they faced them. Then they came up with a kiting strategy and re-adjusted their spell lists. It was easy the second fight.

That one cave encounter in AoA against the you know what was brutal in AoA Book 1.

There was an encounter in Book 3 I had to pull punches on. Brutal encounter in Book 3 near the end.

Liberty's Edge

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Unicore wrote:
Sporkedup wrote:
TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Cutting those easier encounters means theres less resource drain on the party though. That's like saying a bag isnt as heavy as everyone says it is after you took a bunch of small things out of it.
I'm aware. But tossing a Low difficulty fight from a dungeon crawl doesn't suddenly mean the end boss isn't still hitting as hard. And I certainly haven't done that with every encounter sequence, by any means. I think aside from a like-for-like CR swap of a creature or two during Cult of Cinders, I didn't change anything at all. Though I should have, as that book really dragged at points...

My party is pretty good at using non-combat approaches to encounters when we can avoid it (the animal trainer is amazing for being able to always talk to all animals by level 4), but all three of our character deaths have occurred after our party pressed on without resting enough into a level +3 or level +2 encounters + more after having expended a fair bit of resources getting there. We don't always get to take a 10 minute break after each encounter and there are some dungeons in the second book in particular where players very easily end up drawing 6 or more encounters into one fight. I don't know how any party survives that, especially against monsters with dimensional door, without playing on extreme careful/paranoid mode. We dropped our guard and got hammered for it.

Uniting multiple encounters into a single fight will ramp up the encounter severity real fast in PF2. GMs should really avoid doing this. There was a recent thread touching on this.


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The Raven Black wrote:
Uniting multiple encounters into a single fight will ramp up the encounter severity real fast in PF2. GMs should really avoid doing this. There was a recent thread touching on this.

While I absolutely agree on the severity issue not chaining fights can pose a major plausibility issue, especially when dungeon design is expected to be static but features a lot of door to door encounters nonetheless. Not chaining encounters may even be borderline illogical*, e.g. a certain open area "dungeon" in AoA volume 2.

* your mileage may vary depending on how the GM presents the situation and the group and GM play out each individual encounter


Unicore wrote:
Sporkedup wrote:
TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Cutting those easier encounters means theres less resource drain on the party though. That's like saying a bag isnt as heavy as everyone says it is after you took a bunch of small things out of it.
I'm aware. But tossing a Low difficulty fight from a dungeon crawl doesn't suddenly mean the end boss isn't still hitting as hard. And I certainly haven't done that with every encounter sequence, by any means. I think aside from a like-for-like CR swap of a creature or two during Cult of Cinders, I didn't change anything at all. Though I should have, as that book really dragged at points...

My party is pretty good at using non-combat approaches to encounters when we can avoid it (the animal trainer is amazing for being able to always talk to all animals by level 4), but all three of our character deaths have occurred after our party pressed on without resting enough into a level +3 or level +2 encounters + more after having expended a fair bit of resources getting there. We don't always get to take a 10 minute break after each encounter and there are some dungeons in the second book in particular where players very easily end up drawing 6 or more encounters into one fight. I don't know how any party survives that, especially against monsters with dimensional door, without playing on extreme careful/paranoid mode. We dropped our guard and got hammered for it.

My party didn't draw 6 encounters at once, but on 4 occasions throughout the first 3 books we ended up with piled on fights. Once two times happened in the mines from book 2, we fought by initiating the fight against the Boggarts and ended up fighting three encounters at once, then we fought against the Charau-ka mining below and the monstrous fishes, two tough encounters into one (this happened due to a critical failure in a recall knowledge). Both fights were REALLY tough, but we managed to come out alive.

Then it happened twice in book 3, we were on the mage's tower fighting his two alchemical golems that also triggered another encounter (I think it was two) that got us fighting 2 golems and 6 poisoners. On this fight our Alchemist straight up left the fight during the final stages (1 Golem up, 3 poisoners and every party member engaged with 50%). The fight was tough but it was the first time ever that I realized that the alchemist was being a decorative character (one or two sessions later the player retired the character). The other fight was on Laslun abandoned mine, where we fought the Giant, then we found ourselves in a fight without rest against the four subordinate giants and right after, with only 10 min to rest and barely enough time for some very quick and sparse heals, we ended up in a fight against 14 enemies. This whole gauntlet ended with only my Monk standing with 19 health, but we won and no party member was bleeding out. I'm pretty sure no party would be able to afford going crazy on those encounters.

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