Casters in severe and extreme encounters


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Sovereign Court

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Greetings,

We just paused our AV AP campaign and have been discussing our PF2 experience so far. The party is a Rogue, Champion, Fighter, Wizard/Cleric, and Druid. 2/3 of our encounters have been severe or extreme (not sure if thats how it should be our GM is pretty new to both PF2 and Paizo APs?) The challenge has been interesting until lately at level 4 where we have been running from every fight. Some of that is tactics, but a lot of it is being unable to affect the enemy or get past their defenses.

The wizard has fallen back on spells that do half damage on saves (which the enemy always does because they save on anything but a 1-3). Control has been entirely unsuccessful due to enemies having too high base saves.

The fighters feel its fine, just difficult. I dont disagree with that but casters feel very ineffective. I have been playing the Druid and gave up on control or damage spells and either heal or attack AC which I can reasonably pass unlike targeting saves.

Is this a common experience? Or has our GM misused the guidelines and stepped out of bounds?

Cheers.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I think your experience is fairly typical, though there are opportunities for your casters to find better effectiveness.

A caster should not expect to completely control an above-level foe due to the difference in magic defenses and the effects of incapacitation. The four degrees of success still allow them to contribute with spells that have effects on a successful save. For the early spell levels Fear, Hideous Laughter and Slow are good candidates.

Spells that cause enemies to lose or waste actions are particularly valuable in these circumstances because the actions of an above-level foe are relatively more important than multiple of your own actions. If your caster spends two or three of their own actions to cause a solo creature to use one of their own actions attacking a weak summon, moving to reposition or just outright taking an action away by preventing reactions or inflicting a slow effect it will be too your greater advantage. A party of four has 12 actions a turn and your spellcast is 1/6 of your resources. A solo boss monster has three actions and losing one is 1/3 of his turn.

Generally damaging spells will be less useful against a bigger foe because you'll likely be dealing less damage and whittling away at a higher number of hit points but Magic Missile deserves special consideration because this damage is automatic. If your caster wants to go for damage a three-action Magic Missile may be more effective than a spell that does half on a save.

My limited experience has been that between the ways they impair foes and buff allies a party goes much further with effective caster support in such fights than a group of all martial characters can achieve.


There are different spells which give control even on a save.

Mind to post the wizard spell list and the some of the encounters he's having issues with?

Also, are the enemies debufffed by intimidate, bon mot or similar effects?

A 30 damage aoe on 4 targets would result into 60 total damage if any of them succeed the check, which is huge.


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I'm playing a caster (wizard) in AV; we're currently level 5, so maybe just a touch ahead of you. I've felt like the MVP most of the game

Here's the spells I've been using:
Cantrips: Acid Splash, Electric Arc, Light, Produce Flame, TKP
1st: Agitate, Summon Construct, Temporary Tool (normally given up to my makeshift staff, which has True Strike)
2nd: Charitable Urge, Glitterdust, Hideous Laughter
3rd: Fireball, Curse of Lost Time

He's playing a 'prankster' role (our whole group is a bit kid gang/Goonies inspired). I've generally been picking 'fun' spells and more on the control/debuff end of things. Agitate (with a frontline fighter to punish the strides) and Hideous Laughter (to shut down reactions, even if nothing else) have both been spells that have changed the course of battle.

True Strike + Produce Flame has come through with crits in at at least three fights where we probably would have wiped.

The range of elemental damage types on the cantrips when I fall back from control/debuff. We do have multiple character who can intimidate (my wizard can't effective).

There has been an effort to make sure I diversify save types; its not quite there and there's still some weaknesses in targeting conditions (living creatures, age-able creatures, intelligent creatures, etc). But so far I've almost always had a strong counter. I think I have been getting an above average set of attack rolls for myself/below average saves from the GM; but I am setup for success.

The character also has an alchemist dedication, but that's mainly for a bit extra healing, and looking forward to things like darkvision elxirs in a couple of levels/feats, and hasn't really been a a factor yet.


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I can't say too much on the caster front specifically, but if most of what you are doing are severe and extreme encounters, it is no wonder that only the fighter seems to be doing alright. Especially if you get to that difficulty by using very few or only one monster. That is boss or mini-boss territory.

The majority of encounters are supposed to be moderate or maybe several low encounters that are designed to bleed into one another. Severe encounters are not exactly uncommon, but the GM should be aware that that name is to be taken seriously. They will consume a lot of resources, will include scraping the martials off the floor once or twice and the party is basically guaranteed to need substantial healing afterwards.

If you are doing very few encounters per day like during overland travel, you can get away with more frequent severe encounters, but it is advised to not use only one or two monsters. I have found that using three at-party-level monsters is generally a good balance between challenge and not having 10-hour combats.

Extreme encounters are to be handled with equally extreme caution. A couple of bad rolls or the wrong monster at the wrong level have a very likely chance to end in anything form a dead PC to a full TPK. If you are using a strong single monster to get to that difficulty, you are basically asking for it. This is best used only if you are really, really sure and have an epic plot-relevant battle with build-in win conditions that are not "kill the monster".


When we are arguing about the new ring that allow change the DC from attack spells from AC to Reflex/Fort I noticed that there's many monsters and classes that have some save even lower than AC.

So for severe and extreme encounters a good solution for a caster is the party use some actions to Recall Knowledge to query the most weak saves of the opponents (for NPCs this can be by guessing. Usually heavy armored/shielded opponents have low Reflex, casters usually have high Will, light armored usually have high Reflex).

Knowing the enemies weakness will help a lot the casters to hit and do more damage.


Well if nothing else your gm is teaching the casters why selecting any spells without good "success" effects is a bad idea.

Assuming solo fights, at level 4 casters are still low on useful spells so your focus should be entirely on healing and buffing the martials while putting fear or hideous laughter on the enemy. If necessary, use your bodies as extra hp for the martials.

If you're fighting hordes, you're probably screwed at this level since you have minimal battlefield control. Find a chokepoint to hard limit enemy actions and rotate the frontline as needed.

Grand Lodge

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The old and humble Magic Missile is a spell that you shouldn't underestimate in a severe or extreme encounter.

A three action level 3 Magic Missile is doing an estimated 21 points of damage (6d4 + 6 - averaging a d4 as 2.5). No save.

A level 3 Fireball - while superior against multiple targets has also 21 expected damage - on a failure (6d6 - with each d6 expected to do 3.5).

The advantage of the Fireball - it can hit multiple targets. It is only 2 actions (vs 3). It can do even double that amount on a critical fail.

The disadvantage - it only does half on a success and nothing on a crit success. Also fire resistance is common.

I stumbled upon this when I looked at extreme encounters (single BBEG) early on during season 1 of PFS scenarios. To my surprise Ezren was out-damaging Amiri and Valeros (I used the PreGens) in my simple methods of using 3 attacks (fighters) or a fixed amount of damage (Magic Missile).

The other bit I noticed - flat footed can be crucial. Ezren is doing 'more damage' standing next to a BBEG then being somewhere save and spamming electric arc.

What I mean with 'more damage'. Valeros or Amiri (not even counting Merisiel) would gain more additional damage from a flanking partner as Ezren would do from Electric Arc against a single target.

As GM I have seen Wizards thinking they contribute via their cantrip - when in reality a peasant with fists in a flanking position would make a larger difference to take down a BBEG more quickly.

Every fight is different. But it is important to inflict conditions in severe encounters. Flank if it is a single opponent. Focus fire if there are multiple.

Work together as a team.


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AV Spoilers through book 1

Spoiler:

It has felt that AV has leaned rather heavily on single or pair of monster fighters; and when this happens with moderate, severe, or extreme it will always feel hard/boss fight. They feel balanced, just too many of the same type of encounter, not enough 4-8 minion fights. Or even on-level boss with minions, etc. There have been a couple, just not a nice mix.

This is coupled with the sandboxy nature that lets you explore and get in over your head... often with minimal warning. There are 'diplomatic' options, but I know a lot of GMs tend to underplay those.

As AV is a dungeon crawl (rather than hexploration) it isn't really paced to be a 'nova every fight' campaign, even if the encounters seemed designed for that.

I still like the AP so far, but its also the only one I've only played/not GMd or read, so I don't know how much I would want to change if I were running it.


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Thod wrote:

as GM I have seen Wizards thinking they contribute via their cantrip - when in reality a peasant with fists in a flanking position would make a larger difference to take down a BBEG more quickly.

Every fight is different. But it is important to inflict conditions in severe encounters. Flank if it is a single opponent. Focus fire if there are multiple.

Work together as a team.

It kinda feel like the role of the casters at low level is to enable the Martials to save the day, from your post.

I feel it's important to remind as well that Martials as well can impose debuffa and malus, and enable Casters.

Work as a team need to be both ways.

Sovereign Court

NielsenE wrote:

AV Spoilers through book 1

** spoiler omitted **

Some good observations here. With the math of severe and extreme encounters it feels like a reverse campaign where the PCs get the living sh!t kicked out of them while the enemies enjoy large levels of success with their attacks and abilities. It starting to flavor my opinion of PF2 where I know if the encounters where more varied id enjoy it much more.

Sovereign Court

Kendaan wrote:
Thod wrote:

as GM I have seen Wizards thinking they contribute via their cantrip - when in reality a peasant with fists in a flanking position would make a larger difference to take down a BBEG more quickly.

Every fight is different. But it is important to inflict conditions in severe encounters. Flank if it is a single opponent. Focus fire if there are multiple.

Work together as a team.

It kinda feel like the role of the casters at low level is to enable the Martials to save the day, from your post.

I feel it's important to remind as well that Martials as well can impose debuffa and malus, and enable Casters.

Work as a team need to be both ways.

I keep hearing this, but martials have the same small chance against enemy defenses. It seems like the best option is always to strike the AC and or force actions that dont require you to target the enemy defense. /shrug.


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Are you guys multiple levels down?

Like there just shouldn't be mostly severe and extreme encounters.

Lot's of good advice, spellcasting is a mini-game in a way STRIKE-STRIKE isn't, so it can take time learning that game.

But

Quote:
2/3 of our encounters have been severe or extreme

jumps out at me. The dungeon has a kind of gamey structure in that it gets deadlier each level you go down. This is totally obvious to the characters in game, and makes total narrative sense because of the design of the dungeon in world.

I recommend going back up a level or two, and making sure you have the resources and power you need for some of the big challenges.

ALSO there are a few, finite areas which are chockful of foreshadowed big monsters you're kind of intended to see, run away from, and come back when you're stronger.

A poster above mentioned the over reliance on fewer more powerful monsters, and I often find that makes certain classes and abilities shine a disproportionate amount, so that may be happening a bit here too.


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Wow... I was briefly wondering what AV was, then thought "naw, probably something converted or so". Ofc its Abomination Vaults. Man, I'm dumb sometimes XD

Weird, because I heard that starting with AV, adventures have become a little tamer.


Karmagator wrote:

Wow... I was briefly wondering what AV was, then thought "naw, probably something converted or so". Ofc its Abomination Vaults. Man, I'm dumb sometimes XD

Weird, because I heard that starting with AV, adventures have become a little tamer.

With one well-discussed exception, and a few deliberately foreshadowed big scary beasties, that has been my experience and we're just about finished.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber
Pan wrote:

Greetings,

...The wizard has fallen back on spells that do half damage on saves (which the enemy always does because they save on anything but a 1-3). Control has been entirely unsuccessful due to enemies having too high base saves.

The fighters feel its fine, just difficult. I dont disagree with that but casters feel very ineffective. I have been playing the Druid and gave up on control or damage spells and either heal or attack AC which I can reasonably pass unlike targeting saves.

Is this a common experience? Or has our GM misused the guidelines and stepped out of bounds?

Cheers.

That has been my experience but only at higher levels (when saves scale faster enemies are assumed to have Resilient runes with no counter for casters like armor and weapon potency counter) some levels there is also a sudden shift in power meaning in difficulty those enemies really should be higher, I think enemy level 7 is one of them where a +3 level enemy is closer to a +4 unless the party is at the same level.

Liberty's Edge

Not every AV encounter is supposed to be fight to the end right now. Several are indeed of the Deadly now, come back when higher level type.

Grand Lodge

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Some quick stats - Abomination Vaults Book 1

Trivial - 1 encounter - 1.7%
Low - 16 encounters - 27.6%
Moderate - 26 encounters - 44.8%
Severe - 14 - 24.1%
Extreme - 1 - 1.7%

The stats use the classification printed next to them. I got all of them in a spreadsheet to calculate XP and that is why I could do that stat quickly.

This assumes you are at the right level at the right time.

And yes - it gets more towards severe at the higher level. Level 4 is 36% severe and it also has the only extreme one (9% for that level). Makes it nearly 46% of that level Severe/Extreme.

Having said this - this is a sandbox. My group went in their second session straight into level 2 and into a Severe 2 encounter (while still level 1).

They made friends with a certain boss upstairs who convinced them to go down there for him ...

Sovereign Court

The Raven Black wrote:
Not every AV encounter is supposed to be fight to the end right now. Several are indeed of the Deadly now, come back when higher level type.

The problem for us is everything we face is too tough. There is nothing to go back to and fight to level up.

The Raven Black wrote:


Some quick stats - Abomination Vaults Book 1
Trivial - 1 encounter - 1.7%
Low - 16 encounters - 27.6%
Moderate - 26 encounters - 44.8%
Severe - 14 - 24.1%
Extreme - 1 - 1.7%

I bet we have had 15 encounters. 5 low/moderate and 10 Severe/extreme. I have doubts about the GM running the module well.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think one thing that could be influencing your Abomination Vaults campaign is how often you talk your way through encounters. There are lots of enemies that can be talked to, or tricked, and most of those are lower level (although the campaign has some higher level ones too).

Also, talk to yr GM, because it is common for GMs to cut down on the number of encounters, and they tend to cut “easier” fights when they do this. The appeal of doing so is understandable but it changes everything about the game and the players should be notified.


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Pan wrote:
Kendaan wrote:
Thod wrote:

as GM I have seen Wizards thinking they contribute via their cantrip - when in reality a peasant with fists in a flanking position would make a larger difference to take down a BBEG more quickly.

Every fight is different. But it is important to inflict conditions in severe encounters. Flank if it is a single opponent. Focus fire if there are multiple.

Work together as a team.

It kinda feel like the role of the casters at low level is to enable the Martials to save the day, from your post.

I feel it's important to remind as well that Martials as well can impose debuffa and malus, and enable Casters.

Work as a team need to be both ways.

I keep hearing this, but martials have the same small chance against enemy defenses. It seems like the best option is always to strike the AC and or force actions that dont require you to target the enemy defense. /shrug.

Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

Liberty's Edge

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Some GMs will mix encounters because it "makes sense". But this increases their difficulty tremendously.


You have 5 players which means your GM might be adjusting encounters up for a larger group. There's a good way to do this (look at the additional XP available and add in a few more enemies) and a lazy way (slap the elite adjustment on an enemy or two). The elite adjustment makes fights more difficult in a different way than adding more opponents as the increased AC and saves prolongs the encounter and makes it more frustrating rather than tough.

If enemies are saving on 4+ rolls, something seems wrong. At level 4, your casters should have DCs around 20.

Light spoilers:
The particularly difficult, "don't fight this enemy, you should run" encounter of book 1 is a level 8 opponent with it's highest save at +18. Definitely likely to succeed against spells, but that's level+4.

Flipping through the adventure, we have enemies with their highest saves around +16, but they're also in the Severe encounters and are fairly climactic battles (just two of them, very much not run of the mill fights)

So my knee-jerk reaction is that your GM is running the encounters too high for the extra player. It may help to speak to them, even if they aren't just because it'd be better to have the game running smoothly for the entire group.

That said, in addition to what's been said about casting in this thread, being on the same page as the GM with Recall Knowledge checks can change your approaches, as can a careful look at spell lists. A caster full up on Reflex save spells isn't going to be as effective when you run into a high Reflex enemy. Also don't forget that debuffs like frightened can be inflicted by casters and increase their chances of success just as much as martials. (The wizard in my group has filled his slots with Air Bubble and Create Water despite knowing he can't somehow flood a room save everyone, but he's still had zero problems in AV, but then again Force Bolt stays relevant for awhile.)

Silver Crusade

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Abomination Vaults, especially the first book, is quite overtuned in my opinion. We spent much of book 1 a level higher than we should have been and still found things difficult.

Even in the later books we're lucky if we do 2 or 3 encounters before calling it a day.

And this is with 4 experienced PF2 players who have at least decent tactics and team work,


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pauljathome wrote:
Abomination Vaults, especially the first book, is quite overtuned in my opinion. We spent much of book 1 a level higher than we should have been and still found things difficult.

I'm baffled by this, like fully baffled. My group is two people fresh to PF2 on two of the more difficult classes (bomber alchemist and evoker wizard with only create water prepped). I have one player who is very experienced with the system on a mountain stance monk who grabbed sorcerer dedication for flavor. My last player is on a monastic archery monk and she's a fine player but someone I still have to remind which one is a d20 (and recently asked me how much gold it would take to level up her skills to Legendary, which caught me off-guard). We've been having zero problems.

What problems are you running into exactly? I'm genuinely surprised as AV is a cakewalk especially compared to other games that I've run/am running (AoA, AoE, Slithering). Are you expecting to never get downed once or are combats lasting too long? I just... how???

Sovereign Court

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Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.

Sovereign Court

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Unicore wrote:

I think one thing that could be influencing your Abomination Vaults campaign is how often you talk your way through encounters. There are lots of enemies that can be talked to, or tricked, and most of those are lower level (although the campaign has some higher level ones too).

Also, talk to yr GM, because it is common for GMs to cut down on the number of encounters, and they tend to cut “easier” fights when they do this. The appeal of doing so is understandable but it changes everything about the game and the players should be notified.

This could be very likely. The GM has done next to zero RP. Whenever we try and talk to NPCs its usually a short chat until we are pulling weapons on each other. We pushed and pushed and got some detail finally on the vault and stuff but its like pulling teeth.

This GM seems to know what he is doing mechanically, but I dont think he has any idea how to run a Paizo product. He claims he tends to run much more narrative games with story elements and RP but I'll believe when I see it. We abandoned PF2 and are in talks to try something else.

Silver Crusade

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Ruzza wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Abomination Vaults, especially the first book, is quite overtuned in my opinion. We spent much of book 1 a level higher than we should have been and still found things difficult.

I'm baffled by this, like fully baffled. My group is two people fresh to PF2 on two of the more difficult classes (bomber alchemist and evoker wizard with only create water prepped). I have one player who is very experienced with the system on a mountain stance monk who grabbed sorcerer dedication for flavor. My last player is on a monastic archery monk and she's a fine player but someone I still have to remind which one is a d20 (and recently asked me how much gold it would take to level up her skills to Legendary, which caught me off-guard). We've been having zero problems.

What problems are you running into exactly? I'm genuinely surprised as AV is a cakewalk especially compared to other games that I've run/am running (AoA, AoE, Slithering). Are you expecting to never get downed once or are combats lasting too long? I just... how???

I'm a player so maybe the GM is doing something wrong. But he is a very good GM who I've played with a lot. He does like to play the bad guys intelligently and competently.

Or maybe its something you're doing?

I've run both AoE and Slithering with the same players (GM for AV being a player). Slithering was very bad in a couple of places (especially the prenerf

Spoiler:
Specter

So, my character died (essentially) 3 times in 1 session of book 1.

Spoiler:

Level 1 character being hit with a death effect that does 6d6 damage. Death

In the graveyard (as monsters are being teleported at us), 2 back to back encounters. Could handle either one but not both with no time to heal

And the one monster in the dungeon. Beaky or something like that?


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Your experience is pretty common at low level, especially if 66% of your encounters are severe or extreme meaning +2 levels or higher. You should not be facing that many severe or extreme encounters at that low level. You do not have the resources to deal with them. I'm surprised you haven't TPKed.

I don't remember AV starting off that tough. Not sure what your DM is doing, but it sounds like he is buffing the encounters.


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pauljathome wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

These here are actually interesting problems. But gonna toss it behind a spoiler tag (not spoilers for you at this point).

Spoiler:
As James Jacobs noted, Mr. Beaky is using a Bestiary entry that is slated for errata. I imagine most GMs wouldn't be aware of this, and when I ran it, I followed his advice to instead heighten vampiric touch. Still a tough encounter, but not immediately deadly. You can even see my own comments in the thread about it!

The graveyard encounter is also a weird one as it's up to the GM to set that difficulty. The book recommends spacing out the enemies and, importantly, giving the players a chance to catch their breath if they need it. However, it's soft rule, so a GM could ignore it and instead run it in quite a deadly (and in my opinion, unfun) manner.


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Everytime I see a post like this my main question is:

"What is the GM doing?"

I love pf2e because the standard difficulty inbuilt is "challenging".

It was the level of difficulty I was striving for in pf1e but had to massively buff monsters in order to achieve.

The goal of a GM is to challenge, not to kill. If you think an encounter will TPK your party, nerf it.

I also have some fun house rules (taken from blogs)in order to raise challenge without killing PC's like just taking a fun boss encounter and rather than making it a monster with +4 levels (which can be super easy or super hard depending on the dice) I take two monster at +2 and have them occupy the same space, like they were one monster with two initiative tracks .

But yeah... Ultimately this isn't systems based


AlastarOG wrote:
If you think an encounter will TPK your party, nerf it.

Ehhh. If you think most of your encounters will kill the party, maybe. But if there's never any risk it's no fun.

Silver Crusade

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No risk and TPK are two completely opposite sides of the spectrum.


Not in my experience, especially not in this system with Hero Points being a get out of jail free card.


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Pushing the challenge slider to TPK territory should be reserved for narratively important fights IMO.


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Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.

Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.


AlastarOG wrote:
I love pf2e because the standard difficulty inbuilt is "challenging".

Completely agreed, especially after going through 3.5 with a group that never faced a single problem ("We're fighting Kyuss, god of undeath? I will spend my turn using Prestidigitation to make a loud fart noise.") and then PF1 ("All of my spell slots are reserved for Mad Monkeys because there's no better spell in the world.") It's nice to be able to challenge my players baseline without having to pull GM shenanigans of my own.

For the record, I've had three TPKs in PF2 so far, all of which were preventable. The first was in book 4 of Age of Ashes where my group decided they were tough enough and split the party to fight two encounters at once (a barbarian in one room, and three casters in the other). The second came from an Emerald Spire conversion where the PCs retreated forward into unexplored territory and, subsequently, several traps, monsters, and a locked door. The third was immediately after the announcement for the SoM playtest in the first encounter of the Slithering. That's spoiler territory, however.

The Slithering:
The PCs filled up on slashing/piercing weapons and split the black pudding into about 5 different parts and were completely overwhelmed. (A party with a magus, summoner, witch, and cleric really couldn't hack it when no one prepped a single Reflex save AoE spell and decided to keep with the splitting strategy anyway.

I can see certain parts of APs where people feel they're too difficult (a certain foe in AoA book 1, the slog that is book 2, AoE's chapter 1 bit, certain encounters in Plaguestone), but on the whole, I feel like my players have always been able to outplay the encounters and it's been more satisfying.

EDIT:

Arachnofiend wrote:
Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.

I mean, exactly this. There are plenty of spells and tricks that just work. I'm not sure how much GM/table variance comes into this as I know that my players often use Recall Knowledge to great effect and I'm fairly detailed about monster reactions to the environment.

Sovereign Court

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Pan wrote:
The party is a Rogue, Champion, Fighter, Wizard/Cleric, and Druid.

That's a strong class lineup, so you gotta wonder what's going on there. The immediate suspect is how the GM is handling the 5 player situation.

* Are they dividing the XP differently, so that you level slower and as a result the encounters get harder?

* Are they making individual monsters stronger to compensate for the extra players? I know the Elite template is suggested here and there to the GM as an easy way to do this, but it's not really a good idea. The Elite template is pretty powerful, and the +2 to enemy saves is very harsh on casters.

* Are they skipping "filler" encounters? Especially when the GM feels that extra players slows down the game there may be the temptation to cut some of the easy "pointless" encounters. Those are not pointless - they exist to even out the difficulty.

---

I think that Severe and Extreme encounters themselves are not a problem for casters, especially after level 5-7 when the AoE spells start getting real. In PFS a lot of scenarios (correctly!) compensate for large party sizes by adding more monsters, not making the existing monsters stronger. This works out well for casters because blasting a lot of mooks and midtier enemies is what they're good at.

Solo bosses on the other hand are a big problem for casters. As mentioned before, Magic Missile is a key spell then, because it bypasses AC. That makes its expected damage much higher than other spells that have a better base damage but might not hit.

If you ever needed an example of why spontaneous casting was really an advantage, then being able to switch effectively between area attacks and single target magic missile would be a good one.

Liberty's Edge

pauljathome wrote:
Ruzza wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Abomination Vaults, especially the first book, is quite overtuned in my opinion. We spent much of book 1 a level higher than we should have been and still found things difficult.

I'm baffled by this, like fully baffled. My group is two people fresh to PF2 on two of the more difficult classes (bomber alchemist and evoker wizard with only create water prepped). I have one player who is very experienced with the system on a mountain stance monk who grabbed sorcerer dedication for flavor. My last player is on a monastic archery monk and she's a fine player but someone I still have to remind which one is a d20 (and recently asked me how much gold it would take to level up her skills to Legendary, which caught me off-guard). We've been having zero problems.

What problems are you running into exactly? I'm genuinely surprised as AV is a cakewalk especially compared to other games that I've run/am running (AoA, AoE, Slithering). Are you expecting to never get downed once or are combats lasting too long? I just... how???

I'm a player so maybe the GM is doing something wrong. But he is a very good GM who I've played with a lot. He does like to play the bad guys intelligently and competently.

Or maybe its something you're doing?

I've run both AoE and Slithering with the same players (GM for AV being a player). Slithering was very bad in a couple of places (especially the prenerf ** spoiler omitted **

So, my character died (essentially) 3 times in 1 session of book 1.
** spoiler omitted **

My AV GM played demented cultists with the efficiency and tactics of a highly trained SWAT team with a hive mind. It might be considered playing the bad guys intelligently and competently but TBT it is both out of character for these NPCs AND unfair to the PCs (who are the professional adventurers here, with tactics learned the hard way and honed on many lethal fights).

Sovereign Court

Arachnofiend wrote:
Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.
Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.

Again, its not about things to do and options to try its about the math. Nothing we do has any decent chance to work because 2/3 our fights are +3-4 levels higher than us. Our only hope is to chip away at the AC because the lowest saves are still high enough to succeed 80% of the time.

I thought the new 4 tier critical system would be fun. however, being on the wrong side of it has sucked so bad I dont want to play PF2 anymore. And, yes I do put the blame on our GM, but the system also allows this. How many other folks will experience this? Who knows...

Sovereign Court

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Ascalaphus wrote:
Pan wrote:
The party is a Rogue, Champion, Fighter, Wizard/Cleric, and Druid.

That's a strong class lineup, so you gotta wonder what's going on there. The immediate suspect is how the GM is handling the 5 player situation.

* Are they dividing the XP differently, so that you level slower and as a result the encounters get harder?

* Are they making individual monsters stronger to compensate for the extra players? I know the Elite template is suggested here and there to the GM as an easy way to do this, but it's not really a good idea. The Elite template is pretty powerful, and the +2 to enemy saves is very harsh on casters.

* Are they skipping "filler" encounters? Especially when the GM feels that extra players slows down the game there may be the temptation to cut some of the easy "pointless" encounters. Those are not pointless - they exist to even out the difficulty.

---

I think that Severe and Extreme encounters themselves are not a problem for casters, especially after level 5-7 when the AoE spells start getting real. In PFS a lot of scenarios (correctly!) compensate for large party sizes by adding more monsters, not making the existing monsters stronger. This works out well for casters because blasting a lot of mooks and midtier enemies is what they're good at.

Solo bosses on the other hand are a big problem for casters. As mentioned before, Magic Missile is a key spell then, because it bypasses AC. That makes its expected damage much higher than other spells that have a better base damage but might not hit.

If you ever needed an example of why spontaneous casting was really an advantage, then being able to switch effectively between area attacks and single target magic missile would be a good one.

5th player was added at 3rd level. We were already struggling so the GM said they were not making any adjustments. Which thankfully he didnt because the rogue was easily the worst PC among us. GM mentioned not really knowing how to use a Paizo AP product. They are old school and pretty much just use stats blocks and I dont think they took any guidance into consideration. Hard to tell.


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Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.
Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.

Again, its not about things to do and options to try its about the math. Nothing we do has any decent chance to work because 2/3 our fights are +3-4 levels higher than us. Our only hope is to chip away at the AC because the lowest saves are still high enough to succeed 80% of the time.

I thought the new 4 tier critical system would be fun. however, being on the wrong side of it has sucked so bad I dont want to play PF2 anymore. And, yes I do put the blame on our GM, but the system also allows this. How many other folks will experience this? Who knows...

I have no idea what your GM is doing because either you're reporting wonky numbers from a perception of where they are, or you guys slipped down several levels of the dungeon early, or just the GM is just making up numbers on the spot. I mean, all of us in the thread can do is speculate, and give advice for what you as a player can do.

The first obvious advice is talking to your GM; one, about the lack of roleplay opportunities (of which there are plenty in AV) and two, about the difficulties the party is facing.

Secondly, looking at the party, are your party members doing these things?

Champion - Using Athletics maneuvers to keep enemies away? I'm a fan of trip weapons. Are they Shield Blocking at every chance and Repairing their shield in between battles? That reduction adds up quite alot. Paladin is a fine subclass, but Redeemer is where the real power is for protecting allies. Having a turn where they Strike/Athletics, Raise A Shield, and Step into position to protect allies (and out of enemy range) is a fantastic turn for a champion.

Rogue/Fighter - Putting these two together without knowing their builds. Generally are they Delaying their turns so they can coordinate and flank opponents together? The fighter would preferably go first to to set up for the rogue (potentially Stride, debuff, Strike). That way the rogue can get in, Sneak Attack, and get out. The fighter can then exist to punish creatures that go after anyone else while the champion protects the fighter.

Wizard/Cleric - I'm assuming wizard with cleric dedication here and spell list is everything. The wizard in this group occupies one of two roles, either magic support or magic damage, and what they're doing at the time sort of determines where they should try to act in initiative. For tougher encounters, going before your fighter/rogue team lets you Recall Knowledge and buff/debuff (Fear is a classic, as is Blur for protection). Going after them allows the wizard to hopefully benefit from their debuffing (a prone, frightened enemy will help the wizard land those spell attacks!) and unleash their higher level damaging spells. The cleric dedication gives access to Forbidding Ward which should almost always be tossed on before a tough fight.

Druid - I feel like a lot changes depending on the druid's build, but it basically follows the same pattern as above. Going beast mode? Play like the rogue jumping in and out of combat. Caster pew pew? Strike when the enemy is debuffed.

As always, there's a slew of easy tricks that often get overlooked: Demoralize, Bon Mot, Ready Actions, Delay, Distract, Hide, Take Cover, Battle Medicine, talisman use, grabbing a few consumables in town (looking at you wizard and druid, pop some scrolls out). You don't need to use everything to be effective, but a little bit can change the tide.

Liberty's Edge

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OP, how do you know that the encounters are +3-4 levels higher than you ?

Note : if the GM is giving out XP for encounters budgeted for 4 PCs but you are 5 in the party, it means you will often be 1 level below what the adventure expects. In AV, it has a HUGE impact, especially when facing enemies that have abilities with Incapacitation.


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I'm going to be a little mean. Not a lot, just a little. And my hope that you'll take it as tough love.

Pan wrote:
Again, its not about things to do and options to try its about the math. Nothing we do has any decent chance to work because 2/3 our fights are +3-4 levels higher than us.

If you want to talk math, a single APL+3 creature versus a party of 5 is between Moderate and Severe, and a single APL+4 creature versus a party of 5 is Severe. You've complained about Severe and Extreme encounters. Someone posted the distribution of all the encounters - it looks like a bell curve centered around Moderate, so either your sample is skewed because of some selection bias, or your sample is skewed because you're not quantitating the encounters correctly.

Rhetorical: Are you sure it's about the math?

Rhetorial: Are you sure you've sat down and looked at this with a critical eye, and aren't just complaining and frustrated at the lack of sympathy?

Monsters up at the APL+3 range always feel tough - they're supposed to feel tough. They're going to one-shot some characters. You're going to need nat 14s or so to hit them, and they'll save on nat 5s. That's not only the way the math works, it's the way the math was designed.

And if you're not having fun, it's more than reasonable to talk with your GM about it. It doesn't actually matter whether the math says X or the book says Y, if you're not having fun, the GM is supposed to alter the scenarios. Just talk with your GM about how you're not having fun, and discuss the topic frankly.

Don't complain on the Internet and expect strangers to validate your feelings. As helpful as people are here, ultimately this is a game that you choose to play.

Don't hyperbolize about how the whole system is flawed. Unless you're playing in some organized capacity, e.g., Pathfinder Society, you're free to negotiate anything that will make your gaming experience a better one.

If you came from Pathfinder 1st Edition, I think everyone's assumption is that you're not using good tactics, and they're probably right. First Edition modifiers had a huge dynamic range, so people hyperspecialized. In PF1, PC #1 does X with 95% success probability, PC #2 does Y with 95% success probability, and they don't attempt each others' checks. In PF2, the whole tone is different. Nobody does anything with 95% probability - optimized PCs are likely never going to succeed more than 70% of the time. On the other hand, it's going to be really easy to succeed 25-30% of the time. More group checks (lower DC, 3 of 5 PCs need to pass), fewer individual checks (higher DC, 1 PC needs to pass). All of us who came over from PF1 struggled with this at the beginning, before we realized things like "1 attack per 3 actions isn't the end of the world" and "those little +1s add up" and "actions aren't equal."

Maybe the system isn't for you, that's fine. To be clear, I still have tons of fun playing PF1.

Sovereign Court

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The Raven Black wrote:

OP, how do you know that the encounters are +3-4 levels higher than you ?

Note : if the GM is giving out XP for encounters budgeted for 4 PCs but you are 5 in the party, it means you will often be 1 level below what the adventure expects. In AV, it has a HUGE impact, especially when facing enemies that have abilities with Incapacitation.

We are suing roll20 so all the numbers are being revealed during combat. After I balked at a few encounters the GM opened up a bit about what we were facing. We were told that we should be x level at y floor of dungeon which we held to, but still each fight is +3-4 levels higher than us.

GM is running it like a 4 person party and not making any adjustments for a 5th player, per the GM anyways.


The Raven Black wrote:

OP, how do you know that the encounters are +3-4 levels higher than you ?

Note : if the GM is giving out XP for encounters budgeted for 4 PCs but you are 5 in the party, it means you will often be 1 level below what the adventure expects. In AV, it has a HUGE impact, especially when facing enemies that have abilities with Incapacitation.

How so? If an encounter gives 160 exp for 4 players it gives 160 exp for 5 players. The GM is expected to add a certain budget of exp on top of that and not give exp to the grojp, but the exp rewards are the same.

Liberty's Edge

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In the entirety of the level 4 part of the adventure, there is exactly one level +3 creature and one level +4 creature. In the level 3 section, there are only two level +3s. That's it. So something isn't adding up here.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Shisumo wrote:
In the entirety of the level 4 part of the adventure, there is exactly one level +3 creature and one level +4 creature. In the level 3 section, there are only two level +3s. That's it. So something isn't adding up here.

Yeah, thats what I gathered. I dont have the AP so I cant compare whats written to what the GM is doing. We are new to each other so I dont know how the GM operates. Im not the only one in the group either thats noticed this. We had a long chat and GM keeps blaming the material but I know thats not right, but I dont know exactly whats going on either.


Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.
Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.

Again, its not about things to do and options to try its about the math. Nothing we do has any decent chance to work because 2/3 our fights are +3-4 levels higher than us. Our only hope is to chip away at the AC because the lowest saves are still high enough to succeed 80% of the time.

I thought the new 4 tier critical system would be fun. however, being on the wrong side of it has sucked so bad I dont want to play PF2 anymore. And, yes I do put the blame on our GM, but the system also allows this. How many other folks will experience this? Who knows...

I did experience this, it was frustrating as a player in my first game.

Then I learned what I was doing wrong, and I got better.

Recall knowledge is INSANELY GOOD, as a caster, provided your GM tells you which save is weakest.

There is on average a difference of 5 on saves between the highest and lowest save. That's 25% chance extra to land your spell and 25% chance extra to have them Crit fail. Mesh this with an aoe spell on a group and unless you are really unlucky you'll have failures and Crit failures applenty.

Druids have this harder because a lot of their spell list is ref save based but they have some forts.

Level 1 wizard I'm playing right now has color spray, grease and gust of wind prepared, and I'm ready to go and have yet to be hurt. Spell substitution means I can pivot my spell list on a dime if I learn the theme of the dungeon fast (slime dungeon? Let me break out all the burning hands . Bunch of goblin rogues and alchemists? Sleep and color spray, etc)

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
AlastarOG wrote:
Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Pan wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
Best moment when I was playing my Monk was using Whirling Throw to keep a boss enemy that we were all having a hard time hitting on AC locked in the Druid's Fire Wall every turn. Everybody should be supporting everybody to find the most effective tactic.

For us that would go like this;

Druid casts fire wall. Boos saves takes no/half damage and moves out.
Monk tries whirling toss and fails.
Boss punches the sh!t out of monk and we have to pick up his unconscious body and run.
Wall of Fire has no saving throw tied to it, the only failure point is keeping the enemy in the area. If an encounter isn't overtuned there's gonna be a solution somewhere, a weakness you can exploit. That's why PF2 character building is all about diversity in options, you need to have a second and even third thing to try when your first thing doesn't work.

Again, its not about things to do and options to try its about the math. Nothing we do has any decent chance to work because 2/3 our fights are +3-4 levels higher than us. Our only hope is to chip away at the AC because the lowest saves are still high enough to succeed 80% of the time.

I thought the new 4 tier critical system would be fun. however, being on the wrong side of it has sucked so bad I dont want to play PF2 anymore. And, yes I do put the blame on our GM, but the system also allows this. How many other folks will experience this? Who knows...

I did experience this, it was frustrating as a player in my first game.

Then I learned what I was doing wrong, and I got better.

Recall knowledge is INSANELY GOOD, as a caster, provided your GM tells you which save is weakest.

There is on average a difference of 5 on saves between the highest and lowest save. That's 25% chance extra to land your spell and 25% chance extra to have them Crit fail. Mesh this with an aoe spell on a group and unless you are really unlucky you'll have failures and Crit...

This is helpful and I get it. Its just kind of a bummer when a significant portion of the spell list becomes ineffective or inefficient when facing boss level fights on the regular. The martials in our group dont mind the toughness of the fights, but the casters in our group have been frustrated by the lack of useful options and success in encounters.

This GM seems to wipe parties on a regular basis in several systems and often blames the material and/or the party. Our group seems pretty savvy and managed to avoid many TPKs. So its likely something in the middle of the GM not having a good sense of system and inexperienced players.

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