A plea to Scenario Authors


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After some bad experiences at this weekend’s Gencon, I wanted to share a simple plea to the future scenario authors and developers. Particularly those designed for low level characters. Warnings, this will be long and will include math. But this can be abstracted down to a few succinct points. I will be using the term author, but please understand that this term is intended to include all levels that the scenario passes through, author, developer, editor and others that I am not aware of. It is not that I dismiss your efforts, but simply for ease of communication.

wall of text:

I understand that writing any creative projects is quite difficult. I also understand that pathfinder is a complex and robust rules system and I do not expect everyone to be familiar with every corner case rule in every book. However, as players we are constrained by these rules. As an author you are as well, but to a lesser extent. I recently played a tier 1-2 scenario where the DC’s for multiple skill challenges as well as combat saving throws were set in the low 20’s. The rulebook has deemed that a standard DC for a level 2 check should be a 16, a “hard” check an 18 and a “very hard” check a 21. It was apparently decided that a tier 1-2 scenario needed to have multiple “very hard” challenges per encounter.

Facing a DC 21, a character at level 2 who is “good” at a given test will have a 65% chance to fail and a 20% chance to critically fail. Given the systems apparent design to encourage specialization, it is difficult to be “good” at too many different activities. It seems the system has decided that a “average” bonus at level 2 would be a +6 bonus. This results in a failure rate of 75% and a critical failure rate of 30%. I would ask you to think about the last heroic journey you experienced, be that in a book, movie or video game, did that hero fail at 75% of what he attempted, even when he started? I think the answer is likely no. We, as players, are constrained by the rules, and must take these challenges as they are presented to us, you as an author have the opportunity not to place the expectations so high. It is not merely that I am saying that these tests are very hard, though I do think that those numbers are too high, the game system has identified them as such. All I ask is that we all follow the same rules.

Also, please keep in mind the types of effects that might be employed in a given scenario. This particular scenario had three out of four encounters which included an effect that caused the loss of character agency. This was particularly distasteful due to the above issue with save DC’s. While I do understand that these effects can create interesting storytelling opportunities, and have a basis in classic heroic literature, my issue is with the frequency and placement thereof. I personally, feel like the loss of agency is more disheartening than character death. I’m sure that I am not alone in this feeling, so I am at a loss as to why it should be included at low levels, especially with such frequency.

Finally, I feel like there is an over-reliance on the “Elite” template in scenario design. Particularly when this is combined with the above points. I understand the excitement and drama of a singular enemy to face, where the entire party must tactically coordinate in order to strike, damage and survive the encounter. But wouldn’t these moments be better served as that climactic encounter. I remember many “boss” fights in first edition, but when every encounter’s response to an elevated challenge point total is to “throw the elite template on it”, do you not think that cheapens the tension of these set-piece encounters? I feel like this just turns everything into an unending slog and makes things overall less fun. Perhaps we can find another way to make the encounter more challenging without making it difficult? “Challenging” is different that “difficult”.

In general, I would simply like to remind every author that your tier 1-4 scenario might be some player’s first encounter with Pathfinder Society. These low-level scenarios are the gateway to draw in new players. While I feel that no level of scenario should be designed to “win” against the players, this is particularly true of ones where we expect the newest of our players to be involved. This past weekend was not the first time I have been at a table for a low-level scenario where the entire party was completely disheartened. If any of those players were brand new, would we expect them to come back next week?

In closing I do want to tell you all that I appreciate all the work you put into this game, but I feel like some of the lower-level material may have lost its way recently. We need to be more encouraging to turn new players into veteran players. This needs to be embraced by all levels of this community. They are the future of Pathfinder Society

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Having had some equally poor experiences that were entirely within the mechanics of a scenario, I regrettably have to concur with the above.

It's hard to feel competent much less heroic when the die rolling method is "Pray for 20's, and pray you don't roll low enough to crit-fail when you almost inevitably DO fail."

I have played a reasonable amount of PF2 now, but I was stuck debating at several points during a particular scenario if it was even worth it to spend ACP to raise a L1 character from dead, or just write off anything that isn't a repeatable with a group of L1 characters only.

This is not the first time the experience of "Not being able to do anything" has come up, and for a while there it was feeling like PFS2 had hit the 'sweet spot'.

...and then during PaizoCon Online Europe and Gen Con Online this past weekend it went to "No, the math seems to be begging for TPK -- is this some sort of dream sequence for the characters so they wake up and go 'Okay, let's NOT do this mission'?"

This and similar experiences running PFS2 #1-01 at Gen Con launch scared me away from GMing for the better part of two years. I was considering strongly of GMing for PF2, but I Do Not want to be the GM that TPKs entire newbie tables because the math is overtuned.

Liberty's Edge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
running PFS2 #1-01 at Gen Con launch scared me away from GMing

Care to elaborate?

1/5 5/5

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Robyn Hood wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
running PFS2 #1-01 at Gen Con launch scared me away from GMing
Care to elaborate?

Details:
At my first table, very nearly had a TPK at the 'haunted house' (the haunt) and then almost immediately thereafter one at the ship (the fleshwarp in the hold). Party sailed through the statue event due to creative tactics then very nearly TPK'd again on the ritual (They didn't have anyone with a super-specialized skill of any of the skills needed to shut down the ritual, so they were throwing things at the wall to try and succeed -- which is the WORST thing to do. As a new GM to the system I didn't catch that and it snowballed.)

At my second table, the party was doing 'marginally well' but no critical success (and I used a milder version of both the house and the ship which is the only reason they were doing 'marginally well').

And then they hit the statue event and nearly splattered, and the ritual *would* have gotten them all if not for a pile of Hero Points and running out of time in the slot.

Suffice to say, it was NOT a fun experience as a GM -- I'm not a 'killer' GM.

I don't have a tally board where I gleefully mark off each character that gets murdered at my table nor when the party fails a scenario horribly.

There's only been ONE table I've been at as a player (or GM) where I was actively wishing that some of the other characters would die at a table in SFS -- and you were at that table as a fellow player.

Paizo Employee 1/5 Pathfinder Society Developer

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I do not have a lot of time to contribute to a discussion of scenario difficulty at present, as I'm busy with development tasks that've piled up during an otherwise busy week. But I wanted to chime in just to say that I'm paying attention to the conversation. Constructive feedback is always welcome.

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Mike Kimmel wrote:
I do not have a lot of time to contribute to a discussion of scenario difficulty at present, as I'm busy with development tasks that've piled up during an otherwise busy week. But I wanted to chime in just to say that I'm paying attention to the conversation. Constructive feedback is always welcome.

Thanks Mike, at least I know I have been heard

5/5 5/55/55/5

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Having trouble feeling competent in pf2 has to be the biggest reason my opinion of the system went from meh to no way.

Societies convoluted access system, The way you can't choose your own stats when you build a character have to be the other biggies.

(If you want to tell me int is important to an alchemist, bake it into the class. Don't force me to have int > dex . One of the things I like most about starfinder is building a class around the wrong stat: a muscle operative or int based mystic skill monkey)

Grand Lodge 4/5 * Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver

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I'm in a PFS 2e PbP scenario now and we are all 1 & 2 level PCs. It's one of the major Season 2 metaplot scenarios. We are continuously getting our butts kicked in every combat & encounter. The end puzzle is quite complicated and when we fail, we're attacked by creatures with a DC 20 to save against its special attack, and a DC 18 vs. its poisoned claws, on top of the claw damage.
It seems like nearly every 2e scenario is too difficult for 1st & 2nd level PCs.

I started playing PbP at the beginning of the pandemic and only played PFS2e since it was the Big Thing at the time. My interest has waned due to the difficulty of 2e scenarios and I went from playing about 4 PbP PFS2e games at once to only one PFS2e and 3 or 4 PFS1e games now. I have more fun playing PFS 1e over 2e now.

I even chose to play in a PFS 1e CORE game over playing the PFS 2e Special for Gameday X.

5/55/55/55/5 ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Seattle

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As a PFS2 GM and VO, I would like to offer a different view.

I remind GMs to be nice to new players (and experienced players to be nice to new GMs), because early impressions really matter. There are certainly challenging encounters in some low-level scenarios, I don't deny this. Personally, however, I feel there is still an enormous amount of flexibility, even within the strict rules of Society play, for GMs to control the difficulty level of encounters for the PCs that show up at the table.

For context, as a GM I have had zero PC kills in over 170 PFS2 tables run. Maybe that's just the luck of my dice rolls, but by my observation, PFS2 PC kills are rare in my local lodge generally. Catastrophic scenario failures are equally rare. Yes, low-level PCs are definitely prone to be fragile and there are undeniably some very close shaves. And yes, different players have different thresholds for what qualifies as a butt-kicking and how much of 'having the dying condition' they can stomach. But high scenario difficulty on the whole isn't a general complaint that I've observed.

Obviously, to the other posters above, this isn't everyone's experience, and I in no way dispute the validity of yours, but I wanted to offer my own.

1/5 5/5

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Jocelyn Hamilton wrote:

As a PFS2 GM and VO, I would like to offer a different view.

I remind GMs to be nice to new players (and experienced players to be nice to new GMs), because early impressions really matter. There are certainly challenging encounters in some low-level scenarios, I don't deny this. Personally, however, I feel there is still an enormous amount of flexibility, even within the strict rules of Society play, for GMs to control the difficulty level of encounters for the PCs that show up at the table.

For context, as a GM I have had zero PC kills in over 170 PFS2 tables run. Maybe that's just the luck of my dice rolls, but by my observation, PFS2 PC kills are rare in my local lodge generally. Catastrophic scenario failures are equally rare. Yes, low-level PCs are definitely prone to be fragile and there are undeniably some very close shaves. And yes, different players have different thresholds for what qualifies as a butt-kicking and how much of 'having the dying condition' they can stomach. But high scenario difficulty on the whole isn't a general complaint that I've observed.

Obviously, to the other posters above, this isn't everyone's experience, and I in no way dispute the validity of yours, but I wanted to offer my own.

GMs are NOT allowed to alter DCs. I'm pretty sure that remains a constant.

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Jocelyn Hamilton wrote:

As a PFS2 GM and VO, I would like to offer a different view.

I remind GMs to be nice to new players (and experienced players to be nice to new GMs), because early impressions really matter. There are certainly challenging encounters in some low-level scenarios, I don't deny this. Personally, however, I feel there is still an enormous amount of flexibility, even within the strict rules of Society play, for GMs to control the difficulty level of encounters for the PCs that show up at the table.

For context, as a GM I have had zero PC kills in over 170 PFS2 tables run. Maybe that's just the luck of my dice rolls, but by my observation, PFS2 PC kills are rare in my local lodge generally. Catastrophic scenario failures are equally rare. Yes, low-level PCs are definitely prone to be fragile and there are undeniably some very close shaves. And yes, different players have different thresholds for what qualifies as a butt-kicking and how much of 'having the dying condition' they can stomach. But high scenario difficulty on the whole isn't a general complaint that I've observed.

Obviously, to the other posters above, this isn't everyone's experience, and I in no way dispute the validity of yours, but I wanted to offer my own.

Jocelyn,

One of the consequences of text based communication is the loss of tone, so please accept this without attributing my accustomed snark. It is unfortunate you and I are on opposite sides of the country, as I would love to sit at your table and learn how you accomplish this. If you are running online at all, I would greatly appreciate it if you were to extend me an invite.

As I said in my original post, most of my issues are with the listed DC’s in the scenario and not with the tactics the GM’s have employed. I have not read the scenario in question as I will not be supporting it with a purchase. I will however reiterate that it is a tier 1-2 and that players were critically failing skill checks and saving throws by rolling 10’s and 11’s. By my understanding of math, that means the DC was at least 20-21. we were told, by the GM, that our challenge points increased the difficulty by adding the “elite” template. We did finish the scenarios, and even succeeded, but I, and at least one other player, wanted to leave after an encounter resulted in 3 dying characters, two who survived only by spending hero points, and a fourth mind controlled. I am not sure what the GM would have done to mitigate those issues. As I understand it, GM’s have no leeway to alter DC’s or the abilities of the enemies in the scenario.

Whether it be due to hot dice, or some trick I hope you will share, I am glad your lodge is thriving, we hope to restart our local play by years end, and I would love for it to not be discouraging to new players.

Scarab Sages 3/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, Nebraska—Bellevue

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Medtec,
I've had a similar GM experience as Jocelyn, so I'll share a couple of my GM tricks.

No, you can't change DCs, but as GM you can give bonuses to skill checks for creativity and get to determine when similar skills apply. I was playing a scenario that asked for Herbalism Lore as an option to harvest mushrooms. The GM let us use the Farming Lore skill that the pre-gen fighter has with a similar DC.

You can't change the monsters, but you do determine their tactics. Mindless and animal intelligence monsters don't understand Attack of Opportunity and may not understand flanking. Their actions on the battlefield shouldn't imply they do.

I had one scenario in PF1 where ALL the PCs were paralyzed by ghoul bites. I could have easily pressed to a TPK. That said, this was a boss villain, so I had him "Bond villain" monologue. Now that I have you in my power Mr Bond, let me explain the genius plan I have in store. One round of monologue let one PC escape from paralyze and we had an epic fight as he tried to extend the fight to let other PCs recover.

During character introductions, I'm not just looking for who is at the table, I'm listening to what the character story or background is. When opportunities come up, I will emphasize the Dwarf Miner in an underground adventure or the Investigator's abilities in the murder mystery. Give those characters a chance to shine in adventures made for them.

Lastly, in low level adventures, I spend more time explaining skill challenges and hazards. They're complex. Make sure the players understand ... there may be easier skills hidden behind the harder DCs. Make sure the players understand how to find the easier DCs. You can often explain mechanics without spoiling the encounter.

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John,
If I may start by saying that you sound like a GM I would enjoy sitting at the table with as well, and please consider my response as a sincere attempt to continue the discussion. I will take your points about creative skill usage, as well as having enemies act in "suboptimal" manners as excellent ideas, I had never considered monologuing during a fight, and may have to employ that particular one where warranted in the future.

However, I am unclear about how giving bonuses differs from adjusting DC's in any manner other than semantics. Under GM discretion in the guide it says that a GM would be permitted to allow "Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps, haunts, and skill checks. (Although the DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and should not be changed.)" This seems to imply that even if I were to allow "Ancient Osiriani Lore" as a substitute for Thievery on a trap or Occultism for a haunt, that I should keep the same DC. Granted the skill substitution could be a benefit in some cases, there seems no allowance for a DC reduction, or a bonus here.

I will also state that there seemed like no opportunity to find "easier checks" while dealing with these haunts. It still feels like all of these tactical changes could be obviated by better strategic thinking in advance, and that was all my original post was asking for.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

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I believe its safe to say I've GM'd the most PFS2 of anyone on the planet, I'm still the only 5-glpyh GM to my knowledge. And in general I share John and Jocelyn's experiences. But I have also railed against some of the super high DCs/mis-use of elites templates. Both view points can be true. As a player, I've had one character death -- party made one of those real hard checks which lets us skip the second fight of an scenario (but instead adds them in to the boss fight) and some tactical decisions went very poorly. 3 out 4 characters died, last got out, everyone had enough ACP for second chance.

On the 'this is ok side': I haven't GM'd a character death, let alone a TPK. I think I've had two, maybe three, 1/2 credit success tables out of 200-ish reported. Probably around 97% or more 10 TBs, with a couple of scenarios being 8-9s, with most of those being mid season one, and the grand archive meticulous appraisal getting them back.

On the 'this is unfair side': Yup certain scenarios are meat-grinder -- 2-01, and 2-03 stand out exceptionally so. 1-01, and 1-10 also get mentioned a lot, in that regard. Elite's in Bounties as well (I haven't GMd/played any Bounties so I can't comment directly on those). Some early season 2 chase/skill check sequences used a poor, in my opinion, double scaling of requiring higher DCs and more successes as you added in more low level characters. There's definitely places where skills are set to the 'everyone should roll, only one success is needed' scaling according to the rules, but changed to the '+2/+1/0/-1' victory point system requring N or N/2 successes, which doesn't match up.

On the skill side, I've seen what feels like a gradual improvement in how they use/interpret the guidelines and I think its getting better. Early season 2 is definitely the worse spot there, IMO.

Additionally the year 3 guide has clarified that 8 TB is the expected value, so its OK to have some TB's hidden behind super hard checks/exceptional successes. Sadly since that clarification was made, I don't feel scenarios have been adding those checks in, to reinforce the clarified, normal. Though it does make some of the previously more problematic season 1/2 scenarios more palatable to me.

On the combat side, they've been exploring alternate scaling strategies -- what I call 'boosted' rather than elite -- adding extra HP (often about 1.5x what elite would have added) and nothing else -- sometimes adding quickened as well for a bit more action economy without upping the defenses/damage. I feel this has been working much better -- it prolongs the fight just enough to be interesting, without making the fight too deadly. They've also been using more 'add minions/creatures' instead of buff the boss a bit more; though I know that's often subject to the the demands of the story.

Finally on the combat side, in a lot of cases the really tough fights have tactics written in that constrain/limit their effectiveness. And a lot of time the complaints I hear are from tables where the GMs have ignored those. There's also one 'killer' fight where the box text describes lots of cover options, while not showing any on the map. GMs who add/draw in the described cover, generate a fight that is extremely cinematic and fun. GMs who insist on an empty room, will likely kill characters.

5/5 5/55/55/5

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If you're saying that as a DM you've had to give out miscalaneous +2s in order for the encounter to be enjoyable you're pretty much conceeding the OPs point. I don't think you can consider those +2s a given accross organized play. Extra bonuses like that should be an ice cream sunday, not a sandwich. It's a sometimes bonus.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

I've not been in the habit of regularly giving out a bonus that weren't written into the scenario. I think I've given out ~2 bonuses across all my tables for particularly effective RP/creative solution. And maybe a similar number of skill substations at the listed DC. So I'm not relying on those modifiers to say things are ok.

Its also important to separate 'did it work out in the end' from 'was it fun getting there'. My statements generally address the former; the latter is much more subjective, but I feel the scenarios have been failing a bit more there. While the balance works out and the groups are generally successful, it often leads to a sense of relief that its over, rather than victory that you succeeded.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

As another data point: other than the massive damage problem at level 1 I've found it extremely difficult for PCs to die in pfs2.

Extremely easy for somebody to hit dying though. Are there 6 PCs and 2 hit dying in a tough fight. That may just be normal

If that is worrying to you though, then the combat and general difficulty can feel terrifyingly difficult.

The early bounties especially have scaling problems at 6 PCs, taking an already tough boss monster and adding the elite template. That sort of scaling will almost inevitably lead to multiple downed PCs.

All that said in a little over 50games GMed I've only killed 1 Kyra pregen, and in many games played I've only seen 2 PCs die and both were level 1s to massive damage.

I have had several GMed Games get terrifyingly close to the TPK brink (1-06 multiple times, and an elite chucpabara bounty).

1/5 *

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Asking another potentially disruptive question, why use massive damage at all in org play? I do recall it being ignored in 1e, so why not continue to do so?

2/5 5/5 *

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Quote:
However, I am unclear about how giving bonuses differs from adjusting DC's in any manner other than semantics.

A difference is that a circumstance bonus is/should be a one time thing based on something specific and identifiable where lowering the DC means that all players can take advantage of the lower DC. E.g., I'm going to use my crowbar to help move this boulder even though it is not technically a door, window, container, or heavy gate. Or the GM recognizes that this player's character is the exact same ethnicity from the same town as this NPC described here and gains a small bonus on Diplomacy.

I do not know if that is what John was talking about, but that's one way circumstance bonuses are different from simply lowering a DC to me. They affect a single check for a circumstantial reason that you can articulate to another person.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

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medtec28 wrote:
Asking another potentially disruptive question, why use massive damage at all in org play? I do recall it being ignored in 1e, so why not continue to do so?

Because we haven't gotten a campaign clarification/FAQ that we can ignore it. I know I'd like to see it removed from OP....

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Eric Nielsen wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
Asking another potentially disruptive question, why use massive damage at all in org play? I do recall it being ignored in 1e, so why not continue to do so?
Because we haven't gotten a campaign clarification/FAQ that we can ignore it. I know I'd like to see it removed from OP....

Some people have done the math and shown that massive damage essentially only affects 1st level characters (or lower HP ancestry with Constitution penalty 2nd level characters). The math also shows that you're much less likely to kill a character with massive damage on a critical hit if you roll the damage twice rather than doubling, so that's what I've taken to doing during Tier 1-2 sessions.

Silver Crusade 3/5 5/5 * Venture-Lieutenant, New Jersey

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I figure I will throw my hat into this as both a player and as a GM. There has been and continues to be glaring issues that have been going on since the system was released.

I was there before season 6 when people on the forums complained that min maxers were destroying modules and that they were too easy.
I was there during season 6 of PF1 when the designers decided to follow the, “The bad guys have been watching societies tricks and are turning it against them”
I was there when scores of players called out that this had become unfun as this new stance severely hurt the average player.
I was there when John Compton spoke out and stated that the design team understood that tuning modules against min maxers only hurts the majority of the player base that are not, and promised to keep a closer eye on low level scenario difficulty.
I was there in the beginning of PF2 trying to convince my players, my friends that the system is solid and would just need some time and a few books to give extra resources and tuning to make it feel better.
I was there when season after season it felt like the difficulty curve just continued to go up and started to make task impossible.
I was there when a level 1 forced to play up did not succeed a single roll an entire session and was knocked out the first round of every combat even with the level bump.
I was there when that same player asked, “Wait if my character took all these risks why am I still getting the same reward?

And now we get to today...
Having your strongest stat/skill player only having a 40% or less chance of succeeding is not fun.
Having monsters that are able to remove player agency with similar saves DCs is not fun.
Watching a player slowly burn/bleed/freeze to death after an encounter from persistent damage despite all the help the team gives is not fun.
I feel forced to apologize to tables as a whole combat round passes by having the only hit that occurred by one hero just because it was a crit. This was for no other reason then the monster had an AC of 22 and the best plus to hit at the table was 8 with everyone much less.
Looking at modules that turns me, a GM who likes to give a great story, into almost the foe of the table by the above listed issues at the end.

I could sit and list everything that I see as glaring issues but this wall is already getting too long. Sadly most of this is an easy fix. And I come from a world where if you see a problem you need to develop solutions. So here are my solutions.

My possible solutions:

First: DCs/ACs of a monster/effects/trap/saves/gather info/haunts/etc... should be at least 50% to the average stated hero. (Average hero I would place as trained and with +1or +2 to the stat) A person who is speced/stated for the situation should be closer to 70%. This will allow everyone a chance to succeed while also allowing people who focus shine. The current state of the system has the strongest stated being at 40 percent and GMs looking at the rest of the table going, “Well you can at least try to crit to succeed.” In a world where crit failing could lead to dire consequences it doesn’t feel good to be in that situation watching one party member failing despite being spec/stated/trained for it while the rest stand by and do nothing in fear of crit failing. With the bar set closer to 50% for an average hero that would put the crit fail at closer to 5-10%. So an untrained person just rolling stats would end up at your current 35~40% with an 15~20% crit fail, your average stat a ~50% with a ~5-10% crit fail and your stated players at 70% with a flat 5% chance of failing. Now heroes who are average in a skill will not be too afraid to try while also giving a boon to your heroes who put extra effort in a particular field.

Second: Post combat all persistent damaging effects (bleed/acid/cold/fire/etc) should end without additional flat checks. The reasoning behind this is a person on fire, bleeding, covered in acid, freezing and surrounded by their teammates dousing them in water/bandages/blankets should be enough to auto succeed. There are no monsters and no immediate threats so it should just end. Slowly burning an unlucky hero to death is not the heroic ending you want to give players. That is not an honorable death and should never happen.

Third:
It is too easy for players to be forced to play up in the current CR system. For example in no world will a 1,1,2,2,2,4 level party (19 CR points) work well playing up. Even with the bump to the level 1s that turns them into not quite level 2’s. So what do these low level people get for all their efforts? Well let see nothing… Well, no that is not fair. They get to experience loss in rep as they generally will not complete the second condition, they get to make less gold as they now have an increased chance to lost/missed treasure bundles and oh yes a greater chance of not being able to do anything successfully for 4 to 5 hours because as outlined above with the current state of DCs/ACs they drop even further lower in success with more increased chance of crit fail. My solution is simple by doing one or all of the following suggested. A. Hero’s forced to play up get auto treasure bundle protection (IE max bundles for the mission) and bundles earned equaling level+1. This is to signify Society's acknowledgment of placing the hero/agent on a more deadly complicated mission than his peers of equal level. B An increased ACP gain to help offset the increased chance of character death and returning. C If the fear of B is people abusing the system for free ACP then give a free resurrection to the heros playing up as a thanks from Society for being placed in that difficult situation.


Tl;dr I have and remain a fan of Pathfinder. It is just becoming too much to defend now and adjustments need to be made sooner than later. This is the call to actions to fix the game/society/module play. As a GM who wants to tell a tale to my player I shouldn’t end feeling like the villain because of a system and design choices.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5 **

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Eric Nielsen wrote:


Its also important to separate 'did it work out in the end' from 'was it fun getting there'.

I think that this is actually the key point.

With some exceptions (cough, Abomination Vaults), I think most of what Paizo publishes (especially in PFS) is fair in that "it works out in the end". Groups generally succeed, characters generally survive, the boss is generally defeated.

But the process is too often not particularly enjoyable.

If I've built my character to be a tank, its just not all that fun when the bad guy crits me on a 10. If I've built my character to hit often, its just not fun when I miss on a 14 AFTER making sure the bad guy is flanked, we've tried scaring him, etc.

Yeah, the math may mean that if only one character is hitting a round the group still wins. Or that 5 characters are expected to go down during the fight and the group still wins due to some combination of healing and the last one standing managing to pull the victory off. But its not fun.

By far the worst cases are the ones where the characters "win" because some timer goes off. Turns out that after 2 rounds the baddy decides his kettle is boiling, or some Deus En Machina takes place or whatever. This doesn't happen all that often but it DOES happen and, at least to me, is INCREDIBLY unsatisfying UNLESS it was known to the characters going in that their objective was just to last a few rounds.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5 **

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Eric Nielsen wrote:
I believe its safe to say I've GM'd the most PFS2 of anyone on the planet,

I think that this is another problem right now. Experienced GMs CAN and DO notice many of the problems and can often (not always, but often) come up with legal solutions to make things more fun. And they even have the experience to know when outright cheating really IS justified, especially with newbies (to be clear, not accusing anybody of anything here. I'm NOT saying that Eric or anybody else regularly cheats).

But PFS, by its very nature, is often run by inexperienced GMs. The scenarios just should NOT need a good, experienced GM. Most of them (especially the low level ones) should run just fine with a new GM and with a GM who is average or possibly a little below.

**

My 2 (probably 3-4, I'm long-winded) cp:

1. Despite any flaws, PFS2 still feels better to me than PFS1, both as a player and as a GM. In PFS1, one of the problems, especially at higher levels, is that the delta between optimized and unoptimized is so great that a mid-level character may simply be un-salvagable.

2. In that light, that a few of the scenarios feel off in PFS2 doesn't seem as big of a deal - it's negating the enjoyment on a few scenarios, not negating the enjoyment of whole characters.

3. I think it's encouraging that the PFS2 scenarios with reputations are (a) pretty consistently cited (that is, a lot of people agree on which scenarios they are), and (b) generally fall along the lines of already-tough single-monster encounters getting upsold with the elite template.

It seems like a pretty easy fix, honestly - stop scaling single-monster encounters with the elite template. The phrase I've heard is simple: "scale wider, not higher."

4. Philosophically, I completely agree with the attitude that games with new players (and by proxy, level 1 / 1-2 scenarios and subtier 1-2 of level 1-4 scenarios) should be intentionally non-deadly. I'm in favor of ridding PFS of the massive damage rule (due to its regressive nature). I'm in favor of low level scenarios generally being cakewalks. It's not the end of the world if a character makes it to level 3 never having gone to Dying.

5. On the flip side, I think it's good for veteran players to get thrashed every now and again. I rather enjoy that, when I join a scenario, I don't know if it's going to be a drum circle or a meat grinder. I enjoy that my characters have to prepare for anything, including some Severe+ combats.

6. For all the measurables, it's always helpful to look at the distribution, rather than just the mean.

6.1. Example: Treasure Bundles. Okay, so 8 TB is the average - does that mean half of the teams should be scoring less than 8? Should there be more 10s than 6s, or more 6s than 10s? The shape of this distrbution matters a whole lot more than the average. I'm a big fan of skewing high - if the average were to be 8, I'd make it pretty easy to get 7, but really hard to get 6 or lower. And on the upper end, have more than 10 TBs discoverable, but cap out the rewards at 10 TB. So there's, say, 6 TBs with basically 100% recovery rate, 3 TBs with a 50% recovery rate, and 3 TBs with a 15-20% recovery rate. 6 minimum, 8 average, 10 maximum, out of 12 total. You'll get a lot of 7-8s, and a few 6s, 9s, and 10s.

6.2. Example: Character Deaths. I think the rates at which characters die at level 1 should be minimal, and as level increases, reach a plateau by level 5-ish. Where the plateau is and how fast it climbs to the plateau can be debated, but given that distribution shape, it means that the average character death will be less than the plateau rate - because there are more low-level characters than high level characters.

7. Some of the group success mechanics that require N individual successes for a group success really looks like a typo. It should be N/2 individual successes, on the assumption the individual success rate is 50-70%. If N individual successes are required, the DCs need to be super duper easy to support an individual success rate of 90-95%. (!!!)

Data Table, Group Success by Number of Individual Successes and Individual Success Rate wrote:


>= 0.50 0.55 0.60 0.65 0.70 0.75 0.80 0.85 0.90 0.95
0 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000
1 0.984 0.992 0.996 0.998 0.999 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.000
2 0.891 0.931 0.959 0.978 0.989 0.995 0.998 1.000 1.000 1.000
3 0.656 0.745 0.821 0.883 0.930 0.962 0.983 0.994 0.999 1.000
4 0.344 0.442 0.544 0.647 0.744 0.831 0.901 0.953 0.984 0.998
5 0.109 0.164 0.233 0.319 0.420 0.534 0.655 0.776 0.886 0.967
6 0.016 0.028 0.047 0.075 0.118 0.178 0.262 0.377 0.531 0.735

So, for example, if 3 (N/2) successes are required with a 50% individual success rate, the group has a 65.6% chance of passing. If you want a group to have a 70% chance of passing with 6 (N) succcesses required, the individual successes need to be 95% (!).

8. This last one is just totally my opinion, but I think giving GMs the flexibility to remove 1-2 CP from the scaling would really help some of the most subjective elements. It's basically saying that a new player might not be super effective, so their character only counts as 1 CP rather than 2 CP.

1/5 *

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I think the above is a better clarification for my dissatisfaction. Characters never feel heroic. The fights/skill challenges just seem like a slog. You finish, but do you really win?

1/5 *

Watery Soup,
I think you and I have to agree to disagree, but I never had an issue with an optimized player feeling like he was awesome. better that than everything feel like an und=ending slog, as be brief PFS2 experience seems to be. PFS1 encouraged players to build tall rather than wide, but PFS2 seems to eliminate any significant prospect of either. You can only build so tall or so wide. Makes everyone rather samey. but that is more an indictment of PF2 rather than PFS@.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

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(Long post was writing it before watery soup posted theirs, I generally think they made a lot of great points.)

I think there is something akin to survivorship bias (IIRC, the WW2 airplane armor parable) -- we often only hear about the 'bad' experiences. The happy ones never get discussed. Most scenarios, even most running of the problematic ones, still go fine. There's also some sampling bias at work -- repeatables are played more than other things (no big surprised), meta-plot also need to get played disproportionately. Of course most people only play or GM the metaplots once, so people's sampling size is restricted -- which is the main reason I mentioned my number of tables -- I've run practically every scenario 3+ times, and some of the more popular repeatable or meta-plot relevant ones close to 10+.

There are some scenarios that appear probabilistically to have greater problems to me (even if 10 runs is low for a strong analysis) and those tend to line up with the most commonly complained about scenarios -- 1-01, 1-10, 2-01, 2-03. I see some complaints about 1-06, but that's one that hasn't felt as problematic -- the structure with picking/randomly determining the story arc can lead to a easier than normal/normal/slightly harder than normal/MUCH harder than normal encounter setup. Almost every other scenario falls to the 'luck of the dice' as to if it was 'hard' or 'easy' -- and VERY heavily influence by bad/good teamwork among the characters. Almost all of my poor outcome/frustrating to-hit/success tables have been tables where the characters didn't help each other. At which point its not the scenario author's/editor/developer's fault.

I have one 'regular' player (he'll probably know who he is, hope he doesn't feel called out by this.) who gets very vocal when he gets a string of bad luck (and its usually bad luck more than overly tuned ACs, but there's cases of both), but even when that's happening I seldom see him switching tactics. I don't see demoralizes, I don't see delaying to wait for someone else's debuff. I see increased crit fishing and escalating frustration. This is a player who knows the math, and outside of the moment would come up with all the better tactics.

Year 1 I'm willing to give a pass to the scenario writers. Everything was new and we were all learning how to use the new rule set to tell stories. I'm personally a little upset that season 2 had a rough start. The stories I thought were incredible, but the mechanics there did fail us a bit. But I think things have generally been much better since then.

I do think there can be more done to make victories feel more epic/exhilarating and less exhausting. I personally don't think its because of the math of the system, but rather because of 2 factors:

1) Often the last fight is the toughest fight; across a 12xp level range the PFS character probably encounters more severe or extreme encounters than an equivalent 1000xp span in an AP. Every scenario has its 'tough' fight, where you might only have 1 tough fight of that caliber per level, or even per 2-3 levels. I don't think it would be wrong to have some scenarios that have nothing above moderate.

2) Often the last fight kind of just drops into the mission wrap up/chronicles and people wanting to rush out. It might be nice to see some scenarios experiment with putting something after the last fight that helps raise the excitement, but not the tension (the 2-03 case raised both). What this looks like I'm not sure -- an influence mini-game after the last fight that involves retelling the cinematic moments of the fight? Definitely not something I'd want to see too often, but I think it could work once or twice. Even just more box texts of accolades, to help the heroes feel heroic. I mean in movies/books/etc often the heroes are exhausted/beat up/drained after the boss fights, and its the spectators who celebrate, and help raise their spirits. who help them realize they didn't just survive, but that they WON.

1/5 *

Eric,
I am going to disagree with you in a few points.

First of all, there is more to success than "The luck of the dice", the luck of the dice is inherently influenced by the tuning of the math. Yes, the opportune 20 on the die can turn the scenario, but if the math is not tuned against the PC's, it shouldn't be necessary. In the example I cited, we were critically failing will saves and skill DC's on rolls of 10 and 11. There is only so much one can count on "hot dice."

Second, there is only so much your allies can do to increase your allies, can maneuver into a flank, I can attempt to demoralize the enemy once per encounter, and maybe I can knock them prone(But I will unlikely be able to both demoralize and trip). If I am having trouble hitting AC 20, I will have the same difficulty hitting the Aid DC of 20.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

Its more runs of bad luck that end up causing problems; rather than runs of good luck allowing victory.

Scarab Sages 3/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, Nebraska—Bellevue

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medtec28 wrote:


However, I am unclear about how giving bonuses differs from adjusting DC's in any manner other than semantics. Under GM discretion in the guide it says that a GM would be permitted to allow "Alternate or creative skills used to bypass or overcome traps, haunts, and skill checks. (Although the DCs and results of the check are part of the mechanics and should not be changed.)" This seems to imply that even if I were to allow "Ancient Osiriani Lore" as a substitute for Thievery on a trap or Occultism for a haunt, that I should keep the same DC. Granted the skill substitution could be a benefit in some cases, there seems no allowance for a DC reduction, or a bonus here.

I will also state that there seemed like no opportunity to find "easier checks" while dealing with these haunts. It still feels like all of these tactical changes could be obviated by better strategic thinking in advance, and that was all my original post was asking for.

A lot of good posts since you asked this. I'll try to be focused in my reply.

As a GM, there are mechanical and story aspects to a scenario I can't change (like DCs). But I am able to reward good roleplay and encourage creative solutions. I recognize that not all GMs do this in the same way. But granting a circumstance bonus to a skill check is a simple way to do this.

Skill challenges and hazard are probably harder to write than they look. Generally, they'll list 2 or 3 skills for a task. For the mushroom picking example I gave, maybe the list Nature DC 20 but Herbalism Lore DC 14. At this point, there are dozens of lores and backgrounds out there. They can't realistically list the DC for dozens of skills. So they give us 2 or 3. As a GM, I'm charged with describing the task and the PC tells me how they want to do it.

If a player tells me "I roll Nature", they don't give me much to go with as a GM.

If they tell me, "I'm a forest elf druid from the Mwangi with the Mushroom picker background." I can give a circumstance bonus to their check based on their character.

If they tell me, "I'm city-born, but there are two dozen villagers nearby, I'm going to go talk to them and see if they can help me harvest the mushrooms we need." That's a creative solution I can work with. Make a Diplomacy check.

In society play, you won't know what your GM will entertain without giving them something to work with as a player.

If you only play, you may not realize some of the subtle mechanics in how they write the skill challenges and hazards, though. That's got to be on the GM to explain. And it doesn't hurt to ask questions as a player.

For example:
All players may attempt -- is different from -- Two players may attempt. The DCs will be different. Probably higher if all players at a table can attempt.

Also, the DCs are different if you need more successes than half the PCs (round down) vs you need one success only. The DCs on an obstacle that everyone must attempt (ex Acrobatics/Athletics) is probably lower than a skill that only the best player should attempt (Thievery to disarm a trap, for example).

Certainly, some scenarios are tougher than others. And I'd agree 1-2 subtiers need to consider the capabilities (and vulnerabilities) of characters at that tier. But as GM's running that tier, we have to make sure understand what the mechanics are and that it's OK to find creative solutions.

Scarab Sages 3/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, Nebraska—Bellevue

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Robyn Hood wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
running PFS2 #1-01 at Gen Con launch scared me away from GMing
Care to elaborate?

** spoiler omitted **

Suffice to say, it was NOT a fun experience as a GM -- I'm not a 'killer' GM.

I don't have a tally board where I gleefully mark off each character that gets murdered at my table nor when the party fails a scenario horribly.

There's only been ONE table I've been at as a player (or GM) where I was actively wishing that some of the other characters would die at a table in SFS -- and you were at that table as a fellow player.

I've run that scenario 6 times (three at the Gen Con launch). It requires a pretty fair amount of GM prep to run well. I feel pretty comfortable with it now.

That said, the one time I played it we tubed a certain ritual HARD. You'd think I'd have been prepared, but we got to that part and I realized as we walked in that our characters were pretty sub-optimized for that encounter.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

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medtec28 wrote:
Asking another potentially disruptive question, why use massive damage at all in org play? I do recall it being ignored in 1e, so why not continue to do so?

It happens so rarely, its not hard to "forget" to enforce it

1/5 5/5

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One of the 'mitigators' to higher DCs in PF1 (and PFS1) was that players had the capability to 'aid' a roll to help boost the party chances at success.

There's really not a mechanism for that in PF2 -- if anything, trying to *help* someone can sometimes (especially at L1) have a higher DC than the actual task being *helped* at.

I understand the math is supposed to be 'flat' and just allowing any ol' 'aid' is potentially unbalancing, but perhaps that is part of the issue with the DC numbers -- they work if a party can work *together* on a thing, but when it's just random roll + skill mod...

This is not an argument to completely revamp the system to make it more approachable for PFS2, but more... food for thought.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
GMs are NOT allowed to alter DCs. I'm pretty sure that remains a constant.

Meh—GMs have always been empowered to add circumstance bonus/penalties that amount to the same thing as adjusting the DC. Not to mention the fairly liberal language in the Aid action to can allow allies to have a big impact on skill checks.

1/5 *

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


One of the 'mitigators' to higher DCs in PF1 (and PFS1) was that players had the capability to 'aid' a roll to help boost the party chances at success.

There's really not a mechanism for that in PF2 -- if anything, trying to *help* someone can sometimes (especially at L1) have a higher DC than the actual task being *helped* at.

I understand the math is supposed to be 'flat' and just allowing any ol' 'aid' is potentially unbalancing, but perhaps that is part of the issue with the DC numbers -- they work if a party can work *together* on a thing, but when it's just random roll + skill mod...

This is not an argument to completely revamp the system to make it more approachable for PFS2, but more... food for thought.

it doesn’t really need to be revamped, just needs an org play clarification. The CRB says the DC is usually 20, but the GM can alter it based on circumstantial, it could easily be set lower for lower tier scenarios.

Silver Crusade 3/5 5/5 * Venture-Lieutenant, New Jersey

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TwilightKnight wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
Asking another potentially disruptive question, why use massive damage at all in org play? I do recall it being ignored in 1e, so why not continue to do so?
It happens so rarely, its not hard to "forget" to enforce it

So just because you "forget" to enforce it does not mean every gm "forgets" it. So the obvious answer is to remove the rule if the only way to deal with it is to "forget" it.

TwilightKnight wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
GMs are NOT allowed to alter DCs. I'm pretty sure that remains a constant.
Meh—GMs have always been empowered to add circumstance bonus/penalties that amount to the same thing as adjusting the DC. Not to mention the fairly liberal language in the Aid action to can allow allies to have a big impact on skill checks.

That is the issue we are all talking about. If you need to add a adjustment to DCs/ACs etc to make it more fair then it is not an appropriate number to be against. If for no other reasons than not every gm will make the adjustments you are leading to tables feeling like the whole mission is a lost cause. So if the answer is just apply an adjustment then the number in flat should be lower to begin with.

The modules should be written thinking not only this might be the first time someone is a player but also this might be someone's first time GMing. A GM following RAW and MAW could easily have a bad time since they might not think/know to do what you suggest and thus the community could lose both new players and/or GMs.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

Steven Lawton wrote:
...the obvious answer is to remove the rule if the only way to deal with it is to "forget" it.

That presumes that most/all GMs want to forget about it. I'm sure there are some who don't. It happens so infrequently that I don't see the point of getting all worked up about it. If you don't like it as the GM, and you are inclined to forget about it because it is so rare and you have so many other things to keep track of, who cares? OTOH, if you think it is a good rule and enforce it at every opportunity, good for you. Its in the core rules for a reason after all.

Steven Lawton wrote:
If you need to add a adjustment to DCs/ACs etc to make it more fair then it is not an appropriate number to be against.

I didn't say anything about fairness, nor did I conflate DCs and ACs now did I? I merely said that the GM is empowered to allow circumstantial adjusts to a skill roll. If you feel that is appropriate, then by all means do so. If the GM feels the DC is unjustifiably high for the circumstances, stands to reason they would be inclined to be more liberal with the circumstance bonuses.

The point is, we don't have any control about the setting of DCs in the scenarios. If the trend towards unreasonably high DCs is an indication that Paizo is not listening to the consistent complaints that have been levied over the past two years (and it appears they aren't), then its time to focus on the things the community does have control over, that being events at our own tables.

Explore! Report! Cooperate!

**

medtec28 wrote:
Characters never feel heroic.

I read this a lot on the forums, and I think it would help if you clarified what you meant by it.

Because, from what I can see, what it means is that "every time my character gets better, the challenges get tougher." And I simply don't see why that's a negative thing.

Characters in PF1 were able to stack abilities very "tall" - in any party, the optimized setup was for one character to have Ability X stacked so high they couldn't fail on a nat 2, and another character to have Ability Y stacked so high they couldn't fail on a nat 2, etc. The problem is that the first character couldn't succeed Ability Y on a nat 19, and the second character couldn't succeed Ability X on a nat 19. Yes, each character feels "heroic" when they are able to easily pass an absurdly high DC - but that presented development problems in PFS when you couldn't count on someone showing up with a Perception +45 character. Should the authors and developers set a DC 50 Perception check, which was trivial for a small percentage of characters and impossible for the vast majority? That was the conundrum that spawned PF2.

Other words I see a lot? "Slog" and "same".

The "slog" feeling is basically appropriate scaling. Your character gets better, the challenges get tougher. It's designed to be that way from Level 1 to Level 20. You're always getting pushed to your limit. It's a feature, not a bug. Slogginess is overcome by imparting urgency/importance to the task, not by succeeding at the task. It's supposed to be narrative.

The "same" feeling is an unfortunate byproduct of the math. The way the scaling works, you don't actually need to know your modifier a lot of the time. On-level challenges are set so that nat 10-11 succeeds and only nat 20s and nat 1s crit; easy challenges are set so that nat 7-8 succeeds and there's an expanded crit success range; hard challenges are set so that nat 12-13 succeeds and there's an expanded crit fail range. It kind of sucks but if you yell out your die roll, I can guess whether you CS/S/F/CF a huge percentage of the time. The DC minus the modifier (which is the "nat" roll you need to make to succeed) is pretty constant. By design.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

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medtec28 wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


One of the 'mitigators' to higher DCs in PF1 (and PFS1) was that players had the capability to 'aid' a roll to help boost the party chances at success.

There's really not a mechanism for that in PF2 -- if anything, trying to *help* someone can sometimes (especially at L1) have a higher DC than the actual task being *helped* at.

I understand the math is supposed to be 'flat' and just allowing any ol' 'aid' is potentially unbalancing, but perhaps that is part of the issue with the DC numbers -- they work if a party can work *together* on a thing, but when it's just random roll + skill mod...

This is not an argument to completely revamp the system to make it more approachable for PFS2, but more... food for thought.

it doesn’t really need to be revamped, just needs an org play clarification. The CRB says the DC is usually 20, but the GM can alter it based on circumstantial, it could easily be set lower for lower tier scenarios.

Unfortunately, after requests for that sort of clarification, there IS an org play specific rule, and it says to always use DC 20 unless a scenario says otherwise. If the normal CRB rule, where 20 is a guideline and not a hard number, was used, there would be more leeway for Aid to work well at low levels. The GM can apply a circumstance bonus to an Aid attempt that comes with a particularly appropriate plan.

Pathfinder Society FAQ

things the FAQ says wrote:

Do table GMs have the ability to adjust the DC of a check to Aid, or is it set to the typical DC of 20, listed in the Core Rulebook?

Use DC 20 unless otherwise stated in the adventure. For particularly effective means of Aiding, the GM should consider giving the PCs a circumstance bonus on the check to Aid.

Can GMs apply circumstance bonuses and penalties based upon the PCs' actions (for example, to reward creative solutions, or to reflect a particularly ineffective tactic)?

Yes, GMs can apply circumstance bonuses or penalties based on the PCs' actions. For guidance in how and when to apply these, see "Ad Hoc Bonuses and Penalties" on page 12 of the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide.

1/5 *

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Watery Soup wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
Characters never feel heroic.

I read this a lot on the forums, and I think it would help if you clarified what you meant by it.

Because, from what I can see, what it means is that "every time my character gets better, the challenges get tougher." And I simply don't see why that's a negative thing.

this is not at all what I mean, what I mean to say is that my character seldom feels like his success is due to my agency, but rather due to the dice. The scenario I am discussing was one of the newly released “intro” scenarios. And when my character is hit on a roll of 6-7, and cannot succeed without a 15+ roll, where has all of my agency gone? Aren’t my choices supposed to matter? I put my 18 into dex because I wanted to be good with a bow and to be hard to hit, but the math invalidates those choices.

I, for one, never saw a problem with a scenario being written in a way to let the PC’s succeed, if the character stacks his perception so high he cannot fail, who cares? He wants to succeed, let him. Why is that such a problem? Don’t we want the players to succeed after all?

“Watery Soup wrote:

Other words I see a lot? "Slog" and "same".

The "slog" feeling is basically appropriate scaling. Your character gets better, the challenges get tougher. It's designed to be that way from Level 1 to Level 20. You're always getting pushed to your limit. It's a feature, not a bug. Slogginess is overcome by imparting urgency/importance to the task, not by succeeding at the task. It's supposed to be narrative.

The "same" feeling is an unfortunate byproduct of the math. The way the scaling works, you don't actually need to know your modifier a lot of the time. On-level challenges are set so that nat 10-11 succeeds and only nat 20s and nat 1s crit; easy challenges are set so that nat 7-8 succeeds and there's an expanded crit success range; hard challenges are set so that nat 12-13 succeeds and there's an expanded crit fail range. It kind of sucks...

Thank you for understanding and proving my point here. Goes back to the whole choices matter idea that was allegedly part of the core mechanics. If you refer back to my original post I made the point that on-level challenges, at least low level, are supposed to be a 10-11 on the die for a stat bonus of 2 and trained proficiency, they are not. When these are enemy AC’s I am somewhat forgiving as there are some, though limited, ways to mitigate this, but for skills and saves, these characters have not had any opportunity to start shoring up, or ignoring, weaknesses yet.

If we are to step away from the meta for a moment, and put ourselves into the story here, why would the Pathfinder Society continually send undertrained, underequipted, and under experienced agents into situations and hope they succeed. There should come a point in the story where it feels like they are in the deep waters, but if that point is the initial survival roll, then why were they sent in the first place.

Soup, you and I will not agree, your features are my bugs and vice versa. I just want the scenarios to be written according to the adventure design guidelines in the core rules. Standard DC’s succeed on 10-11 for the average character, if you are better than average, good for you, you get to win more often. I just don’t understand why winning more often is viewed as so problematic.

Grand Archive 4/5 5/55/5 *

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I love pathfinder stories and 2e. I love starfinder as well.

I'd like to piggy back off of the OP to add this.

Why does every scenario have to have challenging or higher for every skill DC? (not articulated well)

Why not, every now and then, have a scenario where the PCs kinda roll through? What is the harm in them seeing/feeling that they are the powerful level 7+ characters that they are? What if a mission turns out to be easier than the venture captain's thought it would be?

I'm not saying that I want this often, jut maybe every great now and then.

1/5 *

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James Kesilis wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


One of the 'mitigators' to higher DCs in PF1 (and PFS1) was that players had the capability to 'aid' a roll to help boost the party chances at success.

There's really not a mechanism for that in PF2 -- if anything, trying to *help* someone can sometimes (especially at L1) have a higher DC than the actual task being *helped* at.

I understand the math is supposed to be 'flat' and just allowing any ol' 'aid' is potentially unbalancing, but perhaps that is part of the issue with the DC numbers -- they work if a party can work *together* on a thing, but when it's just random roll + skill mod...

This is not an argument to completely revamp the system to make it more approachable for PFS2, but more... food for thought.

it doesn’t really need to be revamped, just needs an org play clarification. The CRB says the DC is usually 20, but the GM can alter it based on circumstantial, it could easily be set lower for lower tier scenarios.

Unfortunately, after requests for that sort of clarification, there IS an org play specific rule, and it says to always use DC 20 unless a scenario says otherwise. If the normal CRB rule, where 20 is a guideline and not a hard number, was used, there would be more leeway for Aid to work well at low levels. The GM can apply a circumstance bonus to an Aid attempt that comes with a particularly appropriate plan.

Pathfinder Society FAQ

things the FAQ says wrote:

Do table GMs have the ability to adjust the DC of a check to Aid, or is it set to the typical DC of 20, listed in the Core Rulebook?

Use DC 20 unless otherwise stated in the adventure. For particularly effective means of Aiding, the GM should consider giving the PCs a circumstance bonus on the check to Aid.

Can GMs apply circumstance bonuses and penalties based upon the PCs' actions (for example, to reward creative solutions, or to reflect a particularly

...

Then why can’t we tell leadership we feel like this is a bad idea, and ask it to be changed? they have listened before, haven’t they?

1/5 *

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TwilightKnight wrote:


The point is, we don't have any control about the setting of DCs in the scenarios. If the trend towards unreasonably high DCs is an indication that Paizo is not listening to the consistent complaints that have been levied over the past two years (and it appears they aren't), then its time to focus on the things the community does have control over, that being events at our own tables.

Explore! Report! Cooperate!

If we all truly feel this way, then why are we even here having this conversation? Instead of having a living organized campaign where I can drop into a table anywhere, let’s just all play our own games with our own rules?

I came here to start an open and honest conversation, but if we feel like advocating for change here is pointless, let’s all just agree to that, close this thread and walk away. However, it does not seem like Jocelyn, John and Eric believe all is lost.

Pathfinder Society exists because people play these games. I see no harm in asking, not demanding, changes. I am not saying, “Do this or I will leave”, because next week I am going to be on Warhorn looking for my next game. I just do not see the harm in asking for things to be better, and least better from my perspective.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Watery Soup wrote:
medtec28 wrote:
Characters never feel heroic.
I read this a lot on the forums, and I think it would help if you clarified what you meant by it.

One thing it means for me--and based on the OP's follow-up response--is that I feel like the tasks that I've intentionally specialized in are long shots. I have spent feats, skill trainings, and stat boosts (limited resources in character creation and leveling) on my Cascade Bearer Halcyon Speaker to know all there is to know about the magical traditions. So I want this character to feel like he's smart and understands Arcana, Nature, Occultism, and Religion. Unfortunately, his entire adventuring career, he keeps running into checks with a 50-55% success rate (whether because the scenario set the DC too high or the CP adjustment pushed it up, there's been both). Sure, he might be succeeding 50% of the time, not sure, random dice are random, so he could be succeeding 30% of the time and still be on the bell curve, but he's also failing 45-50% of the time. That's a lot of failure for a specialist, and every time it happens, it feels like he's standing there shrugging a magical questions and is only this magical expert in my imagination (I mean, he is, he exists in my imagination...;)). So when I say I'm bringing my Cascade Bearer Magaambyan Attendant Halcyon Speaker who studies all the magical traditions so that he can be flexible and adaptable and proceed to fail every Arcana/Nature/Religion/Occultism check, I feel like I'm trying to be more than the game wants me to be and that at 7th level I should just be an apprentice.

The effect of this challenge design is to drive toward hyperspecialization, which would honestly only squeeze out an extra +1, and be pickier about who I sit at tables with. Oh, there's four low Int classes at the table? Yeah, I'll pass. Oh, no fighters? Nobody will be able to hit. I'll pass.

This next thought should be a post of it's own, but I feel like scenarios should have pacing designed to let your characters flex and show off their strengths while allowing you to follow their plot then peak at the end to give you that challenging feel. What is challenging is subjective, and this is too off point from this particular post already, so I'll pause.

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Blake's Tiger wrote:


One thing it means for me--and based on the OP's follow-up response--is that I feel like the tasks that I've intentionally specialized in are long shots.

I agree with you that this is an issue but it's basically one that is inherent to the game. Part of the problem is that (by design) it is somewhere between difficult and impossible for an expert character to be much better at a skill than a dabbler. The dice ALWAYS matter a lot.

This is significantly accentuated by the nature of PFS. In a home game with 4 players my druid character regularly (not always) beats even the rogue at nature checks so I feel more "naturey" than he does. But in PFS where tables with 6 characters are quite common and generalists are rewarded (more than in a home game, at least) it is moderately common for my skilled character to never roll the highest at his skill in a session. Oh, he is the best but with 4 players rolling every time the dice can easily cause somebody else to be better every time. A different person each time but from my perspective they all fall into the "not me" category.

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As a scenario author as well as a GM and player I'm also watching this discussion carefully.

Someone made a good point about paying attention to the newer GMs and not only the most experienced, since that is a more common situation. Very good point.

The idea of specifying a DC to "Aid" is a really good point, and I'm making a note to do this a lot more in future, especially for those lower levels.

Much of the discussion has focused on the effect of crits, but I haven't seen a lot of mention of hero points. It's not just the one you start with, but new ones handed out, as well as ones from other players' boons (often with a bonus for their GM glyphs). At my last table, many players started with 3, and overall the table had more than 20 over the course of the game. It doesn't remove the effect of a high DC entirely, but it can mean that mid-level challenges become givens.

Personally, I'd love to talk to more GMs on their experiences with my own scenarios so I can learn from their experience, but it's pretty darn hard to do that on a comprehensive campaign-wide basis.

A good review is a useful tool for authors - but usually, reviews are either really good or really bad, and don't always separate out the scenario-specific data from other effects like, "Did the GM prep sufficiently?" or "Did I bring my high society character on a wilderness exploration adventure?".

(I do have to say, I wish people wouldn't state that Paizo is "not listening" to complaints, especially after Mike Kimmel stated he *was* listening right off the bat. People who have been around a long time should know better.)

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Quote:
I agree with you that this is an issue but it's basically one that is inherent to the game.

Sure, if the scenarios were written by robots. However, the developers can choose to not follow the book's recommendation on DCs and make them lower. There's more to my point here, but it goes into a longer post. My point at the moment is that nothing is forcing the DCs to always be a 50% coin flip for specialized players.

E.g., a DC for a given task could be 16 for a level 3 character so being trained but unstatted in a given skill gives you a 50% coin flip but the specialized character at the same level is +9 to +11 (65% to 80% chance of success). All the checks in the scenario? No. But which ones leads into a longer post on pacing and design.

Quote:
Oh, he is the best but with 4 players rolling every time the dice can easily cause somebody else to be better every time. A different person each time but from my perspective they all fall into the "not me" category.

That's not the issue I'm struggling with, though I agree it happens. I might roll a 2 and Joe Random rolls a 19. That happens. I'm talking about the probability of an individual with a given check modifier's chance of success being so low that it seems like you're always failing.

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To be fair, sometimes it is hard for a player to judge what was dictated in the text of the scenario versus what the GM brought to the table themselves without reading the scenario. And I would bet, without supporting evidence, that most players do not purchase scenarios.

But I am not clear on how to quantify the effect of hero points. I tend to hoard mine until late in the scenario, as I always want to have at least one to avoid dying. If I have more than one, I might be willing to use one on a skill check, particularly when I know I have rolled poorly. It probably helps when the dice have turned against me, but when I have failed on a ~14, I am unlikely to spend one to reroll. I have also seen multiple hero points turn fails into crit fails, and we all know the pleural of anecdote is data, right?

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My first table at Gen Con launch, happening in the second slot of the convention, was given three Hero Points to start.

1 for showing up to the table.
1 for trying a brand new system on launch day.
1 for bearing with me as a new GM also experiencing a brand new system on launch day.

Despite that abundance (and recharging every hour) by the end of the scenario there were no Hero Points left.

During my second table the guidance was clarified, and we were outright told that giving out three Hero Points to start was Not The Idea.

So my second table was given two:

1 for showing up to the table.
1 for dealing with all the hassle of trying to play a new system and a new GM still trying to figure out the flow of the game.

Again despite that abundance the table was shooting through them like a high pressure hose at a fire.

Hero points are a stopgap to help paper over high DC numbers, they aren't a cure, and they're one of the few things that make the system work, unfortunately -- similar to Resolve over in SFS.

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