the (low) value of aoe spam in pf2e


Kineticist Class


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

so several people have been bringing up the value of an at will aoe attack that consumes no resources and can be spammed forever, and how it justifies some combination of the low single target options, low aoe damage, and clunky economy. and I would like to point out an option that we already have.

Introducing spammy mcblaster the sorcerer.
Spammy is a dragon sorcerer. he takes electric arc as a cantrip, flaming hands as a first level signiture spell, and fireball as a third level signiture spell. along with advanced bloodline spell at 6, and bloodline focus at 12.

now, at the very early levels, 1-5ish spammy can actually run out of spells, but once they have a free dragon breath every fight at 6, the amount of encounters you need to throw at this character for them to run out of aoe is obscene and it only becomes more so as they level up, once they hit 12 and have two dragons breaths per fight they will probobly never need to touch an aoe that does equivalent damage to what a kineticist does. so they will also never run out, and have suprior damage, and have suprior dc, all while having a better action economy.

this is something we already have and we have collectivly been complaining about blasters from day one because this is not very good, this is considered a trap that new players try and realize it doesnt work. and spammy still has the other 90% of his class and spell list with he can do all sorts of things with while still having this option.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

^^^ precisely this.

Sczarni

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Not to mention spammy also has 10% more accuracy being legendary.


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There is a place for AoE blasting, but it's as 1 spell you keep signature or prepped in a highest level slot rather than a playstyle.

The big issue blasting runs into is hp growing faster than damage. Blasting is already pretty low value but it only gets worse over time.

Blasting also needs to compete with Calm Emotions, the AoE incapacitate. If you're expecting your enemies to fail their saves, a spell that prevents hostile action, regardless of remaining hp, is far more valuable than a blast that doesn't reduce actual enemy threat. At least in severe and extreme mook horde encounters, reigning in enemy action economy advantage is the surest way to clear the encounter with the minimum amount of resources spent.


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I agree the value of at will aoe isn't great

Wich is why they should just be optional focus spells you can pick up with feats. You can even remove the overflow tag. And it fixes action economy issues. You have stronger AOE. And you don't unbalance the game.

You could probably still buff blast's as well.


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This is the basic question I had back in the playtest with things like the Barbarian's swipe. Is "how often do enemies bunch up so they're standing next to each other or in a line"?" I think that depends a lot on the specific assumptions of the person running the game. I know that I in the playtest session I participated in, I never had the opportunity to hit more than 2 enemies with a 5' burst or a 30'line. So those abilities weren't super exciting.

At other tables though "enemies bunch up" might be super common, I don't know.


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The other thing is "great, you killed the mooks, now what" if you're invested in big AoEs.

The AoEs that really make spellcasters shine are the ones that throw out conditions. Fireball has it's place, but usually you're keeping that as one option of many, for when you have a fight with a bunch of targets because catching 3-4 things in it brings the total damage dealt way up.


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Aoe only matters of you are reducing the number of hits your martials need to kill things. If your Martials need 4 strikes to down something before and after your aoe, then you did nothing.
Let's also not forget that getting more then one aoe off per combat is tricky, if enemies aren't rushing at you or spreading out so you can keep hitting them without hitting friendlies, then your GM might be going easy on you.


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OrochiFuror wrote:

Aoe only matters of you are reducing the number of hits your martials need to kill things. If your Martials need 4 strikes to down something before and after your aoe, then you did nothing.

Let's also not forget that getting more then one aoe off per combat is tricky, if enemies aren't rushing at you or spreading out so you can keep hitting them without hitting friendlies, then your GM might be going easy on you.

Counter point, every action your gm uses to keep NPCs out of your AoEs is actions not spent attacking your party. this might not be satisfying, but hiving that threat always active is powerful.


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If those actions are the normal hostile actions they would take, ie getting in your face and flanking you, or taking cover, then no you are not posing any additional threat that any other ranged character wouldn't do better.


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AoE's are useful tools to have in the toolbox, but they aren't appropriate for all situations. They spread damage out, but at the same time when faced with many enemies they are the numbers one way to end encounters fast, usually after a debuff has been cast as well.

Comparing damage to a martial is a useful exercise - using the tool found here: bahalbach.github.io/PF2Calculator/

Comparing a 2d6+1 damage save effect (dangerous sorcery) to a greatsword (d12) fighter's 2 attack routine vs 1 target, the damage effect keeps up pretty well. It has some highs and lows, but it usually hovers around 75% of the damage. It does roughly the same damage as a d8 fighter striking twice, sometimes higher, sometimes lower.

So the idea of the "normal" blasts not helping the martials to take down single targets isn't true - its like another martial taking 2 swings at them. Especially because at the higher level the spells start out-scaling 2d6 (and lightning bolt starts a d12 ahead even at 3rd). Now thats not fantastic considering that spell slots are pretty restricted and there are some awesome control/debuff spells that are going to be more valuable, but its not useless, and using the spells well means hitting 3-4 targets instead of 1.

Even using under leveled slots (2-3 levels below max once in the mid/upper levels) and focus spells (-1d6 and no dangerous sorcery) will put out good damage numbers against more than 1 enemy, and at much lower resource cost. I've had very good success opening combat with potent control spells (wall of stone, slow 6, etc) and then switching to focus blasts and minus a few level chain lightning to clean things up.


Martialmasters wrote:

I agree the value of at will aoe isn't great

Wich is why they should just be optional focus spells you can pick up with feats. You can even remove the overflow tag. And it fixes action economy issues. You have stronger AOE. And you don't unbalance the game.

You could probably still buff blast's as well.

Having 1-3 abilities to use per combat besides elemental blast will not be fun especially if you run into another combat before you can refocus.

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