Let’s talk about MATH! No wait wait, don’t hit back this is useful math. This math is about slaying monsters! In our podcast you will hear moments of the players adding up their bonuses to see if their actions effect the small selection of monsters they don’t make friends with. Fans of podcasts from other systems may have already noticed that our party of 3rd level adventurers can get some pretty high totals too. There is a reason for this and is where the math comes in.
There was a problem introduced in the original d20 game system where players were forced onto a gear treadmill where treasure needed to continuously increase numbers to keep players feeling powerful. As more content was created power creep became a huge issue. You needed to add 4 to 8 different factors of bonuses to your die rolls, slowing down combat and becoming cumbersome. In addition, lower level monster became functionally irrelevant forcing continuous reskinning of material with just bigger numbers. Players and content suffered. Let us look briefly at a core concept of DND fifth edition and then see where pathfinder 2nd edition is different.
One of DnD 5e’s big defining features is a concept called bounded accuracy. There is a ton of nuance in this idea. At a high level this concept is about keeping the numbers that are applied to dice rolls small and results within a numerical boundary. Then number increases are assigned to few mechanics while additional dice rolls are used for tactical rewards. The effect of applying this concept is that math becomes simple and quick, but players lose out on some forms of theory crafting. Lower complexity is easy to learn and master but lacks mechanical depth. At the end of the day, the nature of the game changes as does its audience. For D&D 5th edition once you understand the ideas of proficiency and advantage, you have taken a huge leap in mastery.
Pathfinder 2nd edition likes larger numbers and stacking bonus types. Paizo has a tradition of giving a plethora of options to players and letting them scratch the itch towards building, retooling and maximizing character abilities. That is tempered by the desire to have a system easer to learn than first edition but that does not force a gear treadmill. The ingenious solution is to build character power directly into proficiency while breaking the link between monster and player stats. Players and monsters are no longer built on the same mechanical underpinnings. When they come into conflict with each other, the nature of the conflict is more important than pure battle statistics.
So like how bounded accuracy shifted the style of game and targeted a new player base, Pathfinder 2nd Edition does the same, just using different interpretations of power growth mechanics.
Bounded accuracy and proficiency scaling are both excellent solutions to the original d20 problem. When you hear our party calling out numbers and you want a quick way to interpret the effectiveness of their actions into the Bounded accuracy model, take their final number minus their level. If Taffy’s to hit on her spell attack is 25 at level 3, then it is roughly a 22 in D&D 5th edition. If you are listening to a D&D podcast and they roll a 15 at level 5, that would be about 20 in Pathfinder 2nd edition. This estimate is not exact because pathfinder has more effects that shift the values, but it works great as a short hand if you enjoy both types of games. At Dice Fall we love the Pathfinder 2nd Edition rules set, and we have mad respect for the creative work that comes from the tabletop community, no matter what rules system is used. Cyd can’t wait to dive into a 5E game as a warlock and I have been informed that I am destined to break the masquerade if we get an opportunity to play Vampire the Masquerade. Maybe we should try some of these systems too?