How to improve encounter design?

Not putting it in suggestion as it is not something to improve for Wrath, but for future games.

In my opinion one fundamental problem with the encounters is that most of them feature some for of gotcha ability and no way to react to them.
For example being out of nowhere swarmed with level draining enemies or plague stacking, strength drain, mass casting of mind affecting spells, massive elemental damage, etc.
And when that happens there is no way to react to this. Either you already have the correct protection spells up or you will get destroyed, meaning you basically have to go forward, see what the next combat requires and then load and cast exactly that.

I do not know how to solve it honestly, it probably is also to some degree a problem with the Pathfinder system in general, but still it does make the combat rather tedious.

It also doesn’t help that most of the time you do not even see what is going on on the screen as it is full with effects. Would be nice if there would be a way to turn them down.

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I don’t really feel like the combat is some sort of gotcha experience. Maybe this is because I’ve played a lot of tabletop games, but I’ve always favored a balanced, flexible party. When picking spells, I always favor things that can help fix a bad status condition, though I do get a few that can help prevent them. At the beginning of a combat, if I see opponents where I don’t know what they do, I use the information option to find out about them. Then I can usually do something preventative in the first couple of rounds. And if I missed what happened, I use the combat log. I find it really valuable to look through it. I think I only had my party wiped or nearly wiped a couple of times in Kingmaker and it hasn’t happened yet in Wrath of the Righteous.

Might I ask you how far you are in the game?

Because later “in the first couple of rounds” the shadows that spawned around you strength drained half you party already, or the Nabasu and other with the same gimmick level drained you down. Or one of the 5 casters behind a wall of muscle all chain casting instant death spells will get lucky.
Its not a problem of knowing what enemies can do, the problem is that the game later tends to throw hordes of those enemies at you, often without any warning or indication what you will face, sometimes even with disadvantageous terrain. You do not have time to react and get defensive spells up before getting crippled.

stat/level drain is basic mechanic for many enemies, not some gotcha mechanics

its like getting spell “resists fire” against fire demon, could be countered with death ward(you can always load the game and go buy them) making this encounter with nabasu trivial

if you feel overwhelmed or have slow reaction like me - play TB so you can easily read what enemies do and see whats going it, dont try to just faceroll like its some sort of diablo

It is a gotcha mechanic when suddenly 10+ of such enemies appear. Either you know that this will happen and have death ward up on everyone, or you will lose the fight or at least come out extremely crippled.
Either way it comes down to trial and error and precasting the defensive buffs you will need.

if you are talking specters in the market, there are 2-3 of them.

nabasu is just one, and haze special gaze

wights cause negative levels, but you can rest and buy restoration afterwards

its how this game built, learn enemies and what they can cause

all information is in the game, you can inspect every enemy and see what they can do, their stats etc

its not gotcha cuz its pretty common, and there are lots of ways to deal with it, cure it, even just rest it out, you should learn the game instead of crying about “encounter design” as you clearly dont understand it

No, I am not talking about the market. I am talking about Act 3-4 (Midnight Fane etc.) when the game takes off the gloves.

That’s how the game works, at least from core difficulty on. You always want to have elemental protections and death ward on, and buffs like shield, mage armor, good hope, resist fear etc.
You start an area, you spend 2 min buffing. Kingmaker had a buff bot mod for that, where you could automate this. It’s not like you always need different spells, it is mostly the same collection for most situations.
That’s mostly due to the Pathfinder system, with 5e (Solasta) you’ll have a very different experience.

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at this point you should’ve learned all basics of the game and prepare for everything it can throw at you

From that response I gather that you have no idea what I am talking about as you are still in Act 2 and think you have seen everything.

Never go anywhere in chapter 4 without everyone having Death Ward, True Seeing, Protection from Fire and Cold, and Delay Poison up at all times, as a minimum. They should be lasting 15 minutes by that point. But Restoring multiple people after combat is not such a big deal. By act 4 you should have getting on for half a million gold with all the drops, Diamond Dust is cheap.

The random encounters in Act 3 on the other hand… well.

Which particular encounters do you mean Original Poster?

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i finished beta several time and didnt have any problems :> PF’s core is prebuffing and being prepared for everything

you just still need to learn basics

Take for example the later half of the Midnight Fane.

First you are fighting demons with the usual setup, no problem. Then after the 2nd horn call you encounter a ghost with high powered cold spells. So reload and get cold protection up (although this is one situation where casting protection from cold in the middle of the combat might work).

Then when you take the wrong turn you are suddenly swarmed by Bodaks, Nabasu and those Nabasu/Marilith crosses with a level draining aura so its not even enough to death ward only your frontline. So reload, get more death wards up or adjust tactics.
Then you move forward and suddenly greater shadows spawn right around you whos strength drain is not blocked by death ward. So again reload and send a decoy up.

I am ignoring Playful Darkness because that is a different issue.

Then you find the correct path and are confronted by blade barrier spam and chain casted destruction.
In most of those cases there is no time to react during the encounter, you have to know what you will face to have the correct counters up, making the game a huge try and error with constant reloading.

And before you start, I am not looking for specific tips, I am talking about the general, imo bad, encounter design which relies too much on strategic preparation coupled with reloading while offering next to no tactical opportunities.

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I ended up steamrolling everything in the Fane excepting the final encounter and Playful Darkness, but I understand where you are coming from - however I think this is just an issue, or appeal for many, of this really quite retro core gameplay style - its why people constantly liken Owlcat games to the Infinity Engine games: if you tone this stuff down to a point where you can deal with things without pre-buffs and the odd reload then if you take the time to go all out with buffs it becomes an absolute cakewalk - and the solutions I have seen implemented are the PoE approach which was to abolish prebuffing entirely, which brought with it a host of other issues, or the 5e approach of concentration and bounded accuracy which likewise brings about all sorts of issues.

I just kind of see it as a limitation, or appeal, of this type of videogame-ification of a particular tabeltop ruleset: BG1 and 2 and IWD - 2e, 3e and Pathfinder in video game format at least have always been about casting lots and lots of layered prebuffs for an encounter, and often reloading to try different combos. I think BG2-SCS did “tactical prebuffing” at its most extreme since after 2e they stripped out stuff like Protection from Magic Weapons, Spell Immunity and 2e style stoneskin which made mages untouchable.

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There are ways to react to them. Figuring them out is fun.

Please don’t take these out. Add more.

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Or you can scout with Aru then go prepare.

We don’t want faceroll thx.

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I think the way to look at the game is as a “Puzzle” type experience - how do you build your party so as to counter the specific mechanics of the next encounter? Do you have the resources to adapt to the unexpected? Do you have a solution for this problem?

I think the achievement for beating the game under a certain number of rests ultimately spells out what the ultimate difficulty goal for the game is - can you build your characters / party so as to complete the game on actually fixed resources?

But yeah- look at things as puzzles to be solved.

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I was thinking about that achievement - deffo not one for a first playthrough, but with some very generous resting:

1 mandatory rest in Prologue and say 2 others
3 in c1 before tavern defense and then perhaps 2 more clearing out the optional stuff. 0 in Grey garrison.
10 in c2
20 in c3
10 in c4
20 in c5
Not sure about c6

That adds up to 68 without factoring in c6, but I feel is very generous over-estimate for a lot of those chapters allowing resting before almost everything. The main problem is moving around the damn map in c3 and 5

For the most part, the “nasty” abilities of creatures and encounters are what pathfinder is all about - learning how to mitigate (or annihilate) the threats before they trash your party.

However, on the specific topic regarding the arrival of new waves of creatures, it’s actually being handled in a pretty unfair manner.

When a new creature arrives unstealthed, unless they have extremely high movement speed, and are charging out of the sky etc, they should:

  1. roll initiative
  2. arrive on their turn (burning actions)
  3. be able to be attacked immediately
  4. wait an entire round
  5. and only then get their turns.

The current implementation instead lets them:

  1. arrive (often right on top of characters)
  2. roll inititiative (hidden),
  3. and are generally un-attackable until they move (but since they may roll high on the initiative, they may get a turn right after arriving).
  4. Once the creatures move, they are placed into initiative,

but since they’ve gotten a “free” arrival move completely independent of initiative, this can feel a bit “gargoyle appears and eats the wizard” because they can fly down, then full attack immediately in some situations.

This is not correct per the rules, and should be fixed so that “arrival” provides players with a full round of reaction opportunity.

Stealth is handled a little differently already, but even then the full round of reactivity stops the majority of full attacks out of stealth (because they need to move to a target then stab) and also allows perception to function as intended, to catch them before they reach you.

But non-stealthed creatures should be arriving already in initiative order and thus burning actions/turns - they currently do not do this properly, and thus get “free” turns, which can feel unfair/wonky.

(There’s also some bugs with stealth where things are being revealed to players when the game is trying to hide them from you, such as the “see through geometry” window highlighting their location, their portrait showing up in the initiave order while they are taking stealthed turns, before disappearing again, and selective channel de-stealthing enemies - so there are some things that give freebies to players, but those are somewhat separate issues).

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This is to prevent the usual zerg charge rush play pattern. And is a nice way to spice things up. There are classes and builds more resilient to such tactics and some less. All these things factor into your choices.