Playing in Cartyrion

The Welcome to the Feywood One-Shot will be played using the Pathfinder, 2nd edition game rules. For those who are not familiar with these rules, the following is a "super-light" coverage of the major points to help you get comfortable quickly.
This may look like a long article, but if you haven't played Pathfinder 2nd edition before, this article is much shorter than the alternative: a 600+ page rulebook!!

Your Character

Building a character from scratch takes time. For a "one-shot" adventure, though, it is common to have pre-generated characters available to choose from. While building your own character from scratch is a fun part of the whole RPG experience, unless you are planning to play in a campaign that will span many game sessions, the time, effort, and "heart & soul" that go into creating your character is overkill.

Even though you will not be building your character for "Welcome to the Feywood", There are a few things that you should understand.
Ability or Attribute Scores
These are the six numbers that describe the raw talents and limits of your character:
  • Strength is your raw physical ability to perform strenuous tasks, from carrying a heavy load to swinging a huge battleaxe in combat.
  • Dexterity is your agility and coordination. It affects your ability to maneuver in combat and perform delicate operations like picking a lock (or a pocket).
  • Constitution is your general health condition. It affects your durability in combat as well as your ability to withstand certain physical attacks, poisons, diseases, and the like.
  • Intelligence reflects your education, but also your ability to think analytically.
  • Wisdom represents your common sense and understanding of the way things are.
  • Charisma is your presence. Charisma determines not only your ability to be liked, or to sweet-talk your way through trouble, but also your ability to intimidate or frighten opponents.
Each of these is represented by a number which, for the one-shot's purposes, ranges from 8 to 16. All 10s is considered the perfectly average human. Other races may have slightly lower or higher individual scores in certain attributes. 18 would be the best any character could have starting out. You will note that none of these characters has any 18 scores. This is intentional, and hopefully will show that a sub-optimal character is perfectly playable, and a great deal of fun can be had without having to maximize every game statistic possible.

Each attribute also has a Modifier next to it; they range from -1 to +3 for the one-shot. These modifiers will be used whenver your character tries to do something in the game. They represent the additional likelihood of success based on your raw talents and abilities.
Skills
Skills are methods of applying your attributes in ways that can be affected by not only your raw talent, but your training and proficiency. There are 16 basic skills - Acrobatics through Thievery - plus a few special "Lore" skills, and another special skill (separated on the character sheet) called Perception. The letters next to each skill tell whether you are (U)ntrained or (T)rained. In a campaign, higher level characters may be Expert, Master, or Legendary, but we don't need to worry about these. If you are Untrained, then it is only your raw talent that will affect any attempt to use this skill. But if you are Trained, you will have an additional +3 bonus appled. (In a campaign that number may increase, but for the one-shot, it's +3). The bonus numbers that appear on your character sheet have already taken into account both the raw talent and, training bonus, if any.

There are many Actions you may attempt during the game that refer to these skills. You may wish to Tell a Lie, for example, to convince a gate guard that you are a noble who needs to see the king. This would probably be resolved using your Deception skill. For the one-shot, don't worry too much about what specific actions are called, though. Explain to the Gamemaster what you want to do; you will be told what "action" this is, and what roll would be required to adjudicate it.
Perception
Perception is worth an extra mention. This is your ability to sense what is going on around you, and will be used not only when you are actively searching for something, but also when something may be trying to sneak up on you. It is also used to determine your encounter initiative, but more on that later. Perception also has a training level which reflects your adventuring class attention to being able to monitor your surroundings.
Saving Throws
Sometimes, bad things will happen to you, but you will have an opportunity to avoid them entirely, or at least mitigate their effects. These situations will require one of three types of Saving Throw, depending on the situation. Attacks on your physical being - not weapon attacks... things like ingested poisons or diseases, or possibly being struck by some force that covers a wide area require Fortitude saves. These benefit from your Constitution bonus. Situations where being able to dive to safety, or dodge, or otherwise deflect the effect are handled with Reflex saves, which are dexterity based. Finally, attacks on your mind - usually magical - call for Will saves, with your Wisdom score affecting results. All three are affected by training, and here you will find at least one Expert training level. The bonus for Expert is +5 on top of the raw attribute bonus.
Hit Points - and Dying
Hit points represent your character's health. The number of hit points you start with is determined by your Ancestry (race) and Class. If you are familiar with D&D rules, the numbers will look high to you - that's because Pathfinder wants first level characters to be a little more survivable. (But as you'll see, it's still possible to be taken out in a single combat round if you are really unlucky.

When you take damage from attacks, your hit points are reduced. When they drop to zero (or below), you are unconscious and dying - but not dead yet. At that point, you will start a "dying" process that gives you at least even odds of surviving. Your Gamemaster will explain if the situation arises. In the meantime, your party members will hopefully revive (or at least stabilize) you before death becomes permanent.

Modes of Play

One-shot gameplay is broken into two formats: Exploration and Encounter. (Campaign play adds a third called Downtime - the time between sessions - but we do not need to address that here.
Exploration Play
Most of the time during an RPG session makes use of Exploration Play. In this mode, time and actions are relatively unstructured, and the story advancement relies heavily on actual roleplaying. Dice may be used to adjudicate outcomes of specific things, but for the most part, the Gamemaster is describing what is going on around the players, the players are describing their actions and reactions, and the Gamemaster is describing the consequences of those actions and reactions. There are a number of actions and activities that each player can perform during Exploration; many of these will require dice rolls to adjudicate; some will result in converting over to Encounter Play. For example, if you're in the forest, and you are looking for the giant weasel that attacked Farmer Jones, the actions you take to track the beast will be handled in Exploration Play. But once one of your party sees the creature, either as a result of passive perception or because of an active "Seek" action, play will move to Encounter mode.
Encounter Play
Encounter mode is structured, and is designed to ensure every party member, and every adversary, has an opportunity to act and react. Encounter play begins when the Gamemaster announces that it is time to roll for Initiative. Initiative determines the turn order that will be followed by players, NPCs and monsters. Usually, your perception modifier will be added to a d20 roll, but in some rare cases, you may be told by your DM to use some other skill. (A thief attempting to sneak past an opponent, for example, may use their Stealth bonus.) Once everybody has rolled Initiative, the GM will arrange everyone in order and the first combat turn begins. (There are two special Actions that a player can use to manipulate the Initiative order somewhat: Ready and Delay.)

In a combat turn, you are permitted to perform three Actions. Players familiar with D&D5E need to careful here not to presume they know what an Action is. Actions are simply "things you can do during your turn". There are four general types of actions: you may Move, you may Interact with an item, you may Attack, or you may Cast a Spell. (There are a few other special action types, but we will worry about them later.) During your turn, you may perform any three actions you wish, in any order. You are not restricted to "one move and one action" as in D&D5E. There are no "bonus actions". (There are Reactions, but we'll cover them in a moment.)

The most common Move actions are:
  • Stride - move a distance up to your specified speed. This may be affected by difficult terrain or other things.
  • Step - move carefully a distance of no more than 5 feet. This generally ignores/avoids anything that may have adversely affected a Stride action.
  • Take Cover - try to hide behind something very close to you.
  • Things like Drop Prone, Stand Up, Sit are also Move actions.

Interact actions can include (but are not limited to):
  • Ready a Weapon - drawing a sword from a scabbard, for example, or retrieving a sling from a pouch
  • Sheath a Weapon - returning a sword to a scabbard. Simply dropping a weapon is considered a Free Action; you can have as many of those as you wish in a turn as long as it doesn't get out of hand.
  • Reload a weapon. (For some ammunition weapons, reloading is a free action, for others, it may consume more than a single action.)
  • Prepare a scroll for reading, or a special material component for spellcasting. This is essentially the same as Readying a Weapon.

Attack is self-explanatory. Using a weapon - either in Melee combat or Ranged combat - constituted an attack. Note that some spells are treated as Attacks, but their Action cost is a consequence of casting the spell, not making the attack.

Cast a Spell refers to a spellcaster using a spell slot, or casting a Cantrip or other Innate spell, or some form of specialized "Focus" spell permitted to their class. Some spells can be cast with a single action; most cannot. All spells specify the number of actions required to cast the spell. If your character can cast spells, the full text details of each available spell can be found in your character sheet.

There are many special abilities and feats that grant additional specialized actions, and sometimes these grant abilities that require more than one action be spent. Whenver an ability specifies that it requires two or three actions, and whenever a spell is cast that requires two or three actions, those actions must occur within the context of a single three-action turn and must be consecutive. You cannot begin to cast a spell in one turn, and finish it in the next. Nor can you start to cast a spell, then move, then finish the spell. (Note that Reloading a weapon is the only exception to this. A heavy crossbow that requires two or three actions to reload can be have those actions span a turn.)

Otherwise, you are free to choose how to use your actions. You could Stride three times (covering 3 times your speed range). You could attack three times. The choice is yours.

Determining Outcomes

Whenver you attempt to perform some skill-based activity, from trying to lie your way past a guard to attempting to jump a chasm... from picking a lock on a treasure chest to attacking an opponent... the outcome will be determined by the roll of a d20. In addition to the number shown on the die roll, two factors will determine success or failure. The first is the Modifier that gets added to the roll result. Modifiers are a combination of things: your ability score in the appropriate attribute (like strength, or wisdom)... your Proficiency level in the type in the skill being attempted. Other things, like special circumstances or magical item bonuses may also apply. The second is the DC or Difficulty Class. This is the target number that your modified die roll needs to meet or exceed. If you do, you succeed. If you don't you fail. If you exceed the DC by 10 or more, you Critically Succeed - this often gives a better than expected result. If you miss by more than 10, you Critically Fail - never a desirable outcome!

Attacks are treated like any other check, except that for an attack, the DC is the Armor Class (AC) of the opponent being attacked. Circumstance bonuses or penalties may be applied for the target having partial or complete cover, or for them being flat-footed (off-balance). If you are attacking more than once within a single turn, the second and subsequent attacks are also hit with a Multiple Attack Penalty, or MAP. Certain weapons and skill or class feats may mitigate some of this penalty.

Your character sheet lists modifier values for all attacks and skill checks you will require. These have already had the ability score, proficiency effects, and MAPs factored in. Circumstance bonuses may need to be added from time to time; your Gamemaster will advise when this is necessary.

If you score a hit with a weapon, you will do damage. The amount and type of damage depends on the weapon. The Damage entries on the character sheet tell which die to use; the letter following denotes whether the damage is (B)ludgeoning, (S)lashing, or (P)iercing. Some enemies may be weak to - or resistant to - certain attack forms. In these cases, the actual damage done will be more than (weak) or less than (resistant) what the weapon would normally do. (Piercing a skeleton doesn't do much good, for example!)

Some skill checks may need to be rolled in secret. Attempts to Seek for a hidden opponent, for example, or to be able to Recall Knowledge about a certain creature or event will require that the Gamemaster make the roll for you. You will probably know what your modifier is, but you will not know the DC nor the die result - this is so that you do not have to meta-play any distinction between failing a check and not having anything to find or recall in the first place. All you know is, "you see nothing", or "you recall nothing". Your GameMaster will know when rolls must be in Secret. (But you can expect all Seek and Recall Knowledge checks to be among these!)
Summing Up Don't worry too much about the rules. You may have heard that Pathfinder is complicated and hard to learn because of all the Feats and choices. You are playing pre-generated first level characters. Your Feats have already been selected, and no character has more than three to worry about. Whenever you want your character to do something, simply describe it to your Gamemaster. They will determine what Action and Skill are appropriate so you can assess your chances. It isn't necessary for you to have completely digested everything in the rules in order to have fun. If you focus on roleplaying your character in accordance with the backstory information and suggestions provided - and not the game statistics - you and the rest of your party will have fun.

Cover image: The Inn from the Bridge over Daphinia's Stream by RPGDinosaurBob (with Flowscape)

Comments

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23 Apr, 2021 09:21

Well written Bob, it gave me everything I need to know to know I'll like PF2E

23 Apr, 2021 12:01

Excellent... thanks!

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