I'm interested in the balance of this new edition's classes. Are casters still noticeably more effective in almost all situations than non casters?

  • \$\begingroup\$ We have basically the same question, but for the 2e playtest, and my answer is all-but-a-copy-paste of that one. I don’t know if this should be a duplicate—after all, the systems in question are somewhat different, as things may have changed between the playtest and the final version. But my answer, at least, remains the same. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 25 '19 at 0:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I believe the final product is different enough due to some major changes throughout the playtest. \$\endgroup\$ – Zarus Oct 25 '19 at 1:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that the "Tiers" aren't necessarily a balance concern... Balance has connotations beyond what the Tier system is used to describe. Tiers are not a better/worse, it's a matter of ability to tackle odd situations. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 25 '19 at 12:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso In 3.P a higher tier is certainly more powerful/"better", if played optimally. Even in other contexts (video games) your talking about usually noticeable power differences between characters/classes. \$\endgroup\$ – Zarus Oct 26 '19 at 11:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zarus Kinda? Barbarians are a low-tier class (Tier 4, roughly) in Pathfinder 1e... even though they're among the strongest direct warriors. An optimal Barbarian puts out the most damage of any build, but doesn't have tools to tackle encounters that aren't solved with a hammer. Which is exactly what the tier list is meant to describe - less 'how well do they solve the problems they can solve' and more 'how many problems do they have tools to solve' \$\endgroup\$ – Delioth Oct 26 '19 at 15:58

I’m going to answer this the same way I answered a similar question about Starfinder: we just don’t know yet. Pathfinder 2e is a far larger change from Pathfinder 1e than Pathfinder 1e was from D&D 3.5e, and at this stage in Pathfinder 1e’s life, we didn’t know for that yet either. So for a system that has changed far more than the previous case, we certainly don’t know either.

Determining overall balance truths in a system takes a lot of playing it. In particular, since games are typically supposed to be balanced, you cannot rely on the descriptions of things to determine if they’re actually powerful—you have to try them. And you have to try a lot of things, and people have to come together and compare experiences, and you have to try yet more things. You have to try rather out-of-the-box things, too.

And for a real consensus to form, you need a critical mass of players who have played enough different things to be able to form an informed opinion about things—and then you need still more time for them to go back and try different things when they learn others had different experiences. Maybe the campaign you played just happened to miss some important weaknesses in the class you tried, or maybe some of the things you chose for your character weren’t the best choices and the result wasn’t as good as it could have been. That leaves you with a particular impression—which may, due to the specific instances of the character and the game, run contrary to popular opinion. But you have to verify that for yourself in most cases—sometimes it’s as easy as “oh, yeah, I could see how in most campaigns that’d be a bigger problem” or “hm, yeah, if I’d had that I wouldn’t have struggled so much.” But usually it’s “really? I’m skeptical. I’ll have to try that myself.”

That’s a ton of playtime necessary across many, many players in order for a consensus to grow. Pathfinder 2e simply hasn’t been out long enough.

We won’t likely have an answer to this question for years. This is one of the things that makes RPG design so fiendishly difficult, why balance in particular is such an elusive goal—just information alone is hard to come by, and takes a long time to collect. The only real approach to avoiding any problems, if you’re really dedicated to it, is regular balance patches and updates—which are vastly harder to disseminate for pen ‘n’ paper RPGs than they are for video games, and even in video games cause a lot of strife and gnashing of teeth. It’d be much worse in the RPG industry, where the community 1. doesn’t even agree that balance itself is valuable, and 2. isn’t used to such disruptive practices.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Years! Sigh. My hope is that the system masters/optimizers can crack the code faster than that. \$\endgroup\$ – Zarus Oct 25 '19 at 1:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Caldrun Well, the faster the "code" is cracked, the worse the system is. They definitely tried not to create tiers, and how hard it is to find them is directly dictated by how well they did at that \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Oct 25 '19 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper By "crack the code", I Do NOT mean break the system! I'm referring to system mastery that will show one way or the other. If what you say is true (and it isn't to "cookie cutter"), more power to them! \$\endgroup\$ – Zarus Oct 26 '19 at 11:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jasper It’s not necessarily always the case that “They definitely tried not to create tiers,” there have been games designed with intentional imbalances. Moreover, Pathfinder 1e (and D&D 3.5e it came from) certainly have tiers as a nigh-unavoidable consequence of the different ways that the designers thought about magical vs. mundane matters. After coming from that background, I would say an honest “[try to not] create tiers” would require some serious reframing of what’s appropriate for magic and for mundane heroes. If that wasn’t done, I don’t know they can claim that they tried. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 28 '19 at 18:03

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