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This question about the playtest got the answer "we just do not know it yet".

More than a year after the publication, what it the final answer?
(if making a comparison to DnD 5e helps, use it, but it is not a requirement)

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a problem? ;) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2020 at 12:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note for answerers: Given the scope of this question, it likely requires expertise at both low levels and high levels of play. It may also require familiarity with most, if not all, martial and spellcaster classes. Please do not speculate based on partial experience with the system. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Jul 20, 2020 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 5e comparison request should go. If answerers find such a comparison helpful, they’ll provide it, but making it a requirement makes an already-difficult question much harder, especially seeing as the systems are so different and much of it may be like comparing apples to oranges. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 20, 2020 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, your question implies that 50 weeks is enough time to be sure of an answer here—it isn’t, not really. Someone may be able to do better than “we just don’t know,” but any answer here is going to have to be fluid, and potentially open to updating, both as the system itself, and the community’s system mastery, evolves. I haven't been following PF2e—at all—but D&D 3.5e’s system mastery was at an extremely basic stage at 50 weeks. And if PF2e is getting as little attention as it is here, it may never really develop a strong communal system mastery where this question can be answered well. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 20, 2020 at 13:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan, sure, the more we wait, the more accurate the answer will become. But I plan on starting a campaign now. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Jul 20, 2020 at 13:33

5 Answers 5

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Absolutely, to the Extent it was a Problem

A brief summary of the "Linear Fighters/Quadratic Wizards" issue is that martial characters have an ability to interact with the world and resolve challenges that increases linearly with each level-up, while that ability in spellcasters increases quadratically over those same level-ups.

In D&D 3.5/Pathfinder 1e this was mostly due to the availability of spells which completely negated challenges or allowed the spellcaster to supplant the martial even in combat. Each level-up gave the spellcaster access to dozens of more powerful spells and more slots to cast from, but the martial often only got one new ability related to combat exclusively.

Pathfinder 2e

This is less so in Pathfinder 2e, with most spells being reworked to not allow the negation of challenges, many particularly problematic spells being made only accessible with GM discretion or specific builds, and with a deeper skills system affording every character special abilities related exclusively to that.

Additionally the gap between martial characters and spellcasters at actually fighting in combat is wider, allowing martial characters to reliably perform better in combat than even a buffed spellcaster.

Spells

Typical challenges in both games include things like breaking into the top floor of a wizard's tower to take away some artifact that's causing trouble for the locals. A spellcaster might employ a few spells to help out here, like casting fly to get to the top floor, invisibility to avoid any guardians, knock to unlock the wizard's vault and retrieve the artifact, then dimension door to get out before someone finds out.

In Pathfinder 2e there's a few problems with this plan.

  • Fly will likely be sufficient to reach the top of the tower, though it's tied to your speed (60ft -> ~25ft) rather than fly in Pathfinder 1e while also being a full spell level higher (3rd -> 4th). The 2e version also doesn't include proficiency for making maneuvers in flight, instead relying on the caster's Acrobatics as normal if they want to fly directly upwards.
  • Invisibility is at least still a 2nd level spell and actually lasts much longer, but doesn't grant the same +20 Stealth bonus it did in 1e (+40 if you stopped moving). Instead the condition makes only actively searching creatures able to find you and allows Sneaking without Cover, otherwise the guard's Perception against the normal Stealth of the invisible creature.
  • Knock works a bit differently, instead of instantly opening the lock(s) it offers a bonus for anyone to try unlocking it within a minute, as well as allowing the caster to attempt picking the lock with some free proficiency on the first check. This would still require thieves' tools, and unless it's a particularly weak lock it likely won't open with that singular check, meaning Thievery proficiency would still probably be required.
  • Dimension door could still work, though unless there's a window for line of sight and the escape location is within 120 feet you'd need to cast the 5th-level version. It does have much higher range with the 5th-level version than the ~4th-level version in 1e (~800 feet -> 1 mile), but makes you immune to further castings for an hour (potentially problematic if the wizard decides to pursue).

Our Pathfinder 2e spellcaster probably needs ~3 skills at least trained for this plan to work as well as a few higher level spell slots requiring them to be at least 9th level or have some expensive scrolls. Meanwhile the Pathfinder 1e spellcaster doesn't need anything beyond the spell slots and could be as low as 5th level with dimension door on a scroll from a summoner (though using the original summoner spell list like this after Unchained came out feels pretty lame).

But there are plenty of other spells that could be useful here, most obviously a higher level character could use something like scrying on the wizard near the artifact and greater teleport to it then back home. Again this gets a bit more complicated:

  • Scrying is actually explicitly insufficient for teleport in 2e, but there are other similar spells like 4th-level clairvoyance which would allow for looking into a room 500 feet away, though far less than the multiversal 3rd-level scrying option in 1e.
  • Teleport would allow this to work within 100 miles, though still with a 1% margin of error on target location vs distance compared to the greater teleport in 1e that's absolutely accurate at any range (and again potentially even earlier leveled if the original summoner list is allowed). 1% error margin on trying to enter a specific room could get a bit complicated, so being within ~500 feet is probably required.

While this only describes the differences with a subset of spells in the game, after years of play with both systems I can say this is broadly true across spells between editions.

The key difference with 2e is that most spells enhance the ability of the caster but don't entirely invalidate a challenge that can't be also done with skills/items that any character could get. In 1e a spellcaster could rely completely on their spells to resolve issues but now they often require more investment for a lesser effect and offer fewer guarantees beyond what can be achieved without them.

Replicating Martial Prowess

Other answers have deeply dived into the damage end of this, but broadly it's fair to say that spellcasters can't invalidate martial characters' advantages in combat as they could in previous editions.

Spells like haste, mirror image, shield, mage armor, etc. that bumped spellcaster statistics to or above martials are generally much less powerful than they were previously and only last for a short amount of time(mirror image), give a much reduced benefit and/or require higher-level spell slots(haste/mage armor), or grant much different benefits than they used to (shield as a reaction). Most buff spells last for 1 minute in 2e, requiring a much tighter window for things like pre-buffing before opening a door or starting a fight.

Rarity

And one other aspect of this difference, teleport in 2e is an uncommon spell, meaning that it might take some effort to track down beyond just learning it as part of leveling up.

This is part of the baked-in GM discretion mentioned earlier, and covers a lot of spells that might still invalidate a challenge like scrying, detect alignment, mind reading, and many others.

Skills

In 2e a martial could tackle this same challenge with some skills of their own, swapping Acrobatics for Athletics and a climbing kit to climb up the tower. It would certainly be harder without the invisibility and quick exit option, but instead they're likely able to defeat the guard using their combat ability and able to use that same Athletics to break through the lock rather than needing Thievery.

At higher levels this becomes even more pronounced, with any character able to take legendary proficiency in a skill at 15th level to unlock feats like Cloud Jump to potentially Leap up to the top of the tower, Quick Climb to grant up to a climb speed, or Legendary Sneak to not ever need cover or concealment for passing the guard.

Every character in the game gets at least 10 of these skill feats over 1st-20th level, as well as the option to have up to 3 skills at the highest proficiency possible (with some classes getting double these numbers). This effectively means that every character ends up having quite a bit of versatility, so the idea of a purely martial character who can only participate in combat is far less possible than it was in previous editions.

As a Problem

If "Linear Fighters/Quadratic Wizards" was an issue of flexibility & breadth of options between the two types of characters, then in that respect Pathfinder 2e does a great job of addressing it.

All characters have innate versatility through the deeper skills system and the breadth of options available through spells to only spellcasters was greatly reduced. And with expansions to the combat power of martial characters they're even able to outdamage and outperform spellcasters buffing up before the battle.

While spells still offer flexibility to those who can cast them, they're not as ubiquitous or able to resolve every issue as it comes up without help. And that speaks to one critique of the issue as a problem, that this is a team-oriented game and not a competition between characters.

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Potentially, via Specialization

Disclaimer: this answer can change with the release of a single source book or errata, and thus can never be truly and permanently answered. Even without new material, this answer could change as understanding of the system grows.

TL;DR: The Fighter out damages the Wizard now (except at level 3), and thus a sort of balance is achieved via specialization - the Wizard specializes in versatility, and the Fighter in hitting things in combat.

What is the Problem?

It's important to begin the analysis with a thorough examination of what the Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard problem (hereafter LFQWP) is. The How are Fighters Linear but Wizards Quadratic? question has several great answers that cover the topic in depth, so I'll briefly summarize the criteria for comparison:

  1. Breadth of Options aka Versatility: how many options to respond to a situation does a character have?
  2. Action Efficiency: how effective are a character's actions relative to other actions in the game?

It is important to consider that the problem is a problem because both of these factors exist. It isn't much of a problem if the Wizard has 80 ways to deal damage or incapacitate an enemy if none of them are as good as the Fighter's more limited ways. Thus, if we find that the Fighter beats the Wizard at either of these aspects, the problem is probably not severe enough to be labeled a problem.

Methodology of this Answer

This answer will examine the Fighter class and the Wizard class, as they represent the most idealized versions of martials and casters (respectively), and are also the problem's name sake. Additionally, the examination will attempt to look at a broad range of levels, with emphasis on the higher levels, where this issue becomes more pronounced.  

Fighters, Wizards, and Versatility

This first aspect of the LFQWP is that a Wizard is more versatile than a fighter. This, in a nutshell, remains true, although PF2e does attempt to add some baseline of versatility to all characters via Skill Feats. It is important to note that a Wizard via the Spell Substitution Thesis can have access to any spell in the Arcane spell list with enough gold, and can prepare it in only ten minutes. However, let's look at some details to show this.

Via Fighter Class Feats, the Fighter has several options for increasing versatility. Felling Strike allows a level 8 Fighter to make a two-action attack to bring down a flying enemy, very similar to the 3rd level spell Earthbind (available to a Wizard at 5th level). Blind Fight, another 8th level Fighter feat, can be roughly replicated by See Invisibility and Darkvision, both spells available to a Wizard at level 3.

At 14th level, a Fighter can grab the Determination feat. This allows the fighter to, once per day, remove a condition from themselves, or attempt to counteract a spell on themselves. The latter can be replicated by a Wizard's Dispel Magic spell (available at 3rd level, but it has to be heightened to display different levels of spells - a Wizard would have 7th level Dispel Magic available to them at this time, which would be the same counteract level as Determination). The conditional removal can be replicated by the Restoration spell, which is a 2nd level spell. However, Wizards do not naturally get that spell (although it is achievable via archetypes, Trick Magic Item, and other methods).

At 20th level, a Fighter can grab the Weapon Supremacy feat to be permanently quickened. Wizards can grant quickened as early as 5th level via the Haste spell. At 13th level (a 7th level spell) that quickened condition can even be granted to 6 people!

In addition to all of that, a Wizard can breath water (3rd level), read minds (5th level), fly (7th level), grab a 20 foot burst of creatures (9th level), teleport (11th level), trap an enemy in a cage of force (13th level), turn into a Sea Serpent (15th level), instantly kill multiple creatures (17th level), and even stop time itself (19th level).

It's worth noting that a Wizard can hardly do these things constantly, as they consume spell slots. However, 3 or 4 times a day of many of these abilities is more than sufficient.

But what does the Fighter have uniquely going for it in Versatility? Oddly, the answer appears to be focused versatility. Fighter's get many abilities that a Wizard cannot replicate (nor would want to). Agile Grace allows a 10th level fighter to strike with incredible accuracy on their 2nd and beyond tasks; incredibly potent when combined with their higher than normal weapon proficiency. Dueling Riposte allows an 8th level Fighter to strike back at an enemy that misses them, and Spring Attack allows a 12th level Fighter to move their speed and attack an enemy for one action. 20th level Fighters can even get a bonus reaction at the start of each enemies turn via Boundless Reprisals!

So, in summary of this section: a Fighter has less versatility as a whole than a Wizard, but has many unique options that align with the class focus of a Fighter ("unmatched accuracy and use [of] specialized combat techniques" - see Roleplaying the Fighter)). It's probably still correct to say this aspect of the LFQWP is still at play.

Action Efficiency

While it is difficult to accurately ascertain designer intent, this seems to be the area in which Paizo focused on fixing the LFQWP in Pathfinder 2e. The Fighter still cannot match the Wizard in incapacitating enemies (although other martials have better incapacitating abilities than the Fighter, such as Monk's Stunning Fist or a Rogue's Critical Debilitations), but incapacitation abilities in general were limited by the Incapacitation Trait, making them less effective relative to doing damage. 

But what about the Fighter's bread and butter, damaging things? For this comparison, we'll compare the average damage of a basic Greatsword Fighter to a Wizard's best single target damage spells' (Sudden Bolt and Disintegrate) average damage, both against entirely moderately stated enemies of the same level (using the Building Creatures rules from the Gamemastery Guide). The Fighter will have level-appropriate damage and to hit, assuming they are maxing their main stat (Strength in this case), and using the Automatic Bonus Progression - hereafter ABP - rules for simplicity, which are the basic equivalent of having the most up-to-date and level appropriate magic items). The Wizard will also max their main stat - at time of writing, they don't have any way to boost their Spell DC or Spell Attack with items, so we can safely ignore that. The Wizard will cast one spell (since that takes two of their three actions), while the Fighter will make 3 attacks (which is probably a less-optimal approach for a Fighter - they might be better off Demoralizing then attacking twice).

We'll examine levels 3, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, and 20. 

Level 3

This is when a Wizard gets Sudden Bolt, and one level before the Fighter gets Striking weapons (Devastating Attacks in the ABP). Resultantly, this will probably favor the Wizard.

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 4d12 (avg 26), DC 19 (T, +4 Int) vs Ref +9. CF 5%, F 40%, S 50%, CS 5%. (0.05)52 + (0.4)26 + (0.5)13 = 19.5 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 1d12 + 4 (avg 10.5), to hit +12 (E, +4 Str, +1 item) vs AC 18. Attack one: Miss 25%, Hit 50%, Crit 25%. Attack two: Miss 50%, Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 75%, Hit 20%, Crit 5%. (1.15)10.5 + (.35)21 = 19.425 average damage.

As expected, level 3 (barely!) goes to the Wizard. The Wizard can only do this a few times in a day, but sometimes that is all you need. Now, the average damage of the Fighter increases by 6.5 next level, while the Wizard's remains the same, so it does seem to be a temporary and minor win for the Wizard.

Level 5

This is a huge level for Fighter. We've got Striking runes (Devastating Blows), and we've got a proficiency increase for Fighter. Let's run the numbers again, making sure to heighten Sudden Bolt of course!

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 5d12 (avg 32.5), DC 21 (T, +4 Int) vs Ref +12. CF 5%, F 35%, S 50%, CS 10%. (0.05)65 + (0.35)32.5 + (0.5)16.25 = 22.75 average damage

Fighter with Greatsword: 2d12 + 4 (avg 17), to hit +16 (M, +4 Str, +1 item) vs AC 21. Attack one: Miss 20%, Hit 50%, Crit 30%. Attack two: Miss 45%, Hit 50%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 70%, Hit 25%, Crit 5%. (1.25)17 + (.40)34 = 34.85 average damage.

The Fighter gets ahead here with a HUGE swing. Again, as expected; this was a huge level for fighters after all. 

Level 7

This is an interesting level; Wizards get 4th level spells and a proficiency increase, while Fighters get Weapon Specialization. Not sure who will take this one, but my money is still on Fighter given the lead they had at level 5. 

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 6d12 (avg 39), DC 25 (E, +4 Int) vs Ref +15. CF 5%, F 40%, S 50%, CS 5%. (0.05)78 + (0.40)39 + (0.5)19.5 = 29.25 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 2d12 + 7 (avg 20), to hit +18 (M, +4 Str, +1 item) vs AC 24. Attack one: Miss 25%, Hit 50%, Crit 25%. Attack two: Miss 50%, Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 75%, Hit 20%, Crit 5%. (1.15)20 + (.35)40 = 37 average damage.

Fighter still wins, but by a narrower margin. Notably, the Fighter now has access to things like the Power Attack and Furious Focus combo, which would probably increase the damage even more.

Level 10

This level is big since we finally reach +5 modifiers. However, it's been awhile since the Fighter has had a damage boost. I expect things to be close again. Fighters will probably have some property runes that add extra damage (Flaming, for example) by now, and are hopefully using some feats to boost their damage in some way, but our basic Greatsword Fighter won't be doing any of that! Our Fighter does get a +2 item bonus now, though.

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 7d12 (avg 45.5), DC 29 (E, +5 Int) vs Ref +19. CF 5%, F 40%, S 50%, CS 5%. (0.05)91 + (0.40)45.5 + (0.5)22.75 = 34.125 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 2d12 + 8 (avg 21), to hit +23 (M, +5 Str, +2 item) vs AC 29. Attack one: Miss 25%, Hit 50%, Crit 25%. Attack two: Miss 50%, Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 75%, Hit 20%, Crit 5%. (1.15)21 + (.35)42 = 38.85 average damage. 

Fighter is just barely above the Wizard (4 HP isn't a whole lot at level 10). 

Level 13

Fighter gets Legendary and another weapon damage die, and Wizard can cast Disintegrate (heightened to 7th level). Disintegrate is a bit tricky to calculate, since it requires a successful Spell Attack and then allows for a Basic Fortitude Save. Let's see what happens:

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 9d12 (avg 58.5), DC 32 (E, +5 Int) vs Ref +23. CF 5%, F 35%, S 50%, CS 10%. (0.05)117 + (0.35)58.5 + (0.5)29.25 = 40.95 average damage. 

Wizard with Disintegrate: 14d10 (avg 77), +22 vs AC 33, DC 32 vs Fort +23. Attack: Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Save: CF 5%, F 35%, S 50%, CS 10%. Expected damage on hit: (0.05)154 + (0.35)77 + (0.5)38.5 = 53.9 average damage. Expected damage on crit: (0.4)154 + (0.5)77 + (0.1)38.5 = 103.95 average damage. TOTAL AVERAGE: (0.45)53.9 + (0.05)103.95 = 29.4525 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 3d12 + 9 (avg 28.5), to hit +28 (L, +5 Str, +2 item) vs AC 33. Attack one: Miss 20%, Hit 50%, Crit 30%. Attack two: Miss 45%, Hit 50%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 70%, Hit 25%, Crit 5%. (1.25)28.5 + (.40)57 = 58.425 average damage. 

Again Fighter wins! I won't bother calculating Disintegrate for later levels, since it's not close to Sudden Bolt's damage. However, it's important to note that Disintegrate can benefit much more from buffs than Sudden Bolt, so in practice, it's not a lost cause in actual play, especially with things like True Strike existing! 

Level 15

Lots happen here; Wizards get Master Spellcasting and 8th level spells, and Fighter gets Greater Weapon Specialization! 

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 10d12 (avg 65), DC 36 (M, +5 Int) vs Ref +26. CF 5%, F 40%, S 50%, CS 5%. (0.05)130 + (0.4)65 + (0.5)32.5 = 48.75 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 3d12 + 13 (avg 32.5), to hit +30 (L, +5 Str, +2 item) vs AC 36. Attack one: Miss 25%, Hit 50%, Crit 25%. Attack two: Miss 50%, Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 75%, Hit 20%, Crit 5%. (1.15)32.5 + (.35)65 = 60.125 average damage. 

Again, Fighter wins! I'm seeing a pattern...

Level 20

Finally! Who wins with everything on the table? Wizard has 10th level Sudden Bolt and Legendary casting! Fighter has 4 damage dice and a +3 item bonus! Everyone has apex items, which combine with the ability boosts at 20 to give a +7 modifier!

Wizard with Sudden Bolt: 12d12 (avg 78), DC 45 (L, +7 Int) vs Ref +33. CF 10%, F 50%, S 35%, CS 5%. (0.1)156 + (0.5)78 + (0.35)39 = 68.25 average damage. 

Fighter with Greatsword: 4d12 + 15 (avg 41), to hit +38 (L, +7 Str, +3 item) vs AC 44. Attack one: Miss 25%, Hit 50%, Crit 25%. Attack two: Miss 50%, Hit 45%, Crit 5%. Attack three: Miss 75%, Hit 20%, Crit 5%. (1.15)41 + (.35)82 = 75.85 average damage. 

Fighter still wins! The gap is fairly close here, considering the size of the numbers. That being said, Wizards don't get many 10th level spells (2 with a feat), so that's not much of a problem.

Summary

At basically every level past level 3, Fighters out-damage Wizards. This is before the Fighter even takes feats, and without factoring in critical specializations. Of course, as with any calculation, this has its limits. The Wizard does have a dangling third action, but they don't have much they can do with that that would affect the above numbers. So it seems that Fighters now do what Fighters are supposed to do; damage! While these numbers are generally close enough one cannot say that the LFQWP is totally and completely solved and irrelevant (the Wizard has incredible versatility while doing fairly close damage numbers), it does seem to have been reduced from the previous iteration of Pathfinder by making Fighters, appropriately, fighting specialists, and Wizards versatility specialists.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A 10th level Wizard could cast a quickened Flaming Sphere with the third action, and than sustain it in consequent rounds. This would significantly increase the damage output \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András that's a good point; I could throw in the math for that (eyeballing it, it'll probably add about 10 or 11 more damage). However, considering quickened metamagic is a feat, and I'm not giving the fighter any feats (nor really is the fighter all that optimized in general), it doesn't seem like a fair comparison, and it still keeps the damage below that of the Fighter. So I'd rather leave it out, since it doesn't seem to change anything, and would just open up a whole can of worms. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Dec 29, 2020 at 22:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener - re:bounty message: my intent of the first section of this answer was to discuss the "flexibility & breadth of options compared to the challenges presented in gameplay over time", where I conclude that it's "probably still correct to say this aspect of the LFQWP is still at play." Are you looking for an answer that goes more in depth on that specific section? I could expand my answer here, or provide an alternative answer (this one's already longer than I'd like). Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding the request? \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jan 3, 2023 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE So there's some texture lacking in both the summary (the TLDR at the start) and in the DPS analysis. First, the TLDR alleges there's a “balance” in specialisation, but this specialisation has always existed. Fighter's always been good at doing damage to things it can hit, but wizard's historically been good at solving combat outright, often in ways that don't even need damage (put everyone to sleep, save or die, save or become crippled). You raise this under the action economy heading when you say the Wizard's always been better at incapacitating enemies, but don't explore it further. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2023 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE It's unusual but not unheard of! Sometimes a revised stance is called for but one might consider it inappropriate to edit an existing answer with votes. That's a subjective call and one I genuinely can't make for you here — I'm not placing any expectations on this answer specifically, just making clear what I'd expect to see in an answer to which I'd be willing to award the bounty. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2023 at 18:54
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The Situation, as I Understand It

I noted in a comment that I am, perhaps, less familiar with the details of LF;QW phenomena than others. That is still, to an extent, true so I will preface that by stating my understanding of the saying.

At low levels, depending on how you scale things, Fighters (and martial classes in general but I will summarize them using the moniker) are considered to be as or perhaps more effective at adventuring compared to Wizards (and other spellcasters, to be summarized as above). As they progress in level, the Fighters tend to gain new strength and abilities in a generally predictable/straight growth over time. Wizards, however, have growth that would appear more exponential... surpassing the Fighters at some point and continuing to scale at an extreme rate afterward.

It is not a direct relation to Tiers, but sort of a corollary. For information on Pathfinder 2e Tiers, refer to the question about that specifically. LFQW is distinct in that it incorporates scalable factors as level increases whereas the Tiers more or less consider high-level play due to being an aggregate of possibility (they can be applicable at lower levels, but by definition a classes' possibilities are realized at high levels).

Based on this understanding and of Pathfinder 2e's design, I will explain the differences between Fighters and Wizards at various levels in both options and (generalized) expected damage because combat is the most common encounter in almost any Pathfinder 2e game. Level breakpoints, suggested by a comment from ESCE, will be based on a Reddit post conversation tying play Tiers to gaining Spell Slots leveling 3rd(5), 6th(11), and 9th(17) as well as 1st and 20th level play. As noted by the final comment in that thread, these levels dovetail neatly with some of the improvements Fighters receive. Comparisons will assume that Fighters have at least one melee and one ranged weapon, and both keep their armor (or equivalent), up-to-date with fundamental and useful property Runes but otherwise leave out any equipment and feats that both groups have access to unless there is something that significantly affects the difficulty of encounters (it's Cloud Jump. Cloud Jump is a huge boon in a lot of cases).

Conclusion

For those who see this as TL;DR (and I don't blame you, I wrote it over multiple days), here are my takeaways. Bounded accuracy (although it hasn't been labeled as such, I don't have a better term for it) and Proficiency increases mean that the LFQW scales as squashed compared to previous editions. Additionally, Pathfinder 2e Fighters have far more/better options than other editions for non-standard fighting, and they still fulfill at least one role that Wizards cannot... the only limitation to how many times they swing their sword or throw their Returning trident is their HP pool holding out. Even high level Wizards have a limit to the number of spells they can cast before being relegated to Cantrips (which are better than ever before but still fall very short of Fighters' expected DPR); their total spell slots are ~37-40, and that includes spells that are less effective than a high level Cantrip.

That being said, Linear Fighter; Quadratic Wizard is still true, if less so, due to the nature of spellcasting. There are approximately 840 spells at the time of writing (~330 divine, ~400 primal, ~500 occult, and ~550 arcane, not counting additional Heightened effects) vs only ~100 Fighter feats (less for newer martial classes). There is an answer to every problem in the hundreds of spells and it's only a matter of if the Wizard prepared it. Fighter feats tend to be far more impactful than Wizard feats, but there is no way for a Fighter to gain 300 spells' worth of functionality. Fighters are much more versatile in P2e than any other TTRPG system that I'm aware of, but they are still limited to, as noted in this P1e/D&D 3.5e answer, Herculean efforts while spellcasters have the ability to play at being Zeus. Granted, more like God of War Zeus where there is a chance that a particularly prepared and motivated Fighter could kill them, but Zeus nonetheless.

For these reasons, I have avoided calling LFQW a "problem" because I truly don't believe it is such. It was a problem in D&D 3.5. It was kind of a problem in Pathfinder 1e. I would say it is true but not problematic in Pathfinder 2e.

Level 1-4

Fighters themselves start the game in probably the best place, with Expert Proficiency (+2 compared to everyone else) in offense. All Fighter-like classes have first level feats offering a range of basic mobility, offense, and defense but nothing worth specifically calling out as well as options to apply basic Conditions to enemies (mostly flat-footed). They are entirely limited to what they can reach with physical weapons, which will be almost all level 1 encounters anyway, and are good at at least one of acrobatics or athletics for traversal.

Wizards enter the world with a plethora of entry-level magic options including area damage (burning hands), level-appropriate combat healing (soothe, heal), basic crowd control (color spray, fear), minor damage boosts for their Fighter allies (echoing weapon, disrupting weapon) and surviving great falls (feather fall). Already they have more options than their ally, but they have to be very picky about how they apply these options with only about 4 spell slots per day. Additionally, level 1 spells generally have very short-lived or weak effects compared to options to come. Meanwhile, most cantrips deal a bit more than half a Fighter's Strike and cost two actions.

Combat damage: Fighter - A, Wizard - C
Combat versatility: Fighter - C, Wizard - B Non-combat versatility: Fighter - C, Wizard - B

Level 5-10

Actual Fighters gain Mastery in weapons, and other Martials get Expert, which is good because most of their other class options just added more diversified ways of causing damage, gaining bonus AC, or causing minor-moderate Conditions such as Prone and Frightened to enemies.

Wizards gain access to 3rd level spells. Which is good because their proficiency is still Trained until 7. They are absolutely wet noodles in combat, 3-5d4 on their cantrips or no. 3rd level spells are notable for the ubiquitous area spells (fireball, lightning bolt) but, and far more importantly for a couple levels, they also gain access to powerful buffs like haste and heroism as well as exploration boons like wanderer's guide. Levels 4-5 have some powerful traversal options such as fly and dimension door. When their DC finally increases, slow is also extremely powerful as a debuff in Pathfinder 2e.

Combat damage: Fighter - A, Wizard - B
Combat versatility: Fighter - B, Wizard - B
Non-combat versatility: Fighter - D, Wizard - A

Level 11-16

(TBA)

Level 17-18

(TBA)

Level 19-20

(TBA)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This looks like a great start to an answer and very much the answer I was hoping to write (well, starting to write before I ran outta time this weeked 😅). The tiers used in my above answer work just fine, but before you write in all of those, you might be interested in the tiers of play that Michael Sayre's describes for PF2e - reddit comment link. The tiers I chose were specifically for the sake of comparing damage and without knowledge of this comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jan 9, 2023 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE Thanks, I'll consider that \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jan 10, 2023 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've awarded the bounty to another answer based on completeness, but this one is promising and when you feel ready with it I might have another bounty available, if that's encouragement. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2023 at 3:02
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No, not at all.

Linear fighters, quadratic wizards is not just about DPS output; it’s really a terrible term the tier system improves on a little, see How are Fighters Linear but Wizards Quadratic? for commonly accepted definitions. It’s about breadth of options and things the fighter has no inherent answer to (fly, invisible, battlefield control spells).

PF2e makes little significant change from PF1e in this regard.

Of course, each class has its role so this is usually a pointless distinction anyway; in a PC party the wizard isn’t putting his time stop up against the fighters’ 5 attacks or whatever, they are synergistically bringing their own thing to the fight.

But in the way that the phrase is used, poor assumptions and all, it is just as prominent in PF2e as all D&D derivations.

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Yes.

I base this on my observation that people seem to mostly be debating "Casters are too weak in PF2" versus "Casters are OK as they are".

Examples of this:

https://paizo.com/threads/rzs436ao&page=1?Spellcasters-and-their-problems

https://paizo.com/threads/rzs42uui?Woefully-disappointed

The main mechanical reasons for this are:

(1) They get fewer spells per day.

(2) Enemies tend to have less weak saving throws, and many spells only have severe effects on a critical failure.

(3) It is almost impossible for a caster to win a battle in a single round. For example, spells that instantly knock out an enemy tend to have the Incapacitation trait, which means they don't affect higher level enemies.

(4) Utility spells are mostly weakened compared to previous editions, with short durations and the like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Links to discussions outside of here really aren't helpful. Can you include the directly relevant information into the answer directly? Can you also confirm if this is all bout high level wizards compared to high level fighters? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Oct 20, 2020 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ It will be helpful to discuss what levels you are seeing this, in play. The LF/QW issue tends to become more pronounced as levels increase. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2020 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ see also rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/176602/… for a local question about whether casters are underpowered \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Oct 20, 2020 at 14:05

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