Pathfinder 2e - Practical Guide to Post-Combat
Last Updated: April 22nd, 2021
You did it! You've defeated your enemies, and ideally you and your allies have all survived the experience. While there's certainly time to take a deep breath and high-five each other, you and your party likely still have adventuring to do, which means that you need to be prepared for the next fight which is likely right around the corner.
In this article we'll discuss some absolutely crucial things that you and your party need to understand if you're going to survive in Pathfinder 2e. If you're experienced with Pathfinder 1e or DnD 5e there are some crucial new concepts that you need to understand just to get through a typical adventure.
I don't want to over-sell this information too much, but I sincerely believe that reading this article will save your character's life at least once.
Combat in Pathfinder 2e (and many similar games, include Pathfinder 1e, Dungeons and Dragons, etc.) is a game of resource attrition. You and your enemies each have a limited pool of resources, and to win a fight to the death, you need to deplete your enemies' resources before they deplete yours.
The most crucial resource is hit points because if either side runs out of hit points, they lose (and probably die), but you have other resources to manage like spell slots, Focus Points, the hit points of your gear (especially shields), and items which may have limited uses like potions, totems, and wands.
Because players are expected to surive multiple challenges throughout the course of a game (monsters generally aren't), managing your resources and combating attrition is crucial. Conserve resources as much as you can, but remember that using a limited resource like a spell slot can often preserve other resources. That cost-benefit analysis is crucial to survival in dungeon fantasy games like Pathfinder 2e.
Fortunately, many of your resources can be replenished several times per day. Hit points and Focus Points are intentionally built to be easy to lose/spend and restore between fights.
Combat is over. You and your party have almost certainly lost hit points, spent Focus Points, and maybe even taken some damage to your gear. Look over your character, and do any or all of things below that apply to your character.
Keep in mind that many of the activities below take 10 minutes each. The perioud of post-combat recovery will likely be at least 10 minutes long, so if you have any 1-minute buffs running like Bless, they're going to expire.
The options below are presented in the order which I recommend pursuing these activities, but this isn't some divinely-mandated ritual which you should strictly adhere to. Do what works for your party.
Address Ongoing Problems
Many ongoing problems don't magically disappear when combat ends. Ongoing damage, dying, traps, and environmental hazards like flooding rooms continue to be problems.
Before you do anything else, take care of those problems. If you have allies who are dying, immediately try to stabilize them and get them to safety. Other hit point recovery can come later. If you or your allies are taking ongoing damage, spend whatever Actions you need to remove those conditions as quickly as possible. If you're standing near traps or other environment hazards, get to safety.
If you're somewhere that enemies might suddenly wander in, consider finding somewhere relatively safe like a room with a door that you can close and either barricade or lock. The point here is to get away from danger and remove anything that could contiue to cause "attrition".
Focus Points are intended to be spent and recovered frequently. It takes 10 minutes to Refocus, and every other Activity we're going to discuss in this article will take just as long.
The rules for Refocus allow you to do other things while you Refocus, but it's not totally explicit what you can or can't do. Examples are provided in each class which uses Focus Points, but it seems like you can do basically anything that your GM will allow. There's a running theme that the activity needs to be related to your cass, but I'm not certain how strict that is, especially since you can get Focus Points from numerous sources including Archetypes. Ideally you can Refocus while also doing other activities below.
Loot the Room
A quick look around the room to check for treasure, secret doors, traps, etc. never hurts. Generally the person in the party with the best Perception should do this, but having multiple players search means that there's a better chance that someone will roll well.
And of course, don't forget to check your enemies' bodies. Their gear and the contents of their pockets are a crucial source of loot.
Unless you got absurdly lucky, someone got hurt in your last combat. To reiterate: hit points are the most important limited resource because when you run out of them you lose. Death is a real and present danger in Pathfinder 2e, and one of the most important things you can do to avoid an early death is to keep your hit points high.
You have numerous options for restoring hit points. What options are available to you will vary depending on your character and your party. No two parties will be the same, but make sure that your party has at least one of the options below.
Focus spells like Lay on Hands offer renewable healing options with a cost which you can immediately recover. If you have no time pressure, you can repeatedly cast these Focus Spells to heal yourself and your allies, then Refocus to recover the spent Focus Points. Depending on your party's needs (both in terms of time and in terms of missing hit points) it's often smart to use your Focus Spells in conjunction with options like Medicine so that you don't need to spend hours between combat sitting around staring at your party's Champion while they Refocus.
The go-to option for post-combat healing in most parties, Medicine is easy to access, effective, and easy to improve with skill feats.
The most basic use case for hit point recovery using Medicine is the Treat Wounds Activity. This takes 10 minutes, has an easily achievable DC of 15, and restores 2d8 hit points on a Success (more on a Critical Success).
At level 1 a character who is Trained in Medicine has a bonus of +3+Wisdom, so with 10 Wisdom your chances are a little less than 50/50. Ideally you want someone with decent Wisdom to be your party's Medicine user, but that's not always an option so sometimes you'll need to make do with what you have. Your skill bonus will improve as your gain levels and spend Skill Increases, and you can supplement your skill bonus with options like the Aid Action, the Guidance spell, and items like Expanded Healer's tools.
The biggest limitation of Medicine is that once someone attempts to Treat Wounds on a target, they can't be treated again for an hour. This limitation alone encourages parties to only face one encounter every hour so that you can immediately use Treat Wounds after each encounter. Fortunately this can be address with the Continual Recovery Skill Feat, reducing the cooldown from 1 hour to 10 minutes. Combined with Ward Medic you can alternate between pairs of targets, treating two at a time while another two allies are on cooldown. Both feats are available at 2nd level, so these options are easy to bring into play.
Other Class Features
Your class may have other options which allow you to restore hit points. I can't address all of them here, but check my class handbooks. I typically point out easy sources of hit point restoration because they're so important to your success.
Using expendable resources should be your last resort because they are by nature harder to recover than the options which we've already discussed. Wands only work once per day, and other items like potions only work once. Your party can likely also cast spells like Heal or produce items using features like Advanced Alchemy, but you could use those same resources to to things that mitigate attrition rather than recovering from it (killing an enemy to prevent damage is more effective than healing the damage later).
Using expendable resources to heal should be a last restort, but sometimes you don't get a choice. In those cases, look for the most cost-efficient way to restore hit pints. A 3-Action Heal spell on a large party will often restore more total hp than the 1-Action or 2-Action options, but sometimes the 2-Action version on your party's front-line characters (fighters, etc.) is a better choice because those characters typically have the largest hit point maximum and will typically take damage more often than back-line characters like wizards.
Sometimes your gear will be damaged. This is most common with characters who use the Shield Block Reaction, so if you plan to use a shield you'll want to get very comfortable with the Craft skill and with repairing your gear between fights.
Since shields are the most commonly-repaired piece of equipment, let's use a shield as an example:
Joe the fighter uses a steel shield, which has 20 hit points and a hardness of 5. In their last fight, they used Shield Block repeatedly and their shield endured some damage, reducing it's hit points to just 3. While their shield isn't destroyed yet, it's Broken and one more solid hit will destroy it. Joe is frugal and doesn't want to spend a fortune to purchase a mountain of steel shields which they must then cart about on adventures only to leave them littered about half-destroyed after every fight, so Joe has wisely taken proficiency in the Craft skill, and at level 1 they are currently Trained.
While Joe's allies set about their post-combat recovery activities (including using Medicine to treat Joe's wounds), Joe spends ten minutes to use the Repair Acitivity. They roll a Success on the check and restore 10 hit points to their shield, raising its current hit points to 13 and therefore removing the Broken condition. Joe's shield isn't quite "good as new", but it's in much better shape than it was before.
Joe's allies are still making the rounds with Treat Wounds (remember: it takes 10 minutes per target), so Joe has a few more 10-minute blocks, and can continue to repair their shield until it is back to full hit points. With their shield back to full hit points, Joe is confident that they're ready to continue adventuring.
If the 10-minute duration of Repair is a problem for you, consider the Quick Repair Skill Feat. Reducing the duration to 1 minute means that you can repair things 10 times as quickly, so even if your Craft bonus is poor or if you don't have several 10-minute blocks to spend on Repair, you can still make multiple attempts and likely restore plenty of hit points to your damaged gear. Also be sure to pick up a Superb Repair Kit for the easy +1 bonus on the check.
Because Craft is an Intelligence-based skill, it often makes sense for one person in the party with unusually high Intelligence to be the party's designated crafter. Alchemists, investigators, and wizards are excellent examples. Between a good skill bonus with Craft and potentially the Quick Repair feat, a single character can easily and quickly repair every character's damaged gear within a very short time span. However, if you're the one wielding a shield you should at least be Trained so that you're not wholly dependent on your allies for a core function of your characters.
Some characters like the Alchemist can craft items quickly, and spending some time between encounters is a great way to stay stocked on crucial disposables like bombs or mutagens. If these items are part of your character, don't hinder yourself by forgetting to craft them.
Help Everyone Else
If you have completed all of your own post-combat activities and your allies are still working, spend some time with the Aid Action. It costs you nothing to do, and while the bonus isn't huge, sometimes a +1 or +2 is just enough.
Your party is healed, your gear is back in working order, your Focus Points are recovered, and your alchemist has a sack full of fresh explosives. It's time to get back to adventuring. Good luck!