Pathfinder Playtest (Brent’s Initial Thoughts)

[Editor’s Note: Here in The Rat Hole we love our Roleplaying Games. With our regular reviews, you may have noticed a distinct lack of big games like Pathfinder, 13th Age, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. The main reason for that has been that there is just too much out there. Starfinder gave us the opportunity to jump in on the ground floor of that game, and the advent of the Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest gives us a similar opportunity. The best part about the Pathfinder Playtest materials is that the digital editions are completely FREE to anyone wanting to download them. You can visit www.PathfinderPlaytest.com to get those materials and make sure you fill out a survey about the game to help Paizo make Pathfinder 2E the best it can be. -dc] 

Brent’s Thoughts

[Read Dave’s thoughts HERE]

The awaited Pathfinder 2.0 Playtest dropped at Gen Con this year, and there have been no shortage of reviews and opinions on the material. Personally, I think a second edition has been due for a while; while Pathfinder cleaned up many of the obvious flaws of the game upon which it was based, it wasn’t the rules that made Pathfinder its own game, it was the setting. With Pathfinder 2.0, Paizo now has a chance to show us what they want Pathfinder to be. As with Pathfinder they aren’t doing it alone, and they’ve embarked on a public playtest of the new game to garner community feedback.

Over the next while both Dave and I will post our thoughts on Pathfinder 2.0 and the playtest. In future articles I’ll dive deeper into specific aspects of the proposed new game, and with the help of some gaming buddies also give some feedback on how the rules seem to work at the table. For today, though, I’m just going to list some first impressions of Pathfinder 2.0, fleshing out some notes I made as I flipped through the book for the first time. As these are first impressions they aren’t meant to be extensive, and my opinions may change as I dig deeper into the playtest.

  • I usually skip the introductory pages of most rulebooks, but skimming through I see that Paizo has included a paragraph about “gaming is for everyone”. I do think this it is important for game companies to include things like this in their main rulebooks. Hearing that inclusivity is important from fellow hobbyists is one thing, but hearing it from the game publishers themselves only helps to reinforce the idea. Paizo’s track record on this isn’t spotless, to say the least, but the effort should be acknowledged.
  • Still in the introduction, the new action mechanic seems smooth and intuitive, and comes close to D&D 5e’s mechanic but with some flavor of its own. Definitely have to look at that more closely in playtest.
  • On to character creation, and I love they’ve replaced “race” with “ancestry”. This is a change I want to see across all RPGs that still use the term. It’s been problematic since the beginning, and actually limiting to creating interesting characters.
  • Still kept alignments, huh? *sigh*
  • I like the inclusion of Hero Points in the base rules, because I’m a fan of anything which allows the players to help shape the narrative. Considering every other game system that has included them for decades, though, my reaction is more, “What took you so long?” than, “Yay!”
  • I like the idea of Resonance Points, because limiting power creep is not a bad thing. I’m concerned about tying them to a specific ability score (Charisma) though. Yes, the bulk of those points will come from the character’s level, but it seems like it would make sense to use whatever main ability score fits with the class.
  • Interesting that half-orc and half-elf ancestries are now only available through feats. Since they seem to have set it up as adding to the base ancestry abilities it makes sense, though I think making human ancestry the default starting point is limiting. Why not open it so the player starts with an orc or elf, and adds human ancestry to those?
  • Goblins have been added to ancestries in the main rulebook. If that excites you, there you go.
  • Backgrounds are a good addition, though unlike backgrounds in D&D 5e they seem to provide only mechanical benefits. It would be nice to see them fleshed out with some role-playing prompts or benefits.
  • Except for the addition of the alchemist, all the standard classes are present and accounted for. I’ll take a deeper dive on these when I look specifically at character creation, but in general I like the new layout. I really like that class specific feats are kept with the class description, which is much more intuitive than hunting for a class feat off an extensive list.
  • While pared down, the Skills look pretty standard. I do like that Lore has replaced Knowledge, and that it seems a bit more flexible. Again, deep dive coming.
  • Feats are well organized and easy to read. But hoo-boy do there seem to be a lot more of them compared to Pathfinder 1. Definitely have to take a more detailed look later, but hopefully having so many up front will cut down on glutting the Feat list with future books.
  • Equipment seems pretty straightforward. They seem to have codified and simplified their crafting rules, which I think is a useful touch.
  • Spells are definitely going to require a closer look, but it does make me itch to play a spellcaster out of the gate. I like how they’re handling cantrips, for instance, matching their spell level to the highest level of spell you can cast.
  • Archetypes are more extensive and give another option for customizing characters which I always approve of. Character advancement, in general, seems pretty straightforward.
  • As with Spells I will have more to say about Magic Items, but how has it taken all the previous editions of D&D and an edition of Pathfinder for us to get the page numbers for the item descriptions on the magic item charts!? As a busy GM I might buy Pathfinder 2.0 on the strength of that alone.

At a glance, I’m generally impressed with the changes to Pathfinder that the playtest seems to indicate are coming. I can definitely see where D&D 5e has influenced the design, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. Obviously, it’s working for WotC, so bringing Pathfinder more closely in line with that game should work for them as well. And while they have definitely streamlined the rules, I still see plenty of crunch in those pages, which should keep the folks who live for crunch happy for quite a while. If I had one main criticism, it would be that I don’t see anything uniquely Pathfinder about the rules. Much of the stuff added (goblins, alchemists, and so on) was there in the setting in Pathfinder 1.0, and all they’ve done is codify it in the main rules. But I don’t see anything that stands out as Paizo putting their stamp on the game, now that they have a chance to make the game their way. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it because I enjoyed the first iteration, but I really would like to see the game Paizo want to make instead of the game they seem to feel they should make.

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