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Complexity vs. Depth -- A Look Inside Pathfinder 2nd Edition

One of the biggest tabletop RPG releases of the decade, Pathfinder 2nd Edition launches today at Gen Con. Many of us have playtested it, others have watched streams and podcasts, but this is the big day. Here are my thoughts on the new iteration of this classic game. I'm assuming here that you're basically familiar with either Pathfinder 1E or D&D 5E.

pf_cover.jpg



Background
Before I start this look at the Pathfinder 2nd Edition core rulebook, let me explain my background so that you can contextualize it. I was a big fan of D&D 3E and 3.5 back in the early 2000s and ran two multi-year campaigns with that ruleset (one being Age of Worms from Paizo). When the D&D 4E/Pathfinder edition war happened, I ran one long 4E campaign (our own War of the Burning Sky adventure path). After that, I played through the Kingmaker AP for Pathfinder as a player, ran a couple of D&D 5E storylines (loved Strahd!), and I've run about half the Pathfinder 2E playtest but having received my pre-ordered copy of the materials after they were on store shelves, struggled to keep up with the pace and eventually bowed out.

Going in to this: I was a fan of the 3.x ruleset, but felt a little left behind after a while with PF1 in terms of system mastery, rules boat, and setting lore. I didn't get on super-well with the playtest, so I was slightly wary as I opened this book. On the other hand, I do enjoy a bit of crunch in my games. A new jumping on point, you say? Let's take a look!

Overview
There are two important concepts to keep in mind when looking at this game: the difference between complexity and depth. I'd like to quickly define them as I use them, just in case your definitions are different. To me, complexity arises from multiple subsystems or different rules, or complicated rules. Depth, on the other hand, resides in the options and available customization. These two things can exist independently, and for me a game works best when it has low complexity but high depth.

The short version of this review: I think Paizo have pulled that off. Compared to PF1, they have reduced complexity. Compared to, say, D&D 5E, they have more depth. I would say that this game is about as complex as D&D 5E, but with more depth. The rules are more standardized than they used to be, but you have important choices at all stages of character development. If you don't want read this big wall of text of a review -- I like it, and it scratches an itch for me. I'm pretty sure I'll run it soon.

I find it amusing that Pathfinder 2nd Edition has the exact same page count as D&D 5th Edition. I don't know if that's a coincidence, some artifact of printing scales, or an inside joke at Paizo, but the Pathfinder 2E core rulebook is 640 pages, while the equivalent content, D&D's PHB plus DMG, is 639 pages. Basically, if you take the PHB and the DMG and smoosh them into one hardcover, it's the exact same size as the Pathfinder 2E core rulebook. Like, uncannily so.

Sticking with format, the edge of every right-hand page has a useful 'bar' which shows you where in the book you are. It's a big book, and this really helps with navigation (though I feel maybe adding each section's page number would help? Or maybe that would look too cluttered. Not sure!)

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.06.39.png

The game now formally codifies some things which were not explicit in the original: the mechanics are divided into three "modes", namely encounter (rounds), exploration (freeform), and downtime (daily). And Golarion is officially the core, default setting and baked into the core rulebook, although under the pen-name of Age of Lost Omens. I don't know much about Golarion or the Forgotten Realms myself (I know FR has a Drizzt in it), and I'm not really a settings guy, but all of Paizo's adventure paths take place in that setting, so the chapter is useful.

Characters
So, let's look at the rules, starting with character creation. A character is built out of feats, which are chosen from lists granted by ancestry (what was once 'race'), background, and class.

At each stage you get a choice of from two to about six feats -- for example, if you choose the dwarf ancestry, you choose one of six feats at first level, then one at 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th. The effect of this is that any two dwarves are not the same; ignoring the heritages (basically 'sub-races') which grant minor tweaks like fire or poison resistance, a dwarf is going to choose between the familiar stonecunning, or something like dwarven ore, rock runner, unburdened iron, and so on. And this is what I mean by depth v. complexity: it's easy (you are just choosing one of six feats) but it's deeper (you have more customization to your race); plus you become more like your race as you go up in levels and get more of those race feats. Your ancestry keeps being important. You become more and more dwarfy.


Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.08.17.png



The races are the standard list you'd expect; plus a goblin. Each race has a handful of heritages (sub-races), and half-orc and half-elf are now human heritages.

Moving on to classes, again we're looking at a fairly typical list. The Paladin is now a "Champion", and each class has some sample builds such as the Rogue Scoundrel, or the Ranger Archer. Like with race, you have a free choice of class feats from a list presented in that class -- the Alchemist, for example, has a choice of three at 1st level, three at 2nd level, and again at 4th, 6th, etc. This means that your Alchemist will differ from your friend's Alchemist. Low complexity (you're just choosing from a short list of feats again) but high depth (two characters of the same class can be customized by a choice of three options every other level).

There are other bits -- archetypes (used to pseudo-multiclass) and backgrounds (each gives ability adjustments, skills, and a feat) which customize your character a little more.

Feats & Skills
As with previous editions of both Pathfinder and D&D, this game features the expected skill list. It's familiar ground; each iteration of the d20 engine has a similar list, with some tweaking. In this case we have a list of 17. PF1 and D&D 3.x had skill ranks which went from 0 upwards (a bard character in my Age of Worms D&D 3E campaign was rolling something like +40 on Use Magic Device by the end of the campaign). D&D 5E simplified that to a binary skill proficiency - you're proficient, or you're not. Pathfinder 2E takes a middle ground - there are five skill levels called untrained, trained, expert, master, legendary. Some skill uses require a certain skill level, and can give access to certain skill feats (there's feats again!)

I keep talking about feats. There's a reason for that. Feats are the core of the game's depth: everything is a feat. Race feats, class feats, archetype feats, skill feats, general feats. You can very much customize your character with your choice of feats. At each level you'll be choosing one or more feats. These are literally on the character sheet, so you can see them, and simply fill in the box. That character sheet isn't pretty, but its very functional. You can see them below -- the character sheet tells you what fets you are choosing at any given level and - more importantly - while the game has a lot of feats in it, at any given time you're choosing from a short list. At 5th level, you get an ancestry feat, but you're only choosing from a small handful for your race at that level.


Screenshot 2019-07-30 at 23.22.09.png



It's easy to think that a game with a thousand feats is too complex. It's not. You never have to choose from a thousand feats; you're always choosing from a short list for that level of ancestry, class, skill, or what-have-you. Low complexity. High depth.

Equipment
Like all games of its ilk, PF2 has an equipment chapter. Pathfinder delves into equipment in more detail than its main competitor, but it's not onerous -- about 25 pages of the book. It's mainly familiar ground, with some structural differences -- equipment has a level which defines how hard it is to make, and encumbrance is measured in an abstract value called 'bulk' which takes into account size and weight. Then we have the usual lists of armor, shields, weapons, and gear, including alchemical stuff, animals, services, and so on. When I ran the playtest last year, I struggled with the sheer volume of keywords in the game - especially when they sounded similar, like a weapon that was deadly or fatal (aren't they all?), finesse or agile, and this hasn't changed; it's something which will come naturally with familiarity, I'm sure. Overall, though, this chapter is pretty much what you'd expect.

Magic
So, spells. Magic is a BIG part D&D and Pathfinder, and this book is no exception. You know when you buy a D&D descendant what you're getting into: a big 120-page chapter full of spells. Many you'll be familiar with -- your magic missiles and fireballs and walls of stone and so on. We have lists of spells for four magical traditions -- arcane and divine, plus primal and occult. These four big lists tell you which classes get access to them (wizards cast arcane spells, bards cast occult spells, druids cast primal spells, and so on), and each of the many, many spells listed in the book is tagged with one or more of those four lists.

The schools of magic are familiar, and Vancian magic is still king. Vancian magic has been D&D's core 'fire and forget' spell slot system since the 1970s, based on the books of Jack Vance. So what's changed?

For a start, we now have 10 spell levels (plus cantrips) rather than the traditional 9. All four lists go up to 10, and that top level contains the heavy hitters like wish, gate, time stop, and cataclysm. Generally speaking, you'll only ever have one 10th level spell slot, although there is a way to get a second. You can 'heighten' spells by putting them in a higher level spell slot, and each spell has a little list of what benefits that gives you - usually it's a numerical or damage increase, but other times it's an upgrade in functionality - a 1st level detect alignment, for example, indicates the presence of but not location or strength of aligned auras. If you heighten it to 2nd level, however, you get each aura's location and strength, too.

Most spells take between 1-3 actions to cast (more on the 'three-action economy' later), and this is depicted by a nifty little icon in the spell description. 2 actions seems to be the default, some like guidance take a quick single action, and some vary depending how you use the spell - magic missile is one action per missile, heal increases its range and area depending on how many actions you use, and so on. Others take minutes or longer. Here's magic missile and heal, as an example:

mmhe.jpg


The Core Rules

Pathfinder has a reputation for having a lot of rules. This is where a lot of work has been done. Rather than many subsystems, or weird ways of doing different things, Paizo has streamlined the game here; going back to my theme of reduced complexity, this is the obvious area you'll see the effects. Anybody familiar with d20-based games knows that a check or attack is a d20 plus modifiers to beat a target number, and this hasn't changed, though the actual numbers are slightly different (skills have a limited tier of modifiers rather than running from 0 to infinity).

Sadly, the many itty bitty modifiers are still in there (I love D&D's advantage/disadvantage system, though I recognise it's lack of granularity), but Paizo has done something interesting here: all checks, whether an attack, a save, or a skill check, have four degrees of success baked into the core. You can critically succeed (beat the target by 10+), succeed, fail, or fumble (miss the target by 10+). Many activities tell you exactly what happens in those situations. Let's look at a couple of examples:

Skill Check using Acrobatics to balance:

  • Critical Success You move up to your Speed.
  • Success You move up to your Speed, treating it as difficult terrain (every 5 feet costs 10 feet of movement).
  • Failure You must remain stationary to keep your balance (wasting the action) or you fall. If you fall, your turn ends.
  • Critical Failure You fall and your turn ends.

Saving against the 5th level banishment spell:
  • Critical Success The target resists being banished and you are stunned 1.
  • Success The target resists being banished.
  • Failure The target is banished.
  • Critical Failure The target is banished and can’t return by any means to the plane it’s banished from for 1 week.
You'll see this all throughout the book, whatever the activity.

Combat
Combat has had quite an overhaul. It's faster now, and a little more tactical. I feel like characters are making meaningful choices more often, but from our playtests, I really did feel it ran quicker. Time will tell with big convoluted encounters and high-level stat blocks, of course, the latter of which Pathfinder is famous for.

Notably, there isn't a big section called "Combat". The section is called "Encounter Mode".

Combat begins with Initiative, as always. Initiative has been tweaked here; instead of rolling d20 plus a dex modifier, instead you are making a skill check. The fun part is that it's not always the same skill check -- often it will be Perception, but a sneaky rogue might be rolling Stealth, and sometimes you might even be rolling a Diplomacy check! Even if you don't play PF2E, use this in your d20 game, whatever it is.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.26.39.png

Each character gets three actions, in what people are calling the new "three-action economy". This is a big change. Any given activity takes between 1-3 actions (most are one action, spells are often 2-3, and so on). You could move three times, move and attack twice, attack and then move then cast a 1-action spell, or whatever you like. Available actions are listed, and include things like Aid, Crawl, Ready, Seek, Step, Take Cover, and more. Something those who played the playtest will recall, and which is still in, is the choice to take an action to Raise A Shield in order to gain an AC bonus until your next turn; this initially sounds fiddly and extra complication where it's not needed... but it's not. It works. Everyone I played with reported that it made it feel like their shield was a thing, not just a static bonus on their character sheet, and that its use was a defensive choice (after all, you could use that action to attack or move). It's a little innovation which adds far more to the game than it has any right to do.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 at 00.28.10.png

What happens when you die? Well, you can't go below 0 hit points. At that stage you gain the "Dying" condition, which has four levels. Each round you roll to see if you get better or worse, and if you get to Dying 4 you're dead. If you do recover, you gain the Wounded condition, which adds to future Dying values - so you can't keep bouncing up and down; it'll catch up with you. Other than that, you have a fairly standard set of conditions - blinded, fatigued, invisible, and so on.

Game Mastering
This 40-page section of the book is part GM advice, and part collection of miscellaneous rules. Here you'll find the rules for environments, hazards, natural disasters, and traps. You'll also see mechanical advice on appropriate rewards, setting difficulty classes, and using the different modes of play. And, of course, information on how to plan a campaign, create a welcoming environment (there's a sidebar which calls out X-Cards as a veil, and a section on dealing with objectionable content, with a description of what the game's assumed "baseline" is -- PCs don't torture, rape, own slaves, harm children, and so on). It's a useful chapter, although it feels a little eclectic; a grab-bag of stuff that doesn't quite fit elsewhere.

Treasure!
No d20 game is complete without a big list of magic items, and those familiar with PF1 or D&D will recognise many of these. Interestingly, this chapter is actually called "Crafting & Treasure"; 3.x and PF always had a crafting element to magic items, and PF2 is no exception. It's one thing that 5E studiously avoids.

So, in addition to pages and pages of wands, potions, amulets, and other assorted magical items (the categories have actually changed a bit) we have a big section on crafting items. You can make things out of special materials like darkwood or cold iron, and you make them magic by etching runes on them - runes like Invisibility, Dancing, Thundering, Vorpal, and so on. There's also a section on crafting snares (simple traps).

That Character Sheet
The character sheet is not a pretty sight. It looks like a tax form, and I feel like it alone could put people off this game. But it IS functional. The feats section pretty much tells you what you need to know about the game: you start by looking at it and saying "ten million feats!" but then you realise you're just picking a couple from a different short list each time, and the character sheet tells you when you do that. It's much more manageable than you might think at first. I can see why people might balk at this sheet, but I'm sure that fans will create dozens of pretty ones within hours of the game's release.

Screenshot 2019-07-31 at 14.41.57.png

Summary
This was always going to be a tricky launch. Somehow Paizo has to keep the fans of PF1E on board, many of whom are veterans of the D&D 3.x games, switched over when 4E was released and are naturally invested in that system by definition; but the game has reached peak bloat, the engine is 18 years old, and its cracks are really showing. Is that even possible?

For me personally, they pulled it off. They have reduced complexity AND increased depth. I know I keep saying that, but that's the thing I keep coming back to and it's the theme of this article.

Is it perfect? No. It's too keyword heavy for my tastes (requiring a lot of "what does 'deadly' mean?" at the table), and that requires time to gain mastery in. I feel that, if anything, would be the barrier to new gamers. Also, there's still lots of those little +1 or +2 modifiers or penalties which I find too finicky.

But it is good. It's a really good evolution of the d20 system. It's modern game design, with heritage. And it feels weighty in a "reliable" not a "cumbersome" way. Is it D&D 5E? No. Is it D&D 4E? No (although the monster stat blocks do remind me of that game in terms of layout). It is neither of those things. It's very much Pathfinder 2E. Of course, there are some general design principles which are found in most modern RPGs, some of which 5E and 4E created and others which they adopted from elsewhere, and you will see the edges of the Venn diagram overlap with Pathfinder 2E, but it would be a mistake to think it's not its own game.

So who's it for? If you're a new player, it may be a little intimidating as a first game, but the complexity is about on par with D&D 5E. If you're a 5E player, it has some extra depth where 5E leans more into the storytelling, and might scratch that itch for a little more mechanical heft and character customization. If you're a Pathfinder 1E player, it's more difficult -- it depends on how invested you are in that system, and I'm not yet clear on the level of backward compatibility.

Things I personally struggled with:
  • Lots of keywords. I'll be looking up the difference between deadly, dangerous, fatal, and mildly-ouchy weapons for a while (OK, I made two of those up); I'm sure the designers are thinking "What? But that's so simple!" and I am sure it is after a bit of play.
  • Lots of small +1 modifiers.
The people I think would like this game are those who, like me:
  • Like Pathfinder 1E but would like a more modern, streamlined play experience than the aging 3.x engine
  • Like D&D 5E but would like a bit more mechanical depth
  • Were intimidated by the sheer volume of Pathfinder 1E material and are looking for a jumping-on point
  • Want to customise their character more
I wasn't sure going in, but I think this is a better game than its predecessor and scratches an itch for mechanical depth. I'm going to run it.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Imaro

Adventurer
They are not. The other review of PF2e includes a screenshot of 2 demons and they just list the known spells. You still need to know/look them up. I see nothing that makes them easier to run at first glance.
Thanks... was wondering this. So is it not stating out everything like a PC that makes prep easier?
 

techno

Villager
1. Would you say this is true even taking into consideration more recent releases for 5e?

Yes. Monsters just have a lot of cool and flavorful actions that make them interesting and more than just the "bag of HP" that many 5e monsters still are. For example, some skeletons can take off and throw their head.

2. Could you give a few examples around what you mean when you say character options are "deep"? Like are we talking a fiddly +1 or +2 bonus here or there or something more? As an example from what I've heard about the ancestries/racial feats I would say they give race/ancestries more customization and are more fiddly but I'm not sure about depth since they seem to ultimately give the same type of features as race would in D&D.

There's lots of meaningful options that allow you to truly customize your character. For example, there's something like 9 types of sorcerors (with different bloodlines) to choose from that feel different--including using different types of magic (arcane, divine, occult, and primal--with completely different spell lists). Every level, you get a meaningful character choice that makes your character unique. My experience with 5e is that most meaningful choices are made early on and then characters of the same class (or at least subclass) are mostly the same or similar. Paizo will also continue to regularly publish character options while 5e only does this at a glacial pace. Some people like more options, others prefer a limited set of options. I like options that allow character customization.

3. Again could you give an example of what you mean by meaningful tactical combat (see above, is this a +1 here or a +2 there or are we talking actual decisions that have meaningful impact on combat?

The 3 action economy is brillant. The feats and combat manuevers give lots of viable tactical options to characters. For example, I really like the "Raise Shield" action because players have to decide whether to make another attack with their action or to engage in active defense with their shield. For me, choices like this make combat more interesting and less of a "I hit them again" slog that 5e sometimes tends to become.

4. Just a qq here... are stat blocks self-contained, even for spellcasters? If not what advantage over 5e prep does PF 2e offer? To your second point are there in turn a large amount of rules that must be learned and remembered (or looked up and referenced) during play?

Same as 5e, not completely self-contained when it comes to spells. However, there is no more feat lookup required (which is a huge improvement over PF1). There are some rules that will need to be looked up (from the statblock) until you are familiar with them. For example, what an "agile" attack means.
 
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SMHWorlds

Registered User
Cool and useful review. While I understand the comparisons to 3.X, 4E, PF1, and 5E because they are the touchstones that we have, I frankly don't find that as useful. I played them all, know how they (mostly)work, and try to enjoy or not the games as separate entities. Even though they are clearly related.

From the playtest material and the reviews, it looks like PF2 is heading toward Rolemaster or HARP in terms of complexity. And that can be good or bad depending on our feelings about that. Throughout the process I have sensed a general design philosophy revolving around complexity. To me, minus the PF1 bloat, PF2 seems more complex and needlessly so than PF1.

However, there are some interesting steps in directions I do like; its not a total wash for me. Ancestries for example, I started off dismissing the idea of earning your dwarfness, but there is an interesting progression there that could propel a character to get to higher levels. The XP system is interesting, although not quite what it might need to be. To be fair though, I am not sure anyone has gotten XP and leveling quite right in 40+ years.

I won't be buying the physical book, but if they have PDF for it, I may grab that. I would certainly play it or run it for a convention, but not sure I would ever run it for the home folks.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Thanks... was wondering this. So is it not stating out everything like a PC that makes prep easier?
I don't have the book, but from the previews I have seen, the stat blocks themselves are not any easier to prepare than 5e, maybe less so. However, [MENTION=695]techno[/MENTION] said it was easier to prep than PF1e, not 5e. I can't really comment on that as I skipped 3e/3.5e/PF1e
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Exactly what I came here to say.

While choosing from a small handful of feats during level up (low complexity, high depth) is really the right approach, it's something that happens out of the table. My fear is that, during the game, the list of feats ends up growing so much that the game will stall everytime someone has to check what the feat does... exactly like spell lists!

Another example: D&D 4E had this problem with powers. At each level up you had to choose from a small list of 3-5 new powers. But during combat, players would lose a lot of time flipping through their power library, choosing the best option or checking the power description, slowing combat to a crawl. It was impossible to memorize so many specific rules.

The critical/success/failure/fumble table may have the same problem. Since the critical and fumble results are unique to each kind of action, it's may be impossible to hold them all in your head, and require even more rule checking during the game everytime a dice rolls too high or too low.

I really hope it's all baseless fears.
That's where I don't buy the "same complexity" proposition myself: I am able to hold the roll formulas and DCs for 5E in my head, and do the math on the fly. Too many variables makes that more and more difficult.

I feel the game would have been better served by using different synonyms for "Feat," rather than having 4-5 different catagories of Feat.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
From the playtest material and the reviews, it looks like PF2 is heading toward Rolemaster or HARP in terms of complexity. And that can be good or bad depending on our feelings about that. Throughout the process I have sensed a general design philosophy revolving around complexity. To me, minus the PF1 bloat, PF2 seems more complex and needlessly so than PF1.
Oh, god no. That’s the exact opposite of what it’s done!
 

techno

Villager
My feeling on complexity level is that PF2 is much less complex/fiddly than PF1 and a bit more complex/fiddly than 5e. However, for that modest increase in complexity over 5e, it offers a lot of additional depth and customization. For some, that trade off will be worth it, for others it won't be.
 
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Tony Vargas

Adventurer
To me, complexity arises from multiple subsystems or different rules, or complicated rules. Depth, on the other hand, resides in the options and available customization. These two things can exist independently, .
I like those definitions, BTW. I might call the former 'complicated,' or 'baroque' and the latter 'complex,' (reserving 'depth' for play dynamics that arise out of that complexity) but either way, it's a useful distinction.

For a D&D instance, 1e would be the high-watermark for that line's "complexity" by your definition, myriad discordant sub-systems, often a given class, spell, monster, trap or item would essentially introduce it's own one-off sub-system. While WotC eds prior to 5e had voluminous material, they did not have that level of complexity. 5e is often touted as 'simple' compared to 3e or 4e or PH1, when it really has just killed fewer trees in pursuit of depth.

and for me a game works best when it has low complexity but high depth
The danger I've seen going for that is it can lead to the system putting too much responsibility on the GM. Of course, not going for it can still leave a system putting too much on the DM, so...


...anyway, sorry I was only interested in the complexity/depth theory, apologies for the tangent, y'all have fun with PF2...
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
I completely agree about ancestry feats. I'm surprised they kept them from the playtest, as I recall them not being popular, but also the are altogether illogical. Gaining more advanced skill in one's profession, which is what leveling represents, should have no bearing whatsoever on how much a member of a species one is. This is probably the biggest example of dissociated mechanics I've seen thus far, but it really jumps out at me. There's a term I didn't think I'd have to pull out again, but there it is.
Ultimately, that depends on the nature of the later ancestral feats. I haven't had a chance to dig much yet (just download the PDF), but if the ancestral feats all align like the dwarf's, the upper level ones can be seen as the result of character development - broadened proficiency, developing the wisdom to make certain magics work, etc. That works reasonably well for me.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
My feeling on complexity level is that PF2 is much less complex/fiddly than PF1 and a bit more complex/fiddly than 5e. However, for that modest increase in complexity over 5e, it offers a lot of additional depth and customization. For some, that trade off will be worth it, for others it won't be.
Looking over this site... http://2e.aonprd.com/Default.aspx at parts of the SRD... it looks alot more complex than 5e. I'm also not thrilled with the direction of some of the feats, an example being Group Coercion... does this mean without this feat I can only coerce a single target at a time?? If so I am really not a fan of that type of customization design...
 

dave2008

Adventurer
1. Would you say this is true even taking into consideration more recent releases for 5e?

Yes. Monsters just have a lot of cool and flavorful actions that make them interesting and more than just the "bag of HP" that many 5e monsters still are. For example, some skeletons can take off and throw their head.
To be clear here, the reference was to newer 5e monsters. The monsters since the MM have tended to have more interesting abilities. Your example does nothing to explain how PF2e is improvement vs. newer 5e monsters. Newer 5e monsters a many abilities at least as interesting at that.

That being said, I do agree the MM or a bit vanilla (I'm looking at you dragons!). However, personally like that in most of my monsters. I just want certain ones to be more interesting / tactical.

2. Could you give a few examples around what you mean when you say character options are "deep"? Like are we talking a fiddly +1 or +2 bonus here or there or something more? As an example from what I've heard about the ancestries/racial feats I would say they give race/ancestries more customization and are more fiddly but I'm not sure about depth since they seem to ultimately give the same type of features as race would in D&D.

There's lots of meaningful options that allow you to truly customize your character. For example, there's something like 9 types of sorcerors (with different bloodlines) to choose from that feel different--including using different types of magic (arcane, divine, occult, and primal--with completely different spell lists). Every level, you get a meaningful character choice that makes your character unique. My experience with 5e is that most meaningful choices are made early on and then characters of the same class (or at least subclass) are mostly the same or similar. Paizo will also continue to regularly publish character options while 5e only does this at a glacial pace. Some people like more options, others prefer a limited set of options. I like options that allow character customization.
This is purely preference and I assume PF1 fans like the direction here. Personally, I like customization as a player, less so as a DM (means I have to know all the player options). However, at first glance, for me this looks a bit like to much of a good thing. I think I would prefer you get X number of feats per level and you can chose weather they are ancestry, class, or skill feats. That seems simpler and deeper to me.

3. Again could you give an example of what you mean by meaningful tactical combat (see above, is this a +1 here or a +2 there or are we talking actual decisions that have meaningful impact on combat?

The 3 action economy is brillant. The feats and combat manuevers give lots of viable tactical options to characters. For example, I really like the "Raise Shield" action because players have to decide whether to make another attack with their action or to engage in active defense with their shield. For me, choices like this make combat more interesting and less of a "I hit them again" slog that 5e sometimes tends to become.
I go back and forth about the 3 action economy (I think I like it), but it really isn't much different than the 5e action economy (move, standard, possible bonus, reaction). By itself, I don't know that it adds more depth vs complexity. 5e already has reactions that add to you AC. That does the same as the shield action your talking about. I think I would have to play a bit. What other maneuvers provide tactical options?

4. Just a qq here... are stat blocks self-contained, even for spellcasters? If not what advantage over 5e prep does PF 2e offer? To your second point are there in turn a large amount of rules that must be learned and remembered (or looked up and referenced) during play?
Same as 5e, not completely self-contained when it comes to spells. However, there is no more feat lookup required (which is a huge improvement over PF1). There are some rules that will need to be looked up (from the statblock) until you are familiar with them. For example, what an "agile" attack means.[/QUOTE]

Yes, the jargon (like 4e) adds some complexity. However, I found that was one of the things in 4e that added some up front complexity, it did streamline things once everyone was up to speed.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I go back and forth about the 3 action economy (I think I like it), but it really isn't much different than the 5e action economy (move, standard, possible bonus, reaction). By itself, I don't know that it adds more depth vs complexity. 5e already has reactions that add to you AC. That does the same as the shield action your talking about. I think I would have to play a bit. What other maneuvers provide tactical options?
You just described a 1.5 action economy (where a move is the .5).

PF is a 3 action economy, but any of those actions can be moves. So you can make it anywhere from 1.5 to 3. You can do twice as much in a round.

Both have reactions and stuff, so that’s a wash.
 

techno

Villager
[MENTION=83242]dave2008[/MENTION], it sounds like PF2 may not be for you, which is fine. I also like and play 5e but feel that PF2 brings a lot to the table for those who want a little more complexity, depth, and customization (similar to Morrus). You may want to check out the rules for free at http://2e.aonprd.com/ to see the details for yourself.
 
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Jer

Explorer
I also quite like the distinction between 'complexity' and 'depth' here - though like Tony I'm not sure of the actual terms being what I consider those definitions to mean (though tbf, I don't like Tony's choices either, and have nothing better to offer). This helps me wrap my head around a few things I've been thinking about as the previews have been dropping.

This really seems like the kind of game that I'd like to play but not the kind of game I'd like to run. I think I'd enjoy being a player in someone else's game with this because the amount of "depth" in character choices that are there look like they'd be fun to play with if I had one character that I could really dive into and really play with all of the bits. yeah the fact that every single "perk" in the game continues to have the utterly terrible name "feat" attached to it would irk me every time I looked at the character sheet, but after scratching off the word "feat" everywhere and replacing it with the word "perk" I could see myself having fun with it.

Conversely the amount of "depth" available from the monster write-ups I've seen is just too much. 5e is already almost too much on the monster end - the bestiary write-ups that I've seen so far look like 3.5e on steroids and there's just too much there for my taste. I don't need that much depth on the monster end - most of the time I'm going to get 4-5 attacks off before either the PCs have taken them down or the monsters have forced them to retreat. A whole wall of options doesn't help me - I'd rather have paragraphs of flavor text on how the creature works outside of combat with 2-3 really good choices outlined for me in the stat block. Lots of "depth" in a monster isn't fun for me, even though lots of "depth" in a PC is.

So I'll probably pick it up eventually - and I'm still planning on grabbing the eventual Beginner Box even if nobody around me wants to run it.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
You just described a 1.5 action economy (where a move is the .5).

PF is a 3 action economy, but any of those actions can be moves. So you can make it anywhere from 1.5 to 3. You can do twice as much in a round.

Both have reactions and stuff, so that’s a wash.
I don't think that is quite true, because to move, you have to subtract from the non-movement actions. Thus if an action takes 3 actions, then you can't move (I actually like this BTW). So, if you want to move:

PF2e: move/action/action or move/move/action or move/move/move

5e: move/action/possible bonus action or move/action/move (split movement)/possible bonus action or move/move(dash)/ possible bonus action

Also, if you don't want to move:

PF2e: Action/Action/Action

5e: Action/possible bonus action

Of course, this doesn't included multiattack, which is pretty standard in 5e, or action surge. So even the 5e Action/bonus action is more realistically attack/attack/bonus. Very similar to PF2e.

Not to mentions some "actions" spend movement and not "actions" (getting up from prone, etc.) Also, how does PF2e handle "free" actions? In actuality, 5e is more complex in its action economy, which is I don't think is really a good thing.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
@dave2008, it sounds like PF2 may not be for you, which is fine. I also like and play 5e but feel that PF2 brings a lot to the table for those who want a little more complexity, depth, and customization (similar to Morrus). You may want to check out the rules for free at http://2e.aonprd.com/ to see the details for yourself.
Yep, I already bookmarked the link. I don't know yet if it is or is not for me, just joining the discussion. Since I tend to skim new rule books it is good for me to discuss it with people who have looked at it with more time and depth. So I appreciate the discussion. Also, i like some more complexity, depth, and customization.

However, the issue I have with every edition and new game is that I houserule quite a bit. Neither 5e nor PF2e are my ideal game (nothing is). But at this point, I have 5 years of customization into making 5e what I want and it is a very easy chassis to add too IMO. Of course I can still bring in some good ideas from PF2e, so I will definitely check it out.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
While choosing from a small handful of feats during level up (low complexity, high depth) is really the right approach, it's something that happens out of the table. My fear is that, during the game, the list of feats ends up growing so much that the game will stall everytime someone has to check what the feat does... exactly like spell lists!
Is it anywhere near the complexity of spells in 3e/PF1, though? I mean, you pick from a few feats each level, eventually you have a number of feats, and need to keep track of what they do, but you've gotten used to each one of them over a level, so you should have all of them down by the time you start getting used to the next - I can see how it'd be a minor challenge for a build-at-higher-level, but for an organically growing character, should be a non-issue. Compare that to a 3e/PF1 prepped caster, each /day/ you choose from a large number of spells, prepare quite a few more than 1/level, and need to know/manage each of them. Seems orders of magnitude more complex once you multiply it all out...
Another example: D&D 4E had this problem with powers. At each level up you had to choose from a small list of 3-5 new powers. But during combat, players would lose a lot of time flipping through their power library, choosing the best option or checking the power description, slowing combat to a crawl. It was impossible to memorize so many specific rules.
The actual number of rules 4e powers were constructed from was pretty small compared to other eds, and the number of powers built up from them fairly large (though not compared to spells at the height of each edition). And, they were easier to look up and parse, requiring little if any interpretation, than spells/feats/specific-combat-rules-like-oh-grapple in any other edition. So, while I know 'analysis paralysis' became a knee jerk reflex criticism during it's run, it was never remotely valid relative to casting in other editions.

OTOH, if you want a 4e analogy to feat bloat - try /feat bloat/, which was just uncontained, a freaking cosmic nebula of chaff with enough must-haves to render choice meaningless for the first few levels of each Tier.
Appalling.

I really hope it's all baseless fears.
As long as baseless criticisms don't get repeated so often they become the truth, you'll be fine. ;)

I completely agree about ancestry feats, but also they are altogether illogical. Gaining more advanced skill in one's profession, which is what leveling represents, should have no bearing whatsoever on how much a member of a species one is. This is probably the biggest example of dissociated mechanics I've seen thus far, but it really jumps out at me. There's a term I didn't think I'd have to pull out again, but there it is.
It's a term no one should ever have pulled out, because it was always abject nonsense. But, since you did: how is becoming better at something you practice & use successfully in tremendously dangerous situations /not/ developing your innate potential (some of which comes from your ancestry)?
Seems perfectly reasonable.

Your character is tested in the crucible of adventure and emerges /more/ than he was, including being more like a paragon of his ancestry, if that's how the player chooses to develop the character.

Looking over this site... http://2e.aonprd.com/Default.aspx at parts of the SRD... it looks alot more complex than 5e.
Yeah, it's clearly a lot /more/ than 5e. But is it really more Morrus Complexity, or is it actually more Morrus Depth?
;)
I'm also not thrilled with the direction of some of the feats, an example being Group Coercion... does this mean without this feat I can only coerce a single target at a time?? If so I am really not a fan of that type of customization design...
"Creating Incompetence" can be an issue you run into when trying to add a lot of options, especially around things, like feats or skills, that aren't as arbitrary as supernatural powers or spells.


I also quite like the distinction between 'complexity' and 'depth' here - though like Tony I'm not sure of the actual terms being what I consider those definitions to mean (though tbf, I don't like Tony's choices either, and have nothing better to offer). This helps me wrap my head around a few things I've been thinking about as the previews have been dropping.
It's like, we know what we're talking about, we just can't find the best way to talk about it. ;)


This really seems like the kind of game that I'd like to play but not the kind of game I'd like to run.
That's how I've often felt about 3.5/PF1. I feel the opposite (rather run than play) about 1e/5e.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
@dave2008, it sounds like PF2 may not be for you, which is fine. I also like and play 5e but feel that PF2 brings a lot to the table for those who want a little more complexity, depth, and customization (similar to Morrus). You may want to check out the rules for free at http://2e.aonprd.com/ to see the details for yourself.
[MENTION=695]techno[/MENTION] i was just checking out the dragons in the SRD and it didn't seem to list there attack actions anywhere. Just special reactions. Are they not included in the SRD or is there a table of dragon abilities somewhere I'm missing?
 

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