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Pathfinder 2E Is It Time for PF2 "Essentials"?

The-Magic-Sword

Adventurer
On the subject of PC vs. NPC creation, I dont mind NPCs having a simplified system as long as the final numbers are comparable. If one of the player characters is absent from a scene, I want to be able to hand that player a guardsman to play, and it should work out of the box. How those numbers were made up? I couldn't really care less as longa s they make sense in the story. 3E's insitance that you build monsters like characters was one of the main flaws with it in my book.

What I actually play these days is Action, which is pretty much DnD reimagined using Feng Shui as a base ruleset. Though it nominally does other genres, DnD is what we have actually use it for. Character creation in Action is entirely points-based, but there is something equivalent to level. In a lot of ways, Action characters are built like NPCs in other games - there are very few restrictions and its the player's responsibility to make it into a cohesive whole. Fits my table.

The free League (Fria Ligan) used to appear at game cons in Sweden maybe 20 years ago with innovative but weird scenarios. Doing things like Twilight 2000 today, they have become much more conventional - but others in the group still do the wierd shit. Good kids!
PF2e takes a similar approach in that the numbers for NPCs and the numbers for PCs end up pretty similar, but it isn't 1 to 1, but you can see the logic of how the creature was put together-- e.g. their strength score and their attack bonus make sense, they're occasionally a point or two off, but that makes sense since in the end they are decoupled.
 

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Starfox

Adventurer
[About the tactical game feeling more game] Gonna put a guess out and say "more options": there are just more moves that balloon out the tactical aspect of the game. So many class feats create new actions to use...
This might be the key. You get more actions that are exclusive and siloed. Suddenly, at 7th level, a Ranger can do this stuff that no-one else can attempt, ever. 4E also worked this way. This might be what alienated me from both.

If this is so, it is kind of funny as in the Action homebrew I mentioned, there is something called schticks that are exactly this; new actions you can perform. The difference is anyone can learn all actions. There are no classes and no prerequisites. Of course, if you lack the skill to use the schtick well, it will be useless. But you can still learn it.
 

dave2008

Legend
How much complexity is justifiable, even if its efficient, is of course down to taste and how much you value the kind of depth you can get from a rules system (which isn't the be all / end all.)
Yep, until PF2 came out I thought I wanted more complexity. PF2 is basically the system I fantasized about designing myself (on these very forums actually), but now that I have it I realize that it is not a system I really want to play. I love the design, just not that interested in playing it.
My biggest problem with 5e, now that I think about it, is that its so much more complex than say PBTA or other rules lite systems... but its not especially deeper than them, while managing to be a little simpler than other d20 games of its ilk, but losing out massively in the depth that arguably makes them attractive in the first place.
I can't speak for other systems, but with a few house rules it (5e) has the perfect balance of depth and complexity for my current group. I don't see that group moving to another system. I wanted to give PF2 a try, but they wouldn't have it. Now, the more I've gotten to know the system, I've lost interest in playing it myself. That may chance once I get back to in person games, but it seems less and less likely as time goes on.
 

dave2008

Legend
If this is so, it is kind of funny as in the Action homebrew I mentioned, there is something called schticks that are exactly this; new actions you can perform. The difference is anyone can learn all actions. There are no classes and no prerequisites. Of course, if you lack the skill to use the schtick well, it will be useless. But you can still learn it.
Though I am fascinated by such systems, they are classes and not PF or D&D. If you want classes, at this point, I think you just need to look to a different system. Let D&D and PF be the premium class based systems they are.
 






Windjammer

Adventurer
Two quick follow ups.

First, thanks to all the posters who engaged my questions re picking up monster gears and taming creatures in the wild. Very interesting and much appreciated.

Secondly, an additional reason why I think PF2 hasn’t caught on that much: very poor page to price ratio once you move beyond the CRB (classic loss leader). I own 3 volumes in the PF2 lost omens series and think they are really good. However, two things stand out:
1. Art direction has gone downhill. There’s lots of great art in PF2 (some of it better than any PF1 era stuff) but they also feature artists with no skill and understanding of: proportions, perspective, and even placement of heads. This isn’t rocket science, these are the 101 drawing sins that beginners books warn against.
2. Couple that to an outrageously high price point—I got Inner Sea Gods 1E in the mail today and boy oh boy does that deliver where 2E would roll that content out in four thin hardbacks instead—and you get lots of people scratching their head why they should pay that much when the text is basically free/PRD.

Historically, Paizo has been strong in the art department but it looks like they let some important people go. I’m sure that doesn’t help move books off shelves.
 

Green Onceler

Explorer
1. Art direction has gone downhill.
I agree. The aesthetics of 2e leave me cold. Beige is the colour they went with for this edition?

Even worse, the adventure paths have really lost their edge. I haven't felt compelled to buy an AP since Ruins of Azlant in 2017.

Inner Sea Gods was amazing, but I don't think Paizo can pull off a book like that again, sadly. It appears they do not really want to.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
So from what I’ve gathered, a fairly common criticism of PF2 is that it’s too complex, granular, and cumbersome because of so many moving parts. But had Paizo made PF2 simpler and less complex, wouldn’t it compete with 5e even more directly? Why would you play PF2 if it was even closer to the experience you get with 5e? I just don’t quite understand why Paizo would want to produce another version of 5e. They need a niche, and the niche they chose was a more complex rule set. I guess they could’ve gone super light weight? But that would definitely alienate their core fanbase who’s used to PF1 complexity and crunch.

Something like 3.5 with bounded accuracy and overhauled spells, feats etc deleting the unfixable stuff.

What we got PF2.
 

So to me, I wanna clarify they're interrelated, you do need more complexity to have more depth, generally-- but the amount of depth you buy with any amount of complexity is down to the 'elegance' of the design, 'efficiency' might be the right word. Pathfinder 1e (3.5 really) was very deep because it had a mountain of complexity, but none of the complexity was that efficient. Whereas I view Pathfinder 2e as having a similar depth, but far less complexity, but it still needs some to do what it does. For point of reference, I view 5e as having very little depth per complexity, but it also has very little complexity. How much complexity is justifiable, even if its efficient, is of course down to taste and how much you value the kind of depth you can get from a rules system (which isn't the be all / end all.)

My biggest problem with 5e, now that I think about it, is that its so much more complex than say PBTA or other rules lite systems... but its not especially deeper than them, while managing to be a little simpler than other d20 games of its ilk, but losing out massively in the depth that arguably makes them attractive in the first place.
Exactly this for me. This is why I have moved more to OSE (and AD&D) for when I want things more simple (and in that more old school vibe) and PF2E for when I want that customisation and crunchy combat. 5E offers this middle ground that, clearly is ideal for a lot of people, but doesn't scratch either itch for me.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
I agree. The aesthetics of 2e leave me cold. Beige is the colour they went with for this edition?

Even worse, the adventure paths have really lost their edge. I haven't felt compelled to buy an AP since Ruins of Azlant in 2017.

Inner Sea Gods was amazing, but I don't think Paizo can pull off a book like that again, sadly. It appears they do not really want to.

I have to agree with this, I'm a massive pf2e fan, but the consistency of the art is nowhere near pf1 or 5e.
 

Retreater

Legend
I have to agree with this, I'm a massive pf2e fan, but the consistency of the art is nowhere near pf1 or 5e.
I concur, but especially lately (the past year) gaming is all pixels on computer screens for me, and I tend to gloss over the art when I'm at my computer. I'm already spending the majority of my day in front of screens.
And when I think about it, this might be a factor of the book sales issue. I'm way more likely to just use Archives of Nethys for rules content than PDFs. It's searchable, all in one place (without having to search multiple files), updated to current errata. If I'm going to be on my computer prepping a game or running one at the table, that's how I'm going to run it. I'm not going to make my character with a rulebook and paper character sheet - I'll use the Pathbuilder app. The rulebook isn't the best way.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
2. Couple that to an outrageously high price point—I got Inner Sea Gods 1E in the mail today and boy oh boy does that deliver where 2E would roll that content out in four thin hardbacks instead—and you get lots of people scratching their head why they should pay that much when the text is basically free/PRD.
The Lost Omens line replaces the Player Companion and Campaign Setting lines from PF1. The price per page of Lost Omens is less than either of those.
  • Player Companion: 32 pages, $14.99 print, $10.49 PDF
  • Campaign Setting: 64 pages, $22.99 print, $15.99 PDF
  • Lost Omens (small): ~128 pages, $34.99 print, $24.99 PDF
  • Lost Omens (large): ~300 pages, $46.99 print, PDF pricing not yet available
The small books are the character guides. The big ones are Absalom and Mwangi Expanse. For less than the price of both of a Player Companion and a Campaign Setting book, you get about a third more content. The value comparing the large books is even higher.

Edit: Inner Sea Gods is listed at $39.99 print ($27.99 PDF), but it’s an older book. Paizo raised their prices during PF1’s lifetime. Player Companion books used to be $12.99 print and Campaign Setting ones used to be $17.99. For example, Inner Sea Races is a hard cover released after the increase. It is 256 pages and $44.99 print.
 
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Windjammer

Adventurer
The Lost Omens line replaces the Player Companion and Campaign Setting lines from PF1. The price per page of Lost Omens is less than either of those.
  • Player Companion: 32 pages, $14.99 print, $10.49 PDF
  • Campaign Setting: 64 pages, $22.99 print, $15.99 PDF
  • Lost Omens (small): ~128 pages, $34.99 print, $24.99 PDF
  • Lost Omens (large): ~300 pages, $46.99 print, PDF pricing not yet available
The small books are the character guides. The big ones are Absalom and Mwangi Expanse. For less than the price of both of a Player Companion and a Campaign Setting book, you get about a third more content. The value comparing the large books is even higher.

Edit: Inner Sea Gods is listed at $39.99 print ($27.99 PDF), but it’s an older book. Paizo raised their prices during PF1’s lifetime. Player Companion books used to be $12.99 print and Campaign Setting ones used to be $17.99. For example, Inner Sea Races is a hard cover released after the increase. It is 256 pages and $44.99 print.
Yes, that’s probably how management wants to look at it.
Judging from Amazon reviews and online fora, most customers look at it like this:

Inner Sea World Guide -> Lost Omens World Guide

Inner Sea Gods -> Lost Omens Gods and Magic

And that comparison ain’t favorable.
 

kenada

Hero
Supporter
Yes, that’s probably how management wants to look at it.
Judging from Amazon reviews and online fora, most customers look at it like this:

Inner Sea World Guide -> Lost Omens World Guide

Inner Sea Gods -> Lost Omens Gods and Magic

And that comparison ain’t favorable.
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s comparing player option books to meaty setting books published before Paizo increased their prices. The comparison is not valid not matter how much people want to complain about it.
 

Windjammer

Adventurer
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s comparing player option books to meaty setting books published before Paizo increased their prices. The comparison is not valid not matter how much people want to complain about it.
I do think the Lost Omen World Guide should have been entitled Lost Omens Players Guide Or LO Gazetteer. But it wasn’t, and is directed at GMs alongside players (as per the preface). That’s why people compare it to the Inner World Guide, which was likewise directed at GMs and players.

Whether the comparison is fair or not, I don’t know. I know it’s a comparison people draw and one reason why many don’t buy the LO series.

Spreading out the hardcovers in 130 page books just looks like dividing up content in a more expensive manner. Paizo is hardly alone in this, The Dark Eye (Ulisses, licensee of Paizo) is much worse, or some of FFG and GMT’s Expansion lines in boardgaming.

It’s an established sales model: You spread out the content extra wide and only cater to the well pocketed brandline loyalist with strong completionist impulses.
That’s a valid sales model (I’m serious) but
A) let’s not marvel at a smaller market share, and
B) let’s not invalidate the market segment that justifiably feels left behind by that pricing model.

Again, coming from someone who’s onboard with PF2 (and has bought special editions PF2 hardcovers where available).

I do wonder what Paizo’s subscription numbers are before and after the PF2 makeover. Do we have numbers for that? Because they would help to prove or invalidate my hypothesis as to the new sales model.
 

I think the assumption is you could pare down the complexity/etc while preserving the system’s customization and tactical elements. There are some subsystems that border on vestigial. For example, the core rules have an entire subsystem for vision. It does basically nothing*. The Beginner Box dispenses with it and just explains what happens in plain language. PF2 would be an easier to understand game if it did more of that instead of trying (or appearing to try) to enumerate all the things you can do with specific rules for each.

--
* Specifically, it only defines what happens if you try to attack a hidden or undetected creature. All the stuff we associate with being hidden (moving, what happens when you take certain actions, treating targets as flat-footed, etc) is actually handled as riders on the Sneak and Hide skill actions, which makes those skills extremely verbose and harder to understand. The Beginner Box puts that stuff in a side bar next to the Stealth skill.

The whole hidden/sneak/stealth/visibility system is a huge headache, and one of the things that tipped me over the edge into I'll never actually get this to the table with my group territory. When customers post flowcharts to explain one of your sub-systems, you can find multipart Youtube videos trying to explain it, and people still have trouble working it out in play, maybe you need to rethink it and go back to the drawing board.

PF2 is a game that creates a mechanic or value for every single thing players could choose to do in a game, to quantify and tie everything together in an airtight manner. It's the sort of system that reads well to a certain type of system-first gamer. But it became clear to me that it would be a headache to play at the table without at least two people in the group who knew the system backwards and forwards by heart. And that's just not gonna happen with my group.
 
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