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Is Pathfinder meant to be "boutique D&D?"

By way of disclaimer, let me start by saying that I've never played Pathfinder; I haven't played 3.x in almost fifteen years. I generally prefer the "rules medium" feel of 5E to the heaviness of 3.x/Pathfinder.

But this isn't about that - about stylistic preferences. As I wrote in another thread, I've been wondering how Paizo sees the way forward - what the intentions are behind a 2E, especially when the first edition of Pathfinder was a "let's keep 3.x alive" feel, and P2 seems a bit of a divergence.

I browsed through the book for a few minutes yesterday, have read and listened to a few reviews, but haven't dived into the book or system in any great depth. But one thing I've noticed is not just the level of detail relative to 5E, but how many little touches that add not only detail and granularity, but flavor.

So why "boutique?" Ever been to one of those gelato shops that sells flavors tike Laverndaer Bliss or Burnt Caramel Bourbon? I don't see Pathfinder 2 being that high-brow in intention, but I do wonder if that is the RPG-equivalent niche Paizo is going for.

They must realize that P2 is coming out in a very different context than P1 was: mainly that the current version of D&D is widely lauded and more popular than ever. Where P1 was intended to served those unhappy with 4E D&D and/or continue 3.x, even to the point of viable competition with the top dog, I highly doubt that Paizo is trying to go mano a mano with Wizards of the Coast.

But what if the intention is more of a boutique, high-brow alternative?

Now understand that while I get into high-brow things--whether it is beer, food, music, artsy films, etc--inn reality I'm rather omnivorous: I don't like total trash, but I do love a good rom-com, a good cheeseburger, but I also love art films, maple-glazed bison burgers, etc. I tend to lean more towards the high-brow, but I also like the accessibility and ease-of-play of a simpler game than what P2 seems to be, in a similar sense that sometimes I prefer Nora Ephron to Shane Carruth, even though I enjoy the films of both.

What brought me to this question was listening and reading reviews and hearing about any number of design detail that I couldn't help but think, "That's a good idea - wish that was in 5E."

Again, I love 5E - in my mind they really hit the sweet spot. And I don't foresee myself playing P2 (though I am consider buying it for reading enjoyment). But I am just wondering if this is what Paizo had in mind. In a sense they're taking the natural step forward from P1, which was "Hey wait a minute, we still love 3.x!" Now they're saying, or seemingly saying, "OK, we did that for a decade but we want to improve upon it. Here's the game that we, the designers at Paizo, want to play."

So if 5E was designed to both bring back the player base and create an evergreen version of the game that can draw in new fans, while embodying the classic feel of the game--all design goals that they hit out of the ballpark--could it be that Pathfinder 2 was designed to create a boutique D&D play experience?

As a side note, one thing that makes me question this hypothesis is the art. I am lukewarm on Shane Reynolds, enjoying a lot of his work until it veers a bit too far into the anime-esque, but I found a lot of the art to be a bit...cartoonish. But I almost didn't mention this as I barely skimmed through the book.
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
WAR is catoonish and seems to be an acquired tastes. the non humanoid art is very good but yeah his art is cartoony.

They probably hit peak pathfinder years ago and sales were flat/low. Eventually you will hit saturation point.

If they offered more 5E type stuff there no real point in buying PF2, they doubled down on crunch. I assume its for anyone who likes a more crunchy game, I don't think they plan on being number one and there is no real viable way anyway IMHO.

All PF2 has to do is sell better in 2019 than Pathfinder 1 would have done. If it pulls that off and they don't lose money its a success.
 

MockingBird

Explorer
Just to touch on the art. I liked how they made goblins their own back in PF1e. You could see one with no other context and know right away it was PF. Now, however, it seems like they just went over board with it. I appreciated the art style back then but I find it a bit off putting now.
 
So why "boutique?" Ever been to one of those gelato shops that sells flavors tike Laverndaer Bliss or Burnt Caramel Bourbon? I don't see Pathfinder 2 being that high-brow in intention, but I do wonder if that is the RPG-equivalent niche Paizo is going for.

They must realize that P2 is coming out in a very different context than P1 was: mainly that the current version of D&D is widely lauded and more popular than ever. Where P1 was intended to served those unhappy with 4E D&D and/or continue 3.x, even to the point of viable competition with the top dog, I highly doubt that Paizo is trying to go mano a mano with Wizards of the Coast.

But what if the intention is more of a boutique, high-brow alternative?
So if 5E was designed to both bring back the player base and create an evergreen version of the game that can draw in new fans, while embodying the classic feel of the game--all design goals that they hit out of the ballpark--could it be that Pathfinder 2 was designed to create a boutique D&D play experience?
I find this to be a fascinating conjecture so I ended my long time lurk to register and throw in my two cents.

Once I read your post, I couldn't help but agree with your hypothesis. My group recently gave a test run on Pathfinder 2 after a long stint with 5e and we all were extremely excited after the first few sessions this past week. I can confidently say that our next few series of campaigns will be solidly Pathfinder 2, but that would likely have never been the case if we didn't come from 5e. I think the fact that we only enjoy Pathfinder 2 because we came from a long period playing 5e is what lends credence to your boutique conjecture; what do you think?

As a way of explaining further why I feel your idea is spot on, let me elaborate how we approached Pathfinder 2. To us, Pathfinder 2 feels like "D&D 5e advanced" in more ways than just extra crunch. The three action combat system feels like a revelation and the simple act of making acts such as "raise a shield," "close/open a door," and "draw a crossbow from your pack," cost 1 action add extremely satisfying tactical choice to the combat. As an example, our 1st level ranger was in a shoot out with goblins in the Rise of the Runelords glassworks and agonized over using his last action to take a shot, hide, move, point out the hidden goblins he had a bead on to everyone else, or close the door he was standing in front of.

I never would have imagined that taking something which was "free" in d&d and making it cost an action would increase my player's enjoyment, but there you go. That's what really makes me feel like your talk of a "boutique" d&d experience is spot on. After all, making things more complicated is definitely something only those with more rarefied tastes will seek out, surely?
 

ccs

39th lv DM
After all, making things more complicated is definitely something only those with more rarefied tastes will seek out, surely?
No, it's just the progression of how games/gaming/editions generally go. It just happens. The more you play the more bits & pieces you'll add to your games.
There's no rarified tastes involved.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
They must realize that P2 is coming out in a very different context than P1 was
I sure hope so. But honestly I'm not sure. There are too many indications Paizo worked in a Pathfinder bubble to ignore...

That is, I really wish Pathfinder 2 learns from what 5E does really really well. But I can't be sure...
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
All PF2 has to do is sell better in 2019 than Pathfinder 1 would have done. If it pulls that off and they don't lose money its a success.
Don't be ridiculous, Zard.

Just stemming the downward curve is never enough, for any company.

If PF2 sells as well as PF2 did in its first few years, THAT'S a success.

What PF2 needs to do, is to generate enough income for Paizo to afford to keep its staff, and its rate of supplement output.
 

JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
I don't think Paizo intended PF2 to be "boutique", although I think it will be.

With the competition of the very successful and accessible D&D 5e, they instead focused elsewhere: customisation. The phletora of available options is, I assume, what most PF1 players enjoy and it is what they built PF2 on.

Which is why I predict PF2 will become "boutique"; it offers sort of an "advanced D&D" experience.
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
I don't know about boutique -- I'd say slightly more advanced (in terms of mechanical depth). It might scratch an itch for some players.
 

Maggan

Villager
If PF2 sells as well as PF2 did in its first few years, THAT'S a success.
That shouldn't be too difficult. :p

(on a more serious note: I expect PF2 to overtake Starfinder as number 2 in the ICv2 charts, and that Starfinder drops a few positions, let's say to number 5).

/M
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
Don't be ridiculous, Zard.

Just stemming the downward curve is never enough, for any company.

If PF2 sells as well as PF2 did in its first few years, THAT'S a success.

What PF2 needs to do, is to generate enough income for Paizo to afford to keep its staff, and its rate of supplement output.
ideally no but if you can make a living doing something you enjoy where you're your own boss and not beholden to CEO's etc why not. There is worse ways to make a living. Even 5% market share will be around 3 million in revenue which should be enough to support a small staff.

They're not going to be number 1 regardless. May as well carve out a niche if they can (PF2 might tank IDK). If they can get 10%-15% they will be roughly where they were out in 2010.
 
I find this to be a fascinating conjecture so I ended my long time lurk to register and throw in my two cents.

Once I read your post, I couldn't help but agree with your hypothesis. My group recently gave a test run on Pathfinder 2 after a long stint with 5e and we all were extremely excited after the first few sessions this past week. I can confidently say that our next few series of campaigns will be solidly Pathfinder 2, but that would likely have never been the case if we didn't come from 5e. I think the fact that we only enjoy Pathfinder 2 because we came from a long period playing 5e is what lends credence to your boutique conjecture; what do you think?
Maybe, maybe not. You could have been burnt out on 5E, or maybe it is just the novelty of something new, or maybe you just want a more complex, customizable experience. Now this may be why some people go to, say, boutique gelato flavors, but it doesn't itself make them boutique.

The "boutiqueness" has more to do with the thing itself - the quality, both in terms of how well it does what it seeks to do, but also the uniqueness and flavor of the experience.

As a way of explaining further why I feel your idea is spot on, let me elaborate how we approached Pathfinder 2. To us, Pathfinder 2 feels like "D&D 5e advanced" in more ways than just extra crunch. The three action combat system feels like a revelation and the simple act of making acts such as "raise a shield," "close/open a door," and "draw a crossbow from your pack," cost 1 action add extremely satisfying tactical choice to the combat. As an example, our 1st level ranger was in a shoot out with goblins in the Rise of the Runelords glassworks and agonized over using his last action to take a shot, hide, move, point out the hidden goblins he had a bead on to everyone else, or close the door he was standing in front of.

I never would have imagined that taking something which was "free" in d&d and making it cost an action would increase my player's enjoyment, but there you go. That's what really makes me feel like your talk of a "boutique" d&d experience is spot on. After all, making things more complicated is definitely something only those with more rarefied tastes will seek out, surely?
Interesting. But again, I don't think this makes it boutique. It sounds like you prefer a more tactical, detailed rules system - or at least are enjoying it in contrast to the free-wheeling approach of 5E.

The last thing I want to do is imply that complexity is synonymous with boutiqueness. That said, an aspect of boutique gelato or beer or wine is the complexity of the flavor. A good IPA is complex and deep in flavor.

With RPGs, the rules are only the "carrier" of the experience of the narrative itself. "I climb the wall" is the narrative experience, "I roll d20 + Athletics" is the mechanics. Some gamers put more or less on the latter than others.

So in that respect, Pathfinder is and always has been more "boutique" for those that like rules granularity. It has been "Advanced D&D" for those that want an "advanced" (in terms of rules complexity) experience. But it isn't necessarily any more or less boutique in terms of story or setting.
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
I've been wondering how Paizo sees the way forward - what the intentions are behind a 2E, especially when the first edition of Pathfinder was a "let's keep 3.x alive" feel, and P2 seems a bit of a divergence.
Since 5e is back to the things D&Ders missed about 3e, there's no viable being-D&D-until-D&D-comes-back strategy open to them, obviously.

so challenging D&D is out. The 10 ton coelacanth is back in the wading pool. Frankly, I think Paizo should've just re-attached itself like a proper lamprey. They could have leveraged their rep as the caretakers of True D&D during the 4e/Essentials/Next interregnum, and done something other 3pps can't generally seem to make money on: publishing 'crunch' - splatbooks and the like - for the current ed of D&D. Y'know, something of quality players wouldn't be afraid to take to their DMs, begging approval, unlike rifling through DMsG.

I browsed through the book for a few minutes yesterday, have read and listened to a few reviews, but haven't dived into the book or system in any great depth. But one thing I've noticed is not just the level of detail relative to 5E, but how many little touches that add not only detail and granularity, but flavor.
So why "boutique?"
Prior to d20 re-taking the hobby, RPGs had gotten very 'niche' - I think that's the same meaning you're going for. You can't compete with D&D, because very few people are ever going to hear of or try your product, so you make it as unique & appealing as possible, even if that means making it appeal to a very narrow wedge of the potential market, and count on the few converts you get to introduce it to the few like-minded individuals they know personally, and carve out a little niche for your product. It means needing to be very specialized, and very good.

Ever been to one of those gelato shops that sells flavors tike Laverndaer Bliss or Burnt Caramel Bourbon?
Lavender ice cream is way better than one might expect, BTW.

What brought me to this question was listening and reading reviews and hearing about any number of design detail that I couldn't help but think, "That's a good idea - wish that was in 5E."
... I am just wondering if this is what Paizo had in mind.
A left-handed way of supplementing 5e? It's not a crazy idea, 13th Age did that, too, it had some great, innovative, mechanics that were specifically design & presented in such a way they'd be easy to 'lift' for other games (not necessarily 5e, since it was out a year ahead of that ed, but any d20 game, certainly including Next/5e...).

So if 5E was designed to both bring back the player base and create an evergreen version of the game that can draw in new fans, while embodying the classic feel of the game--all design goals that they hit out of the ballpark
Maybe I'm just more cynical... OK, 'maybe' is the wrong word... but 5e is very much a compromise ed, designed to avoid offending any faction of the fanbase enough to edition war against it - most especially, the factions that already /did/ edition war against D&D - and it sacrifices quite a bit of accessibility and draw to new players in order to get there. The point is not to 'draw in new fans' - the D&D name will do that - but merely not to repel them before they can even try it. Because there's no use being accessible and meeting new-player expectations if you're going to be surrounded by a firestorm of nerdrage few potential new players have the asbestos personalities to brave.

could it be that Pathfinder 2 was designed to create a boutique D&D play experience?
It's a simple explanation: with the hobby back to being totally dominated by D&D, the options are hitch your wagon to it, or carve out a tiny specialist niche.

I'd've thought Paizo well-positioned to do the former, rather than the latter, but it's their business...

The "boutiqueness" has more to do with the thing itself - the quality, both in terms of how well it does what it seeks to do, but also the uniqueness and flavor of the experience.
Nod. You can't compete on name recognition, so you compete on quality - you get only the choosiest customers, who are hard to please, but you get customers.

Interesting. But again, I don't think this makes it boutique. It sounds like you prefer a more tactical, detailed rules system - or at least are enjoying it in contrast to the free-wheeling approach of 5E.
D&D has traditionally had rules that ranged from sketchy, to Baroque, to bloated, to broken, to <redacted>, to consciously DM-centric.

Other games carve out niches for themselves with rules that are better than D&D, and they compete with eachother by doing something /specific/, preferably unique, that not just every other RPG that's strictly superior to D&D's Paleolithic mechanics can do. I doubt 'more tactical/detailed,' alone, would do that, however much an improvement they may be over 5e. Unless there's still some of that True D&D sheen left on PF2, I suppose.

So in that respect, Pathfinder is and always has been more "boutique" for those that like rules granularity. It has been "Advanced D&D" for those that want an "advanced" (in terms of rules complexity) experience. But it isn't necessarily any more or less boutique in terms of story or setting.
PF 2 /could/ have been an 'Advanced' alternative to 5e, I think. But that wasn't what PF1 was in any sense, it was a continuation of 3.5, a line in the sand, as it were, to say D&D can has come this far, but no further. 5e backed away from that line, and PF can no longer be what it was. Heck, 5e backed up so far that PF1 could have just started being promoted as the 'advanced' D&D alternative, without a PF2.

The last thing I want to do is imply that complexity is synonymous with boutiqueness.
Austere simplicity, preferably to the point of elegance, also works.
5e stakes itself out as 'rules lite' (compared to 3.5/PF), so when a disillusioned gamer acclimated to it finds a genuinely simple, yet functional, system it can be quite the revelation.
 

mewzard

Explorer
Since 5e is back to the things D&Ders missed about 3e, there's no viable being-D&D-until-D&D-comes-back strategy open to them, obviously.

so challenging D&D is out. The 10 ton coelacanth is back in the wading pool. Frankly, I think Paizo should've just re-attached itself like a proper lamprey. They could have leveraged their rep as the caretakers of True D&D during the 4e/Essentials/Next interregnum, and done something other 3pps can't generally seem to make money on: publishing 'crunch' - splatbooks and the like - for the current ed of D&D. Y'know, something of quality players wouldn't be afraid to take to their DMs, begging approval, unlike rifling through DMsG.
There is nothing I want less than Paizo to give up its more unique identity and just drop books for 5e. I don't want to play 5e. My group mostly doesn't want to play 5e (the few who do can manage fine in that regard). Yet, we're weary of the flaws of PF after many years of playing it, despite enjoying our time for the most part. Honestly, I think PF2e is the solution, the middle ground between the overly bloated PF and the emaciated 5e.

Well, we'll find out when we can finally get a game going (hopefully soon).
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
There is nothing I want less than Paizo to give up its more unique identity and just drop books for 5e. I don't want to play 5e. My group mostly doesn't want to play 5e. Yet, we're weary of the flaws of PF after many years of playing it
I wouldn't think Paizo's unique identity was in it's D&D Clone... what about all the great APs it put out for both 3.5, then for PF1? What about Golarion? Would APs set there be less unique for having stats that worked with 5e?

, despite enjoying our time for the most part. Honestly, I think PF2e is the solution, the middle ground between the overly bloated PF and the emaciated 5e.
I'm sure it may be for you, and y'know, enjoy. Would add-ons to 5e that brought it out of its emaciated state to something still less 'bloated' than PF1 not fill the same niche, though, while potentially tapping a broader 5e audience?

I mean, too late now and all - just speculating. ;)
 

mewzard

Explorer
I wouldn't think Paizo's unique identity was in it's D&D Clone... what about all the great APs it put out for both 3.5, then for PF1? What about Golarion? Would APs set there be less unique for having stats that worked with 5e?

I'm sure it may be for you, and y'know, enjoy. Would add-ons to 5e that brought it out of its emaciated state to something still less 'bloated' than PF1 not fill the same niche, though, while potentially tapping a broader 5e audience?

I mean, too late now and all - just speculating. ;)
I mean, being a different game from what D&D actively puts out is a part of said identity, though you're not wrong about its campaign setting and fantastic Adventure Paths. But given I'm not really into 5e all that much, I probably wouldn't follow them to 5e, I'd just sigh and stick with Pathfinder. It's flaws bother me less than 5e's. The need for options, for choice, is what drove my group from 4e to Pathfinder, a charge I led. 5e's a better game, but there's still not enough to it for my blood.

That may be true, that adding to 5e could bring it to life...but Wizards of the Coast clearly doesn't care to add much to it. They could easily start pumping out content like crazy with how much money they have, but they've kept it like this. It's clearly a feature, not a bug at this point. I suppose Paizo could try and do so third party, but I'd need something impressive to draw me in.

Either way, you are right there. It's passed that point, Paizo will push ahead in their own way with their own game, and I'm glad they have.
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
The need for options, for choice, is what drove my group from 4e to Pathfinder, a charge I led. 5e's a better game, but there's still not enough to it for my blood.
Odd, choice-wise, I'd have to rank 3.5/PF>4e>>>5e. Nevermind /viable/ choice. 4e's pace of release was downright frantic, so you must've bugged out quite early.

I mean, being a different game from what D&D actively puts out is a part of said identity, though you're not wrong about its campaign setting and fantastic Adventure Paths. But given I'm not really into 5e all that much, I probably wouldn't follow them to 5e, I'd just sigh and stick with Pathfinder. It's flaws bother me less than 5e's.
I guess the game's identity (PF1's identity was arguably very much "D&D 3.75") relied on /not being 4e/, which, not coincidentally, is also an important part of 5e's identity. But that's not /Paizo's/ identity. Piazo's built a solid rep for itself, both on PF and what it'd done prior to it.

That may be true, that adding to 5e could bring it to life...but Wizards of the Coast clearly doesn't care to add much to it. They could easily start pumping out content like crazy with how much money they have, but they've kept it like this. It's clearly a feature, not a bug at this point. I suppose Paizo could try and do so third party, but I'd need something impressive to draw me in.
I have to agree with all that, actually, I just have a different opinion about what it could've meant for Paizo. 5e /is/ locked into being slow-release, low-crunch, & choice-poor (relative to the heights of 3.x/PF & 4e on WotC's watch, which is not really /that/ poor) - I guess, as a way of staying 'Evergreen?' and maybe part of the strategy to avoid edition warring - they have DMsG as a superfund site for amateurish expansions. Paizo /could/ have traded off it's rep and done an 'Advanced' set of supplements to 5e, could even have couched PF2 that way, I suppose...

Either way, you are right there. It's passed that point, Paizo will push ahead in their own way with their own game, and I'm glad they have.
I wish them luck carving out a niche for themselves.
 

mewzard

Explorer
Odd, choice-wise, I'd have to rank 3.5/PF>4e>>>5e. Nevermind /viable/ choice. 4e's pace of release was downright frantic, so you must've bugged out quite early.

I guess the game's identity (PF1's identity was arguably very much "D&D 3.75") relied on /not being 4e/, which, not coincidentally, is also an important part of 5e's identity. But that's not /Paizo's/ identity. Piazo's built a solid rep for itself, both on PF and what it'd done prior to it.

I have to agree with all that, actually, I just have a different opinion about what it could've meant for Paizo. 5e /is/ locked into being slow-release, low-crunch, & choice-poor (relative to the heights of 3.x/PF & 4e on WotC's watch, which is not really /that/ poor) - I guess, as a way of staying 'Evergreen?' and maybe part of the strategy to avoid edition warring - they have DMsG as a superfund site for amateurish expansions. Paizo /could/ have traded off it's rep and done an 'Advanced' set of supplements to 5e, could even have couched PF2 that way, I suppose...

I wish them luck carving out a niche for themselves.
I mean, it's a matter of perspective, and I suppose I could have ducked out early enough to miss some big changes...but I found most of my attempts at making characters all felt same-y, even with different classes. It was a lot of 1W at wills, 2W encounters, it all blended together. I never really felt that way when making Pathfinder characters.

You're not wrong, I just see part of Paizo being a company that does their own games. I didn't know of them until I started playing Pathfinder, so that's my mental image of them.

I imagine Paizo's staff really enjoys having their own game they can do with as they see fit. Plus, having diverse options for RPGs is never bad in my book.

Definitely, I feel like it's good for everyone, even WotC to have a thriving gaming ecosystem.
 

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