Pathfinder Playtest: Rulebook

Jester David

Adventurer
2 out of 5 rating for Pathfinder Playtest: Rulebook

Before I started reading the Pathfinder 2 rulebook, I thought about what I wanted the game to do. I mentally laid out my “deal breakering” problems that I would want addressed, which I listed at the start of this review:
1) Reduce the “number porn” of higher level play
2) Reduce or limit the mandated complexity of characters
3) Place some focus on play other than combat,
4) Magic item Christmas Tree & Treadmill
Bonuses for characters were not reduced. Comparing the numbers for monsters with monsters in a Pathfinder 1 Bestiary show monster math is fairly close to the same, and Pathfinder 2 monsters are higher in a number of places.
While I don’t think the game needs to go with the flat math and bounded accuracy of 5th Edition D&D, Pathfinder 2 could easily have halved their bonuses by only adding 1/2 level to d20 checks rather than level. And not assuming magic items in their math would further reduce the number bloat.
Characters are just as complex as they were in Pathfinder 2. There are no simple characters for people who just want to sit down and play, as even the fighter and rogue require choosing one or more feats every level. And while the fighter is often considered simple as it doesn’t have spells, it requires selecting and managing more feats than normal.
For a final product, I think suggested builds would be lovely. One or two characters that are laid out with suggested feat chains from level 1 to 20. It’s not perfect, but it would help.
The combat focus in the game bugs me. Too often my Pathfinder campaigns descended into lurching from combat to combat in a dungeon, especially when running the published adventures. While you don’t *need* rules for roleplaying, encouraging that type of play helps. After all, nothing stops you from roleplaying in a game of Battletech or Warhammer 40,000either, but that doesn’t mean those are RPGs. A good roleplaying game with continually suggest personality traits, and maybe even include a section for “personality” or “flaws” on the character sheet.
Lastly is magic items. Which isn’t any better in Pathfinder 2. The edition has even added the new Resonance mechanic which pretty much solely exists as a crutch to prevent why higher level parties don’t just buy dozens of low level magic items. It’s the definition of a rules patch: it doesn’t remotely fix the underlying problem and just smooths over a more irritating proud nail.
Pathfinder 2 is a very curious beast. Superficially, it incorporates a lot of 4th Edition design elements. Treasure packages, classes based around individual powers, heavy combat focus, emphasis on tactical play and in-combat movement, mandated magic items, comparable bonuses across classes, jargon and keyword heavy writing style, and even icon based powers. Which feels ironic as Pathfinder was created to appeal to D&D fans who didn’t like 4th Edition.
It’s really hard to judge this product because it’s so very dense. Even after a week of reading the book and watching several streamed playtest games there are still elements I’m not entirely sure I understand. Every single time I pick up the book and look up something, I stumble across some other sub-mechanic I have missed. Between the start of this section and and the end I decided to double-check how grappled was handled and came across references rolling against someone’s “Fortitude DC”. A quick search of the document pulls up a few other examples but no explanation of what a Fortitude DC is. An opposed check by rolling a Fortitude save? But then why not say that? And while doing an editing pass of the review I wondered how spells save DCs were determined, and spent five minutes trying to find out for certain as it’s not explained in either the Classes or Spells chapters. It’s a dense rulebook with spread out rules that require you to reference rules in two or three other places to figure out how something works. While learning the rules I was constantly flipping back-and-forth throughout the book.
With the lengthy above review all said and done… who is this product for?
I think it will appeal to alot of Pathfinder 1 fans as well as to D&D fans who are unhappy with 5th Editions “rulings not rules” attitude and want a game with less arbitration (and more crunchy character options). Ironically, I expect a lot of 4th Edition D&D fans who feel left out by 5th Edition and unsatisfied with that game’s simplicity will also enjoy Pathfinder 2. It’s become my go-to recommendation to jaded 4e fans.
Who is it not for? As this edition is not backwards compatible, using any class options for Pathfinder 1 is not an option. As such, I don’t this game as a good idea for die-hard Pathfinder fans who still enjoy the system: there’s so much material out there already that upgrading is likely unnecessary. You can play for years with what you have. Similarly, if you are like me and fell out of love with Pathfinder, this game is unlikely to win you back.
The Pathfinder 2 Playtest is also its own product, which largely stands alone. I’m uncertain how much this playtest book will reflect the final product: by design, this book was meant to provoke reactions from players and illicit feedback. The designers have admitted that whenever they had two different design directions they could go, they favoured the more extreme version to gather better feedback. And given several months have passed since this version of the playtest was sent to the printers, I bet the internal version Paizo is using already differs in a number of ways. So, very likely, a number of major complaints with the game could already be “fixes” and are simply awaiting reaction from the fans.
It will be interesting to see how much or little the final product diverges from this.


Read my full review here
 

Goemoe

Explorer
2 out of 5 rating for Pathfinder Playtest: Rulebook

I had downloaded this book in hope to see a 5th edition variation from pathfinder. We like the 5th edition, but there is a lack of german stuff for it. Pathfinder offers great varieties of material in german. So it could have been a chance.

We left 3rd edition, because we didn't like to consult countless books for the optimal combination of feats and stuff. 4E was ... special, but with the 5th edition we are 'at home'. A variation would be a good step for us, but it is clearly not.

When I read through the possible next edition of pathfinder, I was shocked. They have found a way to flood you even more with feats. There are class feats, skill feats, combat feats, racial feats, general feats ... nearly everything defining your player character is achieved by collecting feats. I looked up the alchemist as a full class, interested in the design. Actually, it is nothing more than a root class with feats. Give him hits, give him access to skills and ... you guessed it feats and the class is done.

Reading the book I often wondered, why do they even do a second edition, when they only replace former class features by feats, adding some minor rule here, renaming stuff there and perhaps describe stuff differently than before. They say, you can use most of your pathfinder 1 stuff/adventures with the second edition as well (with minimal adjustments). I believe them, because the changes aren't big enough to name this ruleset a second edition. In my opinion it is a Pathfinder 1.2 "Fun with Flags.. ah Feats Edition"

Hopefully the playtests have told them, there is much to change yet and perhaps even worth a second playtest time. Generally it is a well fleshed out system with some issues as in every "untested" ruleset. Everyone fond of feats as the defining part of the game and everything beside this, feeling like the old pathfinder with a little makeup might enjoy it. Fans of the 5E should avoid it, no matter what changes might go into this ruleset once it is finalized.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
1 out of 5 rating for Pathfinder Playtest: Rulebook

I think the playtest went in entirely the wrong direction.

First off - providing a wealth of options is not a substitute for providing a clear designer vision. I get that they want freedom of choice. But the core of D&D has always been the limitations. It is the limits that provide the backbone of interesting charbuilding.

But there's a difference between giving Rangers, say, a class ability at level 5 on one hand, and providing a feat granting the ability, and then saying only Rangers can take that feat. In the first case, context makes it reasonable that Rangers get the ability... and that the fact the ability is not present for Fighters is not a big deal, since Fighters get something else at that level.

But if you look at a feat in isolation, you start thinking "why can X get this and not Y". Feats are best used for general abilities you don't want to make class exclusive. (Hint: that's why you put them in the Feats chapter and not the Classes chapter!)

Besides, don't make it all about feats. Not only does it make it incredibly hard to get a quick overview of a class, it opens up a lot of arguments as to why class A got ability B but class C didn't get ability D.

Presenting a class as just a cluster of feats is incredibly intimidating to any player but the most hardened veterans. You can't get a feel for a class by just browsing the section - you must go into hair-raising detail to analyse what class N is about, and how it differs from class M.

---

Other than that the playtest shows having learnt zero lessons from the failure of 4th edition. Zero lessons from the success of 5th edition.

It comes across as a rehash of Pathfinder 1, but still a wholly incompatible such rehash. So who is this product for?

Sorry but this shows all the signs of having been designed in a vacuum, with no real idea of how to attract either existing Pathfinder fans or the huge number of rpg gamers (90% of which have 5th edition D&D as their entry game).
 

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