Of course, I also hope they achieve this without fundamentally changing what makes Pathfinder Pathfinder. The purpose of the game at launch was to continue a 30-year legacy that the legacy’s stewards had seemingly decided to abandon. It would be a shame to undo that work now that it is a 40-year legacy, and now that Paizo are acknowledged stewards of that legacy. This could be a challenging tightrope to walk, but I have quite a bit of faith in Paizo’s creative talent.
In the weeks and months leading up to that release, we are going give you an in-depth look at this game, previewing all 12 of the classes and examining many of the most fundamental changes to the game.Alchemist is an interesting choice for a new core class, just like goblin is an interesting choice for a new core race. I’m not wild about technology-based classes in fantasy roleplaying -- conceptually I’m a big fan, but I’ve never seen an implementation I’ve enjoyed.
Goblins… I just hate Pathfinder goblins. They feel like a complete waste of a humanoid species, played entirely for comic relief, and they have no readily obvious links to hobgoblins or bugbears. The goblinoid races are one of my favorite pieces of Dungeons & Dragons metalore, and I’ve never liked Paizo’s implementation (or lack thereof). Hopefully their introduction as a core player character race (excuse me, 'ancestry') will improve matters at least somewhat.
Each one of these choices is very important, modifying your starting ability scores, giving you starting proficiencies and class skills, and opening up entire feat chains tailored to your character.I’m not wild about this strong suggestion of gating. I hope that there is enough flexibility baked into the process such that players can build the character they want and not the character Paizo has laid out. It’s important to remember that while more options gives players greater customizability, they actually restrict personalization, and I think the latter is what players really want. No one gets excited about playing the same character as someone else, no matter how detailed that build is.
Finally, after deciding on all of your choices, the only thing left to do is figure out all of your bonuses, which are now determined by one unified system of proficiency, based on your character's level.I’m seeing a lot of folks read this as a similarity to D&D5, but it sounds to me more like a nod to D&D4’s system of flat bonuses by level. I really hope Paizo does not go that route. In all honesty I am not in love with either system, but the key differentiator is on which side of proficiency your flat bonus matters.
In D&D5, you apply your proficiency bonus to a few select skills, and as you level your proficiency bonus increases. In D&D4, you apply a proficiency bonus to a few select skills, and as you level, your bonus to all skills increases. It’s a subtle difference, and again, neither system is really personalized, but it is possible to at least feel some ownership over the former.
I think Pathfinder’s skill system is one of the game’s greatest strengths, and I would hate to see it simplified too greatly. D&D5 is good for a lot of things, but skill-focused character design is not one of them.
Encounter mode is what happens when you are in a fight, measuring time in seconds, each one of which can mean life or death. Exploration mode is measured in minutes and hours, representing travel and investigation, finding traps, decoding ancient runes, or even mingling at the queen's coronation ball. Of all the modes of play, exploration is the most flexible, allowing for easy storytelling and a quick moving narrative. Finally, the downtime mode happens when your characters are back in town, or relative safety, allowing them to retrain abilities, practice a trade, lead an organization, craft items, or recuperate from wounds. Downtime is measured in days, generally allowing time to flow by in an instant.This is a fine nit to pick, but I’m a little disappointed by this characterization of the three pillars as defined in D&D5 (Combat, Exploration, and Roleplay). Some of these word choices: “easy storytelling;” “a quick-moving narrative;” “allowing time to flow by in an instant;” these are not necessarily what I am looking for when it comes to a system’s support for roleplaying.
I am a big believer that roleplaying games should not have rules for roleplaying, but they should require rules around which roleplaying can be built. Things like alignment, a robust selection of arms and armor, non-combat feats, crafting skills, and other elements create a framework that lets players envision their characters as more than a miniature figurine on a vinyl grid. Part and parcel to these rules is that they can’t be given short shrift. Storytelling should be satisfying, not easy. The narrative should take the time it needs to come full circle. Town life should never flow by in an instant.
Again, this is a lot to infer from a single paragraph. I’m interested to see the direction in which Paizo takes their own interpretation of the pillars, and I have positive expectations.
Most of the game happens in exploration or encounter mode, with the two types of play flowing easily from one to the other. In fact, exploration mode can have a big impact on how combat begins, determining what you roll for your initiative.If you’ll excuse a moment taken to indulge a pet peeve, initiative is not a rule that needs to become more complex. It impacts a single round of combat. While I have great nostalgia for the days of weapon speed and individual monster initiative, there is a strong argument to be made that even the traditional methods of rolling initiative do not provide a good return on time invested.
After initiative is sorted out and it's your turn to act, you get to take three actions on your turn, in any combination. Gone are different types of actions, which can slow down play and add confusion at the table. Instead, most things, like moving, attacking, or drawing a weapon, take just one action, meaning that you can attack more than once in a single turn! Each attack after the first takes a penalty, but you still have a chance to score a hit. In Pathfinder Second Edition, most spells take two actions to cast, but there are some that take only one. Magic missile, for example, can be cast using from one to three actions, giving you an additional missile for each action you spend on casting it!I think this might be the most telling paragraph in this entire summary, and I wish I had more to say about it. With so little detail, however, it is impossible to really gauge. This is a huge change, and I think it looks great on paper. However, it feels like this should be more than sufficient to make 2nd Edition fundamentally incompatible with older material. I am very curious to see how Paizo handles this in the playtest. A handwave will not suffice.
Today’s blog update doesn’t really provide much in the way of greater clarity, beyond giving what appear to be two descriptions of possible rounds: “move once, draw your sword, and attack,” and, “move away, draw a potion, and drink it.” These examples do not inspire confidence. They sound pedantic and slow. Getting three actions per round instead of two goes some way toward mitigating that, but if we are tracking every little thing our characters do as an action, now, I’m not convinced that is an improvement over the old system. That feels like a throwback to 20th-century D&D.
Two 7th-level creatures might have different statistics, allowing them to play differently at the table, despite both being appropriate challenges for characters of that level.I know what Paizo is trying to say here, but it still makes me want to respond with that, “You don’t say?” Nicholas Cage meme.
This also makes it easier for us to present monsters, giving us more space to include special abilities and actions that really make a monster unique. Take the fearsome tyrannosaurus, for example; if this terrifying dinosaur gets you in its jaws, it can take an action to fling you up to 20 feet through the air, dealing tremendous damage to you in the process!
Hazards are now a more important part of the game, from rangers creating snares to traps that you have to actively fight against if you want to survive. Poisons, curses, and diseases are a far more serious problem to deal with, having varied effects that can cause serious penalties, or even death.Monsters with unique mechanics and hazards as encounters in their own right were hands-down my favorite things about D&D4, and I absolutely encourage their implementation in any roleplaying game. I wish D&D5 had preserved more of them.
All in all, I see why this announcement is being met with mixed feelings. I think ten years is a respectable length of time between editions, and you could argue that Pathfinder has really been waiting for a substantial update for closer to 20 years. I agree that the game could use a fresh coat of paint. But this summary does not fill me with confidence.
I don’t see the mechanical similarities between this summary and D&D5 that others are decrying, but I do believe the simple approach to fantasy roleplaying is more than adequately covered by D&D5 at the moment. While I’m the last person to advocate gatekeeping through rules complexity, there is something to be said for the fact that greater complexity is Pathfinder’s niche. What I would love to see is more of an effort from Paizo to demystify that complexity and showcase its value, rather than stripping it back.