Pathfinder 2 by TheGreatEvilKing
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Since everyone liked my last review so much, I might as well do another one. This time with...shit, what is this?
What the hell did I bring home?
I might have to start drinking now.
So, Pathfinder. For the three people reading this who aren't familiar with Pathfinder, here's a very. very condensed history.
Pathfinder started as an attempt to fix 3.5 in the wake of the 4e launch - specifically, the people who made the fan magazines that just got shut down taking their ball and going home. They launched a massive public playtest, which turned out to be a publicity stunt as actual feedback about weak options and class balance was completely ignored. The end results were:
-Despite the core problem of 3.5 being that fighters were too weak/wizards were too strong, the Pathfinder devs buffed the wizard (by giving him more feats, class features, and hit points) and nerfed the fighters (by splitting up common fighter feats and nerfing useful feats like Power Attack). A half-assed attempt was made to nerf some of the problematic spells, but this just exacerbated the traditional D&D problem where 99% of the spell list is unusable crap and 1% crushes your enemies super hard.
-Characters were made a lot more fiddly for little gain. The Barbarian and Bard now had to track rounds per level for iconic class features, and this pattern continued with future classes and pointless tracking.
-Lots and lots of situational, pointless minor bonuses.
-Rogues, one of the few effective noncaster classes, got nerfed pointlessly by removing means of getting sneak attack.
-At least the art was good!
Now, I could go on, but Alien Rope Burn covers most of PF1's flaws fairly well. You should take away that the PF team managed to take a clunky game with known flaws and completely ignore - and in some cases enhance - the flaws to make a worse product.
Given that, I do not have high expectations of this product. Let's dive right into this horrorshow, shall we?
Chapter 1: Overview:
Standard "what is roleplaying" and terms definitions. We get a short blurb on how PF is a safe space for everyone and you need dice yadda yadda yadda. We're introduced to the action structure of Pathfinder 2.
Every turn you get 3 actions (they have their own little symbol I'm not going to try to replicate) per turn, 1 reaction, and an infinite number of free actions. We're also introduced to a new proficiency system, which determines what number you add to your level ranging from -2 to +3.
Everything in the game is given a "rarity" level as well which applies to ...spells...and feats...and...basically everything above common you need to argue with the GM to get. Uncommon elements can be taken via having specific backgrounds, but rare spells or feats can only be taken with explicit GM permission.
This is the part where I rapidly lose interest in playing the game.
We then get a bit about character concepts - specifically, that the term "race" has been replaced by "ancestry" and that you build characters by applying a series of static ability boosts (2 of which come from your race, 2 from background, 1 from class, and 4 of players choice). This is actually...good. You can actually be any race and have stats that match up with any class, unlike D&D's vile lust for forcing elves into wizardry. Sure, it's kinda fiddly, but the fact that you could be a goblin wizard or a goblin fighter and have no stat penalties for either is amazing for a tabletop RPG.
Chapter 2: Ancestries and Backgrounds:
I take it all back, because everything not a human has an ancestry flaw which is a stat penalty. Now you do get 1 free racial boost you can use to cancel the flaw, so it's not crippling, but I'm not sure why these are in the game at all. You have enough racial distinctiveness provided in the information here.
Each race gets s few base traits off a list (such as darkvision) and then they have ancestry feats. Ancestry feats range from situational bullshit like bonuses to attack demons to free cantrips to free familiars for gnomes. We'll delve into the dwarf here. The dwarf has 8 level 1 feats and 2 level 5 feats. Stonecunning is its own feat. It competes with Dwarf Racis - er, Ancestral Hatred, which gives +1 damage against 2 creature types selected from derror, duergar, giant, or orc - but you can ALSO argue with your DM to get a bonus against other creatures. This competes with a +1 to a bunch of skills, AC, Fort, and Reflex against giants, a push manuever that pushes people a square away, bonuses to moving through difficult terrain if it's stone or earth, dwarven weapon proficiencies, and a +2 to saves against magic that makes you able to equip fewer magic items.
The end result is that you dumpster dive through the ancestry feats to grab either bonuses effective to your particular campaign (the elf-demon fighting crap if you're fighting Asmodeus, for example) or you just voltron together as much generic stuff as possible. Most of these are the racial traits from Pathfinder 1 just pointlessly split up to make more content, and a lot of them are forgettable. Your elf can have a +1 to saves against emotion effects, whoopee. This will probably be forgotten, and you will feel like an idiot for taking it when the DM declares the next adventure is going to be in the Tomb of the Skeleton Archers. The exception is for stuff like the Goblin fire damage bonus (Goblins are core now, yay?) which means that Goblin is probably going to be the preferred race for alchemists and fire mages. Also your race gives you bonus HP at level one, to the tune of a full hit die. Yay.
Humans are a little weirder. You take a feat to be a half-elf or half-orc, you have no ability penalties, you can loot elf ancestry feats if you're a human...why aren't you one, again? You can trade out your ancestry feats for first level feats. I haven't gotten to the general feats chapter, but that sounds 100% better than ignoring demons' fire resistance maybe.
There is a list of backgrounds as well. They give you a skill feat, training in a skill, 1 fixed ability boost, and are leaps above 5e's "maybe the GM will let you do a thing that sounds vaguely like what <noun> could do."
Chapter 3: Classes:
The alchemist joins the bard, barbarian, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, and wizard. Good on Paizo for adding another class. The classes all have a key ability score that determines save DC of effects and then their own ability, skill, and feat increase progression. Let's go through all the classes, shall we?
This was a splatbook class in PF1, based off the Witcher series apparently, which had 2 ways to play it:
-You focused on alchemical bombs. These sucked and did piddly damage, and you were a moron
-You were a cool dude who used mutagenic potions to buff themselves into a battle frenzy, and then you totally destroyed people in hand to hand combat. You were dope and awesome and impressed women.
Looking at the class, you get a feat to create alchemical items that apparently makes you less able to equip magic items (uh oh). You get alchemical item recipes which function like spells, and you can scale your bombs to do more damage as you level. You can also eat your resonance points to fuel more alchemical attacks. In a vacuum I'm not sure if this is good or not.
Each class has a feat progression, which upgrades various class features (such as your bombs) letting you throw them farther or add various status effects to them. The optimal play seems to be status bombs, but in the absence of actual monster stats I can't say for sure. Double mutagens might be worth it as well. It's very much like any Pathfinder D&D ability list, where most of the abilities are meaningless newbie traps but a few are probably going to turn out to be very good once you've grokked the game.
Rage and smash things. You get the ability to fly into a battle rage as an action, which gives you a damage boost, a -1 AC penalty, and an inability to concentrate. You get save bonuses, damage resistance, weapon proficiency bonuses, a barbarian feat progression, and a totem. The totems deserve special mention because they all come with a code of conduct, and these are various flavors of game destroying bullshit. The animal totem bars you from using weapons (though it gives you shapeshifting claws at least). Dragon totem requires you to respond to any personal insult, giant totem forces you to accept strength challenges, spirit totem forces you to not disrespect corpses in a game where looting corpses is half of gameplay, and the superstition totem forces you to not accept spells cast on you to the point where you actually have to leave the party rather than travel with someone who casts buff spells on you. That is not a joke. The only totems worth dealing with seem to be animal (because you ignore its drawbacks while raging) and fury because it just gives you a bonus feat and no bullshit to deal with.
The barbarian feats are a weird grab bag of shapeshifting, fear effects, and melee brawling. At 20th level you can stomp and knock down buildings which is...actually something I'd imagine a level 20 barbarian should be doing. Carry on.
You cast "occult" magic which is explicitly not arcane. You also get "Composition" spells which seem to have replaced bardic performance and are a subtype of occult EXCEPT for countersong which has its own spell point pool and Jesus Fucking Christ we are approaching max Paizo. Apparently you can use the spell points to cast other composition spells? You also pick a muse that lets you get an additional spell at first level and a feat. Bard feats seem to involve giving you more songs that interact only with the spell point system and..screw it, let's just move on to
Is the cleric going to be the "do anything" class again? You get a deity and a domain, along with a vague anathema about how you can't cast spells your deity dislikes (3.5 did this much better when they refused to have good gods hand out evil spells) and..the spell points system returns again. You can use them on domain spells - not your actual spells - so now we have 2 fucking spell systems on one class, again. Seems to be the case with druid and wizard as well, why these things weren't folded into the spell system is beyond me. As far as I can tell these things are crap like school powers and domain abilities from PF1, except the sorcerer just gets additional spells. You do not need 2 different spellcasting systems on 1 character of the same class. This is nuts!
There's also a channel energy effect that lets you cast the heal spell or the harm spell, but why have all these callbacks? Just add the damn spells to the cleric's spell list and let them cast them as normal, give them a few casts more to make sure they can cast all the damn things, and then balance them. There is no need to go through all these pointless hoops! Yes, I suppose people will be trading casts of bless for more harms or maybe vice versa, but you've already overhauled the game with the 3 action system and rarity. Why do you care?
The cleric feats are basically opting into stuff like 3.5 divine feats or commanding undead. You can turn your harm into a life draining spell that knocks people down.
Come back next time, when we go through more overly complicated classes and I wish for death!
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Welcome back! Last time I abandoned the class chapter in disgust because everything was boring and overly complicated.
Let's continue the classes, shall we?
Another do everything class that was much better than dedicated specialists in 3.5, they lost stat-independent wildshapde for domain abilities in Pathfinder. Never actually seen one played, but I didn't play a lot of PF.
Anyway, these guys get "primal" spells instead of divine, the same weird-ass spell point/slot split, and vague code of conducts where you have to argue with the DM whether or not you've become civilized or committing cruelty to plants (the text actually says this).
Druid feats get stupid and overcomplicated. At first level, you get to pick from an animal companion, a familiar, reach spell, or wild shape. If you pick wild shape you get a THIRD points pool you get to fuck around with that gains points based on how much you love animals (did you pick the animal path, if yes get bonus points). You then need to spend more feats to opt into better animal forms or just ignore the forms at that level to grab, uh...thousand faces? Why would you do that? I've been harping on how many of the feat lists so far are filled with situational garbage, and it just bears repeating because the book is so eager to mash it in my face.
Given Pathfinder's love of nerfing fighter feats, I don't have high hopes for this class. Let's dive into this inevitable shitshow, shall we?
Well fighters seem to be the only guys with opportunity attacks baked into their class. OK...
Fighter feats are a lot of the old bonus feats folded into a wacky combo system, including stances, enhancements, readied actions, and finishing moves - wait a minute? Book of 9 swords? Good to see you again, old buddy! Powers seem to be grouped by sword and shield, archery, fear, dual wielding, and two handed along with a bit of grappling. This of course means that there's not a feat for each archetype at every level (it takes till level 4 for dual wielding feats to appear) so have fun! This also leads to the 4e D&D problem where your power selection is locked to your weapon choice, but you can't win them all I guess. It will probably not surprise readers to learn the fighter gets no useful out of combat abilities or particularly mythic abilities at high level.
Monks are the poster child for useless D&D character. It's stupid, because they're a supernaturally based character concept that should be as good as a wizard or something in a fight, but alas they are cursed by developers with useless class features and an unwillingness to give them actual fighting prowess to compensate for their slow fall abilities.
This monk gets save boosts and punching abilities, and the usual long collection of class feats. Do you want to be a better puncher, or have an ageless body? Which do YOU think is better in an actual game, and more likely to come up? Do you want some half-assed spellcasting? You got it! Is any of this good? We'll look at some characters and the sample adventure...later.
If you enjoy being that guy who yells about how his character would sabotage the team's battle plan the paladin is the go to class.
The class opens with "Code of Conduct" as the first class feature. This is not a good sign.
For instance, if an evil king asked you if innocent lawbreakers were hiding in your church so he could execute them, you could lie to him, since the tenet forbidding you to lie is less important than the tenet prohibiting the harm of an innocent. An attempt to subvert the paladin code by engineering a situation allowing you to use a higher tenet to ignore a lower tenet (telling someone you won't respect lawful authorities so that the tenet of not lying supersedes the tnet of respecting lawful authorities, for example) is a violation of the paladin code.
The tenets, ranked, are:
-No evil acts (examples include murder, torture, and casting evil spells)
-No hurting innocents through direct action or inaction but your're not forces to take action against possible harm or to sacrifice "your life or potential"
-Act with honor, never cheating, lying, or taking advantage of others
-Respect the lawful authority of the legitimate ruler or leadership in whichever land you may be, following their laws unless they conflict with a higher tenet
Now this gets REALLY stupid in that the paladin features include dragonslayer oaths, fiendslayer oaths, and undeadslayer oaths that explicitly let you ignore them as legitimate authorities. I have no idea how the hell this is supposed to work - if Demon King Bob runs for president and wins, that makes him the legitimate authority and you must obey Demon King Bob's laws about burning all holy symbols of good deities within 30 feet of the palace.
The usual class feats just end up being augments to the paladin's not-a-divine-challenge-from-4e, fucking with spell points, getting a mount/righteous ally. Evaluating them is a challenge to the reader because my eyes are glazing over hard.
Wow, look, it's the hunter's mark from 4e and 5e but with reduced multiattack penalties instead of a damage buff. Class feats include animal companion, shooting better, traps, and being really fucking boring. No high level abilities comparable to high level Pathfinder magic. Next.
You sneak attack people and can pick passive bonuses to your sneak attack or combat skills. Did you know that thief was originally a class everyone could qualify for, unlike other classes that you had to be lucky enough to roll f- wait, at 16th level you can walk on water? Like Jesus? And air? This sounds actually awesome - oh, you sink at the end of your turn, much like my hopes of finding interesting and useful abilities in this book. You can walk through walls at 18th level but only wood, plaster, or stone. At 20th level you can turn invisible for 1 minute (1/hour) and be completely undetectable and murder people with impunity. That seems pretty good, not sure why rogue is allowed to be supernaturally useful and fighter is not.
Instead of studying books like a nerd you inherited your magic power without having to do anything at all. Sorcerers get to pick whether they cast occult, arcane, divine, or primal spells based on bloodline (demons are divine weirdly) and you can opt into the spell points system because having a unified spellcasting system is just too normal or something. Your sorcerer feats are mostly metamagic feats, but you can grab a cleric's channel energy too. I don't know why this class still exists when all they do is duplicate another classes' spellcasting.
On the plus side, we learn that occult spellcasting is linked to aberrations, meaning that bards are Cthulhu. What the fuck?
Oh look, arcane specialization is back, but it's done in the "modern" game design fashion of giving you piddly bonuses to your favored school. The idea that you can maybe split up mind controllers, shapeshifters, necromancers, demon summoners and what not into their own classes never seems to occur to the modern game designers instead of just tacking skeletons onto a DPS class and then professing profound shock when said DPS class combines skeletons with their normal abilities to outdamage everyone else.
This of course translates to minor bonuses to cast from your specialty school. The rest of the wizard class feats are metamagic and other boring crap, but having the only spell DC increase feat (so far) makes it stand out as maybe you could actually kill a dude with a Finger of Death.
Speaking of necromancers, we should note that the blurb for necromancy calls out that you could also be a healing master instead of having undead. This will be important later.
Chapter 4: Skills:
What if we took all the uses out of skills, then made you take skill feats to get uses back? What if instead of just being able to identify a spell, you had to take a feat to do it? And then your class gave you a skill feat progression?
The skills do all have uses if you don't take the feats, but it's a very strange design choice. Unlike D&D 5e there are explicit rules for how to use the skills with outputs, but you can seriously be a legendary occultist and be unable to identify spells as they're being cast. This leads us to
Chapter 5: Feats:
The vast majority of these feats add new effects to your skills, raising questions like "couldn't these have just been part of the skill in the first place" and "why did we need more moving parts when we already have 3 separate feat progressions on each character"? Taking 10 or 20 is removed from the game in favor of a feat that sets your TOTAL roll to 10, 15, 20, or 30 depending on skill training level. We haven't seen any DCs yet, but already I dislike this system.
Next time: We go through equipment and spells!
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Chapter 6: Equipment:
The first thing that stands out about this is that all prices are in silver pieces instead of gold. Why? I don't know, but it seems to be more change for the sake of change just like most everything Pathfinder related. Reading the first page of this chapter confirms that the standard copper/silver/gold/platinum exchange rates still exist, so who knows.
We get some rules for damaging items as well. Item hardness persists, but an item that takes more damage than its hardness gets a Dent and taking twice the hardness' damage gives 2. At 2 dents the item is broken but can be repaired, and at 3 the item is totally destroyed. As certain items can randomly take more Dents to break I have no idea what this means for my dream of chopping through walls.
On to armor. The armor is basically the same as PF1 but now armors grant Touch AC bonuses (yes, that's still a thing), and shields give a bonus to both...but require you to use an action to get the bonus. This isn't just raising your shield at the beginning of the fight either, sword and board warriors have to burn one of their 3 actions every round just to get a +2 AC bonus, at which point I again have to ask "why?" Literally every edition of D&D has abstracted out shield usage and this just adds more bookkeeping. Also the items have levels, and a first level character can't craft full plate for, uh, reasons.
Weapons. The book decides this is the time to explain how attack rolls work. They decided to keep the iterative attack penalty so a second attack a round is at a -5 penalty and the third attack is at -10, but assures us we can get "agile" weapons that reduce the penalty to -4 and -8 respectively. That is still a huge-ass penalty, and I'm forced to wonder why they have multiple attacks allowed at all - just do more damage per level and the game goes faster when you're not rolling the six attacks you get as a wildshaped cheetah or whatever. All the weapons have some kind of bullshit bonus trait that I'm not going into, because I'm sure someone on a min/max site has already crunched all the numbers and figured out that the one true weapon is the Vulcan Lirpa or whatever. There's even a little table for bonus effects on crits per weapon type you can get if you have a feat, and they are all bullshit small bonuses that could probably be mathed out for wombo combos or crit chance bonuses.
Chapter 7: Spells:
So Vancian prepared casting is still a thing, but you can prepare a spell in a higher-level spell slot for greater effects. Now if this sounds like we're ripping off 5e's system, you'd be right, and we all know neither system works particularly well because we've played 3.5 psionics classes and that was always a weird mess of figuring out which powers actually benefited from augmentation, levels being all over the place. The "spell points" spells are described here as "powers" and are apparently this way to run off of class features and auto-scaled to the highest level. This is the kind of nightmare child I could see if a D&D 5e wizard got drunk and smashed a 3.5 psion. Then we have innate spells that work like spell-like abilities in 3.5 and are auto-heightened. Any one of these systems would have worked fine on its own, but mushed together you just get sadness and confusion.
The 8 spell schools carry over from D&D, except necromancy is tagged as life stealing and healing rather than commanding undead. Casting spells takes 1 action per component of the spell (material, somatic, verbal) and then you can fuck around with this via metamagic feats or picking spells that don't have components. I am willing to bet real money no thought went into assigning components based on spell power and it mostly carried over from PF1, but this book is driving me nuts enough without having to go open up the PF1 rulebook.
The spells themselves are broken into "traditions": occult, arcane, divine, and primal. I could not tell you the difference between "occult" and "arcane" as a descriptor, because occult means "magic or supernatural" and arcane means "understood by a few". Occult when used as a verb means to hide something from view, so we literally have two words that map to secretive practices. Divine is at least fairly comprehensible, but primal just means "early" or "fundamental".
Anyway, spells themselves. They introduce 4 levels of saving throw results, - critical success, success, failure, and crit failure, with spells rebounding on a critical success and absolutely wrecking people's day on a crit failure (instant death. harder mind control, etc). You can totally wreck people with spells, but I'd want to see the actual monster math and some characters before making a final judgement. (Fear not, I will be generating some sample characters and 'running' them through one of the playtest adventures). Also, antimagic field is the only rare spell you have to beg the DM for, I'm not sure why.
There's a short list of rituals, which include commune, consecrate, and variations on friggin Planar Binding. Now these things are all uncommon, meaning I'm not sure how much arguing you need to do with the DM to get your hands on it, but you can get your 5 man team together and seriously just raise an army of demons and not have to adventure at all. Considering this was a problem with friggin 3rd edition D&D, you would think they'd reconsider adding this spell to the game, or maybe cap it. Nope, their balance is that you "call something dark and horrible, unbound by your wards, and it immediately attempts to destroy you". It's the 4e ritual system but with effects you might actually use. Kinda nuts.
Any plot-influencing powers are of course tagged by the uncommon tag, preventing those pesky players from breaking the DM's faithful retelling of Final Fantasy Seven.
As a bonus, the book promotes undeath clerics and necromancer wizards as things you can play but provides no animate dead spell. You can crap summons all over the board, but rewriting the minions out of necromancy really just kills any desire to play the archetype in the first place.
Chapter 8: Advancement and options:
Level ups get a page, then we get into the meat here: 4e-style multiclassing, where you switch some of your class feats for archetype feats that let you either multiclass OR...prestige class! Now prestige classes don't have stat requirements but they do have story requirements, so expect to be engrossed in arguing for hours with your DM whether or not you can shove in a sad backstory to get access to the class that raises your spell DCs. The one prestige class here is a female warrior who was brainwashed and tortured but is now free and uses devilish abilities including BDSM. I don't know, Pathfinder, I don't know. In addition to that and the multiclass archetypes (trade fighter feats for wizard spells!) there are cavalier and pirate archetypes that let you opt into stuff. Cav gives you a horse of course and pirate gives you a bunch of lame bonuses for ship fighting because no one has figured out people want to play pirates in landlocked campaigns. The pirate class does let you use Final Fantasy mug though.
There are stats for familiars, animal companions, and a short deity writeup to round out the chapter.
Chapter 9: Playing the GameOriginal SA post Pathfinder 2: We're gonna need more booze:
Chapter 9: Playing the Game:
We're introduced to three modes of play: encounter mode, exploration mode, and downtime mode. Encounter mode is your standard 6-second battle turn, exploration mode is its own thing, and downtime mode is day tracking for things like crafting, looting, etc. There's a short section on checks, including the 5 proficiency levels and a short revelation that they've cut all modifiers into 3 different types - item, circumstance, and conditional. This is actually not a terrible change, as bonuses of the same type don't stack and it cuts down on the giant pile of buffs people used to pile on in 3.P.
Also, shields totally do give a passive AC bonus but only if your armor proficiency bonus is higher or equal. This is a stupid system and I hate it.
We finally get a definition of what a critical failure is, and it's just rolling a 1 on the die.
There are abilities that can instantly kill you as death effects again.
There's also a hero point system where everyone gets 1 hero point, and you can earn more by doing stuff the GM likes OR bribing the party with food (it really says this). You can store up to 3. Spending 1 lets you lose the dying condition and go to 1 HP, 2 lets you reroll a d20 roll, and 3 lets you take an extra action in a round.
Perception! Apparently senses are divided into "precise" and "imprecise" senses, so you can use precise senses (like vision) to see creatures unless you can use a seek action to locate hidden dudes. Senses like hearing are imprecise and can't be used to pinpoint creatures. Various special senses like echolocation, blindsense, etc get assigned one of these categories.
The book lays out four detection levels: Seen, concealed, sensed, and unseen. Unseen is basically undetected and you can't do anything to it, sensed you know the creature is there and what space it is, and if you fail a DC 11 flat check you can't affect the target with spells/attacks/etc. Concealed is sensed but the check is 5 instead of 11. Seen is of course normal operation fighting a guy in the open. This actually isn't a terrible idea, as it helps stealth have some degrees. Unfortunately looking at the stealth rules you can just jump to unseen with one sneak check, so there's no real reason to use any of this shit for anything other than environmental effects.
We then go to encounter mode, which doesn't have much new aside from the three actions. It's basic D&D combat, you've seen this before. There's a list of actions, and in addition to the raise shield action there's a "shield block" reaction that reduces incoming damage by the shield's hardness but also deals damage to your shield.
Mounts eat your actions to do stuff and penalize your defenses. Don't ride a mount.
Exploration is its own weird little minigame. There's a list of tactics such as cantrip spamming, sneaking, tracking and so forth, some of which fatigue characters or force them to move at half speed. If you're fatigued you have to spend time resting to regain fatigure to use your tactic.
Downtime lets you retrain, but there are no hard and fast rules for time or any of that crap so you just argue with the DM until he lets you exchange your crappy +1 to saves against emotions for literally anything else. You can also craft items and whatnot.
Finally the chapter closes with a list of conditions.
Next time: Game mastering!
Chapter 9 addendum: Exploration mode in more detailOriginal SA post Pathfinder 2: We're gonna need more booze:
Chapter 9 addendum: Exploration mode in more detail
So exploration mode is triggered whenever you're wandering a town, dungeon, or the wilderness and works on either feet, mph, or miles per day. The tactics listed are: Casting a spell, Concentrating on a Spell, Covering Tracks, Defending, Detecting magic, Following Tracks, Hustling, Investigating, Searching, Sneaking, and Wandering. Everything except hustling (double speed) and wandering (regular speed, no side effect) makes you move at half speed, Spell tactics and hustling can only be done for 10 minutes before you get fatigued and have to rest.
Generally these things all just consist of "you can move at half speed and make a skill check/use magic". There's no actual play or counterplay or goals really, just that your standard "I search for traps" is now an Investigating tactic. There's also a short section of "social tactics" which include partying (to use Diplomacy), conversing (deception/intimidation), looking out (perception), shopping (does nothing and I'm not sure why it's a tactic) and stealing (which fatigues you for...reasons). All in all it comes across as random organization for the sake of organization rather than using your Ad Hominem attack to smash the king's Appeal to Authority. It's like they read the criticism of D&D 5e having 3 pillars of roleplaying and having rules for only combat and not exploration or roleplaying - then invented some rules to fill in the blanks.
There is more on this in:
Chapter 10: Game Mastering:
The chapter starts out with a request that you use the official Pathfinder Playtest adventure and fill out their survey. As my survey feedback would probably be "your ideas are terrible and I want my $50 back" I'm not sure I'm what they're looking for.
Anyway, we get some surprisingly not terrible (if unneeded) advice on how to run a game - consider allowing new player options instead of dismissing it out of hand, use circumstance bonuses, make a ruling and look up the rules later, etc. There's a short bit on running encounters on how you shouldn't use tactics if it would be less than ideal to do so. Now, their example is fairly idiotic as they give the example of a fighter taunting a giant to get it to stop beating up the wizard and attack the fighter. This seems like a problem that could be solved by game mechanics, such as say giving the fighter area lockdown abilities or even an MMO-style taunt, but who am I to question Paizo?
Next is running exploration mode. The guide is to just have players declare their actions and then match them to the exploration mode tactics, which raises the question of why these tactics even exist. There is, once again, no meaningful difference between searching for traps and the investigating tactic.
The authors then segue into skill DCs by level, and boy are these a doozy! There's a table of skill checks by level and then 5 difficulty levels per character level. Lest we confuse this with errata 4e's weird love of scaling skill DCs to the players, the text takes great pains to inform us that tasks don't get harder as you level up. Now, for some MATH!
The level 0 skill DCs are 9,10, 12, 14, and 17. A first level character with an 18 in a stat has a +5 with a trained skill due to trained being a bonus of your level. Thus they fail the trivial task on a 1,2, or 3 for 15% of the time - which is actually fairly large considering how routine the task is supposed to be. Imagine if Pavarotti had given a terrible performance 15% of the time - he wouldn't have a good reputation at all! The book says that more skilled members of the party should just kinda auto-pass trivials.
Some of you are probably wondering what happened to the take 10 and 20 rules. Guess what? You need to burn a feat for that. That's not to take 10 on all skills, that's to take 10 on ONE skill. Now, this 10 is WITHOUT YOUR MODIFIERS, so by level 2 you are back to being unable to auto-pass checks. At third level you can raise your favorite skill to expert and take 15, allowing you to auto-pass trivial AND low on a level 3 challenge - unlike level 2 where you could auto-pass neither. What I'm getting at is the skill math is fucked and no thought seems to have been put into Assurance at all.
Then, on the NEXT page they introduce ordinary tasks like tree climbing, which is a level 0 challenge with a trivial DC of 5 while the table has the trival DC at 9. What the hell?
There's a short section on environment and traps which is fairly uninteresting.
Next time: Treasure, Appendices, and thread participation!
Chapter 11: Treasure!Original SA post Pathfinder 2: We're gonna need more booze:
Chapter 11: Treasure!
Magic items and whatnot. Notably we seem to have BOTH wealth by level and that stupid rarity system, so well as requiring resonance to use. Remember way back when we talked about the alchemist, and how their class features ran off resonance? Yea, they get arbitrarily boned using magic items, deal with it. Interestingly enough poisons get mixed in with magic items on treasure tables, and prices here are in gp. There's a new category of items here, snares, which seem to be WoW hunter traps but in Pathfinder instead. There's a short section on alchemical weapons and poisons, and new weapon runes you can put on a weapon or armor to upgrade it. These are mostly the same old D&D properties such as anarchic and flaming. You cannot get vorpal or speed weapons, as speed gives you an extra attack and vorpal is literally a DC 35 save or die...when you roll a 20 to hit.
Anyway, more on resonance. You get Resonance Points equal to 3+ cha mod per day (int if you're an alchemist) and activating magic items or investing them takes 1 RP unless specified. This applies to crap like unholy weapons causing bleed damage on a critical hit or casting a spell from a wand, so these aren't particularly super awesome effects. If you run out of RP you can try to make flat checks against 10+the amount of resonance you've overspent and try to activate an item. This would seem to take all of the balancing out of having these things in the first place, but what do I know? They also brought back the ability score bonus items no one likes but everyone will go and get to stay on the attack/save DC treadmill. Amusingly, the "coveted items" sidebar points out that people are going to go for magic weapons, armor, and stat boosters first, proving once again that although magic items don't HAVE to be boring we're gonna go out of our way to ensure that they are.
The lone appendix is just a list of game term definitions, and that concludes this book!
Final Thoughts on the Playtest book:
We're gonna start by taking a look at their stated design goals here, because it's very hard to get an idea of what, exactly, this book is trying to accomplish. We'll be evaluating the book first on whether it actually matches the design goals, and second on whether these design goals actually make any sense.
Jason Buhlman, Pathfinder head designer posted:
1. Create a new edition of Pathfinder that's much simpler to learn and play—a core system that's easy to grasp but expandable—while remaining true to the spirit of what makes Pathfinder great: customization, flexibility of story, and rules that reward those who take the time to master them.
2. Ensure that the new version of the game allows us to tell the same stories and share in the same worlds as the previous edition, but also makes room for new stories and new worlds wherever possible.
3. Work to incorporate the innovations of the past decade into the core engine of the game, allowing the best rules elements and discoveries we've made to have an integrated home in the new system (even if they aren't present in the initial book).
4. Forge a more balanced play environment where every character has a chance to contribute to the adventure in a meaningful way by allowing characters to thrive in their defined role. Encourage characters to play to their strengths, while working with others to bolster their place in the group.
5. Make Pathfinder a game that's open and welcoming to all, no matter their background or experience.
Design goal 1: FAILED: Nothing in this is particularly simpler than Pathfinder 1, and this can all be laid at the foot of the feat system. Races got split up from a collection of minor bonuses you got for free into opting into pointless marginal bonuses to maybe combine for real power. Going from a unified feat progression to 4 separate ones that can be traded out for one another is not simpler. Having a separate feat track to opt into various skill usages is more confusing and limiting than just putting "identify a spell" into the occult skill. I could go on and on about fiddly resource tracking, but nothing about this shit is simple.
That said, "flexibility of story" is practically a given because this is an RPG (though there's a tendency here to encourage Mother May I rather than just letting the story emerge from the PC's capabilities), customization is a thing (albeit reluctantly) and I would imagine someone who's really invested in PF2 will make better characters because they can sort through the reams of useless crap abilities in this book.
Design goal 2: FAILED, but could be fixed in the end product: PF 1 necromancers don't convert. Next!
Design goal 3: PASSED: There are a lot of mechanics in here that remind me of 4e and 5e D&D, and not in a good way. 4e rituals being here technically fulfills this goal, but we will come back to this when we discuss how much sense this makes.
Design goal 4: FAILED: Superstition totem barbarian is a pile of useless trash that gets weeded out before we even get to playtesting. Their contribution is going to be the priority target for buff spells so you can make their player make a character that isn't complete garbage that drags the team down.
Design goal 5: FAILED: You fail one, you fail five because this game seems horrifically off-putting to new players. Now, I seem to remember a little sidebar about how you could play a gay elf or whatever, and that's great, but I have never seen or heard of a table where people are being kicked out for being gay or transgender elves. Turning into another gender is seriously just an ability you can grab at level 3. I'm sure there are assholes who are doing this, but I have NEVER read a D&D/Pathfinder book that says only straight cis elves can go on this adventure.
Now, do these design goals make any sense to have? 1 is self-contradictory because adding more customization is going to make your rules less simple, full stop. 2 is probably mandatory after the 4e launch and people wanting to know why they can't play bards. Design goal 4 - having all the characters be balance and useful - is an excellent goal because nobody wants to be stuck with the 3.5 fighter. This leaves design goal 3.
Pathfinder initially launched as a way to keep 3.5 D&D alive after 4e rolled out and left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. Go read Alien Rope Burn's review for the constant rhetoric about saving D&D and bringing it home to it's real heritage. This raises the question of why you would want to incorporate elements of 4e at all in your 3.5 port, because 4e leaves a fair amount of them unfixed, raises new problems, or excises something thematic because it is terrified of letting players have narrative control. 5e removes a lot of actual rules to deal with this stuff under the philosophy that rules are hard and Mike Mearls shouldn't have to write them. Now let's take a look at some of the many problems of 3.5:
Class imbalance!: I'm sure we can go to the various D&D threads and someone will be soapboxing passionately about how wizards are overpowered and fighters are trash. Pathfinder buffs wizards and nerfs fighters, 4e takes away most of the wizard's schtick and basically keeps the game at an e6 powerlevel, and 5e does nothing while muttering about DM empowerment. Wizards have narrative control and fighters have very little, yet in all three newer games the classes with the most narrative control are...the wizard and the cleric.
Wealth by level!: In 3.5 everyone had a list of magic items they needed, which were in gold piece value and gave you numbers to actually fight level appropriate enemies. It will surprise no one to learn that fighters needed piles of items to get numbers and deal with flying monsters while wizards and clerics could just run around with their buff spells and not care. Pathfinder and 4e kept the "Christmas tree" model, and 5e went into an incoherent rant about how maybe magic items were optional except when they aren't.
Pets!: 3.5 characters could go friggin nuts picking up followers up to and including second PCs. Even if we justifiably ignore the Leadership feat and it's ilk, druid animal companions, planar bound demons, mind slaves and reanimated undead monsters were far better to have around than most melee focused PCs (and some casters too!). Naturally, Pathfinder and 5e just kinda exacerbate this by making the necromancer and his undead menagerie better than anyone else (Pathfinder even buffed necromancers by giving them more skeletons and letting them add templates for essentially free), whereas 4e whiffled around trying to find a satisfying pet model and just awkwardly fell on its face.
The running theme through all of these is that Pathfinder, 4e, and 5e all failed to solve these problems in 3.5, so pulling innovation from them is a questionable endeavor at best. This is basically the equivalent of the guy insisting that blockchain is the future and you need to put blockchain into your new Tetris game.
In conclusion, nothing in this playtest seems to be a concrete advance over Pathfinder 1 and it adds plenty of new pointless complexity for little, if any, gain.
Because I hate myself, I'm going to be going through the level 1 playtest adventure. I'm going to make 1 PC, but I need 4 more, and that's where you come in.
Give me a name, gender, race, and class combo that you want me to analyze the playtest adventure against (think the Cthulhutech reviews). If you want to put in more detail, like a superstition totem or something, that's fine too. If I get more than 4 submissions I will arbitrarily pick. Have fun!