I was very excited When Pathfinder was announced. Not because I hated 4E or anything (I'm pretty much indifferent towards it) but because I glad that there would be something for those sticking with 3ed and I'm a huge fan of Paizo so I was curious to see what they came up with. I had a pretty solid list of things in 3ed that I wanted to see addressed and fixed and there was no better choice than Paizo to undertake that task. On top of which I knew they would deliver an incredibly high-quality product.
So Pathfinder Beta is finally here. This is the version that is supposed to be fairly "complete" and that Paizo wants the community to playtest. So after spending some time giving the pdf a once over, I and myself feeling very under-whelmed and quite honestly, somewhat letdown by the Paizo development machine.
I can summarize my disappointment as follows:
1. Failure to address core issues
Almost nothing on my "what needs to be fixed in 3ed list" has been addressed. This includes, but not limited to, multiclassed spellcasters, the 15-minute adventuring day, and high-level play.
Sure, some of the fixes they've done are nice - and needed: grappling, combat maneuvers, (some) skill consolidation - but I see these changes as giving the house a new coat of paint while the framework is still shaky.
I know Paizo has said they would still like to address some of these issues (even Lisa the CEO has made her feelings about high-level play known!) but to me, these things should have been addressed from the very start. They should have been the priority. They are not "Beta" fixes. In the software world, Beta, heck even Alpha, assumes all the major features you are introducing are already developed and are at least stable enough to use and test. Alpha is for testing and bug fixes. When the build gets to Beta, it is essentially a release candidate, meaning it's ready for prime-time assuming nothing catastrophic is found at the last minute.
In the development process, you prioritize your workload and feature list first. I feel Paizo (although ultimately, this is probably Jason Bulmahn) had their priorities backwards from the start. Revising the classes and races, for example, is the easy stuff but it doesn't addressed the core mechanics. It doesn't change the way the game is played, which I feel, is what 3ed needs.
2. Crunch overload
From what I've seen, the design philosophy for Pathfinder has been "more, more, more!" While options are fine, it's not what 3ed really needs at this point in time. I have more ranger variants than I can shake two scimitars at. I like a lot of the class and race revisions but I still feel like I'm talking to a used car salesman who is trying to distract me by cranking the car's sweet stereo so I can't hear the grinding sound coming from the engine.
There's a lot of nice, new, shiny crunch in Pathfinder but I find that I'm asking myself if it's really what I need. I have bookshelves full of class variants and I have my own. Is this really what I need Pathfinder to deliver? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding "no".
What I do need are developers willing to look at the core of 3ed and fix it. I need developers to fix the things that I don't have the time to do myself. I don't need developers to spend their time further bloating an already heavily patch-worked system.
3. Change for change's sake
Along with the lack of addressing core issues and the massive amounts of new crunch, what I find most annoying is some of the things they did change didn't need to be changed at all. This further supports my feeling that the design goal at the start wasn't clear or well-defined.
Just to illustrate my point, take something as small as the Cleave feat. Did it really need to be changed. If you were to go about revising the 3ed ruleset, would you even think twice about feats like Cleave, or Great Cleave, or Combat Expertise? I think Mr. Bulmahn should have had a plaque made and hung it above his desk that said "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
To take this one step further, did the barbarian need rage points? The barbarian, to me, was one of the most well-designed classes already. The mechanic might be sound but truely ask yourself, is this change needed.
Part of why I was excited for Pathfinder was that I was looking for a single resource, a single set of rules, for 3ed. But now I'm finding the more I read it, the more things I already want to houserule or change back to the way they were originally!
Trust me, I'm fully aware that nothing will make everyone happy. I'm fine with that. I also thing it's commendable what Paizo has undertaken with this process. I thought the open playtest would be a mess but they've certainly made it work and I fully support their decision to open the rules to the fans.
Perhaps some of my disappointment stems from the fact that I hold Paizo to such a high standard. I think they one of, if not the best, RPG publishers in the business right now. I want them to succeed. Which is why my enthusiasm for Pathfinder has waned the more and more I've seen in each release. I want Paizo to step up and create a memorable and lasting 3ed ruleset and truly improve the very core of the game. Superficial changes won't do that.
There is also the change that my goals don't coincide with Paizo's. And that's fine too. I hope it's not the case because I want to support them. But as of right now, Pathfinder isn't for me.