This is probably wishlisting of the highest order, and I'm almost 99% sure that most if not all of these are going to be an integral part of the new edition just as much as they were before, in part because one of the stated design goals is to keep the game recognizable, which it might not be anymore if these were actually put into practice. But i'd like to express these thoughts anyway. I just want to put the thought out there and why I think they don't benefit the game.
1. Per Day/Rest Features
Abilities that rely on a number of uses per day/rest, including pool mechanics, like grit and magus arcana, set a prerequisite number of encounters per day in order to balance the game. The current system assumes that a party will have about 3 combat encounters each day. This means players have to ration their limited use abilities between these encounters. If you only have one encounter a day, a class that primarily relies on limited use abilities can blow its full potential on that single encounter with extreme prejudice quickly becoming more powerful than any other. Meanwhile, if there are significantly more encounters the same class would become spread extremely thin being barely able to contribute while those who don't have this restriction can just keep going and going.
I used to run very typical dungeon crawling campaigns, but later I shifted toward a less combat-heavy style and it quickly became apparent that some characters could exploit this to generate massive damage output.
If we removed the per day restriction it would not only de-gamify some of the mechanics ("What do you mean, you're too exhausted to get angry anymore? You seem perfectly spry to me!"), it would help accomodate for more varied styles of play.
This is the big one. Classes exist to balance different types of characters by moving them along a certain predefined path of traits as they level up. Yet at the same time the game has mechanics such as multiclassing and archetypes so that people can build their characters outside these predefined paths. Over time this has lead to 41 different classes (not counting unchained variants) each with anywhere from a dozen to 50 or more archetypes. Some of which are expressedly designed to combine one class with another. Feats allow characters to tap into class features from other classes as well, so at this point, I have to wonder, why even bother with classes in the first place?
An open character building system is, it seems, what Pathfinder secretly really wants. Start off with a number of build points, and let players buy feats and class features from these.
Spend build points on gaining more skill ranks, more hit points, better spellcasting, better combat proficiency etc. And each level up the character gains new build points to spend. You could run this along certain automatic gains per level, such as a minimum hit die and a minimum amount of skill points per level and a choice of one saving throw increase for example.
This wouldn't only open up a more versatile and less convoluted path to getting the host of abilities that the player really wants for his character, it would also allow for a variety of other things:
- You could spend part of your build points on your ancestry, if you want to play a more powerful race, or gain extra build points from your ancestry if you are for example a kobold, which may have very low inherent abilities. This would free the game of the constraint of having to have each race/ancestry being exactly equivalent in power. 3rd edition tried to adress more powerful races with level adjustment, which didn't work, with this more flexible system it's much easier to adjust for a more powerful creature.
You could even bake ancestry completely into this buildpoint pool. Your character buys her ancestry from the same starting pool from which she chooses class features. It also opens up the ability of building your own 100% legal ancestry from various features instead of buying a one of the pre-build sets (human, elf, gnome, goblin...)
- You could choose to use build points to improve your base ability scores. Or reduce your base ability score total to gain more build points
- You can spend build points on feats when you want them, rather than being roped into taking them
- You can have ancestries in the game which naturally have certain features that would otherwise be class features. Like say we gave orcs the inherent ability to rage. This way an orc can still be built to match the barbarian character-type without having redundant features that don't add to each other.
You can still have certain predeterminations, like the distinction between arcane and divine magic. Make a player choose how they cast magic, inherently like a sorcerer, through study like a wizard, through art like a bard, dedication or worship like a cleric and so on.
I realize how deeply these go into what the game is to us, and before anyone says that i should look for a different system. I have. But I never found one that did it well enough. I like the depth of pathfinder, and most games that i found which deliver on the open character building and lack of per-day abilities that i crave, usually either lack the depth of gameplay (for example magic is barely distinguished from mundane skill usage) or are so irredeemably overruled that they are more bookkeeping than gameplay. So I thought instead i'd express how i would feel about making these changes to a system i actually like.