Today, we're happy to release an alternate version of the item Resonance system for testing using the Raiders of Shrieking Peak adventure and an encapsulated set of rules. So, how did we get to this release, how do you use it, what's different, and what do we expect out of it?
The Survey Data
First, let's talk about what our survey data has shown us. All the surveys you've been filling out during the playtest process have helped us immensely, and the Rules Survey in particular is telling us a lot about how the rules are being received. The Rules Survey asked quite a few questions about the Resonance system. As you can probably tell from some of the questions on that survey, we looked at things people in the community were already saying to gauge how widespread those sentiments really were. For example, we had seen a lot of people comment that they thought it didn't make sense for potions to cost Resonance Points, so we included this in the survey to gather more information. The results so far show that 55% of respondents have said that while it makes sense that other items cost Resonance, it doesn't make sense for potions. (26% have said it doesn't make sense that anything costs Resonance.)
The main set of questions we asked about Resonance showed us pretty strongly that Resonance as printed was highly unpopular. Few people thought characters had the right number of points, there was too much tracking, the rules on overspending weren't engaging, and only about 20% of respondents thought the system was a clear improvement over First Edition. When introducing a new system, it's especially important that the system be seen as a clear improvement, or it's not pulling its weight.
However, not all of the feedback was negative. The rules had good ratings on being easy to understand, and there was strong support (both in the surveys and in forum posts we've been seeing) for Resonance as a way to make it easier to track multiple-use items. Though we didn't ask about it directly in the survey, we've also seen solid support for a more flexible system of worn items compared to First Edition's item slots. So, the new iteration of the Resonance system looks to expand on these few elements that were well liked, while reducing the elements that felt like burdens.
How to Test Resonance
I'm going to go into plenty of detail on why we're testing the changes we are, but some of that info is also in the test document. So, if you want to just get on with it and pick up the file, here's how.
To test the new Resonance system, you'll need to download two files: the adventure Raiders of Shrieking Peak and the Resonance Test file. The adventure is the same as the preexisting Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenario (and as we've mentioned before, you can run either version in Pathfinder Society for credit). The Resonance Test file contains the rules for this alternate system, design notes on our intent with various rules, lots of new versions of items, the pregenerated characters to use in the adventure, and a short GM section with the few thematic adjustments you need to make to the adventure and items that appear in the adventure.
When you're done, go to the Resonance Test Survey and tell us what you thought! This survey will give you questions depending on whether you ran it, played in it, read it, or any combination thereof. We expect this survey will remain open till the end of the year like the other surveys.
So what did we change? As we said from the outset, the Resonance Points system in the Playtest Rulebook was highly experimental, and it was clear that experiment had failed. Jason quite correctly pointed out that we needed to show where our line of thinking is going in the wake of this and solicit additional feedback—telling everyone to wait for the final rules isn't enough. Hence, this new experiment takes what we learned from play and the surveys and takes a crack at something we think is more interesting and flexible, and that we hope you feel the same way about. Much of what I'm about to say here is replicated in the document, and just included here to give you the full perspective.
This test is checking to see whether some version of the system is satisfying. Resonance has its roots in concepts that appeared in First Edition through the occultist class, resonant powers between certain magic items, and several other places in the lore. Is there something valuable in the idea that items can be made stronger though the user's strength of personality and essence?
First off, let's clarify that while the term "Resonance Points" is still in the document, that's not what's being used to activate items any more (we'll get to those in a bit). Instead, Resonance Points are just to track your capacity to wear items. This aspect of Resonance had a favorable response, and so we're hoping to maintain the flexibility of item choice that comes with removing item slots. However, the point value for Resonance is now different. You get 10. At 1st level, at 20th level. This is because when we use Resonance for just worn items, we're only looking to prevent extreme cases of abuse and discourage extreme item loadouts. For most characters, 10 worn items is plenty. Think of it like Bulk, where the number is high enough that characters rarely need to worry about it unless they have extremely low Strength or they try to carry way too much.
As for getting more out of items, that's where Focus Points come in. This new pool unites two similar concepts: the extra spells you could cast via Spell Points and the extra energy you could put into magic items to get more out of them (think of this along the lines of the occultist's focus powers or the Charisma-based Use Magic Device skill from First Edition). Unlike Spell Points, all characters have Focus Points, and your number per day is equal to your Charisma modifier plus 1 or 2, depending on your ancestry. You can spend a Focus Point to cast a power (in the Resonance Test, this is a cleric's domain power or a sorcerer's bloodline power), or can spend a Focus Point when activating an item to improve its effect.
Notice I said improve it. In this test, items don't normally cost anything to activate. If you use a scroll or drink a potion, you spend nothing but the consumable itself. You can activate your bracers of missile deflection once per day, spending nothing to do so. What you get out of spending a Focus Point depends on the item: A healing potion doubles its healing, the bracers of missile deflection can be activated again, the splash damage from an alchemist's fire has a bigger area, and so on. One of my favorite little distinctions is the invisibility potion. If you only need to move into a combat and make an attack while invisible, you can drink the potion to get 1d4 rounds of invisibility. However, if you have a lot of sneaking around to do before you plan on fighting, you can extend the effect to 10 minutes instead by spending a Focus Point!
The pool of Focus Points doesn't grow as huge as the Resonance Point pool did, since your level isn't added to it and, unlike Spell Points, you don't get more points when you take new powers. The goal here is to make each use of Focus more exciting and interesting. When someone spends a Focus Point, it should be a capital-M Moment. One of the overall goals for the Second Edition is to make your individual decisions during play more impactful and exciting, with fewer set routines. The printed version of Resonance didn't do that, and we're hoping Focus Points give you something exciting to look forward to rather than a chore to carry out. If you look at the cleric and sorcerer powers from the Playtest Rulebook compared to the ones in the Resonance Test, you'll see that they got stronger, because they now cost a more precious resource.
I want to address a couple concerns briefly. One is that classes that thematically should have a decent number of Focus Points will be left out if the pool is Charisma-based. We expect that these classes would have solid methods to adjust their number of points. For instance, a wizard might get some points each day from his arcane focus, or a ki-using monk might meditate to refresh some Focus Points. However, we'd be looking at these remaining Charisma-based, so a wizard who wants to increase Charisma gets a Focus Point benefit from it just like a fighter would. The other concern is that we're weakening items to make room for these Focus Point abilities, such as the shorter duration for the invisibility potion mentioned above. Some of the baseline effects of these items are weakening for another reason. Namely, when removing the Resonance Point requirement for activation, we do need to rein in some of the baseline abilities, since now money is the only limit on how often you can use them. The Focus Point additions are on top of this adjusted baseline power, and if they were removed, the base items would not end up as strong as they are in the current printed version of the book, when they cost a Resonance Point each time.
Will having Focus Points be entirely optional satisfy people's desires for a different system? Will the folks who said spending Resonance on items doesn't make sense think any differently now that Focus is an addition that allows characters to gain more power or benefit out of their items? Will a substantial number of people think that it's a cool system, but that there's still too much bookkeeping? That's what we'll be looking for you to tell us in the survey and your comments.
The Long Term
So, if this test (or parts of it) goes well, what can you expect the long-term changes to be? First off, we need to be clear: Regardless of what people think of the system, there's just no way, logistically, to implement a full change within the playtest period. We might—and I stress might—be able to put out some more samples or previews of where we think we're going, and possibly even guidelines to adapt the printed Resonance system further, but you won't be seeing a total rewrite of the rules.
It's also unlikely that the final items in the book or the final system rules will look exactly like what you see in the Resonance Test, even if the test goes great. Opening up more free magic might necessitate some other changes once players would gain unbounded access to crafting magic items. For example, wands, staves, or scrolls might need to be a higher level or more expensive. And if we get feedback that the Focus Points system should be scuttled entirely, an item like a wand might need to go still higher regardless. We're going to try and minimize that as much as we can, though! Keeping magic items magical and coming to your character when their abilities are still useful is hugely important, and we don't want to go from one system that feels too restrictive to another that feels restrictive, just in a different way.
Some of the terminology and presentation of the rules might change too. "Resonance Points" might make a little more sense if phrased in a different way, such as an interference field that builds up from 0 to a limit of 10 rather than points you spend from 10 down to 0—for the purposes of this Resonance Test, some of the wording was just kept intentionally close to the printed text so it's easier to understand and compare for readers who've been keeping up with the playtest from the start.
We can say with confidence that the printed rules in the Playtest Rulebook won't be in the final version of the book as is. The Resonance Test is an experiment to see whether there's still an interesting idea in there. The most extreme case we might end up with looks more like Pathfinder First Edition, with something like the items you see in the Resonance Test, but with no extra benefits for spending Focus Points.
And all this, of course, relies on you and what you have to say. We deeply appreciate all the time you've put into playtesting this game. If you have time to playtest the Resonance Test, that's fantastic! The playtest schedule is tight, and if you only have time to give the test a read but not to play, that's also so, so helpful. We look forward to hearing more from you as you lament the fates of your characters, struggle against the clock, achieve the impossible, punch holes in the rules, and click through another set of surveys. From Jason, Stephen, Mark, and me, thank you all!
Join the Pathfinder Playtest designers every Friday throughout the playtest on our Twitch Channel to hear all about the process and chat directly with the team.