All About Actions

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

One of the most important aspects of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is combat. Monsters and villains are a very real threat that adventurers have to deal with on a daily basis, and quiet negotiation is rarely the answer. When talking fails, swords are drawn and combat is joined. In Pathfinder First Edition, combat could become rather bogged down just by the weight of options available. Time and time again, we heard new players talk about the complexity of the action system, how it made the game slow down as players looked to eke the most out of their turns.

Basically, the previous system was a barrier, and so it should come as no surprise that we are looking at ways that we can simplify it to make the game run more smoothly and intuitively. The hard part was making sure that the versatility of the old system was still present, while cleaning up the overall experience. We want your turn in combat to be exciting and full of interesting choices. We want you to be elated by coming up with just the right combination of actions to win the day. We just don't want those choices to be hedged in by a number of complex categories.

Seven Types

Before I explain the new way of doing things, it might be good to look back to find some perspective. The previous edition of Pathfinder featured seven distinct action types: free, full-round, immediate, move, standard, swift, and a nebulously defined “other” category. These helped to curb what a character could do and encouraged varied tactics to get the most out of your round. In particular, the immediate action was of interest because it was something you could do outside your turn.

This approach has served us well over the years, but we have long looked for better ways to accomplish some of the same goals with a more intuitive system.

Three Actions

It's your turn. You get to take three actions. That's it. You want to move three times? Done. Instead you want to move once, draw your sword, and attack? No problem. How about attack three times? Go ahead (but you'll take an increasing penalty for each additional attack). With only a few notable exceptions, most things in the game now take one action to accomplish. Opening a door, drawing a weapon, reloading a crossbow, moving up to your speed, raising your shield, taking a guarded step, swinging your greataxe—all of these and much more take just one action to perform.

There are, of course, some exceptions. A few things don't take an action at all, like talking or dropping a weapon. Conversely, most of the spells in the game take two actions to cast, although some can be cast quickly, such as a heal spell that targets yourself. Many of the classes can teach you specific activities that take two more actions to perform. The fighter, for example, has a feat that you can select called Sudden Charge, which costs two actions but lets you to move twice your speed and attack once, allowing fighters to get right into the fray!

One Reaction

One aspect of Pathfinder First Edition that was important to us was the ability to occasionally, if the circumstances were right, act outside your turn. While this was most often a simple attack of opportunity, we saw this as a way to add a whole new dimension to the game.

So now, all characters get one reaction they can take when the conditions are right.

Reactions always come with a trigger that must occur before the reaction can be taken. Let's say you're playing a paladin with a shield and you have spent an action to defend yourself with that shield. Not only does this boost your Armor Class; it also allows you to take a special reaction if you are hit by an attack. This shield block reduces the damage taken by an amount up to the shield's hardness!

Not everybody will have a reaction they can use during combat, but you can always ready an action that allows you prepare a special action that you can take later if the conditions you specify are met. You might ready an action to attack the first orc that walks around the corner, allowing you to make a strike if that happens before your next turn.

Finally, some monsters have reactions they can take as well. While some have simple reactions that allow them to attack those who drop their guard while adjacent to them, others have wildly different abilities. An earth elemental, for example, can spend its reaction after being hit to crumble into a pile of rocks, burrowing down into the ground for safety.

The New System in Practice

The three-action-and-a-reaction system really has done a lot for gameplay around the office. Turns are quite a bit more dynamic. The breadth of options now compete with each other, not based upon what action type they are, but instead on their merits in the current combat situation. Concentrating on a spell might be vital, but not if you need to move away, draw a potion, and drink it. Maybe you could wait to drink it until your next turn to keep the spell going, or maybe you could not move and hope the monster does not eat you.

Most importantly, taking your turn in Pathfinder is now filled with a wide variety of possibilities, allowing you to get the most out of your time in the spotlight, while still keeping the game moving and engaging.

Well, that about wraps up our in-depth look at the new action system for Pathfinder. Come back on Friday for a blog post looking into all of the spoilers from the first part of the Glass Cannon Network's podcast of their playtest of the game. In addition, if you want to see the game yourself, and maybe even get a chance to play, stop by Gary Con this weekend, where we will be running a number of Pathfinder charity games, raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project!

Jason Bulmahn
Director of Game Design

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Tags: Pathfinder Playtest
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gustavo iglesias wrote:
SteelGuts wrote:

AoO is important. That is the way to tank since ages, and a it seems natural to a lot of people. I am okay with having different reactions but only if they are at least in the same power range than AoO, otherwise it will be a real disappointment.

If I remember correctly from my 4e days, fighters had some kind of "special AoO", which only they could use. They could attack with this special AoO even against enemies shifting (which would be Guarded steps by PF 2.0 parlance), and they get a AoO against NPC that attack an ally.

The AoO the fighter gets might be some kind of "this is an AoO, but better", just like Sudden Charge is an upgrade from Charge.

This would be pretty good. Basic AOO is fundamental for any sort of tanking and space control playstyle, and one of the most fun tactical things in PF. Just the super basic one is enough to achieve this.

If Fighter has a "super AOO" then that is cool and makes fighter more interesting and have unique ways to play. Compare this to making it difficult for others to get AOOs at all, which would make Fighter the only "viable" tank unless everyone get some different version of it. Bit even this could be bad because then you fall into "only certain classes can do X role", which is not the spirit of this game (Where there's a will, there's a build).


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Zark wrote:

I can’t really know anything for sure until I’ve read the playtest, but I don’t understand why they keep the iterative attacks. Why not just get rid of the full attack with all its 0/-5/-10 and just let martial classes (or any class) attack, move and attack? In fact most of my issues have with PF has already been fixed by 5e:

6E D&D should be announced soon, 4 editions in 17 years, its about the right time for another. Maybe we can compare 6E to PF2.0.


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Merging free actions into non-actions bugs me. It means they'll need to add something like "if you can move" to half of them, which is word count bloat.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Can we please not refer to the current version of Pathfinder as 1e? For those of us who have been around a while, that term is reserved for first edition (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons.

Instead, I suggest P1e or something like that.

Scarab Sages

This whole thing leaves me feeling very disappointed. Paizo cutting support for P1 is frustrating. The P2 content so far seems like a step backward. One class gets aoo's, one class can take them as a feat, and everyone else as the implication seems has to devote more resources. Just for an aoo. That should be baseline content, not costs-a-feat content. Not to mention that the reaction system basically negates any simplification the action type reduction brings.

So far, the changes feel either unnecessary, or unnecessarily restrictive. But with the end of new P1 content on the horizon (could have just slowed releases, didn't have to kill it) there's little option but to go forward or stagnate. Still, it's an incredibly disappointing move.


Bellona wrote:

Can we please not refer to the current version of Pathfinder as 1e? For those of us who have been around a while, that term is reserved for first edition (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons.

Instead, I suggest P1e or something like that.

I kinda prefer PF1 myself.

Any ways, now on to the topic at hand. Honestly, this was what I was expecting when they said three actions, and a reaction. And I see no problems with this design. I do hope there is a decent amount of standard reactions (in addition to class specific reactions) that anyone can use.


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Toblakai wrote:


6E D&D should be announced soon, 4 editions in 17 years, its about the right time for another. Maybe we can compare 6E to PF2.0.

WotC have made it quite clear that they aren't remotely near a new edition yet. Heck the last system book was codenamed "midway".

I wager the hasbro overlords are happy with the consistent sales and market dominance coupled with low staff numbers and costs.

I don't think we are looking at a 6e playtest for another 3 years.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What I personally adore about this system is how little time it takes to finish a turn. Iterative attacks could draw things out, as did throwing out swinging actions, immediate actions, etc. With this, just hollering "I run over, leap and attack" works fine, and if you're a diehard fan of iteratives, just attack three times and hope for the best!

Sovereign Court

Hi There,

You mention concentrating on spells. Do you intent to ramp up the number of spells that require concentration (like another game we could mention) or will most spells still have duration allowing you to cast and forget?

Dark Archive

I've tried to teach many new players Pathfinder and it's a pretty daunting prospect in most cases, to the point that I teach my current group rules as they come up rather than trying to get them to learn everything. I'm all for a system that's easier to teach, pick up, and play.


Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Bellona wrote:

Can we please not refer to the current version of Pathfinder as 1e? For those of us who have been around a while, that term is reserved for first edition (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons.

Instead, I suggest P1e or something like that.

Agreed. I've already switched to P1e and P2e when talking about them. (Although I noticed one guy who keeps calling P1e 'real Pathfinder' which is getting old really quick)

Regarding AoOs, (please can we change that to OAs for P2e?) I see a lot of people claiming that they are how you tank. They're pretty useless for tanking except at really low levels, unless a) you build for some massive single hit damage or b) you take a bunch of AoO-centered feats.


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Quote:
The fighter, for example, has a feat that you can select called Sudden Charge, which costs two actions but lets you to move twice your speed and attack once, allowing fighters to get right into the fray!

So the ability to charge is now a selectable feat?

And this improves flexibility?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Mekkis wrote:
Quote:
The fighter, for example, has a feat that you can select called Sudden Charge, which costs two actions but lets you to move twice your speed and attack once, allowing fighters to get right into the fray!

So the ability to charge is now a selectable feat?

And this improves flexibility?

Without that feat, you can double-move and attack in one turn. With the feat, you can do that *and* take another action. Like attack again, or move away, or drop your weapon and draw a different one, or... lots of different options.


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Vic Wertz wrote:
Mekkis wrote:
Quote:
The fighter, for example, has a feat that you can select called Sudden Charge, which costs two actions but lets you to move twice your speed and attack once, allowing fighters to get right into the fray!

So the ability to charge is now a selectable feat?

And this improves flexibility?

Without that feat, you can double-move and attack in one turn. With the feat, you can do that *and* take another action. Like attack again, or move away, or drop your weapon and draw a different one, or... lots of different options.

What about attacks of opportunity? Why can't every character do those from the get-go now? Why do only 2 classes get to "learn" that when previously anyone could do it?

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I dont know seems they may have simplified things just to immediatly start making it complicated again

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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If you still think that after playing it in August, be sure to tell us.


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* This action economy sounds good. I'm ok with iterative attack penalties. Reducing numbers by 5 and 10 is simple enough for me, and I'm fairly simple-math challenged.

* Please be careful about what options get "locked" where. There is a line of posters in this thread that have flagged this as a concern. Developers and staff keep talking about knowing how important class options and complexity of strategic options are to the fanbase, but that sounds like marketing speak for "we know you value it, but certain things had to change, so...."

* As a final note, are we being presented with "how things are going to be", or "how they currently are, subject to change because this is a playtest"? The language seems to favor the former, though we are being presented with the latter. Just a note for how the language is coming across to this reader.

Silver Crusade

Really excited the see this change. Until this announcement I'd never really considered Pathfinder combat to be that restrictive, but compared with this, it feels like 2nd Edition could be a significant improvement.

Looking forward to the next blog, keep up the good work.


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Charabdos, The Tidal King wrote:


What about attacks of opportunity? Why can't every character do those from the get-go now? Why do only 2 classes get to "learn" that when previously anyone could do it?

Holy crap, you have the playtest document! Can you link it here, the rest of us have only been speculating on the tiny information we have.

I would love to be like you and know definitives.


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Cont'd:

* It might be good, on the subject of locking options, to free up what were in the previous edition feats, that many folks thought were just options. Power Attack springs to mind. There were at least a couple of threads that listed a whole range of others, and then more recently there were the Feat Tax removal systems. Chained-feats were one of my few pet hates with the previous edition. I basically ignored them in my games, and stuck with the odd-prerequisites that made sense to me, but rarely were those other feats.
To me, for most first party classes, feats were the hidden engine that made characters viable - third party classes that I liked much more had more options, both in terms of by-level, and in terms of action economy. Being feat starved was boring, by comparison.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Tentatively this seems to be okay. However:

- Please be careful that this does not further buff archers over melee characters. Archers already are simply better in the current iteration of the game.
- The "you get three actions" system in Pathfinder Unchained screwed over Sorcerers, who need full actions to use their metamagic feats and then suddenly did not have a swift action anymore for Quicken Spell. Please avoid this in second edition.
- The system also was pretty bad to swift action reliant classes (Inquisitors, Swashbucklers, Warpriests). As above, take care to change them accordingly in their future iterations.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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When Jason is talking about "the new system" in playtest blogs, he is talking about the playtest edition--how it will be in August of this year. Whether it stays that way will be determined with your feedback. (My bet is very much on the three-action economy making it through with only minor revisions, because it has been received very well by the people who have tried it so far.)


Patrick Newcarry wrote:
Cyrad wrote:

I really, really, really dislike the progressive penalties for multiple attacks. Each attack having a different bonus is what bogs down combat the most with multiple attacks.

I'd prefer a uniform penalty across all attacks. It's much faster and easier to roll a handful of dice and apply the same number to each die.

...And makes more sense. You're concentrating more on trying to land one blow with a bunch of shots rather than losing your concentration.

Something I'd actually like to see is combat fatigue. Characters start to get tired in combat and need to rest. I guess the whole abstract HP terminology covers this (I've seen multiple threads on this subject) but still, I think it would be at the very least interesting to have a more concrete way of determining a character's health and stamina (like in Starfinder) to show that they are physically becoming strained. Something in the form of penalties becoming more prevalent once you drop below half HP.

Maybe I am not understanding what you are thinking of, but how would this facilitate ease of play and more choices? Wouldn’t this lock you in to a corse of action at the beginning of your turn, because you have to decide to make a full attack rather than choosing on an action by action basis?

Also, combat fatigue seems like it might make combat last longer and trap characters into a downward spiral.


Zark wrote:

I can’t really know anything for sure until I’ve read the playtest, but I don’t understand why they keep the iterative attacks. Why not just get rid of the full attack with all its 0/-5/-10 and just let martial classes (or any class) attack, move and attack?

My guess? Because they are still going to have higher numbers than 5e. In 5e, you don't get as crazy high as you do in pathfinder in terms of bonus to hit and whatnot. If they pull that from pathfinder, it will make the game feel weakened. So abilities that can make your weapon +5 while the bard inspires while flanking and having a favored enemy make swinging that sword at full all the time incredibly dangerous. It's funny, because Starfinder still does the higher numbers, and to help with that they gave bonuses to hit increases for free/easily, between the stat increases and the personal upgrades. But, since there aren't as many, they penalty to hit with multiple attacks is less. PF2 will likely still have you get crazy attack bonuses the same way as in regular Pathfinder, or it would change the feel of the game towards 5e and be less like... well... Pathfinder. Especially with the new Crit mechanic, making early hits more likely to crit in a fight, which is interesting.


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I liked the Unchained economy somewhat, so I'm mostly OK with this. I just want steady damage/action scaling for martials without looking too arbitrary like Starfinder's chunky plusses to damage.


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If you could sacrifice actions to improve the results of the one action you still take it much get have some of that ‘vital strike’ feel.


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RDM42 wrote:
If you could sacrifice actions to improve the results of the one action you still take it much get have some of that ‘vital strike’ feel.

Oooh maybe a feat to make weapon damage scale like spell damage when you use two or more actions?


It looks promising. It is conceptually simpler, but in practice it will be the same complexity as the current system. The reaction changes could be good. I'm assuming a player can hold some/all of their actions to enable a desirable reaction, or perhaps more than one reaction.


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Rubber Ducky guy wrote:

As fir the possible absence of AoO, MnM didtched AoO, and it was exciting.

Gone was the tactical movement, and with that went the battle maps. No more drawn out turns plotting routes around enemies.
Turns were faster and the play was more engaging.

Tactical combat is a huge part of the reason I play Pathfinder.

I already have plenty of games that don't require tactical movement, and do not choose to play them anywhere near as often.


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LuniasM wrote:
I've tried to teach many new players Pathfinder and it's a pretty daunting prospect in most cases, to the point that I teach my current group rules as they come up rather than trying to get them to learn everything. I'm all for a system that's easier to teach, pick up, and play.

What? Teaching people the game as the rules come up is literally the best way to teach it. Learn by playing

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

If Metamagic is still a thing I too would like it to no longer penalize spontaneous casters.

If Metamagic Rods are still a thing I hope they a got a work over as well, namely the Greater ones.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
I wonder why nothing came up about high BAB characters being able to take more actions per round. It would make sense and would eventually let you get your 4 Iterative Attacks in (although requiring Epic levels for less than full BAB characters to get this).

From the Podcast it would appear all attacks are resolved as Character Level + Modifier.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The new action economy feature I'm most excited about is from the podcast where it was stated that some spells can be cast at different action costs, i.e. magic missle as a single, double, or triple action with each being more powerful than the next. It seemed like they all were a single spell slot use, but you're able to really kamehameha the spell if you wished and had the time.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Having some one-action cantrips seems awesome. My casters can do multiple magic things in one turn, right from the get-go!


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Gut feeling is that people who like/can tolerate Starfinder will get on with this, but people who actually enjoy Pathfinder will find themselves needing to find another game.


Charabdos, The Tidal King wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:

Without that feat, you,can double-move and attack in one turn. With the feat, you can do that *and* take another action. Like attack again, or move away, or drop your weapon and draw a different one, or... lots of different options.

What about attacks of opportunity? Why can't every character do those from the get-go now? Why do only 2 classes get to "learn" that when previously anyone could do it?

but of course, i believe you, everyone, anyone, can use 2 action and ready an attack(1 action) if they about to move out of your threat range. you can maybe even try to... grapple(??) them, or maybe, i dunno move along with them? (i assume, all as a reaction, by sacrificing 1 action).

with the class option, you can take 3 action and attack if they move out of threat as reaction.

i dunno man, it seems... too soon to judge we don't even know what all the options are.


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Sounds like the PF2 action economy is similar to the Revised Action Economy from Unchained. As someone who has been using RAE exclusively since Unchained came out (3 years), I can say it is faster to resolve, more tactical, and more flexible than the PF1 action economy. It didn't seem like it at first. But then we all realized that there were suddenly options where none existed before. And that -10 attack? That gets used for something else probably 2/3 of the time in my group.

It also sounds like they turned the whole thing up to 11 with all kinds of new options. Love the Sudden Charge feat concept!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Throne wrote:
Gut feeling is that people who like/can tolerate Starfinder will get on with this, but people who actually enjoy Pathfinder will find themselves needing to find another game.

there's enough of P1 material out there for many lifetimes of gaming.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

So far I am cautiously optimistic. We have very little real data to go on but the action system here looks good. Will have to see what the rest of the rule set looks like.


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Yakman wrote:
Throne wrote:
Gut feeling is that people who like/can tolerate Starfinder will get on with this, but people who actually enjoy Pathfinder will find themselves needing to find another game.
there's enough of P1 material out there for many lifetimes of gaming.

This is my position ATM.

I'll pick up the playtest book and give it a go.

If I don't like it, I just completed purchasing all Herolab content and already own most of the hardcopy I actually use.

It'll take my group another 10 years to play through all the published AP's and my wife will stop complaining about how much I spend.


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Yakman wrote:
Throne wrote:
Gut feeling is that people who like/can tolerate Starfinder will get on with this, but people who actually enjoy Pathfinder will find themselves needing to find another game.
there's enough of P1 material out there for many lifetimes of gaming.

Don't be so bloody disingenuous.

Yes, there's plenty of PF1 material. No, the books aren't going to crumble to dust. No, Paizo ninjas aren't coming to anyone's house to confiscate old books.

Completely irrelevant.

People drift away from games that are not getting new content.
The release cycle maintains buzz. New material keeps the game fresh. Stagnant games dwindle.

Sure, there'll still be some people playing. But before long the people who want to keep playing will have trouble finding people to play with, and they'll move on to something else.

And everyone on this forum knows it.

So let's stop treating people like idiots and pretending like no-one who who wants to keep playing PF1 is going to have any trouble doing so. Even for an rpg website, that's a make-believe step too far.

Sovereign Court

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Skedge wrote:
So far I am cautiously optimistic. We have very little real data to go on but the action system here looks good. Will have to see what the rest of the rule set looks like.

This is more or less how I feel, but as I keep learning new things about this I feel less and less excited.

Basic actions like AoO require you to either be a Fighter or take a feat?

Going the way of 5e and cutting down on flat bonuses, making everything hinge too much on a d20 roll, making the game super swingy?

Sigh.

One of my favourite things about Pathfinder has always been the sheer number of different ways you can find to do the same thing effectively. For just about any desired tactic/play style there are 20 different ways to do that really well and that's awesome. It sounds like with PF2 that's going away.


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Semantics kills me.

Why three actions? Why not seven, or forty. Heck, ehy not let each character do everything they want to do in six seconds, roll a couple of dice, declare the monsters defeated and move on.

Or wait, what was wrong, exactly with an "undefined" one minute round? You do something, tell the DM what you want to have happen, roll a die, determine what the results were.

It gets me so confused when the discussion becomes so complicated about "exactly" what you can and cannot do in six seconds.

Sort of kills the fun for me

But then again, I never really learned how to play Pathfinder in the first place. it was always too complicated. This edition does not promise to be less complicated, at all.


Quote:
What about attacks of opportunity? Why can't every character do those from the get-go now? Why do only 2 classes get to "learn" that when previously anyone could do it?

I think the idea is to have "enablers" for a lot of things, meaning you need a class feature or feat to do the stunt. This has two benefits.

It keeps the basic "non-enabled" game easy.

Those actions can be really good once you have the enabler.


Mike J wrote:

It also sounds like they turned the whole thing up to 11 with all kinds of new options. Love the Sudden Charge feat concept!

yea man, totally. i think it will be exciting.

some class will be better at some stuff than other class, but i think, with these action system, those can be replicated, albeit in a less-efficient ways.

just like woth aoo and charging.

and with this same action system, i love how spells and other different power can be fine tuned by altering the action price. big stuff require 3 action, small stuff require 1. some feat (maybe like metamagic) alter the action price. imagine the potential man.


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As someone who enjoys converting monsters from 3.5 to PF, this unique monster reaction rule has me a little worried. 3.5 to PF means i have to just alter the skills and add/change a couple of feats to convert. Now, I need to come up with balanced reactions for every monster?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Mavrickindigo wrote:
As someone who enjoys converting monsters from 3.5 to PF, this unique monster reaction rule has me a little worried. 3.5 to PF means i have to just alter the skills and add/change a couple of feats to convert. Now, I need to come up with balanced reactions for every monster?

Probably not. Just give them all AoOs, since that’s what they were designed with.


Or change any immediate action spells or abilities into reactions


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We adopted the revised action economy from unchained in our group. Overall we enjoyed the system but we ran into some issues:

Some classes rely heavily on swift actions. They are placed at a disadvantage if swift action or minor actions cost one of three actions to use. Our solution was to give everyone a free swift/minor in addition to the three actions.

Casters enjoy a power boost if they do the following: cast a spell (two actions), then use last action to begin casting another spell. Next round complete the spell that was begun the previous round (one action), then cast another spell that same round (two actions). Of course damage between rounds could interrupt, but very often our casters were able to cast three spells in two rounds.

Monks and archers with multiple attacks quickly ramped up their number of attacks with this system. This left the fighters and other non-multi attack classes behind. perhaps eliminating the 0/-5/-10 mechanic would help fix this imbalance.

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