Over the past few weeks, I've been spending some time talking to folks on the unofficial 2nd Ed Pathfinder Playtest group on Facebook. Mostly I've been listening to people's thoughts and anecdotes about the playtest, but I've also been answering a few rules questions and conversing about various subjects. Something that's come up a couple of times in that group and in other forums is how we, the folks at Paizo and especially the design team, respond to criticism.
We are no stranger to playtests. Each time we launch a playtest, we get a pile of feedback, both positive and negative. Both are important. Of course, we all love hearing what you like, and in a perfect world we would bask in the glory of your adoration... but we only create worlds of fantasy, we don't live in one. We playtest to hear what you think about the rules and to get your take on what is sound, exciting, and fun. Sometimes you might not care for our initial design. Sometimes you'll spot problems with the initial design. We want you to tell us. No, we need you to tell us. We're making this game not for ourselves, but for all of us to play!
Case in point—let's talk about Resonance Points.
Yeah, that's right. I'm going there.
Let's talk about exactly what design challenges Resonance Points were designed to solve, as that seems to be a point of some confusion.
First, they're meant to address the economy of lower-level consumable magic items as you level up. This is colloquially referred to as the wand of cure light wounds issue in Pathfinder First Edition, but it's more systemic than that. In short, as you go up in level and your ability to purchase and craft (or find) lower-level consumable magic items increases, they actually become the most economical use of resources. When you are limited only by what you have on hand, the amount of bang per buck makes higher-level magic items nearly pointless.
This problem and the Pathfinder First Edition method of item pricing also played havoc with lower-level items with limited uses per day. Designers, by nature, want you to use the items they created in actual play. But adventure designers are often under budgetary constraints to make not the best item for the story, but the one that does the trick while still conforming to the amount of treasure output in the design guides. These factors often created a race to the bottom, design-wise, spawning tons of these little X-per-day buggers that characters could afford, featuring relatively powerful (and always useful) effects that often became more useful as you gained levels. All of this creates a sort of mini-nova during climactic encounters, as characters spend a handful of swift and immediate actions ramping up to their optimal tactics. This is especially true for classes in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, since they typically have fewer class-based options competing for the use of swift and immediate actions.
Another problem Resonance Points are trying to address is what is often called the "Christmas Tree" effect of games that impose limits based solely on magic item slots. This goes hand in hand with the cheap consumable (or X-uses-per-day items), as many players rush to fill their slots with items featuring charges or uses per day. While slots still exist in the Pathfinder Playtest, they are the exception rather than the rule, and their primary goal is simply reducing redundancies (like wearing two pairs of boots at the same time and similar nonsense).
Lastly, the Resonance Point system is intended to eliminate or at least severely limit the bookkeeping involved in those X-uses-per-day and X-rounds-per-day items. Instead of tracking a bunch of little point pools, Resonance Points can do the job in most, if not all, cases, with the rest limited to once per day. Admittedly, this aspect was not as thoroughly implemented as it could have been in the playtest rules.
Those are the main issues that the Resonance Point system is trying to confront. Are there problems with the current implementation? You bet. The most glaring one is that it's currently not doing a good job of reducing the number of magic item use-per-day pools at higher levels. We're going to need to pound the system into shape a little more to achieve that goal.
A big issue is that a lot of folks just plain don't like Resonance Points. There are many reasons for that. It's new and different from what people are used to. Other folks don't see the challenges this system is trying to tackle, or they don't see them as problematic. More telling is that even many who do understand the issues have some misgivings, feel that this solution is too artificial, or see it as just plain punitive. We anticipated that. But even with all of the issues, we knew that the current design of Resonance Points would give us valuable information about play patterns and consumable use throughout the playtest, and it has done that in spades already and continues to do so.
Better still, it has given us valuable information on how to solve the issues that the Resonance Point system confronts in a better and more pleasing way for the final game. In short, your use of the current incarnation of Resonance Points throughout the playtest helps us come up with better mechanics to use in Pathfinder Second Edition. You've done a great job in providing us that information already, and as we move into higher-level play, that useful data will become more abundant.
So, in the case of Resonance Points, positivity of play and critical comments have guided us in the right direction. We already have a few options on how to either fix or replace the mechanic, and we are going to keep on kicking ideas around as the playtest data keeps flowing in. So keep on filling out those surveys and sharing your opinions. Getting your thoughts on the game and how it plays, no matter how you express them, is what the Pathfinder Playtest is all about.