New Edition the Hard Way

Monday, October 7, 2019

This article by Jason Bulmahn, Director of Game Design, was published in the July edition of Meeple monthly. We are pleased to share it with you today.

Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook.

Pathfinder is a game with a legacy. Drawing from a heritage stretching back to Gary’s table, when envisioning a new edition, it is tempting to simply iterate on what has come before. After all, that was the strategy that built Pathfinder into an incredibly successful Roleplaying Game.

That was not the route we decided to take.

Simply iterating on the same game engine was not enough. The 3.5 engine has had its day, and as a team we decided that it was time to modernize, to create a version of Pathfinder that was more than just tinkering around the edges. The game needed to evolve to speak to the desires of the current crowd of gamers. It needed to an engine tune up that made it easier for novices to grasp, while still providing a rich depth of option. What it needed was elegance in its design.

The first steps were taken shortly after the first edition of Pathfinder made their way to the printer. The work that was left undone, due the necessity of compatibility, would become the basis for what the new game needed to be. The math engine caused problems with high level play that led to an unsatisfactory game experience. Imbalances in fundamental class design created imbalances that left some players feeling unable to contribute. A bloat of rules options without any checks in the system created a game that was unwieldy to run.

But in spite of all that, the game itself was still a success, due in large part to the world it created, and the investment it fostered in players and game masters alike. We knew, from the outset, that the story of the game had to remain the same, even if the rules that made it manifest needed to change. Achieving that goal meant that we needed to do a lot more than simply clean up the game. We needed to start over.

Pathfinder Second Edition does not include one single sentence or rule carried over directly from first edition. That was one of the first choices we made. Everything was up for examination, from the fundamental math formulas behind the game to the individual statistics for longswords. And while that made for a lot of additional work, it also meant that we could look at each rule cleanly, unburdened by the conventions of the past. In the end, many things work similarly to how they did in first edition (a longsword still does 1d8 damage), but we were able to innovate where the game called for innovation. Take the action system for example. In first edition, when it was your turn to act in combat, you had a complicated menu of options, between move actions, standard actions, free actions, swift actions, and on and on. In second edition, we simplified that to just three actions, removing all the types and making your turn a more dynamic part of the game. The narrative is still fundamentally the same, but how you take part in the game is much simpler to teach and easy to use.

Next, we knew that if we were going to take a fresh look at the game, we needed a playtest that would allow us to gather meaningful data about the core of the game’s engine. In the past, our playtests had focused on the experience of the rules, relying mostly on player and game master anecdotes to gather information. While this gave us insight, it was impossible to apply any measure of statistical rigor to the data. For second edition we decided to create an environment that allowed us to gather better data about our game. To start, we needed to standardize the feedback by getting a massive number of players to experience the same adventure. We wrote Doomsday Dawn, a seven part mini-campaign, with the express goal of testing targeted parts of the Pathfinder game engine. There was a part filled with undead to stress test the player’s healing capabilities. There was a tests focused on the various skill disciplines in the game. And perhaps most importantly, there was a test designed to push the characters beyond their limits, to test the rules for death and dying in the game.

While this sort of hardcore testing gave us invaluable information about how our game assumptions were playing out, it was a grueling test for some groups of players. After all, playing the same type of encounter over and over to determine the breaking point is not exactly the most fun way to play the game. Their sacrifices, though, led to some of the most in-depth analysis we have ever seen on an RPG. It led us to fully understand the spots where our assumptions and biases were leading the game astray, allowing us to course correct. Some systems were entirely abandoned (like resonance, a system for balancing magic item use), while others were refined into rules to meet player desire (like the new system for focus spells, allowing casters to utilize their signature spells all day long). The playtest was one of the hardest we have ever run, but it was also the most rewarding.

The second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has been in the works for years, but now on the eve of its release, all of that work is about to pay off. The new version of the game is simple to run and easier for new players to learn, but it keeps all of the features that players have come to appreciate from Pathfinder: deep character customization, a rich world narrative, and all the tools to tell the type of stories that you want to tell. Speaking for the team, we can’t wait to share those stories with you.

Jason Bulmahn
Director of Game Design

Aaron Shanks
PR Manager

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition
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Liberty's Edge

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Personally, the only way it works in my head canon is that the world of PF2 is an alternate reality to PF1. Most of the events that happened in PF1 happened here as well, most of the people have mirrors in this reality. But the way things work, and the way things happened are sometimes a little bit different.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

There are a lot of different ways to play a fantasy rpg. To each his own.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Excaliburproxy wrote:
Corrik wrote:
Quote:
I actually changed my homebrew setting to fall more in line with the new rules
None of my homebrew settings use the Pathfinder system so that isn't really an option for me.
If making a whole new setting is too much work, you can always just modify Golarion to suite your needs. In my setting, I changed which gods had primacy currently. You can always employ a good old fashioned "Sundering" or some such shenanigans.

Again, if I have to do work to make the tools work, what good are the tools? How are they serving me? Especially when I already have systems and settings that don't have these issues? Official Paizo materials won't take in to account any of the changes I've made, so each release will just be more things I don't like and more work for me. Why would I bother with that? As has been stated numerous times, P1E still exists, as does the P1E version of the setting. I'll just play those if I get the itch.


Corrik wrote:
Excaliburproxy wrote:
Corrik wrote:
Quote:
I actually changed my homebrew setting to fall more in line with the new rules
None of my homebrew settings use the Pathfinder system so that isn't really an option for me.
If making a whole new setting is too much work, you can always just modify Golarion to suite your needs. In my setting, I changed which gods had primacy currently. You can always employ a good old fashioned "Sundering" or some such shenanigans.

Again, if I have to do work to make the tools work, what good are the tools? How are they serving me? Especially when I already have systems and settings that don't have these issues? Official Paizo materials won't take in to account any of the changes I've made, so each release will just be more things I don't like and more work for me. Why would I bother with that? As has been stated numerous times, P1E still exists, as does the P1E version of the setting. I'll just play those if I get the itch.

That is super fair. I had already played PF1E to death years ago anyways so a new edition suits me just fine, tbh. I am just bummed that it didn't iterate on the things that I loved most about the original edition.

That said, I think PF2E is a fun game in its own right with its own interesting ideas and identity as well as a team containing many designers whom I admire greatly. I look forward to seeing what they will produce going forward even if I am fundamentally dissatisfied with some of the decisions they've made.

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Deighton Thrane wrote:
Personally, the only way it works in my head canon is that the world of PF2 is an alternate reality to PF1. Most of the events that happened in PF1 happened here as well, most of the people have mirrors in this reality. But the way things work, and the way things happened are sometimes a little bit different.

I consider this the OVA style. Once you've watched multiple versions of Tenchi Muyo, you don't worry too much about variance in your stories.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

When I think of shape changing druids, I think of this video.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

Removed posts and replies. So much of what a person likes or doesn't care for with RPG rules and content is going to be pretty personally subjective and based in each person's unique experiences and tastes in games.

Critiques and expressions of preferences are fine, but when doing so, its helpful for the overall discussion to remember and phrase things as opinions. "I don't see how this works...", "This doesn't work for me because...", "I feel...", "At my table we like...", "I prefer how first edition handled this because..." This allows for more of a collaborative discussion about the materials, rather than an argument about who is right or wrong.


I remember one thing that I absolutely love about the new edition: the character statblocks are way smaller. I haunt the PbP forums as a player and onlooker, and check the 2e recruitments to look over the created 1st level characters. They look pretty simple. Which is great.

@Deadmanwalking: good points. Still sad about multiclassing and archetypes. ;)


Gorbacz wrote:
That, or that PF3 will be more like PF1, which means we're in for a decade of constructive criticism.

It's this one. I'd also be fine with a much more nitty-gritty system than PF1 for PF3 (e.g. making height and weight have mechanical effects, more realistic depictions of gear, more skills, more bonus types, etc.)


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I really don't care.I don't intend to change my running campaigns over to the new system, so it simply doesn't matter to these campaigns. And for campaigns I run with second edition, I'll simply assume the world has always worked as it does now.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Mekkis wrote:


Pathfinder, with it's inherent imbalance, requires a social contract between the GM and the players - the GM to use levers to maintain balance between PCs and their challenges, and the players to show a certain amount of maturity to ensure that they do not exceed the expected power levels of each other (and of the challenges the GM provides).

Thank you; that cogently expresses much of what about I valued about PF1 that feels not to be so present in PF2. Except that the buy-in I look for from my players isn't "keeping their power levels similar and appropriate" but "getting into the wider range of roleplaying options available with more randomised power levels."


2 people marked this as a favorite.
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Mekkis wrote:


Pathfinder, with it's inherent imbalance, requires a social contract between the GM and the players - the GM to use levers to maintain balance between PCs and their challenges, and the players to show a certain amount of maturity to ensure that they do not exceed the expected power levels of each other (and of the challenges the GM provides).
Thank you; that cogently expresses much of what about I valued about PF1 that feels not to be so present in PF2. Except that the buy-in I look for from my players isn't "keeping their power levels similar and appropriate" but "getting into the wider range of roleplaying options available with more randomised power levels."

That's basically a byproduct of the system's imbalance: when players realise that they shouldn't min-max everything, it opens up many combinations where suboptimal choices (both in character building, and roleplaying) are enabled by the presence of powerful options.


Mekkis wrote:
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Mekkis wrote:


Pathfinder, with it's inherent imbalance, requires a social contract between the GM and the players - the GM to use levers to maintain balance between PCs and their challenges, and the players to show a certain amount of maturity to ensure that they do not exceed the expected power levels of each other (and of the challenges the GM provides).
Thank you; that cogently expresses much of what about I valued about PF1 that feels not to be so present in PF2. Except that the buy-in I look for from my players isn't "keeping their power levels similar and appropriate" but "getting into the wider range of roleplaying options available with more randomised power levels."
That's basically a byproduct of the system's imbalance: when players realise that they shouldn't min-max everything, it opens up many combinations where suboptimal choices (both in character building, and roleplaying) are enabled by the presence of powerful options.

This is a really insightful exchange, I think.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I don't buy it. If someone wants to play the character that's terrible and constantly outclassed by everyone else, you can do that even in a system that doesn't wall off concepts with terrible balance.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Since there is so much nonsense hyperbole in the opposite direction here I figure I'll toss my 2cp hat in the ring!

PF2 is soo good, it makes me want the throw all my Original PF books in a trashcan, set it on fire, and roll it down the hill. There is literally no comparison between the two, the new edition is better in nearly every conceivable way.

Grand Lodge

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Do like my venture agent did and sacrifice all your 1E dice to the gods of chaos. They aren't fit to roll for 2E.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I have chopped up and incinerated every table on which I'd played 1E, including those owned by other people. (You've never heard such whining!)


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Pfft, amateurs, I sacrificed anyone I ever played 1E with to the gods of change and darkness.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Corrik wrote:
Quote:
We knew, from the outset, that the story of the game had to remain the same, even if the rules that made it manifest needed to change.

Unfortunately I do not find that this is true, and it's the primary reason I won't be playing Second Edition. The story of my Druid using Goodberries to help feed the survivors of Phaendar simply does not work with the new version of the spell. That story is gone, and any changes made to "make it work" create a new story. This is true for numerous changes made throughout the system, to the point where I don't consider the Campaign Setting in the editions to be the same. Things just feel too different. I've mostly moved to more narrative systems, so a game that is constantly telling me how I should play in a setting I have no investment in just really doesn't interest me.

I realized Paizo was creating Golarion2 and not only PF2 when I saw the changes in the alignment requirements of Clerics.

The new version of Golarion still supports the story that Paizo told in their books. But it does not necessarily support any PF1 player or GM's past stories even if they always played in canon. In fact I guess everyone will have to say goodbye to some part of their Golarion1 memories.

Time to change again.


10 people marked this as a favorite.

^Suddenly I just realized: With each patching of the universe, usually things worked close enough to the way they worked before that the world simply moved on with merely an uncomfortable bump, and kept working. But when Pathfinder 1024th Edition came out, the change was simply too great, and reality itself broke, leaving historical records and memories scrambled or even erased, and with a key world mysteriously missing. Centuries later, after reality had finally settled down to a usable equilibrium, this became known as the Gap.

Sovereign Court

sherlock1701 wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
That, or that PF3 will be more like PF1, which means we're in for a decade of constructive criticism.
It's this one. I'd also be fine with a much more nitty-gritty system than PF1 for PF3 (e.g. making height and weight have mechanical effects, more realistic depictions of gear, more skills, more bonus types, etc.)

Are there standard height and weight range charts in PF2 or just the "this is average" blurb found in the ancestry descriptions?

Liberty's Edge

Cylerist wrote:
Are there standard height and weight range charts in PF2 or just the "this is average" blurb found in the ancestry descriptions?

Just the 'this is average' blurb.

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