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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3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Huzzah!


20 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm playing Age of Ashes with my long time group and we LOVE 2nd Edition Pathfinder. I've been playing PF since it was released way back in 2009, and had played 3.5 for years before that and I'm so happy to see a new take on the rules. I know there's a lot of negativity around new editions and people complain a lot, but just know at least one group of long-time players are totally down for second edition and everything to come with it!


20 people marked this as a favorite.

Unfortunately 2nd Edition is just not for my group and I. It feels hauntingly similar to when D&D 4E tried to reinvent itself and lost its roots. I absolutely love my legacy Pathfinder books, and my group enjoys Starfinder. Good luck.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

Abandoning the old in the name of modernizing is a risky move. WotC doing that literally paved the way for Paizo's current success.

That said, I'm enjoying PF2e for now. We are only playing low level so it will remain to be seen whether or not Pathfinder 2e is fun long term. But current signs point to yes.

Well done to Paizo.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
John Lynch 106 wrote:

Abandoning the old in the name of modernizing is a risky move. WotC doing that literally paved the way for Paizo's current success.

Depends on what edition you are talking about. 3e and 4e were drastic departures, but 5e was actually more of a return to ad&d sensibilities and ideas than the previous two editions.

Creatures, adventure design(not entirely, but far more than either edition before it), bounded accuracy, rare magic, streamlined classes, proficiency and a focus on gm power to give rulings.


13 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

PF2e is fantastic, I'm here for the long haul


12 people marked this as a favorite.

After running a session just yesterday with three newbies and not only having a blast but feeling the depth in each character build (mine and theirs) I just felt the game was fantastic.

With core alone I feel free to build most concepts I can think of. Even finding myself adding more depth to a concept via all the layers of customization across ancestry background Skill feats and class feats. Dispersing the depth of the character across several pools creates in-depth characters by design.

I even find myself appreciating the unappetizing rules, today I thought about the new distinction for senses into programmatic “vague, imprecise, and precise” which really just gave names to what already existed and allowed me to easily conceptualize all other senses one might encounter. It’s intuitive and allows me to easier converse a rule to the player and also manage the rule itself (such as making a new monster or giving an ability or a magic item power)

I find myself appreciating rules I used to just hate dealing with, so the fact that literally every rule was examined is basically a bonafide truth.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I love 2E's core system stuff~ Yep yep. has flaws, particularly with my favorite class, but hey.. still my favorite class so its still a ton of fun.

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

We are absolutely loving 2E! The action economy alone is enough to entice a trial of the game. I love to see a player's face when they ask, "I can attack again?" Or, when the number of actions allow, "I can cast another spell?" We're also loving the flow of the game. The smooth transition from rolling skill checks in exploration mode becoming initiative checks for encounter mode.

It is only fair to note that in some areas the release feels incomplete. Between the misprints and typos and the small amount of PFS approved play scenarios, many of our players are shrugging their shoulders, but still coming out to play.

I'm looking forward to getting more sanctioned content with chronicle sheets for us to play. And I'm hoping to hear that the Character Guide is legal for PFS play.

Keep it coming, we're ready!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

2 people marked this as a favorite.

A lot of work and dedication went into 2nd Edition. That is evident and it resulted in a game I quite enjoy.

Though, I must admit that the transition feels rough because Pathfinder ties its mechanics and setting/narrative rather closely. Many of the ancestries (like kitsune) that became staples of 1st Edition won't be available for years. We have the awkward problem of major NPCs with firearms, which don't exist in the rules yet. Then we have the issue of common NPCs being able to wield improvised weapons without penalty while PCs have no such options and technically cannot even add their own proficiency bonus because the rules don't say so. These are all issues that will be addressed, but oh boy, it's a tough wait.

However, it's a tough wait because the game is so much fun! We want to play with all of our favorite toys in the new shiny playpen!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

There are a lot of things I don't like about 2e's underlying components. Feats and options that I feel are more restrictive than they need to be or take too long to come online. Items that are too expensive for what they do or too weak for their level. Balance choices that feel more like they just punish certain ideas rather than make the game more even.

But it's by far one of the best tabletops to actually play. The way actions work in combat and the overall flow of the game is a monumental improvement over 1e and 3.5, much less gamist than D&D4 and much less confining than D&D5.


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Both PF2e and 5e have their benefits and are fine systems.

Buuut.. PF1e is still considerably better. I would say 3.5 in general is better than more modern systems but PF1 is better than it despite being an iteration.

I wish you the best of luck with 2e as I'm sure it was a massive undertaking and even moreso when you have so much content you still have yet to remake and redo to be able to move forward with the story freely. But I know a lot of people are just going to stay with 1e even if that means new content will have to come from other sources or retrofitting new AP's to the older system.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

"Pathfinder Second Edition does not include one single sentence or rule carried over directly from first edition."

Except for, you know, the entire prepared casting system. It's straight out of the year 2000.

Shadow Lodge

From what I've seen and read, PF2 does seem well-thought-out and I would like to be both a player & GM in it. I still have a lot of stuff in PF1 to GM & play, so when I've finished with that, I'll try the new edition. Plus, by then, there'll be more sourcebooks and errata for the new stuff!


11 people marked this as a favorite.
ClanPsi wrote:

"Pathfinder Second Edition does not include one single sentence or rule carried over directly from first edition."

Except for, you know, the entire prepared casting system. It's straight out of the year 2000.

I took it as less, "we kept nothing" and more as "we asked ourselves if it was worth keeping?" Large parts of the casting system are quite different.

Dark Archive

13 people marked this as a favorite.

I've been aboard the Pathfinder bandwagon since the first 1E playtest was announced, and I thought I'd never again invest as heavily in another RPG line (I own almost all of the "First Edition Era" books, excluding a few Companion and Campaign Setting books plus some APs). Although I've vastly enjoyed all the previews, it was Oblivion Oath and Knights of Everflame that convinced me that I'd most likely love the new edition. And I do! :)

I still love 1E, too, but I've played and ran the game for 10 years at all the levels (including the use of Mythic Tiers as well). I wholeheartedly agree with Jason's opinions above about wonky math and problematic high-level play.

@Jason, Logan, Mark, Stephen, and all the rest who have toiled with the new edition: thanks for all your hard work, in my opinion you have created an AMAZING system! It is elegant and has depth in so many ways, yet it is a breeze to teach the basics! Bravo! :)

Sovereign Court

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The new system is such a labor of love and you can feel the thought and care that went into every word.

I was so scared I'd hate the new game as I tend to be rather conservative with my game systems, but after sitting down and playing it with an open mind, I'm a total convert.

I will admit you have to play it and GM and sit at the table a few times to get that "click" and see the magic they've woven here.


12 people marked this as a favorite.

This matches pretty well with my opinion on design philosophy - every design element should be examined closely without holding onto old assumptions. It would have been easy to make pathfinder 1.5, but instead the designers had the ambition to make something new where traditional approaches are compared to new ones based on merit instead of fear of how the players will react to change, which is very courageous considering how irrational people can get about changes to things they love.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Tender Tendrils wrote:
This matches pretty well with my opinion on design philosophy - every design element should be examined closely without holding onto old assumptions. It would have been easy to make pathfinder 1.5, but instead the designers had the ambition to make something new where traditional approaches are compared to new ones based on merit instead of fear of how the players will react to change, which is very courageous considering how irrational people can get about changes to things they love.

Well apart from ability scores that do nothing except add word count, character sheet clutter and two additional maths functions to get your modifier. That still exists 100% due to fear of legacy players complaining

Silver Crusade

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ran two games of PF2, both with the excellent Mosquito Witch module (it's PFS, but running it outside of Society is easy as 1,2,3). Loving it. My groups like the new action economy and the flow of combat as well as non-magical healing allowing the party to rock on longer.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

So what was supposed to be wrong with an iteration?


This is an insightful article. My props to all the playtesters who heard the words of Grand Prince Stavian III:
"Persevere, Persevere, Persevere".

Do you see value in an incremental improvement to Pathfinder Second Edition in the next few years?

"In the end, loyalty is its own reward."

Silver Crusade

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:

So what was supposed to be wrong with an iteration?

"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." - I read this as "it would have provided none of that".


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Thank you Paizo for taking the risk, putting in the immense effort and heaping on a ton of passion in creating Pathfinder Second Edition. The three action economy and the way criticals work really win me over, but there is more I adore about these rules, elegance. I was looking up a zombie just the other day and reading this line "A zombie is permanently slowed 1 and can't use reactions". Wow, from those few words I have the rules and the concept to GM a slow moving zombie. That just really clicks with me as do most of the rules. Well done Paizo!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I really like the new action economy, but I think it should be mentioned its basics were introduced years ago, in Pathfinder: Unchained. Yes, that would draw reader's focus away from the fancy new product, but I don't see anything wrong with openly stating that PF2 is partially "evolution instead of revolution".

There are more changes I liked, and I didn't find a real stinker yet. Still I stick with PF1, and will do so for the next few years. Why? Because it lacks a "killer application" for me, like an AP that immediately engages me, or further rulebooks with interesting options beyond PF1. Sooner or later something will pop up, but till then, PF1 wins with its superior amount of material and because we need less effort to get familiar with it (because we made most of the effort in the past).


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This edition is turning out pretty fantastic.

I finally got my PF1e campaign converted and had our first session in 2E the other weekend, and it felt great.

I can't wait to get into more meat of the system next session!

Grand Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.

I played my first live session (finally) this weekend at a table with folks I hadn't met before. A couple of them were complaining that various classes had been nerfed, but as the game played out I realized what had actually been nerfed was munchkining. We had a player running a cleric, they thought the cleric should be the tank and the healer and the primary contact for diplomatic situations. The three action economy consistently ended their encounter turns in a timely manner and left plenty of work for the rest of the party.

It was really nice.


6 people marked this as a favorite.
UnArcaneElection wrote:

So what was supposed to be wrong with an iteration?

As I see it, the answer is twofold:

Quote:
The game needed to evolve to speak to the desires of the current crowd of gamers.

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).

The current crowd of gamers has been brought up without this kind of contract, or framework. And expecting them to grow into this is a Hard Problem.

Secondly, Paizo's business model of writing Adventure Paths and Organised Play content is dependent of them developing against a homogenous set of expectations. The very unbalance that encouraged hardcore players to invest hundreds or thousands of hours into Pathfinder, makes developing this content increasingly difficult.

Pathfinder 2 solves both these issues: making it easy to develop for, and less onerous for players.


Only class change that really bothers me is the Champion/Paladin losing Smite Evil for the Champion's Reaction(s). I think some sort of alternate class feature could be possible in the future though (though that would end up being more like 1E archetypes, so maybe that's a can of worms they don't want to open.)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Uchuujin wrote:
Only class change that really bothers me is the Champion/Paladin losing Smite Evil for the Champion's Reaction(s). I think some sort of alternate class feature could be possible in the future though (though that would end up being more like 1E archetypes, so maybe that's a can of worms they don't want to open.)

The CRB does have rules for class archetypes, even though none currently exist.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I have to admit, while there's features from PF1 I miss... I know PF2 will get there in time.

Otherwise, I *love* PF2. The Action Economy is superior, and the fresh takes on how classes work are simply delicious.

Grand Lodge

I have some initial thoughts, I can't criticize the relative lack of options in 2e because it doesn't have nearly as much material as 1e, but here's some other initial thoughts.

I like how fast paced and dynamic combat is in 2e, feels like there's a lot more combinations of actions that are possible and it makes for interesting fights. I like how weapons feels different and I like how each class appears to have several play styles within itself.

What I don't like how important level is in 2E though. If something is one level higher than you, it's really noticeable like when fighting skeletal champions at level one. Maybe this changes at higher levels, when more spells and equipment are available, but it seems like if you aren't built optimally, you'll get crit to death really fast.

I hope I can get to play at higher levels soon, so I can have a better informed opinion.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

[rant]

I think it's inaccurate to say PF2e was an answer to the failings of PF1e (which remains a fantastic system) so much as an answer to D&D 5e (another fantastic system) to which Paizo was and still is hemorrhaging customers. I'm hugely pleased to see the result of this competition is another fantastic system, and deeply hope that it's successful enough to keep Paizo in the game.

I can't find any meaningful data on how commercially successful PF2e is but would be happily be pointed to any information from a reputable source.

There are some who look down on either PF1e or D&D 5e in their support of PF2e, and I think that misses the point. PF2e (in somewhat contradiction to what is claimed above) is very much a child of the good ideas that many brilliant game designers not all of which work for Paizo. No game exists in a vacuum, nor do the best games ignore the ecosystem they live it.

PF2e is groundbreaking not because it is a complete departure from the genre but a brilliant reinvention of it.

[/rant]

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

The comments here match the feelings in my PFS lodge. There are a lot of folks who don't like the new addition because it abandons the system they didn't want to leave when D&D 4e came out. Turns out those same folks are still as change-averse as they were 10 years ago.

That being said, there are a ton of folks in the lodge who are very excited about the new addition and are enjoying it thoroughly (myself included). More so than Pathfinder 1E players, I see this new addition attracting folks from 5E/DDAL. This game feels like an evolution of 5E, and I see players migrating to P2E who have burnt out with 5E and want to expand the somewhat limited character options in 5E world (my biggest beef with the system). It will be interesting to see what the RPG landscape looks like in a couple of years once this system has had more time to mature.

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Okay, stop that now. All that praise motivated me enough that I will finally enroll to my first PF2 game in a PFS event set in early November.

YOU WIN

Mmm. Maybe I do too

Grand Lodge

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

I need to stop making excuses and sit down with the rulebook.

Silver Crusade

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I need to stop making excuses and sit down with the rulebook.

Less memes, more books is always a good idea!


10 people marked this as a favorite.
Nighthorror888 wrote:
Unfortunately 2nd Edition is just not for my group and I. It feels hauntingly similar to when D&D 4E tried to reinvent itself and lost its roots. I absolutely love my legacy Pathfinder books, and my group enjoys Starfinder. Good luck.

It really does feel hauntingly similar, but also tellingly different.

The key, I think, is that both PF2 and 4e freely and unapologetically sacrifice verisimilitude and internal logic for system math. Why can combat techniques for exploiting an opponent's fear make it harder to benefit from a scimitar's construction? Why does wearing magic bracers on your wrists limit you in using using your full natural agility to dodge? Why can't you demoralize someone more than once every ten minutes? The only explanations take you out of the game and into the metagame: it would (supposedly) be OP otherwise.

But here's the difference. When 4e takes you out of the game and into the metagame, you feel like it's doing this because 4e is your friend and wants you to be awesome. When PF2 takes you out of the game and into the metagame, you feel like it's doing this because PF2 is your elementary school teacher and wants to make sure you're being a good, manageable little kid at recess.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm not jumping on the PF2 bandwagon. (And I will never call it "2e" - for me 2e came out in the 1980s.)

Among other reasons, the thought of investing in a new series of rulebooks simply does not appeal. (And don't start talking about the on-line availablility of the new rules - I don't want electronics at my game table. They distract people too much.)

What I will do is take another look at certain sections of PFU which I skipped when it first came out. If the roots of the "tighter math" in PF2 is in PFU, then I will consider using those roots.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
I need to stop making excuses and sit down with the rulebook.

The beauty of the situation is I can slowly read the PF2 CRB, while continuing to enjoy playing PF1. I'm very excited about the changes, although I've only gotten to the barbarian class description in the new CRB. Even the layout, and how the rules are introduced (despite the obvious typos), is more user friendly! I hope you enjoy cuddling up with weighy tome. I sure am!

Sovereign Court

5 people marked this as a favorite.

"Pathfinder Second Edition does not include one single sentence or rule carried over directly from first edition."

This quote worries me. So you decided nothing was worth keeping from PF1. Really?
Nothing for nothing but it sounds like change for change sake and I don't care for that as a basis for redoing rules.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

When is third edition?

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