A Solution to Some of the Playtest / PF2 Problems

General Discussion

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Well it seems that PF2 has had a mixed reception online but on the plus side it seems to have dodged the vitriol of 3E-4E and the start of the 5E playtest when it became apparent to the 4E players 5E was not going to be an evolution of 4E.

Myself I am somewhat indifferent I like some of it, dislike other parts but I agree a lot with the posters who have mentioned that its hard to read and there is to much to take in and the layout. For example the Fighters is 9 or 10 pages long, you have to cross reference it with the feats and then there are more feats on the archetypes section that are on page 280.

Another impression is that this is more of a beta that Paizo wants to clean up than a playtest like 5E which basically built a system fro the ground up.

Note that this is just IMHO I made an attempt to fix 3.5 around 10 years ago and that consisted of a ba list of the most abusive feats and prestige classes along with banning wands of CLW. Eventually I dumped the 3.5 magic items rules altogether and went with AD&D 2E spells and magic item creation rules. The reason is its exciting to find a holy avenger for example than lots of little items that you sell and buy the equipment you want. Also it leads to abuse combos when players can match up feats with magic items IMHO. Its something I have spent 10 years thinking about or noticing when you play AD&D or 5E or Star Wars Saga etc.

So the first thing I think Paio needs to do is identify who Pathfinder 2 is aimed at even if its a generic "Pathfinder 2 is for everyone" as no surprise there is already disagreement with the various people who play it. Note you will never appeal to extremists so those players who want a 3.8 version of 3E or the "burn it all down" players will never be satisfied. In the 5E playtest Mearls said their cut off point for negative feedback was 10%. The reason was that even if 10% of the players liked Gnomes for example in a group of player with 1 DM and 4 players a 10% threshold of players means 1 in 10 payers is angry which on average means every second group is going to have someone angry in it. Well maybe angry is not the right word but you get what I mean. But cutting gnomes is a mistake if 10% like them and 4E found that out.

Now the other thing with 5E love it or hate it is the table layout and class description (pretty art aside) is not that different than 3.5 or Pathfinder. This means existing D&D players can identify the class and something like the fighter is fairly straight forward and it basically fits on 2 pages with another half page or a page for the archetypes. Even if you want more moving parts than 5E (and this is something PF2 can differ on IMHO) you want to have it in a format that people can understand or enjoy. Something like the Star Wars Soldier for example you have a page or 2 of the basic class and 3 pages of talents (basically class features). You can read the 1st 2 pages, grok what the class is about then deal with all the fiddly bits later. This is similar to every spellcaster ever in D&D, A basic wizard from B/X is around 2 pages long the spell section is around 20 page but its kept away form the class.

While I don't think a Pathfinder 2 is 4E light there is a resemblance of page after page of feats to the page after page of the 4E powers. Since 4E went to level 30 and had 13-15 page classes the PF2 classes are comparable to that. Options are nice but its not helped if 80% of them are crap anyway or a players eyes glaze over. For example I printed the 1st 140 pages of the book and let my wife read the Bard which is one of here favourite classes going back to 3.5 (skills, spells, charisma). She loves the lore bard in 5E. She had a quick look, got sick of all the cross referencing and said she would read it later. That was 2 days ago later has not happened yet. Right now the key thing of Pathfinder seems to be more feats, more feats and still more feats, and combined with the character creation system you actually have something here more complicated than 4E and less easy to read than 3.5 or Pathfinder.

Another issue that has been commented on is how you can't build a very good strength based Rogue or in effect the various fighting styles are now exclusive to certain classes that get feat support. 5E just lets anyone dual wield for example if you want to be good at it be a fighter or Ranger and take that combat style. Combat styles are also shared across the PHB and Rangers and Paladins can also pick them. Some classes of course are better at it, Paladins do not get the dual wielding style for example but they can still do it if you want to be goods at it you have to multiclass as a fighter. Then you can have a Paladin dual wielding that can smite so you maximise your chances of smiting by maximising your number of attacks.

Without feats the styles are all reasonably balanced and its not so much is this one better but "what do you want to be good at". This changes when feats are added in because they went down the two handed weapons need to be uber rabbit hole again like 3.5 and Pathfinder. Note I have no problem with the idea that 2 handed weapons deal more damage but when they get to add 50-100% of your strength modifier and get the -1/+2 power attack effect or the -5/+10+ cleave effect in 5E its to much IMHO. When you are dealing double or triple damage over the other styles its clear what the best option is. Also note the styles as a concept thing is nothing new it has gone back to 2E AD&D Complete Fighters Handbook circa 1989 which will be 30 years ago when PF2 lands.

So putting it all together what would I do. I used the fighter as an example as it is generally the 1st thing I look at in a new edition of D&D, retroclone, Pathfinder etc. Well 1st things 1st format it so people can understand it or its not going to bore them stupid.You can have a simple format that hides a surprising amount of depth to it a'la 5E or the Star Wars Saga system. Also you may want to use something vaguely familiar even if the names change as 3.5, 4E, and 5E all use a very similar round structure for example even if 4E use Standard, move and minor actions while 5E has action, move, bonus action while 3.5 kind of had minor and standard actions in the splats. Going further using 4E as an example if you ripped out the entire 4E class system and replaced them with 3.5 classes would that be terrible? All the stuff you did not like about 4E is gone but the 4E engine is quite good IMHO. If you made your own 3.5 game or a retroclone you could do worse than use the 4E engine for example.

Well my argument is just use the engine you have got and tweak it. For example rather than have 3 action just let a fighter or whatever multi attack as a standard action (or as an action in 5E).Its simple you then you can layer on the complexity with the move and minor/bonus/whatever action and class abilities and feats.Yes I know this means you can move and full attack in Pathfinder 1 terms but then you change the other ingredients like no more -1/+2 power attack and +100% strength bonus to damage.

Putting it all together.

So in effect I am arguing you want a simple form of class design where you can layer on the complexity via options 5E does not have, I am not arguing that you need to make PF2 a 5E clone but even something as simple as micro feats (AKA options) vs 5E larger feats gives you more moving parts than 5E allows. I mentioned earlier Paizo also need to identify who they are aiming PF2. What I mean by that there are probably lots of ex and current PF players who do not have a lot of the late Pathfinder material and going by PF2 alot of the ideas are not actually that good in a vacuum just better than what you have already got (such as the 3 action system, have 3 attacks and don't move a 5th level l 5E fighter can do that).

I suppose ideally you would want ex and current PF players to play along with new ones and some 5E players. Give them something they can understand is key to that IMHO. The math can change of course, you can tweak it such as using a unified proficiency system (whatever the number are in that system +6, +10 or +20 by level 20). You can rewrite all the feats and spells but on paper the classes should resemble what came before even if the underlying engine has been tuned and the math, feats, spells etc have all been redone. The parts you could plug in for example were what was wrong with 3.X. Tune the math, fix or remove the broken/clunky/useless parts of 3E, have it look like 3E though even if number of spell slots change for example.

So usig the old Star Wars Saga Soldier as an example the class looked like this.


In effect it was build your own class from a list of options. Feats were in their own section, each class got a list of what feats they could pick, the weapon styles (dual wield etc) were mostly on the feats, what you could do with those weapons however were on the talent trees for the classes. Note Paizo can't use that system (copyright and all) but I am talking about concepts. So rather than have a massive list of class feat break those feats up into class perks or thematic feats. So the core PF2 fighter in this might look something like this.

Class feat
Class feat


And boosts at level 5,10,15 and if you want to put 2 feats or a fixed/default fighter ability in there you do. For the "feat trees" which are different to feat trees in 3.5/Pathifnder you might group half a dozen armor/shield in the defensive feat tree. Rather than have to many fiddly+1 effects make them +2 or a situational +5 (flanking for example), or have them do something cool. Or example a shield can add its AC bonus to reflex saves or you can use your reaction to take half damage from an incoming attack (the shield deflects it a bit). You could also put in a numeric bonus as well but you don't want to many of them (+1 AC no more than +2).Don't eliminate +1 entries, +1 AC is fine for example but minimise the amount. I want to play D&D not D&D the accounting game.

Another potential feat tree is a weapon one, another one may be tough as guts 4-6 feats that grant you more hit points or some form of damage mitigation. You probably want 4-6 trees of 4-6 feats each. You can level gate some of the feats as well rather than use requirements like BAB +16 or whatever.

Now finally you need to figure out the combat styles. Conceptually several of them are easy work out. The basic ones from 1989.

Sword and board= defensive
Two handed=damage
Dual wielding= multiple attacks
Ranged= ranged.

These are your 4 basic ideas. You can probably break it up into more options for the styles as well. Lets add

Bows= rapid/multi shot
Crossbows= 1 bigger attack (more dice, improved crits maybe)
Thrown Weapons
Dueling (1 weapon no shield) IDK accuracy perhaps.

There are probably more this is just concept testing. You don't want the gaps between the styles to be to big as I mentioned earlier. Great weapons might get a static +2 damage, sword and board gets +2 AC, dueling might get +2 to hit, Bows are ranged and if you build on them you have ranged multi attacks, crossbows are for snipers, dual wielding might be for light weapons or finesse weapons etc.

Either way you want reasonably static effects. This avoids things like 3.5 scaling buff spells (damage scaling spells are fine). This means no more open ended -1/+2 damage, no more greater magic weapon +1 every 3 or 4 levels. Spells can be buffed as well for example bless can become +2 instead of +1 (1d4 in 5E but its a bit to good at that). Having a static number or effect (half damage for example) reduces the amount of things that can go wrong and lets the designers know exactly what they are doing.

So that is how I think you take concepts from AD&D, 5E or whatever while letting Pathfinder do its on thing in terms of options while not having those options wreck the game (something will come out on top, its how on top is key) and it presents those options in a format that an existent Pathfinder player (or ex player) with only the Pathfinder core book understand and for the hard core it looks a lot like Pathfinder one. It also lets you run around with a greatsword doing lots of damage but shuts down the -5/+10 powerattack crit oops I one shotted the boss (or got one shotted) effect. AKA rocket tag. Still make the "oops I critted effect" worth doing though.

Other moving parts like resonance, wands of cure light wound and tweaking, overhauling or leaving alone are reasonably easy fixes. Paizo could ask a simple question in a playtest.

Magic Items Do you like

Removed from player agency (this means you keep wands of CLW in the game but can't buy them a'la 5E/AD&D)

Those are other arguments though. Not if you fixed the moving parts of 3.5 you could use the engine to make a B.X clone, a 4E type game or even a 5E. You could almost build a system that lets you do all of that as a feat could grant you a 4E type power. Doesn't have to be in the core book but design it right a new archetype can just be recommend prebuilt PC that has picked new feats, perks, talent etc. You could even have the 3.5 magic item system as optional along with an AD&D type magic system pick one to use (one is default in organized play).

Thank you for this post! Anyone who uses the word "grok" correctly is a great human being. Seriously Awesome! This post has summed up my own thoughts on the playtest so far. The rulebook is hard to read and get a solid concept on what a character should be and beyond that, what a game session should look like. I find I get lost in the lists of feats. Ancestry feats, which are just racial abilities spread out over the life of a character, really got me. Why do it that way? The running joke now is the 5th level character that wakes up and can suddenly see in the dark lol. Why? Class feats are the same way for me. They are basically the class abilities of old, but now you pick them instead of level into them. Why? Choice? Variety? Isn't there a better way? Make certain feats have class and level requirements? but then you end up with massive feat lists that take up half a book. May as well do away with classes and just make clusters of feats ala Open Legend.

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It's a read for sure, but I like this write up. There's a few things I'm not entirely keen on, such as the basic idea spreading. I get what you're saying and it's a really simple concept, sword and board = defensive and such, but having other concepts branch off in the fashion of that's what this represents seems like it could hit a point where it limits option real quick. You're talking about having the ability to have people come back, and that idea really makes sense. But when you have newer and fresher players come in, it kinda falls apart. I've noticed over the groups of new players I deal with don't try to plan a lot of their leveling out, they kinda just look at the next couple and worry about it later. For instance, let's take the dual wielding idea you're going with. You start off with the base concept of doing multiple attacks. Cool, then the next concept choice comes in, focusing those attacks, making them widespread, hit and run. Well if you focus those attacks, then you have to make the choice of how you focus them, is it a general focus of just doing as much damage as you can, is it a matter of deception with distractions, so on and so forth. By the time you get to a point where you realize that it wasn't really what you're thinking, you're kinda stuck there. For those who've played a long time, it's not much an issue. We get the general idea of how it's going to move forward. New players, not so much. But that's my experience anyways.

The idea of spreading certain mechanics over classes that they apply is a good thought line for sure though. There's definitely abilities that are going to excel with martial characters that fall flat on casting characters, and vice versa. To point an example from another thread, Power Attack taken by a wizard isn't going to wield a lot of positive results (unless you're going for a very odd and different style of narrative). Just like Spell Focus isn't going to make things great for a barbarian. But if we can spread mechanics to where they get the better use, for lack of better terms, then we could probably see where they do need to be adjusted and formatted so it's not some wide open case for a power house, but doesn't make it so that you're completely restricted. Then once we figure that out, we can figure out a good way to have multiclassing be the link for those who want to do so.

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