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After having a little while to play with the playtest, I think my opinion on PF2e is finally starting to solidify, at least in it's current state. After playing through the scenarios and other things I've started to get a feel of exactly where the game seems to be at for me and what I really love, what I really don't like and thus might want to change.
The OVERALL (TLDR) picture is that the game is fun to play. It is fun to create a character. It is fun to play. It is fun to level up. At the same time, it does NOT feel like P1E, or even 3.P or any other game of that heritage. It doesn't feel like 4e either (Despite some comparisons many may make). I'm not sure what it feels like but it's does NOT feel like playing any of the post 2000 D20 era type games.
Things I love
I really like how easy it is to do character creation. It is tough the first time around (and that is due to something that I probably would change, but not because it is actually hard to do), but once you get the hang of it, you can almost do it in your sleep. It is absolutely a dream how easy it is to create your character, while at the same time having enough differences to see that there are different characters.
I like it far more than I thought I would (actually, I love how easy it is) and think it is pretty dang awesome. I like the various bonuses that you add onto 10, (and the flaw) and while it is changed around for your ancestry and class, you also still have some personal choice in regards to where your ability scores end up as. I love it!
Signature Skills and Skills
While I do not like the escalating DC table in how it is presented (more on that later) other than that I absolutely LOVE how they've done skills.
I absolutely think each class needs it's niche, and I think signature skills help give each class part of it's niche. At the same time it doesn't restrict classes from learning any skill they want.
However, due to the differences in the gates (trained, expert, master, legendary), different abilities are locked behind skill feats, feats which you have to have a specific level of training to accomplish.
Thus, my Barbarian could do all the thievery he wants including finding traps, picking pockets (Conan anyone), opening locks, but at the same time won't ever be able to do a quick unlock or be a spell thief.
It's an elegant and simple solution that I absolutely LOVE. I think this is actually one the best parts of PF2e. It adds flexibility, but at the same time creates a niche that each class can hold on their own.
Though I don't really care that you have to use an action to raise a shield (I'll put it here though it probably should be on what I'd change-it should be an automatic thing instead), I DO love everything else in regards to shields. I LOVE that you can actually BLOCK with your shield. I love that it has that Damage reduction as something you can use.
I might expand on some of these (for example, I'd give the twin trait to several more weapons on the simple and martial lists, or make Bastard Swords have S damage) I love the traits in general. There are changes that I actually REALLY like, for example a Bastard sword now finally reflects that you can do different damage with one hand or two hands, or that certain weapons are Agile and can add different properties.
I love how agile and other properties act to create a new idea of Two Weapon fighting (so instead of simply adding another attack, there's an entirely new set of things to think about and apply).
I love how you have some Fatal weapons, some deadly, and various other traits that change things up.
I also like Critical Specialization effects.
I actually like the simplified and shortened spell lists. There are many spells that have decreased in power, and a few that have increased in power. However, the great thing is that many spells can be increased in power to become more potent IF YOU WANT to do so. It is a focus of the Heal Spells and some others really work well with this dynamic.
As a fan of Bards I'm also thrilled that they are more capable spell casters than ever before.
I also love the new flavor that they have given Sorcerer's where they can become a different type of spellcaster and have completely different lists depending on your choices at character creation.
Much of what I also like with the Spells depends on Action economy, or the new Action economy, but I'll talk about that a little more below.
I think this is one of the strengths of the game. The action economy overall is simpler and yet adds dynamics which increase various options (for example, spells take a number of actions which may be modified by feats which adds to a spells power or decreases it and odds various options of order of casting spells and other things).
You also have reactions and Free actions, but this is far simpler than P1E. I actually really love how elegant the system is.
I really love how weapon damage is done for magic weapons. Now a bonus can give you more damage as written out, rather than simply a plus to hit and a plus to damage. The damage bonus is substantial.
Things I merely like
Exploration and Downtime are not things I love, but it is nice to specifically differentiate between the various things like Combat and sleeping periods. This is obvious in other RPGs but many times not spelled out like it is in the Playtest.
This has been criticized amply by others, but I actually like simplifying the encumberance system of PF2e.
I like the Medicine skill. It has Battle Medic which makes a good temporary substitute for healing, though I personally wouldn't suggest using it regularly until you are 5th level or higher (to great a chance of a critical failure before then).
Overall, I like how they have done this skill in many ways as a form that you can use if you are out of healing or a way to assist healing your party.
Casters probably still will be very powerful and dominate at higher levels (and maybe even still at lower levels, sleep is still a very powerful spell for example, perhaps more powerful now than ever before) but the disparity between the two has diminished in my opinion.
Those who loved casters simply because they hated martials may hate this change, but I personally think it is a good change for the better.
I really like the idea of taking class feats to gain archetypes and various abilities. It's the tradeoff that you'd make in P1e, but rather than selecting it up front, you can choose when and what you want to trade out. At the same time, it adds more flexibility (in my opinion) in the character as it develops.
I'm not sure how I'd do it with multiclassing actual Classes, but in regards to Archetypes, I actually like it a lot.
Not the top of my list, nor the bottom, but they work. They are simple and unified and easy to keep track of. Simple dynamic that just works.
Things I'd change up a little
Ancestry seems FAR too weak. Furthermore, somethings which should be inherent to a Race as a natural ability is given as an option instead (things like Keen Hearing for Elves, or Hardy for Dwarves).
It is nice to have you gain various things of heritage (and I think perhaps the name should change to heritage rather than ancestry), and you can develop it as you go, but I'd probably add in a few things from the start that are inherent to the race...I mean ancestry, though I'd still keep the idea that there are cultural items that go along with that ancestry that you can develop if you wish. This would also work with Adopted Ancestry Feat.
When you first start reading the rules, it seems overwhelming. One of the big things is everything is called a feat. This is overly confusing and should be changed.
Instead of calling everything a feat, the "class feats" should have their names changed. Rather than calling them class feats they should be called class abilities or something else. This way everyone knows that there is a definitive difference between what you gain as your class, and what you are granted by skill feats and general feats.
I don't have a problem with skill feats being called as such or general feats, but the title Class Feats really needs to be changed.
Changing it will help with clarity of what these abilities functions are, how they apply to the game, and how they are different than what are the REAL feats (that fall under skill and general feats).
At the same time, the organization of the book has to be made clearer. Much of how it is written makes a reader kind of daze out and gloss over some very important items at times.
Ancestry Feats should be called something like Ancestry affinities, or Heritage infinities or cultural tendencies. Something other than feats as well. Once again, this helps with clarity and understanding what these are and the intent behind them.
They are currently short, succinct, and very boring/unimpressive. They need some dazzling up to make them stand out and seem more interesting. It's a change that doesn't actually affect the rules, but I think this change would add a lot more pizzaz to the presentation.
More General Feats
I like how the class abilities are, where they are at. I like Skill Feats and General Feats under those names, but there NEEDS to be more choices for General Feats. Going from a ton of Feats (even in the core rule book of P1e) to a total of 20 feats just feels like we suddenly LOST a TON of choice, variability, and versatility. The number of General Feats really needs to be increased. It needs a greater number of Feats available, if for no other reason to give the illusion of choice, if not the reality of greater choice in combat, exploration, spellcasting, and downtime.
I actually do not mind the overall idea of Resonance. At levels above 10 this is not as much of a problem. However, below level 10 I think Resonance needs to change.
It unnecessarily restricts wand and potion use (in my opinion). Either do away with charges on wands or make it so resonance does not apply to them.
With Potions, there is no need of resonance with the new Encumberance/bulk system. There is no reason to apply it to potions.
After high levels it doesn't matter as much to me, and you can normally have as much resonance as needed for potion drinking (though wand use is still unnecessarily restrictive).
Escalating Skill DCs
We saw this exact same principle in play in D&D 4e. The way it was specified was also the same (your simple DC may be climbing a very rough stone wall with big hand holds at 4th level, but an ice wall with sheer smooth walls at 16th). In play it did not work that way. EVEN IN THE ADVENTURES they wrote...it was an escalating DC. A simple wall which was simple at 1st level (we'd say a DC 10) but then you see an adventure for a 20th level character and you find a wall that has the exact same description...but the DC would be...not 10...but now it would be 46 (see the Low DC for 1st and 20th level characters on page 337). It would be the same wall in either adventure, but because it is in a 20th level adventure, the DC is written as higher. It was done in official adventures and official play, and it was done in other games. We've seen it play out before, I have NO indications why this time will be any different.
If PF2e is going to keep this dynamic it is going to have to be spelled out a LOT clearer and be MORE specific. Examples of a 1st level Low, High, severe, Extreme wall or other things will need to be spelled out. The difference between a 1st level challenge and a 5th and a 10th and so on will NEED to be spelled out. This could literally take dozens of pages.
It needs to have challenges marked as a 1st level Low Difficulty, or a 5th level High difficulty in the adventure itself.
There needs to be consistency.
If the rules lack this I expect it to become just as broken as it did in 4e. If they are going to stick with this idea, either spell it out and be more specific (which probably will take a LOT more pages written on it, perhaps even a dozen or more), OR change the dynamic.
Change the rules so there are no escalating DCs (maybe make it so the core dynamic of +1/level does not apply or something, or some different system) but escalating DC's needs some sort of change.
If it were me, I'd say there is no such thing as skill DCs by level and difficulty...I'd say there is just difficulty. Level has NO application.
Hence, if a wall has a DC of 46, it has a DC of 46 because it's an glass wall coated with the slipperiest ICE around, while a stone wall with large stones jutting out of it has a DC of 17. There is no reason to have it separated out by level and difficulty, just put it as difficulty, spell out the difficulty and leave it at that. No level needed to be added to the list. It creates problems where there does not need to be.
It does not feel like 3.P or Pathfinder
This is the biggest problem I see with the game right now. To me, it does not feel like Pathfinder, and I think I've identified WHY it does not feel like Pathfinder.
In Pathfinder, things are actually pretty defined (which many might not see it as). When you choose a race, you KNOW what abilities that race gets. You don't have to remember differences between that race.
When you choose a class, that class has specific and defined abilities at each level. You do not have to guess what you get when you become a level 4 Paladin or a level 7 Monk. Theses abilities are defined.
This makes it easy to remember once you've played the game a few times.
With PF2e, NONE of this is defined. Hence, an ancestry or a class can change. You cannot simply rely on memory, you have to look at your character sheet or someone else's to see what they've chosen.
Because things are not defined, it adds a LOT of variability (some may say you have the ability to modify your character more in PF2e, but after a while of playing it I'd say that's not correct. Many of the choices came by default to the classes in PF1e, where as they lose those by default and must choose them or another ability in PF2e). With variability, it means that the same class can be vastly different in what abilities it has, the same goes for ancestry.
This means that it is no longer simply a matter of knowing what is granted at each level by your class (or archetype).
This may not be the entirety of why it feels different, but it feels vastly different than PF1e or 3.P and I don't think that is a good thing.
Unfortunately, I do not think this is something that can be changed. I think it is core to the system of PF2e.
I've tested the adventure and it DOES seem to be able to be played very easily with P1E, so with that meaning PF2e APs should be easily playable with P1E rules, I am probably keeping my subscription to the APs and modules indefinitely even if I don't ascribe to PF2e fully (and undecided on that as of yet, it IS fun, even if to me, it does not feel like P1e).
However, I think this final point may be a MAJOR sticking point for more of the hardcore base of P1E.
Anyways, those are my thoughts on the Playtest as they've solidified over the past few days. I put it in general because this is not really something that is a specific critique of anything the team may be looking at, but as something that really acts for me to solidify my thoughts on what I think of the PF2e PT thus far, and what I feel about it.
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Nice write up and covers most what I think too, apart from three things:
I don't mind it doesn't 'feel' like PF1, I'm not hardcore on pathfinder anymore and like the game for what it is.
I love resonance because I don't like the mass of potions and and in 1E, in fact I never have magic stores in my games. Resonance is a good solution to crafting and using crazy amounts of one shot items.
And 'sleep is still a very powerful spell for example, perhaps more powerful now than ever before' what? Sleep has been totally nerfed, it is now weak in combat, imo (and Paizo's opinion!)
"A creature that falls asleep from this spell doesn't fall prone or drop what it's holding. This spell doesn't prevent creatures from waking up due to a successful Perception check, making it of limited use mid-combat." With the noise of combat you are waking on your turn, as a free action.
But great write up, i especially want to emphasise the emphasis ;) needed about DCs. A DC is set in the world is just that Pc's are more likely to encounter higher DCs in the place they adventure at higher levels. A great way to emphasise this is to put high level DCs in low level adventures. Put that DC 33 climb wizards tower in a level 1 adventure, they'll probably never get up it, but you never know the genius on players! And if they do they'll get a great sense of achievement...
...before the wizard turns them all into toads!
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I have to say none of the "It does not feel like Pathfinder" stuff applies to PF1. Not since swappable racial traits and class archetypes became a thing. I can in no way say what a level 7 Monk will look like in PF. What Archetype is he, what feats has he got, what race is he and has he swapped any of that round, does he have some broken background feat. The only difference I can really see is one of scale rather than design.
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I agree with most everything you've said, with the exception that I would like to see more abilities given to higher level of skill proficiency and maybe even add special abilities tied to proficiency in armor and weapons beyond simple numeric bonuses.
What exactly? I'm not sure.
Maybe high levels of proficiency allow you to treat a weapon as though it had a trait the weapon normally doesn't.
Maybe higher levels of training in armor lets you treat your armor as a shield (if you want) so you can sacrifice your armor to absorb blows.
Currently, IIRC, skills only get special features based on trained vs untrained. Expert proficiency doesn't grant you any extra options automatically. And it I think it'd be really awesome if it did.
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I totally agree about ancestry being weak and if we want to maintain this system, I would allow players to take a least 3 ancestry feats at level 1. And about everything called a feat, this really is a bit messy.
About General feats, I hope this is mostly due to the playtest situation, because we obviously lost a lot. And I deeply regret that the Attack of Opportunity is now reserved for Fighters, that was a good mechanic that everyone should benefit.
About Escalating Skill DCs :
Ordinary tasks are described pages 336 to 338 and climbing a cliff is precisely a "common task that don't increase in level". Tabel 10-4, page 338, suggest that you calculate the DC of this task referring to the level 2 line in Table 10-2 page 337. So DC is from 11 to 19 depending on difficulty adjustments like the ones listed in Table 10-4 "crumbling, slick, sloped". An the task is to be considered a trivial task for a level 8 character.