Iconic Builds: A Suggestion to Help New Players


Creating a Character


I have a lot of issues with this game as it stands, and the +1/level thing will probably keep me from playing in the end; but I love Pathfinder and, despite our differences, I want the game to succeed and Paizo to prosper. With a lot of other long time fans either sticking with PF1 or going elsewhere, PF2 is going to have to attract a lot of new players to be successful.

In its current form, I don't think any new player could really just pick up this book and start playing, without someone experienced helping them or watching a ton of youtube to figure out what to do. (You'd never know the same folks who wrote this awkward rulebook wrote the amazing Pathfinder Beginner Box.)

So I was trying to think what I would do to make this game attractive and accessible to a brand new player.

1) Write prose that actually makes the game seem an exciting narrative. The book does this in a few places, for instance at the beginning of each class chapter, with the bulleted lists of "if you're a fighter" & "how others view you". These sorts of things really help develop concepts. But everything needs that same dedication to flavor. Spell descriptions, feats, class abilities, all need an evocative phrase, perhaps in italics, that demonstrates what this cool ability really looks like, sounds like, when it gets used. I'm thinking of the little spell descriptions in the 3.5 Spell Compendium, or the italics monster descriptions in all the Bestiaries. These are tremendously helpful for GMs too, in describing the world.

2) If we're going to use all these traits, every page needs a sidebar listing the traits mentioned on that page, with, at the minimum a pg. # of where to go to understand what each means. Or perhaps each trait mentioned always has a pg# attached to it in parantheses.

3) But the best idea I had tries to deal with what a new player is certain to view as an overwhelming menu of options, with no particular way to choose among them, to build toward a final concept. This is most difficult in the class chapter, but also an issue in the race chapter, and elsewhere.

I suggest that each class chapter contains the exact build of the corresponding iconic. For instance, the fighter chapter, after the initial flavor of what a fighter is, lays out a statblock for Valeros himself. It shows the new player exactly which feats, which skills, what equipment was chosen to create the exact same Valeros pictured in the illustration.

The choices (of which there are many!) all have a footnote or asterisk or something next to them, referencing, say, the first level fighter feats or the skill feat chart or whatever. So the player sees, by making these choices from this menu, this is how Valeros was created. And if the player just wants to be playing, they can play Valeros, right out of the box; or rename him Valerie, swap out three feats, trade the sword for an axe, and go.

Each build should show what feats, ability boosts, skills, etc. Valeros would take as he levels. This is the very useful sort of the thing the old 3.5D&D Players Handbook II did in its appendix, quickly listing the typical feats for a shield fighter or a blaster wizard or a healbot cleric. For classes with spells, a standard prepared selection is listed out.

The Valeros section would feature a statblock of Valeros at several levels, say 1, 4, 7, 10 or such.
The stat blocks would allow a new player to just pick up a character straight out of the box and start playing with him, immediately. Or these could be replacement characters who could jump in when your character dies mid-session.

Even better, from a GM standpoint, you've got a basic, no-nonsense NPC statblock that can be used whenever an NPC of that level is required, because what's being represented is your typical adventuring fighter of lvl 7, for instance. A mini NPC Codex right there in the Corebook. Plug and play.

More experienced or hardcore players would ignore this, of course, but it still might save them some time if their build idea was a variation on something standard.

That's an approach to menu-driven character-building that I think would be really helpful to new players; and having a mini NPC Codex right in the class description would be super-helpful to DMs.

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