Serious question: Was the PF1 CRB layout any better?


Creating a Character


Confession time: I don't own the PF1 core rulebook. When I first started playing, my GM loaned it to me, but I mostly learned by reading forum posts and optimization guides, using the d20pfsrd, and using tools like PCGen and eventually HeroLab. By the time it became clear how invested I was in Pathfinder, I knew the basic ruleset so well buying the CRB felt pointless, and it was so easy to google stuff anyway. All my money went to APs and other books.
I can build a character just fine by hand, but I tend to prefer to use hero lab. Either way, I'm looking most of my content up online. Hyperlinking is soooo much easier than flipping pages.

I haven't found the PF2 playtest nearly as confusing as some people have, and I can point at a few ways where it seems better formatted than PF1 seemed on a structural level. Namely class feats and ancestry feats-- their layout makes them much easier to parse than feats/talents/powers/etc in PF1 seemed to be. And I like having all my character stuff in one progression table, rather than just my class specific stuff. When I compare the PF2 barbarian chapter to my Unchained Barbarian chapter (a book I do own) the PF2 version seems to come out way ahead.

There are definitely some things that leave me much to be desired-- powers being mixed in with spells drives me a little crazy. And while I think the general feats chapter isn't TOO bad it feels like it can be improved. But I can't help but wonder if what made it easy to build characters in PF1 had much less to do with book layout and more to do with all those resources I mentioned in the first paragraph. Resources which don't exist yet for PF2 but definitely will. (Heck, they are already popping up-- folks have already made a spell sorter which is way easier than using the book for example.)

So for folks who have the PF1 CRB, was its layout actually any better? Can you point to how? Please note that just saying "it was less confusing" isn't a helpful answer. It can be less confusing for a whole variety of reasons, including that you've had access to other tools for parsing it and that by now you just know it pretty well. If you can point to what you feel worked in PF1, that may actually be helpful to the Paizo team, where just saying the current playtest book is confusing doesn't inform much.


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Captain Morgan wrote:


So for folks who have the PF1 CRB, was its layout actually any better? Can you point to how?

yes, yes it was. the reason for that was probably redundancy of information and a more thoughtful, intuitive placing of information. In PF2 no information in the book is redundant, everything is there ONCE, but you have to know exactly where and what you are searching for and even then the information you are looking for is probably somewhere else. the index is sadly no help in that regard. the structure of the PF2 playtest rules is so far removed from what is expected at that point from similar CRBs that most things are placed akwardly counterintuitive.

Look at the "Conditions" for example. Explanations for them are needed in a lot of places in the book, they are needed near the spells that give different conditions (because no explanation is given there), iirc there are Feats that change conditions, but there's no explanation there, and so forth. Instead, they can be found somewhere near the end of the book just right after the Downtime rules for no reason. The CRB of PF1 at least gave little explanations of what a specific condition meant somewhere near effects, spells or whatever that causes them pop up, so that readers could understand how that specific thing was doing before searching that stuff for the next 10 minutes.

Redundancy in that case was good, the Playtest document doesn't provide that and it is hard as hell to navigate it to find what one is looking for.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The PF1 book was laid out more like an unholy lovechild of a legal text and a manual for a dishwasher, less like a book which makes learning the rules any easier. I hope the final PF2 book will be bit more like, umm, modern RPG rulebooks with examples, highlights, visual aids and "what rules from this chapter are easily overlooked" and will resemble the PF Adventure Card Game rulebooks.


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The PF1 rulebook was easy enough if you already played RPG's and knew what you were looking for and had experience with searching through rule books. (I mean there was sometimes in ast AD&D I had to consult 2-3 different books for a character and the info was layed out a lot worse). In that case it was an improvement from the previous. I can't say for sure how it was for someone not versed and prepared for all of that however. I do know that I had to find things for my players all the time when we first started and they needed me to help them out constantly. (mostly referencing 3.5 because the books layouts are very similar by PF they had a decent idea what to do.)


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

The PF1 CRB was _slightly_ better than the PF Playtest book, IMO. Both have their flaws, and IMO, most of the playtest's issues come from
a) following the pf1 structure pretty closely
b) not doing a better job calling out differences from pf1 rules.

As a result people make a lot of assumptions that things work the same when they don't, and have a hard time finding out where to look when they don't since the rules/differences get scattered. I think there's a few places where playtest tried to improve the flow, but missed some circular references and/or broke existing players mental model of where to look.

All these books suffer from conflating "teaching how to play the game" with "reference book". As people note things like conditions are semi-buried in under the playing the game narrative section, even when people commonly look for it as an appendix.

Personally I'd rather see (and totally accept this may be stupid) an organization that was
a) teaching rules/how to play (character creation, how to play, gm section)
b) Race/Class
c) Skills/Feats/Spells
d) Equipment (mundane, alchemical, magical)
e) appendixes that _repeat_ some of the most useful charts/tables/glossorys (Leveling table, conditions, WBL/exp, skill tables)

(The biggest change there is moving all the race/classes to after the playing the game section). Don't mix the reference with the "teaching/rules" with the "reference" section.

I know people want to jump in to making a character first which is why I think the 3.0/3.5/PF rules all did their approach but new players never seem to know enough to make useful choices when they get to their characters, and experience players are stuck flipping through all different portions of the book.


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One of the biggest offenders is not putting all the rules in the relevant sections. For example, some of the core elements to casting spells (specifically how save DC's work and spell rolls) aren't even in the Spells section; they're in the "Playing the Game" section. And this is a theme repeated quite often.


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Another major offender is the spell lists, where they made the same questionable decision as WotC in 5e of not listing school. For as long as specialist wizards are a thing, that information will always be important in a spell list.


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I wouldn't say that the CRBs layout is better or worse. They're basically much the same; or will be once PF2 is complete at any rate. However the point above about redundancy is accurate. The PF1 CRB includes a lot of redundant reminder text which the playtest rulebook lacks.

There are a few areas of the playtest rulebook though where the few minor changes to layout made the book much, much harder to use. For example, mixing all of the powers in with the spells was a serious misstep. It significantly increases the amount of time it takes to evaluate power-based options.

I'm the GM, but I wanted to know how long it took to create a finished character before asking my players to do so... So I built a cleric as my first test of the rulebook; it made me want to huck my book at a wall before I'd even run my first session.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My group was... scathing, basically, about how hard it was to use the book.
We talked about the issues and realised no-one actually really used the CRB any more.
Individual items were looked up faster in archives of nethys.
The rules were more conveniently found in pfsrd.
Conditions were on condition cards.
One person used a spreadsheet to make characters.
Between us we own literally hundreds of PFSRD books. UE is used. Bestiaries are used. Modules. Campaign settings. Maps. Not the CRB.

I have bought a second CRB, having worn one to the point it started to fall apart... So this has obviously been a gradual approach.

I found running basically required me to have three "versions" of the book open at once. The pdf was incredibly helpful in this, though one damning indictment was the lack of hyperlinking in the pdf. I am assuming that is just an issue with the playtest release.

Part of me hopes that things like spells will be released online and also as spell cards at launch. It really does cry out for it. The rarity mechanic even gives an easy way to filter; spell cards probably only need to be common.

Condition cards could be re-released with the same art and different mechanics.

If nothing else, if the utilities created by the community for the playtest are updated I think it will make a big difference to the ease of use. I strongly suggest Paizo look at creating a community page that links to some of these, if not an official version.


For making characters I usually use PDFs. Not to knock online resources (I check them next), I just like to be inspired by the art and flavour-text. Usually I find that whatever obscure game element I need is located in one of half-a-dozen thematically named supplements.

Usually I just make a player's first characters for them; so as to prevent new players from falling off the learning curve. However learnability was one of the playtest goals; so I didn't do that this time. That said it took my players an embarrasingly long time to actually finish their characters using the Playtest Rulebook. I finally had to waste an entire four-hour session game session forcing my players to actually do the paperwork (they knew more-or-less what they were playing, but none of the sheets were filled out, and certain details hadn't been decided).


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Although some of it is familiarity with similar rules from 3.0, I do think that the PF1 rules are slightly better. Neither is great, but PF2 requires you learn more of the rules before you can try to play it.

They certainly need a better way of presenting the rules. Personally, a basic concepts section with forward references to where the details for something is probably the direction I would try..


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I have to say yes but it has been so long so it is hard to say why. The main thing for me with the PF2 playtest book is that it actually made me angry. I didn't feel that way reading PF1.

So what do i mean be feeling angry? I was angry as it wasn't fun to read. It didn't feel like a fantasy game, it felt like I was reading some sort of technical manual.

It needs more stories, examples, and plain language. The technical language was very off putting to me (especially modes of game play, and the condition followed by a number).

I also didn't like all the subsytems (alchemy, snares, poisons, powers merged with spells) that makes it difficult to grok some of the classes. I've played quite a bit of various versions of D&D and the alchemist is very confusing. So much page flipping to understand one class. To me, I think it may be better for a supplement. Lots of pages dedicated to one class.

Anyway, just some thoughts on my reading of the PF2 manuals. I do believe it can be improved and I am sure it is high on the list of the developers to improve.


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I can understand that. For example, the Alchemist ability Empower Bombs begins "When you craft an alchemical item with the bomb and infused traits—hereafter referred to in this entry as a bomb—you can empower it." Saying "hereafter referred to..." sounds like stereotypical legalese, to the level of "Whereas... Whereas... Whereas..."

Or even though hit points are mentioned in the very beginning about making a character, resonance points aren't defined until page 376... well after all the alchemist abilities that reference them.


I'd argue that any class-based system that puts race before class is poorly laid out, since class is the most defining aspect of a character. You choose a race that works for your class, not the other way around.


Emn1ty wrote:
One of the biggest offenders is not putting all the rules in the relevant sections. For example, some of the core elements to casting spells (specifically how save DC's work and spell rolls) aren't even in the Spells section; they're in the "Playing the Game" section. And this is a theme repeated quite often.

what page does it say how to calculate a spell DC? I see the proficiency modifier table in the “playing the game section”, but that’s all I see there.


To answer the title, the PF1 book was rather challenging. Despite having a number of copies I, like you, mostly just grab the relevant information online.

One of the largest problems we've had in our playtest group is actually players expecting not to find things. Since they couldn't find it in PF1 and had to have it explained, they're expecting to not find it this time and the same explanation to still hold.

I think some of the faults of the PF1 book are already fixed. Leveling being split between two tables was a consistent headache, for example, along with choosing a feat at first level from a massive heap.

Other stuff has carried over. There are a few places there's guidance, suggesting certain spells for specialty wizards, for example. But, in places like weapons and other equipment, large lists of options are still thrown at people without any real explanation or guidance.

In the middle, about half of our players were able to build a character solely by following the directions. That's not where we'd want it to be, but it's substantially better than our experience with PF1.

As far as the actual rules engine, I mostly picked those up through the blog posts and stuff leading up to the Playtest's release. I did like the exploration mode rules presentation, though. Short, to the point, clear, and answered a lot of questions that just came up in PF1.

As a GM, I've only really had to reference spells, items, and conditions to piece together monster/NPC abilities. Finding those has been fairly simple. I've found spells generally easier to parse, conditions a little harder, and items a mixed bag.


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Harakani wrote:

My group was... scathing, basically, about how hard it was to use the book.

We talked about the issues and realised no-one actually really used the CRB any more.
Individual items were looked up faster in archives of nethys.
The rules were more conveniently found in pfsrd.
...

I am a GM and player who uses the printed Pathfinder 1st Edition rulebooks. My wife and I own two copies of the Core Rulebook. We put about 20 pounds of reference books into a reusable shopping bag and lugged it to the tables at the local game store three times every week. We brought twice as many books whenever I served as the GM. Some players would use the store Wifi on their smart phone to reach online references, but we were low-tech.

Thus, I was quite familiar with the structure of the Core Rulebook: a chapter on basic information, a few chapters on character creation, combat rules, bulky lists of entries such as spells, gamemastering material, and more bulky lists. It is more a reference document for players than an introduction to the game.

The structure of the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Rulebook is odd. A few weeks ago, I deduced why. It is not a reference document for players. It is a reference document for designers.

Hythlodeus wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
So for folks who have the PF1 CRB, was its layout actually any better? Can you point to how?

yes, yes it was. the reason for that was probably redundancy of information and a more thoughtful, intuitive placing of information. In PF2 no information in the book is redundant, everything is there ONCE, but you have to know exactly where and what you are searching for and even then the information you are looking for is probably somewhere else. the index is sadly no help in that regard. the structure of the PF2 playtest rules is so far removed from what is expected at that point from similar CRBs that most things are placed akwardly counterintuitive.

Look at the "Conditions" for example. Explanations for them are needed in a lot of places in the book, they are needed near the spells that give different conditions (because no explanation is given there), iirc there are Feats that change conditions, but there's no explanation there, and so forth. Instead, they can be found somewhere near the end of the book just right after the Downtime rules for no reason. The CRB of PF1 at least gave little explanations of what a specific condition meant somewhere near effects, spells or whatever that causes them pop up, so that readers could understand how that specific thing was doing before searching that stuff for the next 10 minutes.

Redundancy in that case was good, the Playtest document doesn't provide that and it is hard as hell to navigate it to find what one is looking for.

The lack of redundancies is the main clue that it was written for designers. The designers of Pathfinder 2nd Edition are going to change a lot. They don't want to make the mistake of changing a rule in one place and not changing it in a second place. Therefore, every rule shows up exactly once. Keywords, such as conditions, are not explained in context, because that condition might be changed after the next rule update. Consider how often the dying condition has changed.

The rules are grouped not by how the players would approach them, but by how they might be changed. I knew from the playtest previews in the spring that level would be added to skills, but I could not find that detail in the charcter creation rules in the first few chapters. That information was in Chapter 9, Playing the Game, on page 291. That means that the player has to read all the way to chapter 9 to complete creating a 1st-level character. Why is proficiency explained so late when the character creation is loaded with features that set proficiencies? Because proficiency is part of playing the game, i.e., making actual dice rolls, rather than character creation.

The first chapter, Overview, appears to be an exception to the designer-reference-document paradigm. I think it was written to convert the reference document into a readable rulebook. The key terms section on page 9 and 10 is almost a cross between a glossary and an index.

Sometimes this design-based grouping is good. Class feats were put in the class descriptions, since they would change with changes to the class. But that is good for informing the player, too.

Other times, the player has to deduce how designers connect things to find the information. Conditions are caused by feats and spells, but they affect gameplay, so they are at the end of the Playing the Game chapter, after Downtime rules. I was thinking that Will saves would make a good example, too, and thus I have now discoverd that the index lacks an entry for "Will". It does have a single extra "saving throws 10, 17." That's in the Overview chapter, once in the key terms section (the only place redundancy is allowed) and once in the Finishing details section of the character sheet. I would have expected Saving Throws to be under Playing the Game, too, but I guess Character Sheet is its own design category.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One of my favourite bits of the books is a redundancy.
The Shield Spell has the Raise Shield rules right there next to the spell.


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One of the advantages of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that there are whole sections that you can conditionally skip reading. For a new player, this is invaluable.

Not playing a caster? Don't worry about chapter 10. Not the GM? Ignore chapters 12 through 15. Starting at level one? Ignore chapter 11.

Even the chapters themselves are structured that way: the first page or two summarises the chapter content so you can decide - flavour-wise - your race or class without reading every section.

And the amount of forward-referencing is limited. Additional spells and bonus feats are the main suspects here.


> Was the PF1 CRB layout any better?

That's hard for me to say. The PF1 CRB layout presented material in the same order, and nearly identical rules, as the D&D 3.5 PHB. Basically, I was already familiar with the rules.

PF2 is so different that previous knowledge wasn't very helpful. I think it would be hasty of me to conclude that PF2 CRB layout was worse.


Richard Crawford wrote:

One of the advantages of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that there are whole sections that you can conditionally skip reading. For a new player, this is invaluable.

Not playing a caster? Don't worry about chapter 10. Not the GM? Ignore chapters 12 through 15. Starting at level one? Ignore chapter 11.

Isn't this true for PF2 as well? Non casters don't need to read spells, and 1st level characters needn't read the Advancement or Treasure chapters.

Certainly none of my players so far have read the entire book AFAIK. Or even most of it.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Captain Morgan wrote:
Richard Crawford wrote:

One of the advantages of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that there are whole sections that you can conditionally skip reading. For a new player, this is invaluable.

Not playing a caster? Don't worry about chapter 10. Not the GM? Ignore chapters 12 through 15. Starting at level one? Ignore chapter 11.

Isn't this true for PF2 as well? Non casters don't need to read spells, and 1st level characters needn't read the Advancement or Treasure chapters.

Certainly none of my players so far have read the entire book AFAIK. Or even most of it.

The first part will be true in the final book but for the Playtest all the powers were tossed into the spell chapter as well.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Richard Crawford wrote:

One of the advantages of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that there are whole sections that you can conditionally skip reading. For a new player, this is invaluable.

Not playing a caster? Don't worry about chapter 10. Not the GM? Ignore chapters 12 through 15. Starting at level one? Ignore chapter 11.

Isn't this true for PF2 as well? Non casters don't need to read spells, and 1st level characters needn't read the Advancement or Treasure chapters.

Certainly none of my players so far have read the entire book AFAIK. Or even most of it.

idk, the information is all over the place in this one and always where you expect it last. 80% of the character creation proces is scrolling to different parts of the book, somtimes in the middle, sometimes right before the end, back to first 50 pages or so, back to the middle part and so on and one still has no idea how the character works


Rysky wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Richard Crawford wrote:

One of the advantages of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is that there are whole sections that you can conditionally skip reading. For a new player, this is invaluable.

Not playing a caster? Don't worry about chapter 10. Not the GM? Ignore chapters 12 through 15. Starting at level one? Ignore chapter 11.

Isn't this true for PF2 as well? Non casters don't need to read spells, and 1st level characters needn't read the Advancement or Treasure chapters.

Certainly none of my players so far have read the entire book AFAIK. Or even most of it.

The first part will be true in the final book but for the Playtest all the powers were tossed into the spell chapter as well.

I'll grant you that, though again, if you are a fighter or barbarian, that's irrelevant because you don't need to read that chapter anyway.

I certainly would rather have powers included closer to the classes that grant them, though.

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