More thinking, fewer changes. A 25 year GM weighs in.


General Discussion


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I get that developing a game system is tough, it's why most of us just find a system that mostly works for us and then maybe make a few house rules. I've played and GM'd for a long, long time. Generally, finding a group to play with once per week is about as much as most people have time for. So it's a little tough that so many changes come down the pipe from players who have time to blast through the whole playtest in a month.

Some of the changes are solid, and mostly I'm surprised that they didn't get picked up before going to print. Its not cool to sell a hardcopy that you never intended to be accurate for more than a month. At a minimum most of us would like a single unified PDF of the book to download whenever you change things. Putting in the work of editing your book for each change might help you slow things down long enough to get things right. I've enjoyed Pathfinder for 10 years and I want to see this new edition become even better!

The problem with RPG's is that player and GM experience is the biggest factor in playability. Rules as written are the beginning of learning the game, not the end. There need to be more debate and understanding about why things have been changed. I like resonance! A high magic world can still have fewer magic items and less usable versions. I agree that spending resonance for potions is too much, same for scrolls, and maybe consumables should have a longer duration so players can buff up before heading into danger. There's clearly room for some change, but what I'm seeing is that this version of the game is heading into the same crowd-sourced hot mess that first edition became. There should be a cost to getting a character to do what you want, but that cost is better served by teaching GM's to be open, flexible and able to handle unbalanced parties. The best adventures of literature never include a balanced party.

Paizo, please stick to your guns a little longer. Spend more time publishing explanations and contextual suggestions for your rules rather than just changing them. Help new players and especially GM's understand how they might find roleplaying solutions to their complaints. Just dropping more rules as written to give the people what they want will just make for more of a mess.... And maybe some of you remember how many 2nd edition ad&d books were sold that were mostly about flavour, and not loaded with new classes and feats? There's a market for RPG books that are actually about roleplaying!

I hope you agree, and thanks for the great times paizo!


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I would like to defend Paizo's selling of the hardcover Playtest rules. I bought one knowing I was getting something that wasn't going to be 2nd edition. In fact, they were very clear on that point.

The reason they offered it was because ten years ago they printed a bunch of Beta rules for Pathfinder 1st edition in case people at Gen Con and elsewhere wanted a hard copy. They sold out very quickly in spite of having large stacks of them. People who wanted a copy were left disappointed.

So this time, they decided to offer people a chance to pre-order a copy. They would do that number as a print run along with some for Gen Con and that was it. No more. Only people who knew what they were getting and wanted a physical copy anyway would get one. That some retailers ordered some without firm orders from customers and others thought they were getting 2e early isn't the fault of Paizo.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Oh and I agree that Paizo should keep explaining the rational behind their rules decisions and make changes that make sense rather than cave to negative responses. But I'm confidant enough in Paizo that this is pretty much how it is going to be. They're unusually good about those sort of things! :)


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Turkeycubes wrote:

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Some of the changes are solid, and mostly I'm surprised that they didn't get picked up before going to print. Its not cool to sell a hardcopy that you never intended to be accurate for more than a month.
Didn't everyone know this going in? I mean, if you know that literally the whole point of the process behind the book is to obsolete the book in short order, and you don't need to buy the book to participate in the process, then there really isn't much to complain about if you do go ahead and buy it.
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At a minimum most of us would like a single unified PDF of the book to download whenever you change things.

Putting in the work of editing your book for each change might help you slow things down long enough to get things right.
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I would like this, but I am aware that fussing about with the PDF is a lot more time consuming than releasing separate erratas. I wish they would integrate it into the books, but I can cut them some slack on it given the time crunch they have.
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The problem with RPG's is that player and GM experience is the biggest factor in playability. Rules as written are the beginning of learning the game, not the end. There need to be more debate and understanding about why things have been changed.
It doesn't help that the PF2E team does a lot of podcasts for random shows all over the place, and it is hard to consolidate all that info. There might be a bunch of comments by the design team that explain why they are doing things a certain way, but because they are buried 2/3rds of the way into an audio file, most of us will never know.
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I like resonance! A high magic world can still have fewer magic items and less usable versions. I agree that spending resonance for potions is too much, same for scrolls, and maybe consumables should have a longer duration so players can buff up before heading into danger.
That is funny. I am the opposite. One of my major complaints about PF2E boils down to "too many moving parts". Cut most the 1/day+Focus nonsense, link it solely to Focus instead, tweak how wands work, and then cut item limits entirely, because they are basically superfluous at that point.
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There's clearly room for some change, but what I'm seeing is that this version of the game is heading into the same crowd-sourced hot mess that first edition became.

First edition's problems were a convoluted mix of a dubious quality chassis (the 3.x engine), a bunch of piecemeal fixes to said chassis, general option bloat and accumulated quality slip from publishing a honkingly large amount of mechanical options (eventually, you are going to get stupid, OP and/or broken things slipping through the cracks).

Now, in fairness, they are trying to fix some of these problems. They are trying to build a sounder chassis so those piecemeal fixes shouldn't be necessary. I do have concerns, however, that the tight math and lack of in-built expandability creates a problem. If you want overly pressured developers and freelancers to produce acceptable quality work, then it is a good idea to informally hand half their job to them and ask them to fill in the gaps. PF2E doesn't really do this. There are no design patterns for developers to follow, and everything beyond the basic game mechanics is pretty much ad-hoc. Throw in the fact that there is a lot of illusion of choice in the playtest and that the tight math makes designing overpowered options surprisingly easy and I suspect that PF2 proper is likely to become unbalanced in short order, with a sea of narrow garbage broken up by totally OP gems.

As for the dangers of "crowd-sourcing" your designs...eh, its complicated. You know the old bit about if Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they would have wanted a faster horse. Well, on the other hand, if Henry Ford gave some people a car and asked people what they wanted, and most of them replied "less obnoxious transmission changes because holy crap how do you even change gears on a Model T", then that is genuinely useful feedback. "Moar flame decals" from a couple of them, not so much. A reply of "better color choices" might be worth investigating, but if you can sell Model Ts at 10% off by making them all black and people will buy them despite being black, then you can seriously consider ignoring that feedback.

Designing a game is, in its own way, a form of engineering, and like all engineering there are tradeoffs and cost-benefit analyses to be done. Most playtesters aren't approaching the game like an engineer designing a product, and even for those that are, they are usually focused on a couple of particular parts of the game and any feedback they give won't factor in other changes the designers are going to make to the game. Dealing with a piece of feedback is a complicated process of trying to guestimate how many of your potential customers feel that way, trying to figure out how much they will care if you don't factor in this particular piece of feedback, guestimate how many of them will actually dislike the changes you will have to make to address this feedback, and guestimate what the opportunity cost is to address this feedback instead of dealing with something else. Oh, and if you are a smart *insert preferred noun here* and noticed that I didn't mention what happens when you have several different ways to address a particular piece of feedback (which you usually will) or what happens when your changes have ripple effects in other parts of the system (which they usually will), then congratulations, you are in the fractal hell called being an engineer. Have fun. The sloppy approach of "throw it all in and end up with an unfocused mess because we are no longer designing a game but crowd-sourcing a fairy floss, muffin and scallop stew" is a terrible idea, but so is "90% of our playtesters despise X with a passion, but we keeping X because of *weak rationalizations*". You really do need to handle feedback on an individual basis, and try to guestimate what bits of the feedback will make a better product, and what bits will make an unfun product or a convoluted, unfocused mess. TLDR designing be hard, yo.

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There should be a cost to getting a character to do what you want, but that cost is better served by teaching GM's to be open, flexible and able to handle unbalanced parties.

No RPG teaches GMs well as far as I know. While I would love to see an RPG that instills good GMing practices in those who use it, I am not holding my breath. I would rather the designers hand the GM something basically functional on the plate than go around with the toxic attitude of "we can put out any crap and it is the GM's problem to deal, because the GM can just fix any problems".

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The best adventures of literature never include a balanced party.
Yeah, and the best adventures of literature are backed by author fiat. A big part of the attraction of RPGs is player agency, and that means agency to fail, or agency to breese effortlessly through the story, or agency to be a useless fifth wheel while other people do the work. Compromises will have to be made if you don't want those happening unintentionally all the time.
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Paizo, please stick to your guns a little longer. Spend more time publishing explanations and contextual suggestions for your rules rather than just changing them. Help new players and especially GM's understand how they might find roleplaying solutions to their complaints.
I though Paizo has been pretty conservative with their changes so far. I don't particularly blame them for that, because feedback like "spells are miserable and unfun - fix them" isn't something that can be addressed quickly, but they haven't exactly been gutting their system in a quest to seek approval from playtesters.
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Just dropping more rules as written to give the people what they want will just make for more of a mess.
Maybe, maybe not. Designing be hard, yo.
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And maybe some of you remember how many 2nd edition ad&d books were sold that were mostly about flavour, and not loaded with new classes and feats? There's a market for RPG books that are actually about roleplaying!

IIRC, one of the owners of Paizo (Lisa, I think) looked through TSR's financial data (which would include the 2nd edition period) on behalf of WoTC to see where they screwed up. The conclusion they came to was something along the lines of "TSR split up the base by publishing a bunch of books that sold well but inhibited further sales". I suspect that throwing out a lot of products that focus excessively on individual parts of their setting (or even worse, create other settings) may create a similar problem. In any case, the owners probably know a lot more about this than you from sources you don't have access to. You might be able to ask them, though. I would certainly be curious to see what they say.

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I hope you agree, and thanks for the great times paizo!

For the record, despite how incredibly cynical and snarky I can be, I do appreciate what Paizo is trying to do with PF2E, and I do actually want PF2E to be something I want to play. My cynicism stems from the fact that there are quite a few obvious and not-so-obvious problems in the playtest which I struggle to explain in ways that don't justify my cynicism. Combine that with my general worldview which boils down to "If I assume everything is terrible then I will either be proven right or pleasantly surprised", and you are not going to see a font of positivity in my general direction.

Grand Lodge

The thing that makes this process great is also the thing that makes it the worst. Game design is not a zero sum process. You cannot logic your way through all the subsystems to get to the “rightL one. There is A LOT of gut feeling and personal bias that goes into it. This is why every time a designer weighs in on the “why” a particular decision was made, there is a certain contingent of the community that will feel fpdifferent and argue that their “logic” is flawed. I think there is some value to providing the reasons and thought processes they are using when generating the list of ways to implement game mechanics, but once the final decision is made, there is nearly no benefit to explaining why that final decision is made unless you as thenone sharing truly does not care about the feedback it will generate. Invariably a decision will be not be well received by some and they will use it destroy your methodology or conclusions. If message board history tells us anything it’s that it’s a great place to elicit ideas, but a terribly place to explain decisionmaking.


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Snowblind wrote:
Designing a game is, in its own way, a form of engineering, and like all engineering there are tradeoffs and cost-benefit analyses to be done. Most playtesters aren't approaching the game like an engineer designing a product, and even for those that are, they are usually focused on a couple of particular parts of the game and any feedback they give won't factor in other changes the designers are going to make to the game. Dealing with a piece of feedback is a complicated process of trying to guestimate how many of your potential customers feel that way, trying to figure out how much they will care if you don't factor in this particular piece of feedback, guestimate how many of them will actually dislike the changes you will have to make to address this feedback, and guestimate what the opportunity cost is to address this feedback instead of dealing with something else. Oh, and if you are a smart *insert preferred noun here* and noticed that I didn't mention what happens when you have several different ways to address a particular piece of feedback (which you usually will) or what happens when your changes have ripple effects in other parts of the system (which they usually will), then congratulations, you are in the fractal hell called being an engineer. Have fun.

Yes, and I considered unraveling engineering demands to be fun when it was my job. I was not an engineer, but I am the son of an engineer and grew up thinking like one, so I treated applied mathematics like engineering. The fractal mess got easier with a fractal team structure that delegated the parts to people who liked those parts. Plus, I like fractals.

I am approaching the playtest like an engineering design project, though as Snowblind predicted, I am focused on only particular parts of the game. I see some of the design tunnel vision that reminds me of when I had to argue with my project managers, but here I have no power and no responsibility, so I can simply play and talk math and leave the Paizo developers to make the hard decisions.

Snowblind wrote:
Turkeycubes wrote:
And maybe some of you remember how many 2nd edition ad&d books were sold that were mostly about flavour, and not loaded with new classes and feats? There's a market for RPG books that are actually about roleplaying!
IIRC, one of the owners of Paizo (Lisa, I think) looked through TSR's financial data (which would include the 2nd edition period) on behalf of WoTC to see where they screwed up. The conclusion they came to was something along the lines of "TSR split up the base by publishing a bunch of books that sold well but inhibited further sales". I suspect that throwing out a lot of products that focus excessively on individual parts of their setting (or even worse, create other settings) may create a similar problem. In any case, the owners probably know a lot more about this than you from sources you don't have access to. You might be able to ask them, though. I would certainly be curious to see what they say.

In playing the Jade Regent adventure path, I picked up supplemental Pathfinder Campaign Setting materials: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends, People of the North, and Dragon Empires Gazetteer. I also added the modules We Be Goblins and The Ruby Phoenix Tournament. For the Iron Gods adventure path, the Technology Guide is almost mandatory, but I also bought PCS: Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars, PPC: Black Markets, and PFS Scenario: Returned to Sky. Based on that sample, their supplemental materials work well with their main lines.


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Snowblind wrote:
Turkeycubes wrote:
Some of the changes are solid, and mostly I'm surprised that they didn't get picked up before going to print. Its not cool to sell a hardcopy that you never intended to be accurate for more than a month.
Didn't everyone know this going in? I mean, if you know that literally the whole point of the process behind the book is to obsolete the book in short order, and you don't need to buy the book to participate in the process, then there really isn't much to complain about if you do go ahead and buy it.

The fact that it was going to be pretty much immediately out of date and obsolete in a year was explicit. That's why I decided not to buy any of the printed materials and instead run playtest sessions using the free PDFs.

Of course - I've since bought two copies of the Playtest Rulebook and a copy of the Doomsday Dawn book. I'm an adult. I knew what I was doing. Paizo didn't take advantage of me, I wanted the rulebook on paper and I'd have printed it myself (one of my players did) if they hadn't given me this option.

Grand Lodge

Snowblind wrote:
IIRC, one of the owners of Paizo (Lisa, I think) looked through TSR's financial data (which would include the 2nd edition period) on behalf of WoTC to see where they screwed up. The conclusion they came to was something along the lines of "TSR split up the base by publishing a bunch of books that sold well but inhibited further sales". I suspect that throwing out a lot of products that focus excessively on individual parts of their setting (or even worse, create other settings) may create a similar problem. In any case, the owners probably know a lot more about this than you from sources you don't have access to. You might be able to ask them, though. I would certainly be curious to see what they say.

In reading the commentary from a number of industry sources and speaking directly with people who had access to the necessary information, IIRC there were three primary issues that lead to the downfall of TSR. This of course does not include any inner-business issues such as poor relationships between executive board members like Ms Williams and Gygax, etc.

The first problem was that they diversified too much. Meaning they tried to support too many campaign systems which fractured the community and significantly reduced their revenue per product.

Second, they invested too heavily into the novel books that wound up being a major failure. Clearly, the overestimated the voraciousness for reading fantasy literature of the gaming community.

Third, they depended too much on the sales of modules. Generally speaking adventures/modules were only being purchased by GMs and focusing a large portion of your evenue on products only appealing to 20% or less of your already nitch market, is not a great idea.


TwilightKnight wrote:
Snowblind wrote:
IIRC, one of the owners of Paizo (Lisa, I think) looked through TSR's financial data (which would include the 2nd edition period) on behalf of WoTC to see where they screwed up. The conclusion they came to was something along the lines of "TSR split up the base by publishing a bunch of books that sold well but inhibited further sales". I suspect that throwing out a lot of products that focus excessively on individual parts of their setting (or even worse, create other settings) may create a similar problem. In any case, the owners probably know a lot more about this than you from sources you don't have access to. You might be able to ask them, though. I would certainly be curious to see what they say.

In reading the commentary from a number of industry sources and speaking directly with people who had access to the necessary information, IIRC there were three primary issues that lead to the downfall of TSR. This of course does not include any inner-business issues such as poor relationships between executive board members like Ms Williams and Gygax, etc.

The first problem was that they diversified too much. Meaning they tried to support too many campaign systems which fractured the community and significantly reduced their revenue per product.

Second, they invested too heavily into the novel books that wound up being a major failure. Clearly, the overestimated the voraciousness for reading fantasy literature of the gaming community.

Third, they depended too much on the sales of modules. Generally speaking adventures/modules were only being purchased by GMs and focusing a large portion of your evenue on products only appealing to 20% or less of your already nitch market, is not a great idea.

Let's not tread these tired old waters again (and Dragon Dice, etc, etc).

As for the obsolete, official printed copies of the playtest, it is a choice to by them, you can get along with the PDFs (like the 5th Ed Playtest Packets; I have kept all of them, as I prefer some parts to the final version). You could say it's really cool that they gave us the option to buy the playtest in printed form.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Feros wrote:
I would like to defend Paizo's selling of the hardcover Playtest rules. I bought one knowing I was getting something that wasn't going to be 2nd edition. In fact, they were very clear on that point.

I bought a hardcover copy of the playtest rules knowing they were likely to become less and less useful as the playtest proceeded. I did this as a commitment to Paizo and the local game shop where I purchased them. While I have been generally very critical of the PF2e process and the rules emerging from it, in a broad sense I do want Paizo and Pathfinder to be a success story. Even if PF2e ends up being a set of rules that I do not want to play and never purchase, I would still wish the best for Paizo.


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pjrogers wrote:
Feros wrote:
I would like to defend Paizo's selling of the hardcover Playtest rules. I bought one knowing I was getting something that wasn't going to be 2nd edition. In fact, they were very clear on that point.
I bought a hardcover copy of the playtest rules knowing they were likely to become less and less useful as the playtest proceeded. I did this as a commitment to Paizo and the local game shop where I purchased them. While I have been generally very critical of the PF2e process and the rules emerging from it, in a broad sense I do want Paizo and Pathfinder to be a success story. Even if PF2e ends up being a set of rules that I do not want to play and never purchase, I would still wish the best for Paizo.

Absolutely this.

I immediately preordered a hard copy and a paperback.
I didn't see much hope in long term value, but I thought having the hardback on my shelf ten years from now would still be cool to me.

But, also, I was eager to support the company that did so much for my gaming.

Now I sit here pretty convinced that 2E will never appear at my table. Being as there are critical concerns that Paizo simply seems unwilling to even speak to, much less try to resolve. But so it goes.

I still have a ton of great stuff from the past. My current campaign started 12/30/15 and easily has over a year left. I have several campaigns on my shelf I'd like to run. And I constantly find myself thinking of my own campaign ideas. So, yeah, I'm set.

I'd love to have a new cool system. I'll buy new stuff just for the fun of reading it. But I'm ok not being on team Paizo anymore. And I'm completely good with throwing some parting thank you money their way.


Thanks for all the great comments, I'm glad people are reading and engaging. But I think I need to clarify, because some readers seem to think that I didn't know a playtest was a test of playability. Obviously the playtest has a shelf life and would not be the final game, I never assumed it would be. My issue is with the shelf life length, not it's inevitability.

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