Pathfinder Second Edition: The vision. The big idea.


General Discussion

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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What is the Paizo vision and big idea behind second edition?

An edition change to me means something is out of date, broken, or is no longer selling well. Or a company, designer or design team has come up with something new and revolutionary they want to wow users with.

I have watched all of Jason Bulmahn’s Youtube RPG design videos. I read several online interviews Jason and Erik Mona have given on Pathfinder second edition. I read the “Welcome to Pathfinder” second edition Playtest forward. I read through the playtest PDF once. I have read through the Paizo Playtest forum posts and replies for three days.

I understand the Paizo financial, mechanical and mathematical needs for Pathfinder second edition. I love playing Pathfinder first edition. And I will in all likelihood buy and play Pathfinder second edition. But I don’t see a vision or big idea driving Pathfinder second edition.

To me, if you are going to create a new edition of Pathfinder why not go bigger in thinking and vision? Where is the Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gary Gygax, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook vision for Pathfinder second edition?

Pathfinder second edition will no doubt have a decade long lifespan. Why not create something groundbreaking? Why not create the Pathfinder edition other RPG designers and companies will be envious of, talk about, borrow from and reference for the next 10-15 years as the RPG they wish they had designed?

Reexamine the foundation, pillars and bricks. Do the stalwart races/ancestries, classes, skills and magic in the Pathfinder RPG all have to be based on Tolkien, Vance, Anderson, Gygax and Arenson?

To me as an avid Pathfinder GM, player and supporter I would ask Paizo and the design team be brave adventurers. Don’t just rework Pathfinder first edition. Don’t just borrow favorite elements from other RPG systems. Break the rules and give us an RPG that will make other RPG companies and designers envious for years to come.

I am not trying to be a Pathfinder second edition RPG troll or jerk. I am just suggesting taking a big step back to think about creating something mind-blowing and unexpected for Pathfinder second edition.

Just one Pathfinder fan’s opinion.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

There are several reasons for not doing what you suggest.

The first, and most obvious, is that they don't have this perfect original groundbreaking game that everyone will instantly love and will change the world and cause peace to break out across the world and end hunger and ....

The second is that Pathfinder is a brand. How far you can go from what it is, without damaging that brand is a trick thing. If I'm going to buy Pathfinder (even if it is a second edition) I am going to be expecting to get something that is like Pathfinder. The mechanics don't all have to be identical, but they should be familiar. I don't want classes and races I've never heard of before. I want it to continue to be a class/level based system.

If I want something different than that, I'll purchase another system that is known for being what I am after, or perhaps try something new and just starting.

The thing is, their isn't a perfect game system. They are all going to be trade offs and differ in ways that aren't go or bad, but are just different like chocolate and vanilla. There are systems out there without any fantasy races (humans only) and systems with the traditional tolienesque ones and systems were they are all unique and new. None of these are the 'right' answer, just answers that are sometimes rights.

Probably the hardest challenge for Paizo in creating PF2 is getting the amount of change right. It has to have enough difference (hopefully improvements) that people feel justified in purchasing an entirely new system and enough the same that people feel like they have purchased pathfinder, not something unrecognizable. That is a tough thing to achieve, and being too far off either direction will probably result in a failed product with tepid sales.


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kid america wrote:
What is the Paizo vision and big idea behind second edition?

"Get our customers back from WotC."

That's pretty much it, as far as I can tell. If there's a grand vision, pillars, or whatnot, I'm not seeing it at a glance. (Disclaimer: I haven't really dug for said pillars, but should I need to?)


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Mainly they're making an RPG which runs on rails I think. Easier to get into than PF1, may possibly appeal to D&D 5e fans, much easier to write adventures for. Not an RPG for me or one with any grand ideas.


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avr wrote:
Mainly they're making an RPG which runs on rails I think. Easier to get into than PF1, may possibly appeal to D&D 5e fans, much easier to write adventures for. Not an RPG for me or one with any grand ideas.

The too is my perception of 2.0.

They’re trying to make a product to compete with 5e, which means a game of ease and accessibility, which were the big selling points of 5e. Ease and accessibility are good pillars to stand on when you want to appeal to new generations of gamers. 1.0 has a reputation of being technical, rules dense, and bloated, which may or may not be true, ymmv. To be honest, it was that reputation which actually attracted me to Pathfinder when I returned to gaming, but I’m a weirdo. But, the direction of the popular tide says people want a game that is easy to pick up and play right out of the box. I’ve spent the past two years or so playing and learning 1.0, so personally I’m in no hurry to pick up and play something else.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The big idea is that 3.5 and 1st edition of pathfinder has problems. Big ones. That can't be fixed without fully tearing the system down from it's roots. Paizo has enough experience and a big enough following now that they feel this is the right time for them to finally make their own system that will make it easier for them to write better adventures.


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While I don't agree with going way too far, as this post seems to imply, because Pathfinder still needs to remain pathfinder and its feeling.

But I REALLY do agree that they need to be willing to go further. Right now, they only gave us either watered down races, weaker and bound by the tight-math paradigm classes and basically a retcon of the Golarion setting (Goblins are not so common they get to be a core race).

For me, a very big and welcome leap, would be a deep dive into the roots of the world and setting itself. How strong the magic in the world should be? How rare? Is there any cost? How the races relate to each other? What are their biological advantages and disadvantages? What they often lean towards to? After all of these are answered come the world-building questions and how these answers affect the world.

This may seem to be just "flavor" and not very focused on mechanical balance, but I would argue otherwise. With this focus on world-consistency would come a lot of new boundaries to work with.

Are dwarves way too OP compared to other ancestries? Are small races complete garbage? Well, now Paizo can make them their own and create unique variations of elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, orcs, They don't need to be tied to the past, make it a clean slate, this will definitely be more interesting and it's DEFINITELY a better option than just watering down the current ancestries or keeping the outdated, clunky and hard to balance vancian casting in the game.

Liberty's Edge

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avr wrote:
Mainly they're making an RPG which runs on rails I think. Easier to get into than PF1, may possibly appeal to D&D 5e fans, much easier to write adventures for. Not an RPG for me or one with any grand ideas.

I actually strongly disagree. I can think of lots of goals, and I don't think reducing character customization is one of them at all, nor is 'running on rails' in an adventure sense (or not any more than PF1, anyway).

Reducing the system's useless complexity (stuff like 'add level to this, 1/2 level +2 to this, and up to level out of these 123 points to this), is definitely a major design goal, as is avoiding non-combat/thematic benefits and combat focused benefits being drawn from the same pool of points, as is reducing caster/martial disparity.

But I think the biggest goal is to reduce the disparity in ability between people who go on the forums and look for the 'best possible build' for their Class and those who just shove an 18 in their prime stat and take stuff that looks fun. To reduce the huge disparity between absolutely optimal PCs and those with baseline, common sense, optimization. This makes it a lot easier to run a group where people are inclined to different optimization levels, and also makes adventure design radically easier. It also allows for better world calibration, allowing a much easier measuring stick for 'what can a 12th level character accomplish?'.

But that's actually not the same thing as character customization. Indeed much of the time, by allowing less than perfectly optimal characters in the same party as the absolutely optimal, it actually increases character variability quite a bit.

There are inevitably less options in PF2 than PF1...but only because there's one book (in many ways more like 2/3 of a book) for PF2 while PF1 has hundreds. It's not a system change so much as an inevitable side effect of any new system.


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kid america wrote:
To me, if you are going to create a new edition of Pathfinder why not go bigger in thinking and vision?

Because that's not what Pathfinder players are asking for. In fact, a portion of Paizo's audience finds that PF2 goes too far away from its PF roots. No one is asking for a whole new game. It doesn't mean that there would be no audience for a whole new game, but it means Paizo isn't the best positioned to deliver one.

kid america wrote:
Where is the Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Gary Gygax, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook vision for Pathfinder second edition?

Jonathan Tweet and Monte Cook don't belong in your list. Their innovation wasn't the creation of something new out of nothing. When they created 3ed, they took great care that the game was recognizably D&D. They did not want to come up with something new and revolutionary, but with a natural evolution and modernization of the game, and they succeeded at that. It only vaguely looks like a revolution because 2ed and TSR had stalled for so long.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There are dozens of innovative, sometimes even revolutionary RPGs out there. There's market for them. This market is already catered for by a myriad of off-beat games raging from Mouse Guard to Ten Candles, from Tales from the Loop to Dogs in the Vineyard.

Pathfinder is, by design of its authors, an offshot of D&D, a highly conservative and restrained game which, for better and worse, feels like if it was 1980s all over again. And this is what Pathfinder audience, largely consisting of a conservative (in terms of preference for game design, not political views) is after. They play D&D and its offshots because they like conservative games.

Even in PF2, all the supposedly "revolutionary" changes from PF1 such as "you now have 3 actions per round instead of move/move or move/standard" or "your saves and attacks go up +1 per level instead of following some irregular advancement tracks" are still twiddles within a very traditional and restrained framework. And that's OK, that's what PF audience is after.

I can perfectly imagine Paizo producing someday an off the kilter collaborative storytelling rules light game which would feel less like Gary's and Dave's backyard and more like something that crawled out of the mind of Adam Koebel. But that likely won't be called Pathfinder, since Paizo's bread and butter is selling a traditional game to a traditional audience.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Pathfinder is, by design of its authors, an offshot of D&D, a highly conservative and restrained game which, for better and worse, feels like if it was 1980s all over again. And this is what Pathfinder audience, largely consisting of a conservative (in terms of preference for game design, not political views) is after. They play D&D and its offshots because they like conservative games.

I disagree. What I find appeals to me about Pathfinder is its complicated and "crunchy" rules that provide a lot of different potential tactics, decisions, and results, leading to complex and divergent combat encounters.

"Conservative" as you're describing it fits much more with OSR-style games -- either games like Traveler, Pendragon, or the various near-AD&D games that have come out in the last five years, that focus heavily on tables, and in most cases expect you to burn through characters regularly.

I like Pathfinder for some of the same reasons I like Shadowrun -- or in a non-tabletop example, XCOM. The large amount of options and ideas on both sides of the table provides combat (the meat of most D&D-like tabletop RPGs) with a very wide variety of things that can happen. I don't really feel like I see that in a lot of modern RPGs.


Now if only they go for 3d6 instead of d20 standard and 5 above and below AC/DC( :p ) for crit success/failure and it would be only better.

Silver Crusade

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wizzardman wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Pathfinder is, by design of its authors, an offshot of D&D, a highly conservative and restrained game which, for better and worse, feels like if it was 1980s all over again. And this is what Pathfinder audience, largely consisting of a conservative (in terms of preference for game design, not political views) is after. They play D&D and its offshots because they like conservative games.

I disagree. What I find appeals to me about Pathfinder is its complicated and "crunchy" rules that provide a lot of different potential tactics, decisions, and results, leading to complex and divergent combat encounters.

"Conservative" as you're describing it fits much more with OSR-style games -- either games like Traveler, Pendragon, or the various near-AD&D games that have come out in the last five years, that focus heavily on tables, and in most cases expect you to burn through characters regularly.

I like Pathfinder for some of the same reasons I like Shadowrun -- or in a non-tabletop example, XCOM. The large amount of options and ideas on both sides of the table provides combat (the meat of most D&D-like tabletop RPGs) with a very wide variety of things that can happen. I don't really feel like I see that in a lot of modern RPGs.

In my distinction, OSR style games, 3.5/PF, 5e, Traveller, Pendragon Shadowrun, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu are all conservative games. They have little to no meta-mechanics allowing players to alter the story (if you want to alter the story, you need to use in-character abilities, you don't get to have 3 story tokens per game which allow you to insert a NPC of your creation or to tell the GM that there's an exploding barrel right there where you need it), degrees of success are usually binary, character sheets are walls of numbers and text, there's a heavy fell of the game being a tactical wargame ruleset adopted to run a storytelling game, etc. etc.

There are merits to conservative games, but there are also flaws, most notably the high entry bar and unfriendliness towards new players who don't happen to have a jaded veteran teaching them how to play. These qualities weren't that much of a problem in 1980s, when RPGs were sitting pretty in their niche and faced competition from Pong and Scrabble, but these days, as pnp RPGs face competition from a long list of other forms of entertainment, not the least post-Catan board games and video games, these conservative rulesets simply fail to attract new audience and rely on ever-dwindling and ever-aging cadre of grognards as their core.


Gorbacz wrote:
In my distinction, OSR style games, 3.5/PF, 5e, Traveller, Pendragon Shadowrun, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu are all conservative games. They have little to no meta-mechanics allowing players to alter the story (if you want to alter the story, you need to use in-character abilities, you don't get to have 3 story tokens per game which allow you to insert a NPC of your creation or to tell the GM that there's an exploding barrel right there where you need it), degrees of success are usually binary, character sheets are walls of numbers and text, there's a heavy fell of the game being a tactical wargame ruleset adopted to run a storytelling game, etc. etc.

Okay, I see where you're going with conservative. Not sure I'm a fan of the terminology, as it kind of implies that storytelling-style games are "modern", despite there being plenty of games that are older than Pathfinder but still fit well into the category (Vampire the Masquerade, for example).

I don't think your last argument is consistent, given the rising popularity of 5e (and the general popularity of 1e). Storytelling games have been around a long time, and while plenty of 'conservative' games decide to try storytelling mechanics (like the meta-mechanics you mention) when their popularity wanes, sales of old-school RPGs including D&D and Pathfinder have *increased*, not decreased. The difference is more that "conservative" RPGs have a smaller % of the population than conservative and storytelling RPGs combined.

And I think you'll find the popularity of complicated boardgames has increased the popularity of D&D, not decreased. I rather doubt the audience that enjoys games like Gloomhaven is suddenly going "D&D and Pathfinder are too complicated, I'll just play Fate forever".


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Dire Ursus wrote:
The big idea is that 3.5 and 1st edition of pathfinder has problems. Big ones. That can't be fixed without fully tearing the system down from it's roots. Paizo has enough experience and a big enough following now that they feel this is the right time for them to finally make their own system that will make it easier for them to write better adventures.

And to the degree that this is the "big idea" motivating the PF2e design team, it's the reason that I think they've got it all wrong. I think that a serious, evolutionary revision of PF1e would be both possible to do and more attractive to a wider range of gamers. From my POV, PF2e in its current form seems likely to chase away many fans of PF1e without attracting a substantial body of D&D5e players.


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pjrogers wrote:
Dire Ursus wrote:
The big idea is that 3.5 and 1st edition of pathfinder has problems. Big ones. That can't be fixed without fully tearing the system down from it's roots. Paizo has enough experience and a big enough following now that they feel this is the right time for them to finally make their own system that will make it easier for them to write better adventures.
And to the degree that this is the "big idea" motivating the PF2e design team, it's the reason that I think they've got it all wrong. I think that a serious, evolutionary revision of PF1e would be both possible to do and more attractive to a wider range of gamers. From my POV, PF2e in its current form seems likely to chase away many fans of PF1e without attracting a substantial body of D&D5e players.

I find it to be an evolution of Pathfinder. We can still play the same adventures but now combats are more fun and interactive. that's a huge evolution for me because combat was the least fun part of Pathfinder 1e. You spend so much time crafting these cool character concepts but when combat actually comes around you just 5 foot step and full attack over and over because that's the best thing to do by far.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

PF2 isn't going after 5E players. That would be a folly, since you can't win against the good product+brand recognition combo 5e has. Heck, Vic has stated outright that poaching market share of WotC isn't Paizo's goal with PF2..

They're going after all the new people who join the hobby thanks to Critical Role and general mainstreaming of nerdy pastimes. And Paizo doesn't even need to attract more new people than WotC does, since financial goals and needs of Paizo and WotC are worlds apart.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Dire Ursus wrote:
I find it to be an evolution of Pathfinder. We can still play the same adventures but now combats are more fun and interactive. that's a huge evolution for me because combat was the least fun part of Pathfinder 1e. You spend so much time crafting these cool character concepts but when combat actually comes around you just 5 foot step and full attack over and over because that's the best thing to do by far.

FWIW, I don't see PF2e as an evolution of PF1e/D&D3.x. There are just too many differences and changes. Heck, I think D&D5e is closer to PF1e/D&D3.x than PF2e. Also, I rarely find the combats to be as you describe them. This weekend, I ran King of Storval Stairs, and there was a tremendous amount of movement and tactical choice.

Gorbacz wrote:

PF2 isn't going after 5E players. That would be a folly, since you can't win against the good product+brand recognition combo 5e has. Heck, Vic has stated outright that poaching market share of WotC isn't Paizo's goal with PF2..

They're going after all the new people who join the hobby thanks to Critical Role and general mainstreaming of nerdy pastimes. And Paizo doesn't even need to attract more new people than WotC does, since financial goals and needs of Paizo and WotC are worlds apart.

I think this could be very, very wishful thinking. If folks are inclined towards playing table top, fantasy RPGs, why would they go with Pathfinder instead of the much more widely known D&D. While Paizo may not be trying to "poach" WOTC's customers, PF2e and D&D5e are going to be recruiting customers from the same demographic, and thus they will be in head-to-head competition.

Paizo Employee

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pjrogers wrote:


I think this could be very, very wishful thinking. If folks are inclined towards playing table top, fantasy RPGs, why would they go with Pathfinder instead of the much more widely known D&D. While Paizo may not be trying to "poach" WOTC's customers, PF2e and D&D5e are going to be recruiting customers from the same demographic, and thus they will be in head-to-head competition.

I don't know that that's really accurate. 5E is very rules-lite compared to either edition of Pathfinder and, at least IME, appeals to a much more casual crowd. I had quite a few local players who were playing 5E and wanted something with more depth and crunch but found Pathfinder to be too intimidating. Those players jumped on the playtest as soon as it came out and many of them aren't really interested in going back to either 5e or PF1 at this point.

I personally also own at least seven different RPGs that I pull out for different reasons depending on the group of players I've got looking for a game. I've got a group including my best friends and their kids where we play a lot of Cypher System since it's more narrative and even more rules-lite than 5e while still having some crunch and customization, I've got another group who doesn't like the Pathfinder Playtest or 5E that have started playing Sean Reynolds' Five Moons RPG because they see it as being closer to the streamlined version of Pathfinder they were hoping for, and then there's the players who just want to play Starfinder, Star Wars, or some other sci-fan setting that lets them get their fantasy and science-fiction in the same dose.

There's a really diverse and growing market of gamers who all have different things they're looking for, and while 5E is a huge gateway to tabletop gaming, it's not going to be the right fit for every player once they've gotten into the hobby. You don't need to compete with 5E to have a strong following and a sustainable market at this point in time, you just have to have a product that provides people with something they want that they aren't getting from 5E.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
pjrogers wrote:
Dire Ursus wrote:
I find it to be an evolution of Pathfinder. We can still play the same adventures but now combats are more fun and interactive. that's a huge evolution for me because combat was the least fun part of Pathfinder 1e. You spend so much time crafting these cool character concepts but when combat actually comes around you just 5 foot step and full attack over and over because that's the best thing to do by far.

FWIW, I don't see PF2e as an evolution of PF1e/D&D3.x. There are just too many differences and changes. Heck, I think D&D5e is closer to PF1e/D&D3.x than PF2e. Also, I rarely find the combats to be as you describe them. This weekend, I ran King of Storval Stairs, and there was a tremendous amount of movement and tactical choice.

Gorbacz wrote:

PF2 isn't going after 5E players. That would be a folly, since you can't win against the good product+brand recognition combo 5e has. Heck, Vic has stated outright that poaching market share of WotC isn't Paizo's goal with PF2..

They're going after all the new people who join the hobby thanks to Critical Role and general mainstreaming of nerdy pastimes. And Paizo doesn't even need to attract more new people than WotC does, since financial goals and needs of Paizo and WotC are worlds apart.

I think this could be very, very wishful thinking. If folks are inclined towards playing table top, fantasy RPGs, why would they go with Pathfinder instead of the much more widely known D&D. While Paizo may not be trying to "poach" WOTC's customers, PF2e and D&D5e are going to be recruiting customers from the same demographic, and thus they will be in head-to-head competition.

But PF1e and D&D5e already are head-to-head competition... People who like PF1e are not that different from people who like D&D5e. The biggest difference on average probably just being when they got into the hobby.


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I cannot say that this is the objective of this edition, it probably isn't, but from my experience DMing the playtest, the people that were more into PF2 were the ones that used to play 5e but disliked the lack of customization and depth, but didn't want something as complex and number-bloated as 3.5/PF1, and I can easily include myself on that.

This may look like a very small amount of people but it is bigger than a lot of people think. There is a whole generation of players that began with 5e, but that doesn't mean every one of them loves everything about it. I introduced a group to tabletop RPGs in general with 5e, and most of them grew really tired of the lack of customization and tactical depth of that edition after a year or so.

Then I tried to show Pathfinder (1) to them, but I was mostly recieved with "oh my good this looks like an Excel spreadsheet". Pathfinder 2 has been a godsend to those guys, so much that they've asked me to start our new campaign with it even knowing that it is in Playtest, and they are really, really excited for the final release.


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Has a "numbered iteration on an existing RPG" ever been about a "big idea"? Generally I have found that these things are about cleaning up and improving on the last one, not fundamentally changing it.

Like fundamentally PF2 could have been developed by looking at PF1 and thinking about "here are all the things we don't like and want to fix" and "here are all the things we think we can improve on" which is a completely sound way to do a new edition.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Strong agreement with the people who are saying that PF2e is finding a niche in "more depth than 5e, but less complexity than PF1e". That is exactly where I want the system to go, and I've been pretty happy with it heading in that direction so far.


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I think the main goal is to make a system easier to GM. I have to wonder how many new GM's have entered the game in recent years and how many veteran GM's have decided it is too much headache to run PF1(especially since both 4e and 5e are more GM-friendly); and please no one bring up "you don't have to do everything"; we all know the PF culture is very strong into "allow all the options or you are a bad GM." Eventually if you run low enough on GM's, all you are going to have is the charop forums. Likewise, I wonder how many "core only" games were occurring in PFS.

Making it easier on new/casual players is a very important side benefit. The fewer complications a GM has to keep track of for a PC means there are fewer complications for a player to keep track of. So these things feed into each other.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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Hey there folks,

I have said this many, many times, in many, many places.

The goal of this new edition of the game is create a version of Pathfinder that is easier for people to learn, while still giving the depth of character option and customization that we are known for, while also giving GMs better tools to tell the stories they want to tell.

We need the barrier to entry to be lower, but we want our player to grow into the games complexity with their character choices. That the decisions that they make about their character speak to their preferred play style while still allowing them to take part in the game with others with wildly divergent desires from the system. We want all of our players, past, present, and future to have a space at the table, where they can get what they want from Pathfinder, without the necessity of having some experiences hedge out others.

But, as I have also said many, many times. This thread has little to do with the actual playtest occurring on these boards. Thanks for the feedback.

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