Pathfinder Playtest Review


Doomsday Dawn Game Master Feedback


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I would like to thank everyone at Paizo for this exciting playtest, and for allowing all of us to take part in shaping the next chapter of a game that has changed my life for the better. Without this game, I wouldn’t have the friends I have today. I would also like to offer a sincere apology. Due to all of us having such busy schedules, we weren’t able to meet very often, and as such we only finished the first two chapters of Doomsday Dawn. Know that it wasn’t due to apathy that we were only able to get this far; I myself was GM while holding down two jobs. I’m sorry for this being late. I’ve been told I’m a sucker for the ‘sunk cost’ fallacy, but we’ve spent too much time (and in my case, money) not to have our voices heard. If the Paizo staff are not able or willing to read this due to the official deadline being passed, I understand.

But pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease do read this, even if it’s just a short skim-through.

Before I begin, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. I’ve been reading the D&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook since launch, but as much as I dreamed about it, I never got a chance to play an actual pen & paper RPG until being invited to join a group in 2012. The Pathfinder RPG is the first tabletop RPG I’ve ever played and I’ve loved it so far. I’ve dabbled a bit in Rifts, 3.5, 5th Edition, and read through some others, but Pathfinder is my favorite. Getting to be a part of the next edition is like a dream come true.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas at Dallas’ ATEC program, focusing on visual art, game design, and story design. I say this in the hopes that it provides some context for my feedback and so that you all know where I’m coming from. Hopefully it gives some credibility, however limited, to the points I have to give.
I will be dividing this review into three parts: thoughts on the rules, thoughts on the adventure path, and some final notes on the playtest as a whole. Note that these are all my opinions, with those of my group mixed within.

THE RULES

For the most part, character creation has been very rewarding. Not only is the new method more conducive to a balanced party, but it also allows the players to become more invested in backstory decisions, which plays well into the roleplaying experience. I especially like the modular nature of this stage. It makes new characters feel more personal. On the other hand, the variability and the surprises that die rolling gives have their own charms, and I’m glad to see that it has returned, too. I would like to point out that the decision to give the bonus of Charisma to Goblins seems nonsensical. Aside from perhaps Paizo’s own IP, they aren’t known for being very charismatic, and given their violent lifestyle and penchant for eating things most would find inedible, it would make far more sense for them to be given bonuses to Dexterity and Constitution. Gnomes, in turn, should be given Dexterity and Charisma.
The classes are perhaps the most obvious way in which 2E shows its similarity with Starfinder. I’m a bit concerned that the implementation of class feats may encourage players more towards optimization rather than characterization, or that players may create characters based what they think an adventure path may require of them more than on what they might find interesting. Also, while I do enjoy most of the classes, I can’t help but think that some, such as the Bard and Paladin, seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel.
The Bard’s original method of using Performance was more straightforward. While making some things like Inspire Courage into cantrips does make their usage likely at lower levels, I think things may have been made more complicated than they need to. Having them be spells instead of class specific powers listed in the class entry is unhelpful. That being said, there’s a greater variety of things that this class can do now, especially with its compositions. I think far more people are going to be willing to give this class a try.
The Paladin. Oh, boy. The Paladin was my favorite class in Pathfinder. I played an Empyreal Knight all the way from level 1 to 20 over the course of two and a half years, and in that time I learned a lot about myself, not just the class. Now, I’m a firm believer in the idea that a Paladin should be Lawful Good, but considering where the trends and complaints have been going over the past decade, enabling them to be of different alignments is something I can certainly concede to, and even endorse, with regards to game design. What I’m less thrilled about is tying them down to deities. This decision, as well as the anathema mechanic, isn’t very system agnostic. It also causes the Paladin to encroach upon the Cleric’s territory a bit. In 1E, the Paladin was said to serve a deity and receive blessings, thereby giving it an implicit source of power. However, distancing itself from that would, in my opinion, allow the Cleric and Oracle more distinct backgrounds and leave the Paladin able to define itself more independently, thereby giving the Divine caster group more diversity. With regards to how this fits in with the alignment debate, have the player-chosen alignment, not the deity, be the defining feature of the class. Clerics are champions of deities. Paladins are champions of ideals. Mechanically, this class is far too reactive. For something that is usually obsessed with fighting injustice, it seems to stand around a lot. As it is, most Paladins will be shoehorned into a defensive role, with the Retributive Strike encouraging them to stay pinned to an ally at all times and be less mobile. Waiting for an ally to get hit seems less emotionally rewarding than charging forward to enact justice upon an enemy. Smite Evil, one of my favorite aspects of the class, is gone, replaced with Blade of Justice, which not only is less powerful, is tied to a specific weapon, a restriction that seems superfluous. The Paladin should never be a passive character. It’s far too charismatic for that. This leads into my next point: having the class bonus be to Strength. What about players who want to make ranged characters? This decision heavily discourages anything other than creating a melee build for a Paladin. I would suggest either enabling players to choose Strength or Dexterity, or perhaps make Charisma the class ability bonus. No one at my table was interested in playing this, and as such, I would suggest a complete rewrite.
The Barbarian, on the other hand, was a thrill. Others have spoken at length about this, but the Barbarian was one of the most fun aspects of this playtest. I didn’t play one, but as a GM, just seeing it in action made me anxiously awaiting the player’s next turn the entire night. It’s simple. It’s strong. It’s savage. I can’t speak for higher level play, but at low level dungeon crawls, this is everything the Barbarian needs to be.
As for combat rules, I can honestly say that the three action system is a change for the better. Along with the visual aid of the icons, this greatly streamlines play (as much as it can in a playtest where everyone stops to ask questions all the time.) Cover rules, often the bane of our existence, are now easy to remember, and restructuring of Attacks of Opportunity got everyone to move again, which made tactical play more dynamic and engaging. It also ensured that, because people knew that they could safely move if they got in an unsuitable place, we weren’t bogged down by excessive planning.
Items and gear are more hard to pin down. Due to the lack of downtime in the parts we finished, and even the parts we didn’t, I’m not sure how much can be said, at this point, about how well the money system is incorporated into this game. The prevalence of items bought with a few silver is more realistic than the previous edition, I will say that. However, the changing of spell names, Heal specifically, made the acquisition and usage of potions a bit confusing, and having to relearn such a staple of play was not fun, especially considering how little it has changed.
Magic still great, with some spells like Fireball being even cooler than before. Others, like Cure Light Wounds are gone, and for some reason its replacement contains the rules for Channel Energy, further complicating things. Critical rules make everything more fun and engaging, however, and Primal magic being its own kind of magic is a nice change for thematic reasons. The decision to reign in casters is a long overdue and welcome change, and one that I was really looking forward to in this edition. I think it was handled well here; not making it less fun for casters, but still allowing everyone else to catch up. The resonance system gives me pause, however. On one hand, it makes magic feel more special. On the other hand, it adds a level of resource management that seems counterintuitive given that this edition seems to be trying to simplify things.

THE ADVENTURE

It’s difficult to say how this new edition saves or adds time to planning and adventure. Due to us all treating the system as a fresh start and not taking any rule for granted, the added time of learning was something to overcome. Because of this, some of my players didn’t exactly enjoy character creation, but all were excited to actually start things off. Of course, somone made a Goblin, and had we continued, every party would have had one, with the way we planned things out.
Our group is an aggressive bunch, and combat is the aspect of play we get the most out of. Thus the first chapter of Doomsday Dawn was quite the slap in the face. Not in an offensive manner, granted, but it was jarringly difficult for a first foray. Several of my players actually noted that it was more difficult than the first level of the Emerald Spire. I think in an effort to offer enough scenarios to get meaningful feedback, Paizo introduced more enemies than was necessary. The Cleric’s spelles were exhausted a third of the way through, and the party actually had to pull back and rest for the rest of the dungeon. The Wizard had a hard time of things, which was expected, though his ranged spells did make things a bit easier. Most enemies were mopped up by the Barbarian, however, and at times I wondered if perhaps the Barbarian was too overpowered, as it wasn’t leaving enough room for the other’s to contribute, in spite of everyone giving their best effort. In fact, at some points it seemed as if the Barbarian player was the only player having fun. As a GM, this was distressing. Roleplaying with the Goblin survivor, did, however, get everyone engaged, and it was nice to see some battle banter going on with players in the beginning. Critical effects of magic made things a lot more interesting. By the end of the chapter, everyone was exhausted both in and out of character, but they were very satisfied by the loot they’d gathered.
Part two was less rewarding for my players. Not only did they resent having to make new characters that they’d never see again, anyway, they also missed out on a lot. Part of this has to do with the travel system and time constraint. Upon learning that an elite group was also after the Countdown Clock, my players disregarded virtually every encounter they came across. This turned out to not even be necessary, as the forced march they’d gone through with the camels meant that even doing the approach to the tomb on foot meant that there was no chance for the enemies to catch up with them. The party couldn’t know this, however, so on they went missing out on combat and loot, even though they were eager for both of those things. As an added observation, it seems that there isn’t a clear way to show wether or not the travel rules or the time limit need changing, or if both do. Personally, I think the travel rules are fine, if somewhat conservative on its estimates of how far someone can travel. Eventually, they did fight and slay the Chimera, which everyone had a great time with and also provided a great challenge for the players. It also provided a humorous roleplaying moment with the Gnoll leader. Our Bard, who up to this point hadn’t had a chance to use his coveted Deception, lied to them about the party having killed the Chimera. Everyone at the table turned and looked at the Bard’s player. Everyone except me, who went into the other room and screamed into a pillow over him having said the exact opposite of what he should have said. It was a moment of overwhelming stupidity. It was also a moment of overwhelming laughter. Once the party got indoors, however, things changed. Having once again decided not to have a party with Darkvision, more assets had to be used getting light, and once the party was in the room with the Water Elemental, it looked like the end. The battle with the Earth Elemental was astoundingly short, lasting only one round, but the Water Elemental fight lasted over six, and nearly killed the party. The high damage of its special ability, coupled with its automatic knockback which often sent players into the water, made for a fight that was frankly harder than it really needed to be. What’s more, it further encouraged my players to stop exploring; they headed straight for the puzzle room and refused to look for more keys, instead making rolls to solve the lock. This made several of them frustrated and eager to get on with things. The last battle with the Mummies was a nice sendoff, as it gave everyone an opportunity to get stuck in. I couldn’t help but wish that the Janni had a way of speaking with the players, however. None of them spoke its languages, and it would have been nice for the players to learn more about what was going on.

THE PLAYTEST

I have mixed feelings about this edition of Pathfinder thus far. For every change I’ve seen that I like, there’s been a change I don’t. Some rules changes elicit neither like nor dislike, but simply seem unnecessary. The changes to Skills come to mind. For those switching from 1E, this change won’t be a short or easy one, and for newcomers, it will probably be only slightly less complicated than before. With the way spellcasters have been changed, balance is coming back, which I am very grateful for, but some classes seem to have had their roles change or become more difficult, especially the Cleric. In addition, monsters seem to either be massively underpowered, or massively overpowered, with the range in which they provide a balanced challenge to the party being only a level or so.
A year ago, my friends and I switched to 5E Dungeons & Dragons. I was the last to agree. I was dragged kicking and screaming from my beloved Pathfinder into a system which I saw, and still do see, as having fewer options and less variety. I saw this playtest as a way to win everyone back, but coming away from these two chapters, no one seems to want to. That’s what hurts the most. Even though I was enjoying myself the whole time, by the end, it was clear that the players weren’t having fun. To quote Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé, “If it’s not fun, why bother?” Now, we all agreed that this was mostly because the purpose of the playtest was to put the rules through the wringer; its purpose is not to entertain. As such, we were very forgiving of this, but it still made playtesting difficult and stressful for some people. This was compounded by the fact that many design decisions Doomsday Dawn seemed to be made to playtest Adventure Paths rather than playtest the actual rules. Given the already ambitious nature of this playtest, this seems like a misplacement of priorities.
I would say that I’m not totally on board with where Paizo is going with this edition, but then I’m not really sure what direction that is. Paizo has stated that they’re testing anything and everything, so this will be very different from what the final product is like. For what it’s worth, what I want out of Patfhinder is this: an end to caster supremacy, an end to feat taxes, a bit of streamlining and ease-of-use, and plenty of means by which GMs and players alike can create new worlds, countries, scenarios, and stories together. This goes back to the ‘setting agnostic’ comment I made earlier. Paizo has every right to be proud of Golarion, but making sure there’s plenty of room for people to have their own worlds is important, too.
I have high hopes for this edition of the Pathfinder RPG. Everyone at Paizo has shown how passionate they are about making this a fun and engaging game for everyone, and I hope what little our group has done helps them make it the best RPG ever. I’m very nervous about how it turns out, but that’s because I love Pathfinder. I wish everyone at Paizo and all my fellow gamers the best of luck. I’m so excited for what this new year has in store. God Bless.


Ow. OW.

You have good - great feedback, lots of interesting points, but OW. Your keyboard has an "enter" button. Please apply it less sparingly. I wanted to read that because I found your perspective interesting, but it was a struggle. :)


MaxAstro wrote:

Ow. OW.

You have good - great feedback, lots of interesting points, but OW. Your keyboard has an "enter" button. Please apply it less sparingly. I wanted to read that because I found your perspective interesting, but it was a struggle. :)

I typed it out in Libre Office. I guess the transfer didn't work as intended.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Great feedback and thoughts - it is interesting reading other people's take on the changes between editions.
There are aspects of all versions of RPGs that people like/dislike or are meh on.

My group & I use the 'rules' as guide to our fun and have never let them interfere with the fun.
What I say to anyone playing any RPG is if your not having fun then why are you playing?
Like you I am a little apprehensive about what the final product is going to be like because if there is no backward compatibility with previous adventures/characters etc.. then you have lost something. That something is what made/makes the game great for so many people.
WoTC found this out when they made 4th Ed Paizo please do not make the same mistake they did.


I really don't understand the constant throwing around of the spectre of 4e.

Do people really have that little faith in Paizo?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I do genuinely think 2e is the right direction, and I've got full faith in Paizo to put something amazing out. I really didn't love Doomsday Dawn, and I think it left a sour taste in a lot of players mouths because of the mechanics side (story was pretty great!), which was not so great- but the second I tried it in regular campaign stuff, enjoyment skyrocketed past anything we did in 1e.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
MaxAstro wrote:

I really don't understand the constant throwing around of the spectre of 4e.

Do people really have that little faith in Paizo?

It was not meant as a dig (or lack of faith) at Paizo but more of please don't mess too much with a system & lore that works.

Hence the reason I made the comment about 4E - considering I have played RPGs since Original DnD Red-box, I have seen quite a few edition changes not just in DnD style games but many.

My apprehension stems from the statements elsewhere on Forums & FAQs that PF2 is not backwards compatible - which means the hundreds of man hours spent designing/writing my own World plus products I have bought are now going to be useless if this is the case; which for me equals the same state 4E presented my group with, which in turn made us pick up PFRPG.


Thrandir wrote:


My apprehension stems from the statements elsewhere on Forums & FAQs that PF2 is not backwards compatible - which means the hundreds of man hours spent designing/writing my own World plus products I have bought are now going to be useless if this is the case; which for me equals the same state 4E presented my group with, which in turn made us pick up PFRPG.

I think it's weird to single that out as a '4e' issue when lack of direct backwards compatibility is really pretty common for new editions of things, and 4e was not the first (or last, the tremendously successful 5e also doesn't work with older content) version of D&D to do so.

It sucks to have things you made no longer work, and I can understand not being able to justify moving over because of that, but calling it a 'mistake' on Paizo's part really isn't very accurate, in the grand scheme of things - I for one am very interested in a system more radically different from the 3.X chassis than anything with backwards compatibility could achieve.

I believe there is at least one company working on their own 'revised pathfinder', if you'd like to keep an eye on it - 'Porphyra', I think it was called, though there may be others as well.


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In 2012 I ran the D&D 3.5 version of Rise of the Runelords as a Pathfinder campaign. The website d20pfsrd had posted fan-created conversions of the opponents in the modules to Pathfinder rules, so I printed them out and swapped them for the descriptions in the modules. It was not difficult because I had those fan-created conversions. Now I am retired and have time, so I can make the conversions myself (and post them to a fan site for others to use).

For Pathfinder 2nd Edition, most of the differences from Pathfinder 1st Edition will be in the creatures and characters. Though the turn-based system was switched from move-standard-swift turns to three-action turns, that aspect of Pathfinder was not recorded in the modules, so the modules don't have to be changed. However, I do have a list of details to worry about that did not apply in a D&D 3.5-to-Pathfinder conversion.

1. Many popular combat feats are now fighter-only class feats, so I will need substitutes.

2. Some feats that share the same name between PF1 and PF2 now act differently, so I might have to substitute those, too. For example, PF1 Power Attack is useful for characters with a high attack bonus. PF2 Power Attack serves better with a low attack bonus.

3. The DCs of hazards might need to be changed. Due to the +level to proficiency, the PF2 characters might have higher skill bonuses. Or due to lack of +3 from class skills, they might have lower skills bonuses. I will have to make a conversion chart, that might change with level.

4. Some PF1 class features became optional PF2 class feats. I will have to decide whether to drop an optional class feat in order to grab a more thematic feat.

5. Level differences might be more extreme. In Pathfinder 1st Edition, each level increased the power of the character by about 41%. In PF2 my current estimate is that each level increases the power of the character by about 68%. This means that a level+3 creature, a major boss, in PF1 was 2.82 times as strong as an individual party member but still weaker than a 4-member party. A level+3 creature in PF2 could be 4.74 times as strong as an individual party member, stronger than the entire 4-member party. I will have to find some way to rebalance the encounter.

Issues 1 through 3 can be handled by creating substitution charts, so they are only a minor problem. Issue 4 is a benefit rather than a problem. Issue 5 might require rewriting encounters. Nevertheless, the PF1-to-PF2 conversion of adventure paths looks manageable.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
FowlJ wrote:

I think it's weird to single that out as a '4e' issue when lack of direct backwards compatibility is really pretty common for new editions of things, and 4e was not the first (or last, the tremendously successful 5e also doesn't work with older content) version of D&D to do so.

It sucks to have things you made no longer work, and I can understand not being able to justify moving over because of that, but calling it a 'mistake' on Paizo's part really isn't very accurate, in the grand scheme of things - I for one am very interested in a system more radically different from the 3.X chassis than anything with backwards compatibility could achieve.

I believe there is at least one company working on their own 'revised pathfinder', if you'd like to keep an eye on it - 'Porphyra', I think it was called, though there may be others as well.

Actually 5E is more compatible with what my group use than 4E, but that aside as I said issue is the time & money spent. From my viewpoint at this point in time I cannot see myself converting to PF2, this is always subject to change.

The 'mistake' I was referring to was the throwing out of lots of lore of the older version(s). I did not say Paizo is making a mistake, was stating please don't ignore the lore - which is something I feel is important. I have since read they are not going to do this which lessen my apprehension on that score.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Mathmuse wrote:

1. Many popular combat feats are now fighter-only class feats, so I will need substitutes.

2. Some feats that share the same name between PF1 and PF2 now act differently, so I might have to substitute those, too. For example, PF1 Power Attack is useful for characters with a high attack bonus. PF2 Power Attack serves better with a low attack bonus.

3. The DCs of hazards might need to be changed. Due to the +level to proficiency, the PF2 characters might have higher skill bonuses. Or due to lack of +3 from class skills, they might have lower skills bonuses. I will have to make a conversion chart, that might change with level.

4. Some PF1 class features became optional PF2 class feats. I will have to decide whether to drop an optional class feat in order to grab a more thematic feat.

5. Level differences might be more extreme. In Pathfinder 1st Edition, each level increased the power of the character by about 41%. In PF2 my current estimate is that each level increases the power of the character by about 68%. This means that a level+3 creature, a...

Totally agree with you on these except maybe point 3 - Ever since the intro of DC I've always used an one the spot set of decisions and gone with the DC that makes it appropriate for the situation and suitable for the sake of the story.


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I'm not speaking only to you Thrandir - I see lots of people on these forums say things like "Paizo, please don't make the same mistake 4e did!".

What confuses me is how anyone could think Paizo needs to be told what 4e's mistakes were. Paizo literally owes its continued existence as a company to the mistakes 4e made. It would be very strange to think they haven't spent quite a lot of time over the years studying 4e and what it did wrong, and even stranger to think they didn't consider that same research when setting out to make 2e.


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MaxAstro wrote:

I'm not speaking only to you Thrandir - I see lots of people on these forums say things like "Paizo, please don't make the same mistake 4e did!".

What confuses me is how anyone could think Paizo needs to be told what 4e's mistakes were. Paizo literally owes its continued existence as a company to the mistakes 4e made. It would be very strange to think they haven't spent quite a lot of time over the years studying 4e and what it did wrong, and even stranger to think they didn't consider that same research when setting out to make 2e.

I would venture to say that half of the PF2 design team should be intimately familiar with the failures of 4e, given that they were partially responsible for them.


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Another thing was brought to my attention by a player. Namely the way class feats work. Or don't? He said that it was frustrating spending so much time making a character that could do less. It seems like many things that came standard with a class in Pathfinder are now things you have to choose at the expense of others in 2E.

I recall remaking my very first Pathfinder character in 2E. It's hardly even the same character, anymore. How are people going to move campaigns or characters over to this new edition?


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Alabaster Scarf wrote:

Another thing was brought to my attention by a player. Namely the way class feats work. Or don't? He said that it was frustrating spending so much time making a character that could do less. It seems like many things that came standard with a class in Pathfinder are now things you have to choose at the expense of others in 2E.

I recall remaking my very first Pathfinder character in 2E. It's hardly even the same character, anymore. How are people going to move campaigns or characters over to this new edition?

I, too, tried recreating an early Pathfinder character back on September 3, 2018 as part of a discussion whether the Pathfinder 2nd Edition characters seemed more limited because of the lack of supplemental books. My ranger Abu Gorgoni had been originally built using only the Core Rulebook. The new PF2 character ended up with fewer ranger-like abilities but stronger in combat.

My conclusion from that experience and from watching my playtesters create characters is that in Pathfinder 2nd Edition the characters' power in combat comes mostly from the +1 per level to all proficiencies. The parts that we players chose, such as feats, are the weak parts. They are handy for roleplaying, but not as effective as the proficiency numbers.

For example, one player made a wizard with fighter archetype for In Pale Mountain's Shadow and did a good job in melee combat, because the fighter's trained proficiency in martial weapons and armor was enough to be good at melee.

Numbers are strong in Pathfinder and a lot of the strongest feats in Pathfinder 1st Edition merely gave better numbers. However, numerical feats, such as Weapon Focus's +1 to attack rolls, are boringly invisible during roleplaying. Paizo tried to move the numbers out of the feats to make the effects of the feats more flavorful. That resulted in weaker feats.

Furthermore, the proficiency and hit points give so much that strong class feats would be overkill. See my comment #5 about power increase by level in my January 16th comment above. This effects the monsters, too. Alabaster Scarf said in the original post, "The battle with the Earth Elemental was astoundingly short, lasting only one round, but the Water Elemental fight lasted over six, and nearly killed the party." The Earth Elemental was Creature 3, one level below the party, and the Water Elemental was Creature 5, one level above the party. One or two levels makes a lot of difference.

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