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I’ve been a Paizo fan since Burnt Offerings. Pathfinder has been my primary RPG since the Core Rulebook arrived at my house a decade ago. My experience with new editions of most other RPGs did not get me excited because it usually was more about revenue goals than refinement or evolving the game. (Savage Worlds being a notable exception of how to do it right.) Change for Change’s sake is NOT a good thing, in my experience.
Even with new-edition ‘signals’ such as PF Unchained! and Starfinder I was hoping that when the inevitable PF2 came around it would be a Refinement approach instead of the Rebuild mentality traditionally adopted by WotC. I was not interested in a new edition. I did, however, understand the likely necessity of PF2 from a business perspective.
Then the blogs began teasing PF2. Initial resistance gave way to intrigued interest. Not only that, it seemed that many “wish list” items were being incorporated: spell-less rangers, ancestries and backgrounds vs. the inelegant trait system, the new action economy, and yes…even Resonance. I found myself eagerly awaiting each new tease of PF2 info and it became evident that a genuine desire to innovate for the betterment of the game – on both sides of the GM screen – was a driving force. Some changes might be radical, but they weren’t changes for Change’s sake.
Like many on the forums, I suspect, that (in my case unexpected) enthusiasm caused me to lose sight of the Playtest goal, or at least it’s primary one: to playtest the rules. Like many, I got caught up in the cycle of “speak loudly and often lest your voice go unheard”. And I was disheartened, annoyed, and disgusted when stating a design preference about a game resulted in…we’ll call it less than meaningful discourse. I was told my preferences had no place in Pathfinder, ANY restriction of magic or demigod-like power was bad, that the power curve HAD to climb or PF2 was a failure out of the gate, and that 5e was a better place for my desire for more grounded fantasy. The boards were becoming increasingly toxic, they weren’t fun to read or a way to decompress anymore. So I decided to check out 5e and see if they were right.
D&D 5e is a fine game. I actually found a lot in the design that I liked. Unsurprisingly, a lot of that design looked like a Pathfinder variant (i.e. similarities, not plagiarism). However, the ‘well-intentioned’ claims of Club Take-Your-Ball-and-Play-Elsewhere were wrong. 5e was not a low, or even lower-magic game. Sure the math was flatter but magic was just as prevalent as it was in 3e. And presumably, 4e. I dunno, I skipped 4e for Pathfinder. Bottom line, 5e wasn’t going to scratch my Pathfinder itch.
After experiencing the design changes of Starfinder (which I love, btw), I started revisiting PF2. I wasn’t in a position to participate in the Playtest but I weighed in on the surveys where possible. More importantly, I started digging into the system more by making characters and running some mock combats. I watched the Paizo videos. I listened to the Glass Cannon playtest sessions.
I don’t know what the final form of PF2 will take. It has become abundantly clear to me, however, that Paizo is truly seeking to innovate and improve Pathfinder, to separate the PF1 wheat from the 3.x chaff that perhaps got improved in PF1 but never got fixed. I’ve taken many PF1 characters and rebuilt them as best I could in PFP form. In every case, the PFP version is more thematically interesting. They appear to be more competent in the way action heroes and swords-and-sorcery heroes are without going the trite route of MOAR POWER. I can see how they are trying to clean up areas and open up new design space. I can see the potential for (please, oh please, oh please) modular dials and levers that a GM could employ to use the PF2 chassis to fit a variety of play styles.
Of course, I do have concerns. Legendary proficiency in many cases seems geared for campaign-consistency-breaking gonzo wonkiness that I despise. I worry that the magic “un-nerf” will swing the pendulum to the other side. I worry that the math will only support one style-of-play (High-to-Epic Fantasy) and will cause the Zero-to-Demigod path to be an express-lane. Will I really like having NPCs utilizing a different character creation system than the players? Will the dreaded Christmas Tree Effect survive another edition? Will magic feel more, well, magical? Will goblins still be menacing, if often inept, fire-loving psychos?
Ultimately, though, those are minor concerns. Since the end of the playtest, developer comments, videos, interviews, etc. have helped me conclude that they’re looking at the right things, that the TEST was a plan and that they’re pleased with what the execution of that test produced. I see character builds that I want to see tried at the table. I see the promise of intrinsic GM tools that will make the game easier to run and easier to teach to new players. I see the potential for a game that is easier to run so that my youngest child who loves to play PF1 will try running a game of his own rather than being intimidated by PF1’s complexity.
I truly appreciate the effort and care that Paizo is putting into PF2. I eagerly await its release. Thanks for the past decade of Pathfinder greatness and I hope that the next decade leads to even greater success for the Pathfinder game and Paizo.
|Barnabas Eckleworth III
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As someone who has been running Pathfinder since Kingmaker, this post speaks to me.
I have different concerns than you do - I like the over-the-top gonzoness of high level play, and I'd love to see it implemented in a way that isn't fundamentally broken like it was in PF1e.
But despite different specifics, I think we are coming at PF2e as a whole from very much the same place. And yeah, I'm pretty full of hope for the new system as well. :)
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I truly believe the 2nd edition is going to be a far different animal than the playtest. I just feel it'll still be recognizable as Pathfinder. There's no way that after 10 years that the game designers will suddenly turn brain dead and put out a terrible game system for being too close to see it's flaws. I really do have nothing but optimism for it.