|3 people marked this as a favorite.|
PF2 I would say is less complex but has more depth than PF1. The rules are much more unified, you're not dedicated headspace to a grappling flowchart anymore nor are you tracking BAB or asking your GM for help figuring out how to multiclass. The rules complexity has undeniably been dialed back, and the end result is a game that you can actually wrap your head around.
But the actual depth of the system seems to have expanded significantly. The 3 action system combined with a host of action-oriented feats and spells has created immense tactical variety. The prevalance of full attacks and generally applicable spells in PF1 meant most turns resembled one another, without even the dimension of positioning mattering much because no one would move unless they absolutely had to. PF2 meanwhile has feats that can purchase actions that can combo into other actions. MAP and the two-action nature of most spells means there's usually a choice every turn where you do something of actual tactical significance, at least repositioning, swapping out weapons, making intimidation checks, what have you. And not making use of these new tactics will utterly crsh a party.
And because there's all this depth in play, there's some amount of depth in chargen. Feat chains are largely gone, instead offering mostly a la carte tactical options rather than straight upgrades to numbers. The number of arguably optimal builds therefore has increased significantly, almost to the point where you have to be sandbagging to create a character that is objectively suboptimal. Chargen is easier overall to understand, sure, but there's far more numerous optimal playstyles and fewer cookie-cutters that aren't sandbagging just to be different.
For those familiar with collectible card games, I'd say PF1's metagame would be like a CCG meta dominated by netdecks that are largely easy to pilot. You could certainly build your own character/deck and there's a huge amount of system mastery that can go into that deck/character building, but someone more clever than you has already posted a build online that is generally better and is almost braindead to pilot. In fact, most characters/decks are braindead to pilot, most of the "skill" in the game is just in the building. Fun for some, not so much others.
With PF2, I would say it's more like a Living Card Game with a small, heavily structured deck size and well-balanced cards and everything is actually hard to pilot. You're not choosing from the whole catalogue of cards/feats when choosing to fill slots in your deck/build, but choosing subsets, and the balance of your choices makes it very hard to make an especially bad or good deck/character. But because you just have way more choices each turn, there's no real autopilot, you have to think during each of your turns and work to alter the conditions of the board/encounter to be more favorable to you.
PF1's playstyle has a certain appeal to it, and more power to folk who prefer that more chargen-focused stuff. But I feel moving the system mastery from chargen to actual play was a good move. Pathfinder is inherently cooperative, so having a "high skill ceiling" relative to the floor is very undesirable, that's where you start overshadowing other players and it gets less fun, there's no matchmaking like in a video game to make sure you're always playing with similarly skilled people. Moving the skill from chargen to actual play is, aside from being more fun in my opinion, allows players to more naturally cooperate and share tactics so that the group as a whole is playing on a similar level, and players can more quickly iterate on what works and what doesn't (they can even respec their build to a limited degree to adapt). A newer player can get better at Pathfinder pretty quickly, and it feels more like victories are actually earned
That's what I mean by "deep but not complex." PF2 is still more complex than 5e because it's hard to be as simple as 5e and still have real character customization or involved tactical combat, but a lot of PF1's complexity added no depth whatsoever or even actively removed depth (like, again, grappling, which could be boiled own to just a flowchart and required such heavy investment that it just never came up for most PC's). Characters were harder to figure out how to build, but feat chains removed the actual variation quite a bit and the competition between combat relevant feats and everything else meant you weren't often making serious decisions between more utility-focused feats. Choice of race/ancestry was essentially automatic due to the wonkier attribute system. CMB to trip attempts did not make PF1 a better game.
PF2's probably not a game I would throw at someone if they're particularly flighty or expect TTRPG's to be very rules light, it's probably the crunchiest TTRPG with mass appeal made in the last decade. It's only really getting outcrunched by clusterf*!$s of systems like Shadowrun, Eclipse Phase, and maybe proper wargames. It's not a game you can just start playing within 5 minutes while barely mentioning the rules, and chargen is next to impossible in that timeframe without pregens.
I greatly appreciate this breakdown of things.