I’ve been playing Pathfinder RPG for about 10 years now. Back then, I liked they based it on D&D 3.5 rule set, which was the basis of my campaign back then. I also liked it wasn’t Wizards of the Coast, and it wasn’t D&D 4th Edition. It’s a poor way to choose a rule set based on what it is NOT, but having been a D&Der since the boxed set days, I was burned out by the constant rule edition changes and mountains of supplements and add-ons. And I, being a geek, was always there with my charge card out.
For for about a decade I’ve been playing Pathfinder. During that time it has added mountains of supplements and add-ons; but unlike WOTC, it has remained true to the base 3.5 system it inherited a decade ago.
But in early 2018 Paizo announced a new version of Pathfinder would be available for play-testing in August. This announcement didn’t surprise me. The D&D boys at Wizards put out an excellent new 5e edition (finally sticking a dagger in the late, unlamented 4th edition fiasco). Wizards finally quit pandering to the electronic gamer geeks and back to RPG gamers, who are the ones who spend the money. People were climbing back onboard the D&D bandwagon. As a business owner, I get it; Paizo was losing paying customers and needed to fight for the stereotypical tight-fisted role-playing-gamer’s money.
As with their previous edition, Paizo provided free play-test rules so players can try the game out, pick out any errors or offer suggestions. Because as the world knows by now, geeks do not hold their opinions on anything dealing with gaming, fantasy, Star Wars and/or Star Trek. When it comes to our areas of expertise, we are the internet’s WORST trolls.
When Paizo made the Playtest Rulebook available for download (link), I quickly grabbed a copy and have spent the last few days reading it.
Player character (PC) creation is not as customizable as the previous edition. but the rules allow for more modification in game play. Players can swap out a PC’s feats, skill levels, even domains. These changes cannot occur in the middle of the dungeon, but once a character has some downtime, players can alter them.
The rules streamline character creation. It is now possible to complete a character build in under 30 minutes. It doesn’t appear to be as fast as D&D 5e, but overall feels like a good compromise.
One of my concerns with this new edition is how they handle multi-classing. In the first edition, characters could take levels in different classes, allowing players to create a unique character that fits their character concept. For example, if a player wanted a Wizard that was also a kick-ass swordsman, as long as the character had suitable attributes, the wizard could take a level or 2 in the fighter class. Eventually the player would have a character that might LOOK like a wimp in the tavern, but could break a few jaws if a bar-fight. broke out.
Multi-classing in Pathfinder 2E is different. As this new rule-set relies heavily on feats, the same wizard character in the example about would not take fighter class levels. Instead, the wizard would take a multiclass feat and then choose fighter feats. While in theory this design choice makes sense as characters are still leveling in their primary class but gaining different class abilities. Players characters should be more balanced, but it’s debatable if players will have the flexibility of the older editions to create a unique character design. Historically, this has been a strength of Pathfinder; I would hate for players to lose that capability.
While I know “real” role-players will argue the point, the fact is that the heart of any good role-playing game are the combat rules. At its core, an RPG is the inevitable fight of good versus evil. The players’ characters find and fight the evil villain and their minions. That is the basis for 99.9 published adventures in this genre. All that being said, I’ve never cared for the combat rules for the Pathfinder 1st Edition. Rather than a cohesive group fighting the monsters and bad guys, because of the combat rule limitations, the first edition felt more like a series of one-on-one slugfests between each PC and their opponent. Even the introduction of the Pathfinder Ultimate Combat rules did little to change this problem.
Unfortunately, the Pathfinder 2E rules don’t entirely do away with this issue. However, the new rules place more emphasis on Reactions and Free Actions, providing triggers to let out-of-turn characters to affect the ongoing fight. A well-oiled group should be able to make consistent combat plans and use a strategy more coordinated than the PCs taking turns beating their opponent to a blood pulp.
Paizo streamlines the new combat rules in this new edition and mad them consistent with one other. Gone (thank the gods!) are the old edition’s terrible grappling rules. Replacing them are rules that mirror weaponed combat.
Overall, I’m impressed with the new edition of Pathfinder. While the rules are still in testing, they are already more consistent and structured than the old rules. Pathfinder 2E feels like a combination of the simplicity of D&D 5e and the “feel” of the 1st edition of Pathfinder. Game mechanics are simplified but still address almost any situation players can think up. Throw in the fact that Paizo has a much better reputation as a company who supports their customers, and it is easy to believe that Pathfinder 2E will be a success.