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Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest

   
Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest

I've seen a couple of the PF2 playtest games advertising, but no discussion on it yet. Do edition wars not inspire great excitement and mouth-frothing any more? What is the world coming to!? (Please note, edition wars are banned on MW and anyway I don't care enough, but I am surprised not to have seen any real discussion of it)

I only downloaded the PDF a little while ago and I've just been skimming it so I don't have many big opinions yet. There are a few things which are intriguing and a lot which I'm pretty leery on (but I'm withholding full judgement since I've not yet grokked enough of the rules to make a truly informed decision).

My main thought right now is, what the hell happened to multiclassing? It's saddening and disappointing (if not terribly surprising) that we've pretty much gone back to the 90s on this... actually, the multiclassing-as-archetypes system does not look to be quite as bad as I thought when I first read this, but it still feels like a very clunky way to implement things. In fact, the whole PF2 feats thing feels like an interesting idea implemented badly, IMO, at least so far - but I shall read more.

Anyway - initial thoughts, opinions? Let's remember that a lot of this is pretty subjective (not all of it; PF's game balance is mathematically and demonstrably awful in some cases, for example), especially stuff like how complex the rules are (e.g. I am of the opinion that dumbing down skills even further is a horrid thing to do, but I also know people who just won't play PF1 because it's a big headache for them as compared with 5e) and keep it civil, please.

EDIT: Also, this is not meant to be purely a load of PF2-bashing. Personally, I've not been very impressed by Paizo over the years (at least as mechanics-writers go - their APs are generally great, they just suck at the crunch) and anyway, I tend to focus on the things which are wrong (the things which are OK don't need much mention, unless they're particularly great), but I'm generally interested to see and discuss what they're trying here.

Now, I only spent a little while reading over the play test rules and haven't really delved into them, but there were a couple of things that popped out to me on the first read through.

1) Feats. I am tentatively optimistic about Feats - I like how they are trying to make everything into Feats now, instead of having discoveries and talents, etc. and how essentially you basically just get a list of Feats to choose from based on class, race, etc. I do have a couple issues with it right now. One is the lack of options, which tends to be a problem with new editions of anything for me and tends to be fixed pretty fast with later books. Another is how the Feats don't seem to be that much different from PF Feats - I.e. they don't do much. I was kind of hoping they would go the 5e route with Feats and make them do more. The Feats in 5e do a couple of different things, while in PF2.0 it still seems like I'm paying Feats just to be able be an archer.

2) Ability score boosts. I get what they were going for. Trying to make it so you can create an effective character no matter what race/class/background combo. But I still think point buy was a better system. Sure, people grumble about minmaxers dumping stats to get an 18 in STR and CON, or abandoning everything to boost that INT stat. But I don't think the proper response is to get rid of negative stats altogether. I think that there can be value in a character with bad stats. RP opportunities, encounters where you have to make that charisma check at a -4 because you are one ugly son of a gun, times where the wizard literally can't pick up his spell book because he has a terrible STR score - the negative aspects of your character are just as important as the positive aspects. And now every adventurer is at least average in every bad stat. And I am not a fan.
(I realize they include a side note about rolling for stats, or that you could just houserule in a point buy system. But since we are talking about 2.0's core system, that means that we have to address their default method of stat generation. Which is ability boosts.)

3) The Alchemist. I was really excited when they said that alchemist was a core class for 2.0. Its one of my top 3 favorite classes in 1.0 (the other two being monk and kineticist) and I enjoyed how many concepts I managed to create with it. And then I got a look at 2.0's alchemist...and I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, blowing stuff up I said fun, but the way that 2.0's alchemist is designed, that is the only thing you can do with an alchemist. And I'll be honest, bombs are always the first feature I get rid of with the 1.0 alchemist. At level 1 most or all of the Feats you can get on an alchemist all deal with bombs, and mutagens and alchemy related stuff don't pop up until level 5. Extracts don't even exist anymore. And although I like how it seems to imply that they are making it so nonmagical items are going to remain relevant at high levels, the way the Alchemy class feature drains resonance seems to discourage it's use at all.

I dunno. The 1.0 alchemist feels like a versatile chassis to me, one I can make a lot of character concepts from. The 2.0 one feels like Paizo only ever thought of the class as a cackling goblin throwing firebombs around.

4) Races. I'm torn about races. On one hand, I like how you get race Feats now, and can grab Feats that make sense to your character rather than having a fighter with training in illusion magic as a trait despite the fact your backstory says you have never touched magic in your life. On the other, it seems to me that with racial HP on top of ability boosts, they are encouraging you to always make a dwarven fighter and never make Elven barbarians. Yes, you can take the hit to HP at level one and stick to your guns. But less people will purely because of the mechanical disadvantage. Which means less character variations seen at the table. And this seems wrong to me in a system that is touted as being incredibly customizable.

5) Mastercrafted items. I really like that the quality of the craftsmanship of an item matters now. It always bugs me in 1.0 that being a good smith only lets you add a +1 to hit at best, and only allows you to charge 150-300 gold for your effort, but a wizard can take that blade, some dust, and mutter some mumbo jumbo and bam, that blade is a better weapon than the smith could ever hope to craft. Yes, you can take a feat to make magic weapons without spells, but I always feel like magic shouldn't be required to make a really good sword. Or that every bit of useful gear above level 3 shouldn't be magic. So I think that this feels like a step in the right direction.

6) The action economy. Simplifying the action economy is always a good thing, and I like how 2.0 went about it. I especially like how they made spells do different things dependent on how long you spent casting them. Now you can cast that spell for the whole round to get the most out of that slot, or give up some potential energy to get spells off faster.

There are plenty of other mechanics in 2.0 that I have opinions on, but I don't have the PDF with me, and I am too far out to download it right now. So I'm not going to say anything about Resonance or backgrounds without double checking that I am in fact remembering the mechanics properly. So we'll leave it at that.

As for multiclassing, I think that game companies feel that that is where most sources of imbalance in their systems come from, people cherry picking abilities from all classes, and so by curtailing people's ability to do it effectively, they make their game easier to balance for them. Completely uninformed opinion on my part, and one I disagree with, since I like mashing a couple of classes together to see what I get.

I've had similar thoughts about some of those things.

Feats... Yeah, like many things Pathfinder, it feels like not an awful idea but a bad execution. I particularly dislike how feats are presented as part of classes, which IMO clutters them up (even though it's only a very minor superficial thing). Given that so many PF classes has menu-option abilities with "Extra XYZ" feats, just making those a global thing makes a decent amount of sense. You're right, though - looking at some of these feats, they appear to be almost useless! The first one I see is Ancestral Hatred: Get a +1 bonus to damage vs goblins. Seriously? Gain an immediate-action +2 to a save (sounds weak)... but you also suffer a magic-item-related drawback. Maybe my expectations are calibrated to 3.5/PF1 standards and actually a +1 bonus is quite big in PF2, but if nothing else a lot of these feats are quite boring.

Ability scores... actually look more prone to min/maxing now. They basically cost a flat rate up to 18 (unlike PF1's point buy, which has increasing costs, actually more so than 3.5-style point buy) and it doesn't look like there's any reason for a person not to have an 18 (actually, it appears to let you put more than one of your four free boosts in the same stat, so you can go right from 10 to 18 that way, plus you'll get at least one from your class). In a way, I like that because it means you don't have to be a member of a race with the right stat, but mostly you're going to end up with all 10s and 18s I feel. (Interestingly, rolling is still bell-curve, though it's presented as a variant anyway)

The much bigger boosts as you go up in level will also result in everyone having huge stats all the time. I don't really like 3.5/PF's expontential power curve and stats especially feel a bit silly to me - how does a human Fighter get to be almost as strong as an ogre at L1 and stronger than a giant by the higher levels? So long as they haven't reintroduced "X stat to Y" this may not matter so much, but I'm still leery of it.

Also, disappointing that they kept 3.5-style stats at all. Why do we need scores and modifiers? I would rather just have a stat that ranges from -5 to +5 or something. I guess this makes the half-boost-after-18 work but I'd rather have had them rework that a bit to be honest.

The racial hit points have a nice effect, which is that even L1 characters are a teeny bit tougher. Again with the power curve thing, having a L1 Wizard have maybe 4-5 hp whilst it's more than doubled by L3 always seemed a bit off (plus a L1 Barbarian might have 14 hp or more!). What with the worst hp in the book and a penalty to Con, though, Elves are going to be super-squishy and basically bad for any class at L1, I suspect (especially if you want to play the archetypical Elven Wizard).

I haven't even looked at Resonance yet. It sounds like a really horrid clunky mechanic in the vein of, I dunno, Healing Surges. It's apparently intended as part of the changes to get rid of the "Christmas Tree effect" and the "Big Six" (a phenomenon that Paizo actually made worse in Pathfinder, ironically, whilst the MIC was ameliorating it slightly at least for 3.5) which is definitely a good thing, IMO, so we'll see. It feels though like the fluff is quite poor and just an excuse to have the mechanic for balance reasons. I also don't necessarily want to subscribe to the fluff that magic items always require some kind of personal willpower or something. Like I said, though, we'll see.

All in all... it doesn't look like an awful system, and it does feel kind of more streamlined and simplified than PF1, though maybe that's just because it's newer. There's a lot I'm not keen on so far but that's not terribly surprising I guess (there's a lot I didn't like about PF1).

EDIT: Oops, wrote more than I intended there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkmythbattler View Post
As for multiclassing, I think that game companies feel that that is where most sources of imbalance in their systems come from, people cherry picking abilities from all classes, and so by curtailing people's ability to do it effectively, they make their game easier to balance for them. Completely uninformed opinion on my part, and one I disagree with, since I like mashing a couple of classes together to see what I get.
Well, that's possibly true. It certainly makes things harder to balance (just because, well, there's more emergent gameplay). It's possibly also true that amongst the target market the opinion is that multiclassing = evil, too (though maybe I'm unfairly overgeneralising a lot of PF players as the sorts of foolish ex-D&D people who say things like "role play over roll play" and "OMG Psionics is too sci-fi" or "OMG Psionics is overpowered" or whatever).

We all know that in 3.5/PF, multiclassing is usually not the most powerful thing you can do (because then you're not playing a straight Wizard) so this feels a bit dumb, however. I think the class feats were maybe an opportunity to take another stab at it (imagine if your choice of class feats was partially or totally governed by character level rather than level in a specific class, creating something more like ToB), which has been missed.

Feats...
Yea. The reason why I really like 5e's Feats is not just because each one does a couple of things, but each one opens up options for your character. Even the ones that provide boosts are still opening up options - like the feat that gives proficiency in a couple of skills. Technically, it just provides a numerical boost to something you can already do. But because of the way 5e works, that is still opening an option for you, because it means that you will now make that Athletics check, or try to disarm that trap, because now your character has training and thus is something they would actually attempt, rather than finding an alternate solution. In my opinion, every feat, class feature, and ability should add a tool to your character's toolbox. If it does not pass that test, it is shouldn't exist. I don't need a +1 to hit goblins to reinforce the fact my character hates goblins, I can say that in my backstory. But give me the ability to knock back small creatures I hit 5*(lvl/5) feet or something, that is a feat choice that is fluffy, useful, and hilarious.

Ability scores...
Yea, that's the other thing I liked about point buy. Because it cost less to boost an ability from 10 to 11 than 17 to 18, it incentivized people do stick a few points in those stats that were less critically important. Oh, the 2 points I have left isn't enough to boost my important scores? I'll stick them in INT, get an extra skill and play a guy who's of a higher than average intelligence. Now there's no reason to stick boosts places you don't need them except for fluff.

I don't mind the power curve in 3.5/PF as much. It can be mitigated or avoided if you really want by limiting point buy and access to magic items. Plus, it enables a true high fantasy style of play. At level 20, my character feels like a god, and I think that is fine. Other systems like 5e have a lower fantasy feel, and that is fine too - they're better for different things.

I do agree that keeping the 3.5 style stats might not have been the best idea. I think that they just want to avoid their system feeling too different, since it's original target audience was people who didn't like the changes to another system. The changes that they made to it do seem like they would have been better off overhauling how scores worked completely. Start them at 0 and give +1/-1 boosts as necessary. That's probably one of the first things I always have to explain to newcomers to DnD, that 10 means +0 and 18 means +4. It makes sense to me now, but if you want to simplify the math for newcomers, make it easier to understand in the first place.

Racial hit points...
I do like that it makes L1 characters tougher. One of the better house rules for HP in Pathfinder I've heard is to give people HD plus CON bonus plus CON score. It's a good boost that prevents accidental crits from dropping people at level 1, and just a nice extra chunk of hp that becomes less relevant later on. I do like how racial HP helps with that, I just dislike the disparity it creates between races at level 1. I mean, there's no real reason why everything needs to be in multiples of two with static HP, just make humans 9 HP, Dwarves 10, and elves 8. There's still enough difference for fluff, just not the gap that makes me reconsider my dedication to playing an Elven fighter.

Resonance...
I didn't read up on resonance in depth, so my understanding of it is incomplete, but I don't understand why so many systems insist that everyone has to have a daily resource to manage. I mentioned earlier that one of my favorite PF 1.0 classes is the Kineticist, which is up there specifically because it has almost no daily resources. The only one that it does have has a thing least three abilities dedicated to avoiding expending that resource, making it more of something you use as a last possible resort. I don't mind having more limited options if I can use them at-will. I think the primary problem with Resonance is that it is going to quickly become their catch-all magic pool for classes to draw on, since they're already doing that for alchemists.

More to say on Resonance later, but I'm being called to dinner.

I don't mind daily resources - in fact I like the idea that every character has at least some kind of resource to manage - I'm just not keen on the idea of having to spend points from a limited pool just to drink potions. It's not like potions were overpowered in PF1 or anything. With points being equal to level + Cha modifier, I doubt it will really do anything to prevent the Christmas Tree effect either (since by the time you can actually afford and magic items, you can probably wear as many as you want), so I'm just not really sure what the point is.

The items themselves do look more interesting. Aside from the Belt of Giant Strength, there don't appear to be any mundane stat-booster-types (and the belt has some other properties too). I guess this is why they increased the innate ability boosts so much.

I haven't made my way through the PDF yet, so this is based on skimming + the preview articles, but:

They seem really committed to the idea of that buying Wands of Cure Light Wounds to deal with out-of-combat healing is Badwrong Fun that needs to be squashed, when I've never heard any player of DM ever complain about it in the ~20 years since D&D 3.0 came out. Like, even DMs who hate the Christmas Tree effect generally don't care about that, because healing up after battle is a boring necessity, not a crucial part of gameplay. It was not a thing that needed to be changed, but they've bent over backwards to stop it with the whole Resonance scheme.

Also, this is super-nitpicky, but I hate that when they write out the possible results of a check, they do it, "Success, Critical Success, Failure, Critical Failure." That's not in order from highest result to lowest. It should be "Critical Success, Success, Failure, Critical Failure." It's not the end of the world, but it bugs me.

EDIT: For that matter, the whole Critical Success thing itself seems like it will slow down play during an in-person game. One of the ways I keep the game moving along as DM is that when a roll is obviously going to succeed or fail by a mile, I don't have to add up every little modifier to get the final result. I can look at the die and the main modifier and say, "Oh, yeah, you got it. Roll for damage," or whatever. With this system, I will usually have to add every possible bonus or penalty to find out where it falls on the spectrum. That seems like it will add time to every check, which won't matter for us on Myth-Weavers but will matter during a tabletop game.

I would tend to agree with CactuarJedi. It seems to me that the biggest reason that the Resonance system was put in place was because they thought that someone using thirty charges of a wand of CLW after a fight wasn't "realistic". Something that could be better fixed by just limiting the number of magic items you can wear and providing a better method of recovering from wounds, as I'm pretty sure that most DMG calculations assume you start every adventuring day at full health, despite the fact that the only way the system supports that is through significant usage of healing spells and items.

Paizo also usually takes the stance that magic>mundane, which is kind of the source of their Christmas Tree problem. As I mentioned earlier with mastercrafted items, they seem to be taking a step back from this idea, which is nice. The Christmas tree effect isn't necessarily a problem in high fantasy either. I haven't looked over the listing of magic items yet, but if what TheFred says is true, and there are little in the way of items that provide directl boosts, then that seems like a step in the right direction as well.

Eh, I guess I can see the attraction. Firstly, new players often think that you need to have a Cleric (or similar) to heal. Arguably, not needing to have a Cleric to heal is a good thing (saves on the whole MMO-style "looking for healer" rubbish) but this is probably intended as niche protection for healers and having the optimal solution more closely match people's preconceptions does at least mean less explaining that actually, no, they shouldn't give a damn about healers or even the classic/cliched four-man party, and get a Bard instead or something.

I can also see the draw of hp actually mattering. If you always heal right back up to full after each fight (as is quite easy to do in 3.5/PF with a Wand of CLW), then hp only really matters if you lose all of it in one go. Afterwards - bam! - you're right back up to where you were, and getting hit only costs you a few gp.

A game where this happens all the time works just fine (one game I played in we were all monstrous races with fast healing, so we basically went into each fight in tip-top) but it's not necessarily the only way a game can work or the "best" way (I guess it's kind of subjective). Hell, getting injured is a really big deal in almost every real-world or fantasy setting so anyone who wants "gritty realism" should be in favour of that.

However, as fantasy systems go, I don't think it really hurts the game. It removes the boring bits and lets you get on with the action. I don't know, I guess I would like both options to be supported, but I'm not sure how I'd go about doing that.







 

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