Pathfinder 2e Playtest Retrospective

Well, we played through the Pathfinder 2e “Doomsday Dawn” adventure through 7th level (the first three scenarios, The Lost Star, In Pale Mountain’s Shadow, and Affair at Sombrefell Hall).

It was… fine.  It’s not super different from Pathfinder from a 10,000 foot view. The main changes were:

  • the “three actions a round” thing – you get three actions, which can be any mix of attacks at iterative -5s, or moves, or spells, or whatnot. made rounds take longer, but probably at higher levels cuts down on time since you can’t do 20 attacks.
  • how crits work – if you beat what you need by 10+. More crits but more math.
  • how magic weapons work, with plusses adding whole dice of damage.
  • Spell Points for everyone to power whatever innate abilities, but not spells, which kept confusing us.  Why not Power Points?
  • Random slight spell changes
  • A weird baseball diamond icon used to indicate how many actions something takes instead of just using a damn number
  • encumbrance simplified into “Bulk”
  • magic item slots simplified (?) with “Resonance”

It didn’t seem better or worse really, just different. You may recognize some of these specific rules from 5e, 4e, and other RPGs, none of it was real innovative.

Unfortunately, that is a bit of a deal-killer for us.  We have loads of PF 1e stuff, more than we can ever play.  We play other games too.  There’s no killer feature in PF 2e that makes us say “I really want to play this!” It’s unexciting.  And from running through the adventure, it’s not just on paper – in play it’s the same thing, like Pathfinder 1 but just with some warts removed and some new ones added. Huzzah?

I was leaning on Hero Lab hard for the deep NPC work in Pathfinder.  They’re (Wolf Lair) apparently not carrying on with existing Hero Lab, they’re abandoning it in favor of a new subscription-based online service (Hero Lab Online) that I’d get to pay for new and differently, despite investing probably near $1000 into HL over time. Again, starting over for “different but not better really.”

I mean, I don’t *dis*like the game – but it’s telling me “abandon all previous thousands of dollars of product, for something that’s… like it but slightly different.” And I’m not clear what I’d get out of that.

I love Golarion and their Adventure Paths (I got into it from being a Dragon and Dungeon subscriber and converted over).  They know how to write adventure and setting for sure.  In Pathfinder 1e the mechanics weren’t too revolutionary, but as they went on they had a knack for picking good and iconic classes instead of the weird junk WotC had been doing even in 3e/3.5e.  “Witch, Alchemist, Cavalier”, makes sense!  “Acolyte of the Skin! Candle Caster!” No. The archetype system allowed a lot of class customization and that was cool. Fun game, played it a lot, though I must admit over time the extreme amount of rules content caused us to play other, lighter games about 50/50 (they call it Mathfinder for a reason).  But heck, I’m still running a 5 year old Pathfinder campaign, it’s a good game. They’ve had good instincts and business practices. I wish Paizo well.

To really make PF2 a success like PF1 they’re going to have to come up with something besides “inertia of PF 1e players” to drive adoption. The kids nowadays are moving to D&D 5e. If I’m going to coast, I want to coast on the existing game.  For a new Pathfinder to get me to keep subscribing (to the tune of a lot of $$ per month), I need *something* new and exciting.  It could be more rules light, but doesn’t have to be, it could be anything really innovative. But it’s pretty clear they didn’t have a huge innovation in mind that drove them to make 2e – they just figured it was time and started cobbling something together. Is the setting new?  No, same setting I have 100 supplements for, they’ll just re-release the exact same content with some new stats so I won’t really get anything new.  Do the new rules unlock any new actual kinds of classes or characters?  No, so all the new supplements will just be “and now here’s the witch with some different rules.” What am I supposed to be looking forward to?  There’s not really messaging on that.  Check out their Web page – it’s just like “playtest this now.” It’s not even trying to hype me on something.

When D&D went from 1e to 2e to 3e, each time was a really big change and improvement. Hit tables to THAC0 to DCs level improvement. I just don’t see anything like that in Pathfinder 2e.  If it was released 10 years ago as “our new D&D killer” instead of 1e, I would have loved it and played it and it’d be in the exact same spot as 1e is now, like I say, there’s nothing wrong with it.  But after 10 years, a new edition should be something to really move the needle on your gaming, and after giving it a fair shot at play – it’s just not.  At least not in the current playtest form.  But I don’t have a lot of hope it will change dramatically from the playtest – I mean, I’m sure they’ll fix some of the issues, but you don’t fix “it’s not really that innovative” in a playtest.

I fear the net here is “I and the gamers I know here will keep playing PF 1e, just a bit less each year; we’ll wish Paizo well but not buy much.” Starfinder didn’t grab me (science fantasy isn’t my thing), and PF 2e isn’t grabbing me.  Maybe they’ll put out another RPG that’ll draw me in eventually, but thus far looks like I’ll need to pack up my love for Paizo products, put it in a box, and bring it out and remember it from time to time.

2 responses to “Pathfinder 2e Playtest Retrospective

  1. Myself and my group are in a similar boat, with the difference that we do enjoy Starfinder. But even that doesn’t feel like it is getting the support it needs, much less current Pathfinder errata that is needed.

  2. I think we’re in the same boat. I’ve been a subscriber since Age of Worms, and I’ve shelves full of the APs, hardbacks, player companions, campaign settings…
    We’ve played the first three, and have spent the last few years struggling through Shackled City and romping through Way of the Wicked. I don’t see anyone buying 2e, and since I haven’t even read the last five APs I’ll finally stop subscribing.
    Unless there’s a huge jump to awesomeness in the final 2e, of course. The way it is now, is just too many fiddly new mechanics that seem different just to be different. You summed it up with, “wish them well but not buy much”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.