Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pathfinder Second Edition

I was initially a bit disappointed to hear of the second edition. But after some though I realized that Pathfinder 1 has some issues and maybe a new version could fix them up. After all In some ways Starfinder has made improvements over Pathfinder so it would just be a matter of finding the sweat spot between the two.

If you had asked me a  month ago what I didn't like about Pathfinder my list would look something like this:

1. Christmas Tree Effect: Most classes need magic items to be effective. This is especially notable in that usually these items are usually the same for everybody. Cloak of resistance, Belt of physical stats, Headband of mental stats, ring of protection, amulet of natural armor and apparently a 6th item I'm forgetting.

2. After level 10 you are pretty much guaranteed success or failure. Pathfinder rewards specialization so you are either so good at a task you don't fail or the DC is so high you'd never bother to attempt it.

There are a few more but these are the big ones.

Starfinder does a pretty good job tackling my first issue. Stat booster items are rare and strictly limited. Most magic or tech items give you an ability you didn't have before and might let you do something cool like fly temporarily, or get a breath weapon. Power level of these items seems appropriate. Stat items are not needed because of the healthy increases every 5 levels.

Pathfinder 2E takes this limiting to a whole new level by introducing resonance. Each magical item usage costs resonance points on a per use or daily basis. I'm not really sure what problem this is trying to solve. CLW wands allow parties without a healer to function in 1E. Starfinder takes care of this issue with the Stamina/Rest system. 2E just nerfs healing altogether. Unless you have a cleric that wants to only use healing spells get used to having a short adventuring day.  It seems like really poor game design to me and huge step backwards from everything they've done before. Not everyone should need a healbot in their party. It sucks when that healbot is you.

After seeing 2E's solution to point 2, I'm not so sure if it's a problem worth solving. In 2E optimizing really doesn't seem possible with the Beta rules. Your rates of success are always relatively fixed. There's really no sense of progression. You hit 50% of the time at level 1 and 50% of the time at level 20. The flip side of this is that even things you've never invested in at all you still have a 30% success rate.

For me part of the fun of 1E was coming up with a character concept and then digging through the myriad of splat books trying to find the right combination of options and bonuses to make it work. In 2E you can't do this. The classes are all very rigid and any sort of bonus is very rare and often limited to obscure situations.

A lot of the class options seem to fall into this area. You get a +1 bonus when performing this rarely used skill on the third full moon of the year.I think over all the power level of 2E is much lower than 1E. Most class options felt under powered, rarely useful, or just bland and boring.

And why is everything a Feat?

Goblins as a player race? Really? Goblins, that eat dogs and children. Goblins that think written words are evil. How do they get a +2 to charisma? They are stupid little anarchist devils.

It's not all bad. I like the new action system. Bards, rogues and fighters all seem pretty good. The cleric seems like the strongest overall (probably to entice people to actually want to play a healer). The ranger options and weak and limited. Why anyone would play one is beyond me. So far they are this edition's Rogue. Paladin is pretty bad too. Alchemist is unplayable until they fix resonance. I haven't really looked at the druid. Barbarian seems ok but many of its options fall into the useless/corner case/boring categories. And Superstition, wtf were they thinking there? Being unable to use magic in exchange for a tiny bonus? The same applied in 1E but only when raging and the bonuses were good enough to make it worth the risk. This is just a terrible waste of page space.

Sadly that's what a lot of the options seem to be to me. A waste of page space. I seriously wonder if you took a level 10 character with no class feats (/ugh, shiver) and compared them to level 10 character with class feats and see the difference in performance. I think it would be very small.

Starfinder has straightjacket classes as well but at least the options are varied, useful and interesting. When you look at all of the available options and don't like any of them, the game has a serious problem.

For Paizo's sake I hope they turn things around. They've done good things in the past so I have some faith that they'll turn things around. But from looking at the the design choices so far it looks like they are trying to build a game I have no interest in playing. Which isn't so bad. I still have lots of unused character ideas for 1E and as more things get added to Starfinder hopefully I'll find that system as enjoyable as some people in my gaming group already do.

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