Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest – First Play Thoughts

I decided to separate out my playtest feedback from my Pathfinder with Pop post on Snippets. If Pop decides to look back on his past adventures I don’t want that to be bogged down with system feedback.

In general, my initial impressions of Pathfinder Second Edition held true. I think this is a fantastic successor to Pathfinder 1e but there’s definitely room for improvement. Good thing this is a playtest.

Converting Pop’s Halfling Monk from Pathfinder 1e to the Playtest took forever. Each subsequent character was easier to generate but there’s a definite learning curve from Pathfinder 1e. I imagine this is especially difficult for optimizers who plan out their characters from level 1 to level 20. It was often necessary in Pathfinder 1e to analyze all the possibilities due to “trap options” but that really doesn’t seem necessary in the far better balanced playtest. I found it was easier and more fun to create characters once I embraced a more natural learning style of “That looks cool. I want to try it” rather than “how will this affect my build at level 15”. Remember that trading out feats is a downtime option now.

Some general edits that I’d like to see…

Subsection tabs for organization.
  • Character sheet: Where do ancestry non-feats go? Like Unburden? How about low light vision or darkvision? The bulk calculation is really confusing – would like that to be laid out more clearly. No section for unarmored proficiency – I used what I think is the exotic weapon slot but should have it’s own.
  • Equipment/Treasures: I’d like to see this section of the rulebook labelled and organized more clearly. Knowing where to look up potions, for instance, was perplexing. Also, could we have subsection tabs with the section tabs to help navigate to armor, weapons, gear quickly. See the attached photo from Ultimate Equipment. This actually might be a nice addition for all sections with subsections.
  • Spell DC: All classes have their own class DC now but the formula should still be repeated ad nauseam for casters.
  • Cantrips: How many does a prepared caster know? Had a terrible time finding this. Not included in the charts or the paragraph on cantrips – is noted in an earlier paragraph but buried in text. I’d like the spells known chart to be more comprehensive.
  • Spell Points: I’m not a fan of the name. It feels weird for non-casters to use “Spell Points” for their powers. I know using “Power Points” would  cause Dreamscarred Press some grief when they bring Psionics to the system but that wording feels more accurate.
  • Powers in the Spell Section: I’m not a fan of their inclusion here. I’d like to see them have their own subsection.
  • Backgrounds in Ancestry: I know B is the small fry in the A-B-C character creation phase but it’s hard to find it hiding at the back of the ancestry section. Same with languages. Would like it to stand out more.
  • A-B-C-4 Character Creation: It’s a silly mistake on my part but I completely skipped the four free ability boosts during my first character creation. Not a mistake I’ll make again but would like to see that better emphasized somehow?
  • Half Human: Any core ancestry should be able to be Half Orc or Half Elf. Would like the system to give by default the plethora of options that Pathfinder is known for.
  • Flurry of Blows: It’s not clear if the second strike has the standard penalty? I believe so but it would be good to make this more clear.

On the positive side of things…

  • Combat: Fast, fluid, and fun. Leagues superior to low level Pathfinder 1e. The new emphasis on movement and simplification of actions makes this a whole new game. Restricting AoO was a stroke of genius.
  • Characters: System has support for a massive range of characters. Building characters is rough at first but soon becomes fun – especially as there are fewer “trap options” as compared to Pathfinder 1e.
  • Skills: It felt wrong to see most skills between -1 and 0, but the DCs were adjusted to compensate and it was well balanced (at least at level one). The streamlined skills make sense but would like to see more skill boosts/signature skills. The Monk especially felt limited on the skill front.
  • Silver Economy: It’s a surprisingly significant adjustment but the new silver economy seems great. Most mundane items are available for copper or silver, while most entry level magic items can be had for a handful of gold. This definitely gives the world a more grounded feeling and offers a more measured progression. Gold feels meaningful.
  • Skill Tiers: I’d like it if the scenario noted skill tiers for checks. For instance, a Religion check could have an Expert tag to designate that Recall Knowledge needed an E proficiency or higher to gain certain information. This is something that I’ll do fluidly in my homebrew sessions but would be nice to outline in an published adventure. 

Part One of Doomsday Dawn is scheduled for Saturday and I’m hoping to see more of…

  • Criticals: We only had one and it was just double damage. I want to see more of the four degrees of success system in action. 
  • Spellcasting: My DMPC was the only caster and basically did nothing. Want to see how casters hold up and how spells balance out now.
  • Ranged Attacks: The player characters were all melee this time and the thugs were almost non-threats. I want to see how ranged characters do in this system; I suspect the action economy and restriction of AoO benefits them immensely.
  • Hero Points: This didn’t get used at all but I’d like to see how they influence the game. Curious why Paizo decided to include these in the system.
  • Tactics: The new action economy and restricted AoO access opens up a whole new world of tactics… Interested to see if the players start using more strategy, especially as their foes start doing more hit & run.
  • Dying: I’ve heard that the playtest is a lot more brutal than Pathfinder 1e but that definitely wasn’t my experience with Snippets. I’d like to see the players get into some tough situations and get a feel for how difficult things are/how much tactics plays into it.

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