First Thoughts on Pathfinder Playtest
When the folks over as Paizo assured us all that Pathfinder 2E was still going to be Pathfinder at heart they certainly weren’t lying. While the playtest rules have certainly been hit with the sandblaster of modernity, they’re still crunchier than a celery and cockroach taco.
If you haven’t ventured into the world of Pathfinder before, it’s probably best to think of it as the crunchy, complex cousin to D&D. Both the original version of the game and the 2E playtest are actually based on an older D&D ruleset, so if you’ve tossed a d20 some time this millennium you probably have a rough idea of how the game works.
And despite some fairly major changes to how things work, that core game hasn’t really changed too much in Pathfinder Playtest. This is definitely more of a refinement and polishing of the ruleset rather than the wholesale revamp that came when D&D moved to its much-maligned fourth edition.
Changing up Combat
Perhaps the biggest change introduced is the new action system, which blends everything from movement to attacks into a single resource. This means you can speed across the battlefield but do little else or sit in place and throw out three attacks, so long as you don’t mind stacking some penalties as you hack away.
While this sounds a little impractical on paper, when I tried the game out back at the UK Games Expo it actually worked surprisingly smoothly. The scrapping of pretty much every type of opportunity attack – an important change in its own right – meant that moving into a slightly better position usually seemed like a much better idea than taking a swing for the fences at a -10 penalty.
One other way that the core ruleset has been switched up is the introduction of ‘resonance points’ that power magic items, replacing most of the old ‘X charges per day’ mechanics. Each character receives an allotment of points equal to their Charisma modifier plus their level, with all of the magic items in the rulebook only requiring one point to activate.
It seems as though this rule was introduced to combat the old tactic of buying a dozen wands of cure light wounds and slowly burning through their charges to keep the party healthy outside of combat. However, it does mean that if a party isn’t too reliant on their magic items for things other than healing they could simply pass a single wand around the group and drop a dozen heal spells for free. Whether or not this is a problem should become apparent as the playtest marches on, however.
With so many new rules and ideas to grasp, the character creation process can seem rather daunting. There are a lot of things to choose from, including the new ‘background’ option that determines what you did before strapping on your armour and becoming an adventurer.
Interestingly, the new ruleset mostly ditches any attempt to mimic the old roll-4d6-drop-lowest system in their standard ability score generation. Now it simply starts off with every character beginning with 10s in every ability (producing a +0 bonus) and doling out four boosts, each of which adds two to your score. Once you’ve done this you also add in extra boosts (and possible negatives) from your ancestry, background and class.
All of this means that you can be incredibly flexible when it comes to mixing and matching ancestries and classes, though if you do want to go against the grain it can leave your sheet looking heavily min-maxed, with several abilities lingering around 10 while your major stats sit at 18 or 16 for first level adventurers.
Speaking of first level, new characters feel much sturdier than they used to thanks to an initial boost to their HP depending on their lineage. Even a fairly frail mage should be safely in double-digits, avoiding the problem where fledgling heroes could be taken down by a lucky swipe from a housecat.
If that all sounds fairly simple so far, that’s because so much of the crunch and depth of the system is tied up in feat selection. These feats can be incredibly diverse, ranging from special attack options to the ability to easily form connections in towns and cities, and which ones you choose will shape the kind of character you want to create.
At first level you’re going to be sitting on three of them thanks to your background, ancestry and class, and more of them pile on with every level gained. While this is obviously great for customising your own personal hero, it does mean there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to keep track of.
Say Hello to Daisy
I wanted to try out the Pathfinder Playtest character creation process with a fairly simple concept to work towards, so I decided to take a crack at re-making an old D&D 5E character – Daisy Willowisp.
Daisy was initially the product of randomly rolling up a race and class, with the delightful combination deciding that her destiny lay as a Halfling Barbarian. Her shtick was based around a background as a barmaid who tapped into a dormant vein of rage when her family inn was attacked late one night.
She was small, friendly and carried an enormous sword.
Within moments of looking over the Barbarian section of the Pathfinder Playtest I instantly began to appreciate the weird and wonderful customisation options. Specifically, I gravitated towards the ‘Giant Totem’ option, which added a spin onto the class by allowing them to wield oversized weapons.
I’m not convinced that it’s the most potent of abilities, as trades a minor range increase and damage boost while raging for a -1 on pretty much every important roll you make, but it fit the character concept so perfectly that I was instantly committed.
After putting this post up I realised I misunderstood the ability score rules, so Daisy should actually have two less STR and two more WIS. The form-fillable version of the sheet was made by u/Airurandojin over on the Pathfinder Subreddit
The entire process took maybe half an hour of scribbling and checking back between the book and my screen, but though it was complex it wasn’t too much worse then rolling up a D&D 5E character. There were some weird petty annoyances, though.
I never realised how much I missed the 5E creation of pre-built adventurer packs stuffed with food, bedding and torches until I didn’t have access to them. Honestly I didn’t bother to add up all the minor purchases I had to make, but just deducted what felt like a fair amount from my starting funds.
The idea of levelling up Daisy until she becomes a true monster is an exciting one, but at he same time it’s just a little intimidating. There is so very much to handle here, and it’s going to be quite some time until I’m comfortable with it.