Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Blog Series (Part V)

I figured I would skip the “Equipment” chapter in the playtest document. After all, surely the equipment section would just be the usual list of tables with weapons, armor, and miscellaneous objects, along with their assorted prices. It’s important for a game to have this information.

But then, I saw this:

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD
Minor bonuses???

An expert crowbar? WHAT IN TARNATION?

Gives a +1 bonus to Athletics checks to open things up? Seriously?

Can’t a DM just say, “grab your crowbar and you open the chest after X turns” or “grab your crowbar and roll under your Strength” or some other way to resolve it? If you don’t have a crowbar, you can’t pry anything open. There. Easy peasy lemon-squeezey.

Why make it more complicated than that?

And who expertly crafts a gosh-darned crowbar?

I mean no insult to crowbar manufacturers, just that a crowbar is a tool. It’s not a decorative art piece or anything. A blacksmith might carefully craft arms and armors for ceremonial purposes, like those worn by the guards at a king’s coronation.

But a crowbar?

Make it and move on. As long as it works well, that is all that matters.

Let’s move on. I don’t even want to talk about the compass.

Fishing Skill check
+1 to fish? What the heck? I’m gonna need more Shiner Bock & Fireball.

What about the ten foot pole? Surely they can’t foul that one up…

Crap
Spoiler alert: they did foul it up

Oh boy, I can use the “Seek” action from far away!

It’s a long pole. You just tap the floor and walls, trying to activate any traps from a safe distance. That’s it. WHY ARE YOU DINGUSES TRYING TO MAKE THIS GAME SO FREAKING HARD TO PLAY!

TRAP
I will NEVER go near a trap without my ten foot pole in my hands and ready to use!

Okay okay, let’s keep going. Surely Paizo isn’t going to insult my intelligence or anything…

Really
****

WE ALL KNOW WHAT A SHEATH / SCABBARD IS FOR!!!

GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Moving on.

Spells. Spells are nice.

I mentioned this before, but I will mention it again here. The heightened spell thing is a neat little twist on spell casting. Never let anyone say that I didn’t say something positive when it is applicable. In fact, here is a little quote that Paizo can use to advertise their game if they want.

Pathfinder 2E is only 99.99% an SJW-infested, unnecessarily-bloated, unwieldy, cluster-coitus of a system. -The Mixed GM

Heightened spells are kinda neat

This heightened spell thing could be good for spellcasters that have trouble finding spells, so that they don’t have “wasted” spell slots. I may never homerule this into one of my campaigns (like hell am I actually playing Pathfinder 2E), but it is a neat idea and if you like it, feel free to steal it for your own game.

For the actual spells themselves, just like everything else in Pathfinder 2E, they are more complicated than the need to be. Here is the one example I need to prove this point.

Sleep.

Let’s look at it in Moldvay Basic:

Proper SLEEP

Pretty simple. You cast the spell, roll 2d8, and that many Hit Dice of critters fall asleep for 4d4 turns or you cast it on one powerful creature and it falls asleep. No saving throw allowed!!! You can see why this spell is so powerful and well-loved by groups running an OSR game. Now, let’s compare it to the Pathfinder 2E version of the spell.

SLEEP

Okay. Now the enemies have to save vs it. That’s fine. A little twist on a classic, we can roll with that.

Wait, “A creature that falls asleep doesn’t fall prone or drop what it’s holding”?

Are Paizo employees humans? Or just aliens that are trying to create a roleplaying game? Generally, when a member of homo sapiens falls asleep, they lie down and drop things in their hands. You can argue that a dwarf or gnoll won’t fall over or drop items when they go to sleep; after all, they are made-up races with different biology than humans.

But come on! I assume that everyone reading this is at least 56% human, so you know how humans sleep. This is just stupid.

Also, Perception checks to wake up? Really? It’s magical sleep, not normal sleep!

Oh, and the saving throw thing. It’s not enough to have a saving throw to determine whether or not the enemy falls asleep, it’s gotta be more complicated.

This Success / Critical Success / Failure / Critical Failure chart is on a LOT of the spells. Whatever happened to pass or fail? What was wrong with it?

Per Infogalactic, “Chesterton’s fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood…There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'”

Paizo needs to listen to Mr. Chesterton. Creating new and interesting systems to play with is great. New monsters, new magic spells, new items; it’s all good. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Saving throws are a perfect example. If you succeed at the saving throw, X happens (usually nothing). If you fail, Y happens (generally, the effect hits the character with full force). That’s it.

Why add the whole “Critical Success” & “Critical Failure”, for rolling a 20 or a 1 on the d20 on a saving throw? At best, this is a 5% chance on either result… so why bother with adding specific effects for just about every spell that requires a save? It won’t come up very often and it will require more book-keeping.

Example: Problem Glasses, a 1st Level Wizard, encounters 4 shitlords having a heated discussion. Xe decides that they are evil nazi-racist-scum and need to be eliminated. So, xe casts Sleep. Shitlord 1 fails his saving throw and falls asleep for 1 minute…unless he rolls a Perception check to wake up. Shitlord 2 critically fails his saving throw and falls asleep for 1 hour..unless he rolls a Perception check to wake up. Shitlord 3 critically succeeds and stays awake. Shitlord 4 succeeds, but has a -1 penalty to Perception checks for 1 round.

Now, someone [probably the GM] has to track the duration for the spell on three shitlords, the -1 Perception check for Shitlord 4, and the individual Perception checks for the sleeping ones to wake up.

And Sleep is just one example. Just about every single spell that allows saving throws has 4 different effects/durations, depending on saving throw. Once again, great for a vidya game that calculates this stuff in the background, but a hassle at the table.

It is almost time for a B/X game to begin, so I will leave you with a couple of spells that grabbed me as awful.

Crusade
Peaceful? What kind of lame-ass crusade is that??? Let’s mind-control some ogres and take back Jerusalem. Deus Vult!
Revival
Rando Paizo Employee: “We can’t use ‘Resurrection’ for the name of the 9th level spell that brings back the dead, oh no, that sounds too much like that Jesus fellow and we all know that Jesus stuff is the worst, right?”
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Psyberfrog: A Comickalgate Adventure — The Alt-Right DM

My water hath broken. My front hole has dilated all the way up to a Spinal Tappian eleven. My doulah hath run the warm bath and the breastfeeding gestapo are on stand-by to SWAT team my door at the merest hint of a bottle or first sign of any other implement of scientific progress. My doctor […]

via Psyberfrog: A Comickalgate Adventure — The Alt-Right DM

If you have not already done so, you better be reading the fiction of Mr. E. Reagan Wright! He writes good RPGs AND good fiction!

My part
im_doing_my_part.gif

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Blog Series (Part IV)

I understand why some OSR folks are anti-thief. I disagree, but after looking over the Pathfinder 2 skill system…

skills trash
Kidding! Thieves are great!

…I REALLY understand why some people are anti-thief and anti-skill system. Most OSR games use a fixed roll system. For example, roll a 15 or under on a d100 to open a locked door. Maybe as the thief levels up, the chance increases so that a higher level thief opens a locked door on a 30 or under on a d100. Quick, simple, and elegant.

Pathfinder 2, on the other hand, uses a “roll a d20 and add a butt-ton of modifiers to it” system that has to be seen to be believed:

Skills
“Okay to open the locked door… I rolled a 17, plus my ability modifier of 3, plus my proficiency modifier of 4, minus 2 because of the circumstances, plus 3 because of my magic thief gloves equals… wait… why is everyone asleep?”

I sincerely hope you like adding a bunch of numbers on the fly for every single skill roll. Sure, a lot of those modifiers may not change often, so you can just write +7 or whatever next to your “Open Door” skill and just add 7 to every roll you make, but some people can’t find information quickly on a character sheet and some people can’t do mental math (beyond +/-2) on the fly very well. I am not judging those people negatively, but a skill system like this will slow your game to a crawl if you have those kinds of people in your group.*

“But Mixed GM!” I hear you say, “I know you are a handsome and intelligent man, but surely these skill checks are only for special situations or represent superhuman abilities like the Thief had back in B/X! If it is a rare-ish situation, it’s not that big of a deal if it is complicated.”

Your optimism is admirable, but hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.

Request
“May I have a non-ridiculous skill system in this game?” *rolls a 1*

Swim 1

Swim 2
At least they threw us a bone with the “in most calm water, you succeed”
Grab Edge
This… is a use of a skill?
Lie
Who needs good roleplaying skill?

Read Scripture 1

Read Scripture 2
I assume that any member of the Pathfinder team that tried to walk into a church would catch fire. It would explain their understanding of reading holy scripture.**
Climb
Oh. Climb skill is for everyone. It’s not a special skill for thieves to go up smooth walls or whatnot. I am going to need more booze.

Enough with skills. You’ve seen enough and so have I. How about the next section, feats?

Feats
There are multiple kinds of feats! Joy!

You get all kinds of feats. Ancestry feats based on your ancestry, class feats, skill feats, and general feats. Didn’t we use to call ancestry feats “racial abilities” and class feats “class abilities”? But no, Pathfinder 2 has to add a bunch of options that give a minor bonus in a specific situation. And the player gets to choose them.

wp-1535505986419-1791603287.png

There comes a time when player choice has gone too far. Pathfinder 2 has gone so far that I can’t even see it with binoculars. Player choice should be in actions they take in the game world, not agonizing over the feat they take when they level up. It would take a ridiculously long time to create a level 1 character, even if you know what you are doing. Now imagine leveling up that character, or playing a game that starts at 5th level! You’ll spend more time updating the character sheet than playing!

In fact, within this book each feat type has its own section. You have to look up ancestry feats under the ancestry, class feats under the class, and general feats has a section. 90% of these feats could be collapsed into a class ability or GM decision. Most of these feat choices are not truly meaningful. They are just new actions that a competent GM could adjudicate, (such as the Fighter’s Knockdown) or minor bonuses to specific situations (Diehard means your character dies at dying 5, instead of dying 4… and I am not looking up what that means right now).

You would need special software to create a character in a decent amount of time. Hmm… software that Paizo could sell…

Never mind. I think I know EXACTLY what Paizo is doing.


* Also leaves a lot of room for the GM to fudge things, because they are the only one who knows the target number that the player is rolling for.

Player: “I roll a 12.. plus 7… equals a total of 19 to my “open a locked door” skill!

GM: *checks notes, sees that this door needs a 20 or higher to be opened. GM also realizes that his carefully crafted story requires that this door is opened by picking the lock*

Player: “Did I open it?”

GM: “Sure!”

** I know that there are deep nuances in the Holy Bible and we should look to the Church Fathers for guidance, but for a lot of Scripture, the average layperson can get a pretty good grasp of what the Biblical writer intended.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Blog Series (Part III)

If you ask my wife, she will tell you I have no class.

But Pathfinder does! 12 of them in fact!

20180828_2024201763015114.jpg
This is how I am getting through the Pathfinder 2 Playtest document.

11 of the classes are familiar to those who remember 3.5. Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue [should be a thief], Ranger, Monk, Paladin, Sorcerer, Barbarian, Druid, and Bard. I figure that if you have

The newest one is the Alchemist. Basically a pyromaniac that brews potions, tosses bombs, and becomes Mr. Hyde with a feral mutagen.

Mr Hyde

Of course, this being Pathfinder, we have to add a bunch of math to make it harder to do this cool thing. If I am playing an Alchemist and want to chug my Mr. Hyde potion to rip and tear a bunch of bandits, I have to stop and calculate a bunch of modifiers and attacks…hell I might as well write up a new character sheet with my new stats, attacks, drawbacks, skills…

It’s a cool concept, but hard to do at the table. A video game (like Icewind Dale or the Baldur’s Gate series could run these calculations in the background easily!)

I swear this a game for GMs to play with other GMs. How do you keep all this straight? How do you not spend 17 hours creating a character and 4 hours each time you level up?

Yet, in the very same game, the Barbarian’s rage ability is relatively easy to implement…

PF2 Barbarian Rage

You get +2 to hit and damage, a 1-point penalty to AC, and some extra hp. At higher levels your + to hit and damage increases, as do the extra hp. This is relatively easy to do and is thematically awesome! You get so flippin’ angry that you do more damage and you fight through wounds that fell normal mortals.

Jesus
Not to be sacrilegious, but I suspect that Jesus had a bit of Barbarian in him. John 2:13-15

Overall, going through all the classes, I did not really see any SJW malarkey, but what I did see was ridiculously complex. Not to belabor this point, but all this choice and all of these options slow down gameplay unless everyone at the table is a master of the rules. Even the Fighter, theoretically the simplest class, has a bunch of maneuvers and feats that trigger in specific situations. Half of these things are what the GM is for!

Pretend you are a clean-limbed fighting man, whose majestic thews woo all kinds of women, even non-human womenfolk! You are fighting a creature and you want to push it away from you for some reason. Do you:

A: Ask the GM how to handle this action and then the GM tells how to resolve the action, probably by making some sort of roll. Quick and easy… just like me when given Fireball.

B: This.

push
Let me look up the “flat-footed” condition and what a “Press” is and whether or not the place I am pushing the creature is considered “difficult terrain”.

The choice should not be hard.

One last thing before I wrap this post up. Who here as ever read a fantasy book? A good one? A bad one? Ever seen a fantasy movie? Hell, even if you hadn’t you know the tropes like the back of your hand. So why in the hell is there a “roleplaying this class” section for each class?

WAT

WE KNOW HOW TO BE A GOSH-DARNED BARBARIAN. YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL US! THOSE OF US WHOSE BLOOD RUNS AS RED AS THE NILE WHEN THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY WAS SHOWING PHARAOH WHO WAS THE BOSS ARE ABLE TO TAP INTO THE PRIMEVAL SOUL OF A WILD WARRIOR UNFETTERED BY THE TRAPPINGS OF CIVILIZATION.

It’s almost as if this game was written for fragile people who have never been exposed to the Western canon or fantasy literature or vidya games and…

Maybe I am on to something.

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Blog Series (Part II)

Let’s get racist!

I mean…ancestryist!

That’s right, in the new Pathfinder, dwarves, elves, and humans are not races, but ancestries. Why rename races into ancestries?

ancestries
We get it. Diversity of skin color is double-plus good and Donald Trump is ungood. The alt-right is triple-plus ungood.

No explanation is given, this is just the way things are now. If I had to guess, it would because “ancestry” sounds like the different groups are closer together than “races”.

Example 1: I have English ancestry and you have German ancestry.

Example 2: I am of the English race and you are a part of the Germanic race.

At least to my ears, the first example seems to suggest the common humanity as opposed to the second example, which sounds much more antagonistic. Maybe I am a paranoid right-wing nutjob, but that is my observation on this change.

The actual races themselves are quite “normal”, all things considered, especially in comparison with 5E. Sure, each ancestry has special rules and a bunch of small bonuses that will rarely come up, but I am sure the player can track of all of this in their head.

At least there are no tieflings, dragonborn, aasimar, etc.

Yet.

In fact, the goblins are the only real oddity among the races. Yes Virginia, you can be a goblin in Pathfinder 2E. Despite being normal low-level fodder for adventuring groups since the early 70’s, the goblins are learning to integrate into normal society now. They aren’t monsters, they are refugees from a war.

Damn it
Let me guess, it is the United States Taldor’s (Absalom is a big city in Taldor) fault that this war happened.

However, much like a college student trying to turn a 2 page essay into a 4 page essay, by adding a longer word when a short one will do, Pathfinder 2E cannot but help to add additional complexity and player choice to pad the length of this document and character creation as a whole.

MOAR FEATS
This is in addition to class abilities and the feats granted by your class. I swear it would take an hour for an experienced player to make a 1st level Pathfinder 2E character. For a newbie though… egads!

Okay, maybe you just want to play a human. A good, solid, respectable human. Well, you have to pick your ethnicity. Other than some roleplaying suggestions about the region they are originally from, the only mechanical difference between the ethnicities is that each ethnicity has their own ethnic language to speak (except the Taldan, who are white and rule the dying empire of Taldor that used to be a lot bigger).

DIVERSE
DIVERSITY EVERYWHERE!!! OPEN BORDERS!!!! NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL!!!

Good thing, they all know Common (the language of the imperial Taldan)! So, these different ethnicities can live anywhere, but still speak their native language. Do they ever fully integrate into the new society they live in, even after several generations, or are they just parasites that feed off of the natives…

Okay, never mind. Almost got too political for a moment.

So you roll up add up your stats (so there is perfect balance and no one has any penalties unless they want to), then you choose your ancestry, choose your ancestry feat, and now you can pick you class…

Oh wait…

Taking a page from 5E, you have a background now!

Are you a nomad, sailor, scholar, etc? More stat boosts and bonuses that only come up during special situations. Who can keep track of this all?

At least two pages on language are fine…

language
THEN WHY WASTE TWO PAGES ON LANGUAGES IF YOU ARE EXPLICITLY SAYING IN THE RULES THAT YOU WILL FIND SOMEONE THAT SPEAKS COMMON, EVEN IN FAR-OFF LANDS. YOU LITERALLY WASTED TWO PDF PAGES AND EVENTUALLY TWO REAL LIFE PAPER PAGES ON THIS!!!

I swear, Pathfinder is a game for GMs only. In order to play, you have to a group of people as committed to the rules as the GM is! Otherwise the game will slow to a crawl as the player tries to look up what all their special bonuses mean.

Let me let you in on a little secret. If you can play any one OSR game, you can pretty much play them all! B/X, Holmes Basic, Swords & Wizardry, ACKS, Shitlord: the Triggering, Labyrinth Lord, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, etc. Only the GM needs to know most of the rules, everyone else can just show up to the table and roll with it.

I cannot imagine just showing up and playing this without intimate knowledge of the system. Trying to keep track of these special little bonuses is a nightmare, unless you live and breathe this system day in and day out.

Next time, we will look at classes!

Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest Blog Series (Part I)

Someone in the BDSM scene once told me that she thought I was a masochist. The idea of being wrapped in leather and whipped does not appeal to me at all.* In fact, that incident is half the reason I prefer the term GM to DM.

But, I recently got my hands on the playtest rules for the second edition of Pathfinder. Maybe I am an intellectual masochist.

It begins.PNG

After reading through it, I decided that I am going to do a series of blog posts on it. I am not promising one a day or anything like that, but I am going to try to get through them at a reasonable pace.

First, a little history:

I got into actual tabletop roleplaying with 3.5 edition D&D. Before then, I played the Infinity Engine games on my computer, but never actually sat at a table and played until 3.5. When 4E came out and I played a game of of it, I fled back to 3.5. Then, I discovered Pathfinder.

I thought that this was it: the holy grail of gaming. The perfect tabletop system. It is painful to write these words and I know many will think less of me. I cannot change the past and accept whatever judgment those wise and enlightened fellows who play OSR games and pre-2nd edition AD&D players oass upon me. I have repented and know that I will stand before God with a clean conscience, but I will accept any earthly punishments or penance for this sin.

Anyway, back to Pathfinder. Until I found 5E and eventually the OSR, I though Pathfinder was the best tabletop roleplaying game ever! I was willing to put aside the SJW crap that was introduced over time, because the core game was just that good. I was so, so very wrong.

That’s why I am doing this blog series. To cleanse my soul. If you ever meet anyone who wants to play Pathfinder, I want this series of blog posts to be something you can show them to dissuade them.

Now before I get into the rulebook proper, I do want to point out some good things that the second edition of Pathfinder (and especially the playtest) do well.

1) Offering the whole game to playtest for free with all 20 levels, all classes, a bunch of monsters, and several little adventures to test early, mid, and late game is incredibly generous.

2)The art is a little…busy, but it has grown on me. All the characters are covered in all kinds of weapons, trinkets, etc, but I kinda like it.

3) The “Heightened Spell” feature lets you cast a spell with a higher level slot to get additional benefits. For example, the standard “Cure Wounds” spell heals more hp depending on what level spell slot you use it for. No more having 47 different “Cure Wounds” spells (light, moderate, serious, critical, super important, urgent, it-is-six-thirty-in-the-morning-and-my-wife-NEEDS-coffee-right-freaking-now, etc).

4) This would be a decent system to convert into a computer game like the “Temple of Elemental Evil” game or “Low Magic Fantasy”.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s go through the book section, by section. We begin, with the “Overview”.

page 5
Page 5 and we already have a major problem.

Story? STORY??? If anything, the dice tell the story. Epic tales of strange creature befriending the party through a reaction roll or attacking to the last. Cowardly gnolls who flee after the first death prompted a morale roll and foolhardy goblins who never wavered in their desire to kill the party. We take the results of the dice and create some sort of narrative from random chance. Just like real life, we try to make sense of the random events around us.

Playing a fantasy roleplaying game isn’t about telling a story, it is about kicking in doors and taking treasure. If you survive long enough, you ennoble yourself and become a king or queen! GOLD AND GLORY!

Now I don’t want to dwell on the SJW stuff too much, but this next section needs to be seen to be believed. I present to you (almost) without comment, the player and GM advice:

No Comment 1

No Comment 2
WTF?!

Surely, it can’t be that hard to make a character, right?

Character Sheet
Is this a fantasy game or my taxes?

Character creation will take forever and it just plain wrong. By default, instead of rolling for stats like a proper game, or even a point-buy system, you start with 10 in every stat and add your ancestry (not race…can’t sound like the alt-right!) bonuses, background bonuses, and class bonuses. Only possible way to get negative in the default way to generate stats is via race..sorry ancestry!!!

Next time, I will talk about the ancestry options in Pathfinder. Spoiler Alert: Goblins are a core ancestry, at the same level as humans, elves, and dwarves.

Damn it
Goblinblood Wars? Alliances with different races? Refugees? Just say it Paizo. Just say that you don’t like President of the United States Donald J. Trump.

* If you are into that sort of thing, I am not judging you. Just saying that it is not my cup of tea.

The Bombardier Class for ACKS

YAAAAAAAAAAAA
He says to me-he says to me, ‘you got style, baby! But if you’re gonna be a real villain, you gotta get a gimmick.’ And so I go, I says, ‘yeah, baby! A gimmick, that’s it! High explosives… Aaaaahahahahahaha!’ Yeah, keep playing with fire, super-pants! You don’t know how much fire you’re playing with! Aaaahahahahahahahaaahaha!
+10 awesome points if you get the reference

I decided to have a little fun and create a class using the rules in the ACKS Player’s Companion. The basic idea came when I realized how much adventurers love throwing flasks of oil at their foes. So why not create a class based on it?

Here is a link to a pdf file of the Bombardier class. Enjoy!!!