I know it has been a while dear readers, but don’t fret. Once more into the fray I go!
There is a whole chapter on advancing your character to a new level and more… yes MORE character options. Someone needs to tell Paizo to calm down. At this rate, there will be more character options than people playing the game!
Let’s start with leveling up. I like games where you can level up at the table. You haul some loot back to town and level up. That makes the next dungeon delve easier. Other games require an hour or more after the session to level. Guess which type of game this is?
B/X did it right. You roll your HD, check to see if you moved to a different spot on the saving throw chart, check your attack roll chart, and maybe get a spell.
Well done…like the way I was raised to eat steak.
How about Pathfinder 2E?
It seems short and simple, but choosing options and marking up 17,000 new skill points takes a while, especially if you are new at the game! I know I have belaboring the point that this game is complex, but you just have to see it to believe it.
There are more choices in Pathfinder than Facebook has gender options! It’s bad enough that there are ancestry feats and class feats to choose from, but now you can get archetypes… which use your class feats to gain these archetype bonuses.
For crying out loud, there is enough wiggle room in an OSR games class choices to be any kind of character concept you want! You wanna be a Viking or a knight or a Greek hoplite or a samurai or a Roman legionnaire? Be a Fighter. YOU DON’T NEED A SPECIAL +1 BEARD BONUS ON YOUR TO-HIT ROLL WITH AXES TO BE A VIKING.
But it’s not all bad. There is a nice piece of art in this section.
The concept of the Hell Knights is fun and the number one creative thing that Paizo did with the Pathfinder world. Hell Knights are Lawful Neutral (often Lawful Evil and rarely Lawful Good) knights that serve order ruthlessly. Their inspiration comes from the order of Hell. The aesthetic of the Hell Knights is pretty fun too. I know it looks like a 15 year old edgelord designed the black armor with spikes everywhere, but I just have a soft spot for it.
Anyway, enough with me saying something positive.
You like animals? Cute little puppy dogs and kitty cats?
Want an animal friend to come along with you on your adventure? Here is what a proper adult does…
Player: “Hey GM, can I have an attack dog as a companion?”
Player: “Hey GM, can I have an attack dog as a companion?”
GM: “Sure. It has 2 HD, one bite attack for 1d4 damage, it hits AC 0 on an 18, and saves as a 2nd level Fighter.”
I am glad there is an easy way for adults to adjudicate a strange request. After all, why would you need a butt-ton of rules to cover animal…
WHY DOES AN ANIMAL HAVE SKILLS. SWEET LORD IN HEAVEN SAVE ME FROM MY BAD DECISION TO CONTINUE LOOKING INTO THIS!
…speaking of the Lord, let’s look at the Pathfinder deities. While clerics are expected to follow the rules of their chosen deity specifically, almost every character is expected to have a patron deity of their own.
They are fairly standard pseudo-medieval fantasy fair. Nothing too good or too bad. The Diet Coke of the divine; one calorie, not enough
And… still speaking of matters of heaven and hell, next time, we will go into the “Playing the Game” chapter. There is a page and a half on how a character dies.
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:
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.
What about the ten foot pole? Surely they can’t foul that one 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!
Okay okay, let’s keep going. Surely Paizo isn’t going to insult my intelligence or anything…
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
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.
Let’s look at it in Moldvay Basic:
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.
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.
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 […]
I understand why some OSR folks are anti-thief. I disagree, but after looking over the Pathfinder 2 skill system…
…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:
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.
Enough with skills. You’ve seen enough and so have I. How about the next section, feats?
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.
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?”
** 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.
If you ask my wife, she will tell you I have no class.
But Pathfinder does! 12 of them in fact!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
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…
That’s right, in the new Pathfinder, dwarves, elves, and humans are not races, but ancestries. Why rename races into ancestries?
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…
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…
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.