I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Pathfinder 2 and me - not quite a review

So, it seems Pathfinder 2 is out...

Pathfinder has lots of interesting modules, cool art, and incredible support. It is not something I would usually play, but there are good reasons to take a look at this - specially if you liked my last post. Mainly, because there is a SRD and you can check this stuff online without spending $60 (!!!) on a 640-page (!!!!) rulebook.

(TBH, I think the investment in time is worse than the money spent... But that is the subject for another day).

At a first glance, PF 2 looks a lot like PF 1: endless rules, heavy character customization, lots of addition (say, you could get a +23 bonus to do something if you're level 16 - no "bounded accuracy" here!), many feats, +1 bonuses are still a thing, etc. These are things I do not like.

However, I noticed that they adopted some of my favorite solutions (some I used for my own Dark Fantasy Basic):

- Criticals and fumbles based on DC (or AC!) plus or minus 10...
- ...But there are usually no fumbles when you attack with your sword (also, the irritating rule of "confirming crits" I mentioned in this post is gone).
- It uses diminishing returns for abilities over 18!
- Everybody adds their level to saving throws.

Somethings they seem to have adopted from 5e, which is good if you like both PF and 5e: the way backgrounds and "proficiency" works, more powerful feats, a similar action economy, etc.

There is also stuff I dislike:

- Everybody adds their level to EVERYTHING, so you basically got your 15th level wizard with Strength 10 and  +17 to athletics...*
- The number of options you get at first level is, well, insanely big (which, I admit, might be a plus for some).
- Needless complication is still a thing, small bonuses, etc.
- The basic "ancestries" are Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Human... Nothing wrong with the horizontally challenged, but should 80% of the non-humans be short folks, with half of them having a strength penalty?

[*BUT only if he's trained in athletics, otherwise it's +0. This creates a different problem. If the fighter has +21 athletics and the wizard +0, they simply cannot face the same challenges, like climbing the same mountain. I don't mind it - it is more "realistic" this way - but I see why some would prefer 5e's bounded accuracy, and I prefer a solution that is between these two extremes]

And there are things which just seem useless or redundant, like having an "elven" blade with the "elf" trait, trying to make all abilities even, other tables with superfluous entries (see "Check Penalty", "Speed Penalty" and "Bulk", below), etc.

Medium ArmorPriceAC BonusDex CapCheck PenaltySpeed PenaltyStrengthBulkGroupArmor Traits
Hide2 gp+3+2–2–5 ft.142Leather
Scale mail4 gp+3+2–2–5 ft.142Composite
Chain mail6 gp+4+1–2–5 ft.162ChainFlexible, noisy
Breastplate8 gp+4+1–2–5 ft.162Plate

There are some things that seem to be actual improvements to D&D as a whole. I like "ancestries" better than "races", and the whole ancestry feats, lineages, etc., is both sensible and cool. Legendary skills make "mundane" classes a lot cooler (a thief could steal the armor you're wearing, or something of the sort - these come only at very high levels).

Other things I would call "good D&D practices". Monster stats are a lot shorter and more interesting than PF 1 (I love how big weapons are more useful against some constructs, for example) . Encumbrance is simpler. Equipment is a lot cooler. Initiative is interesting. These things could be easily adapted to any version of &D - including 5e!

Overall, the game is a lot closer to my tastes than PF 1, but still too complex for me. I mean, take a look at the character sheet:

So... Nope.

In short, get this game if:

- You're into heavy character customization.
- You like many bonuses and dislike "bounded accuracy".
- Like lots of details (in skills, weapons, etc.).
- Prefer to have specific rules over vague rulings.
- You're looking for truly "epic" heroes.
- Appreciate having a very complete SRD online.
- Like Pathfinder 1 and would like to see a modernized and improved (IMO) version.

Do not get this game if you prefer simple systems, "realistic" heroes, short books, small numbers, rulings, etc.


But anyway...

Why I'm talking about this game, if it is not for me?

Well, Pathfinder 2 has pretty detailed D&D combat, including weapons and armor!

Take a look.

The weapon list looks a lot more detailed (and interesting) than 5e, and some of the weapon traits could be used in 5e directly. For example:

Propulsive: You add half your Strength modifier (if Positive) to damage rolls with a propulsive ranged weapon. If you have a negative Strength modifier, you add your full Strength modifier instead.
Sweep: This weapon makes wide sweeping or spinning attacks, making it easier to attack multiple enemies. When you attack with this weapon, you gain a +1 circumstance bonus to your attack roll if you already attempted to attack a different target this turn using this weapon.
Versatile: A versatile weapon can be used to deal a different type of damage than that listed in the Damage entry. This trait indicates the alternate damage type. For instance, a piercing weapon that is versatile S can be used to deal piercing or slashing damage. You choose the damage type each time you make an attack.

Others could be easily adapted, like I mentioned.

It inspired me to, once again, go back to 5e combat and see where it could be improved.

If you're into that sort of thing, it might inspire you too.

Good luck!


  1. "Everybody adds their level to EVERYTHING, so you basically got your 15th level wizard with +15 to athletics..."

    I see how you get this view, but I don't think you have this quite right. Characters add their level for skills they are trained on. Here's the relevant bit of the SRD:

    "You’re unlikely to be trained in every skill. When using a skill in which you’re untrained, your proficiency bonus is +0; otherwise, it equals your level plus 2 for trained, or higher once you become expert or better."

    So the 15th level wizard would have no bonus to athletics other than her strength score unless she was trained in athletics. If trained, she would have strength+17, if expert strength+19, etc. A wizard who invested skill points in physical skills would eventually get very good at them. This doesn't seem bad to me?

    1. I had missed that, and it is an important distinction. Thank you! Will make a note in the post.

  2. Thanks for this post! Would be interested on your thoughts on the action economy system, as last I looked it over I really liked it.

    If I get the time to read this over on a computer (better data base navigation), I may come back with some more detailed thoughts.

    1. My pleasure! About the action economy system, I agree with you. It looks very good, although I haven't tried it myself.
      Curiously enough, the "three actions" thing bears some resemblance to Mythras, which I read recently.

    2. One quick idea I can throw up here since I've posted the idea often enough in various iterations regarding weapons and hit point system:

      To start with, your character gets max "HP" (will be divided out later, but it functions like this). So a Fighter gets 10+Con mod points.

      These points are divided in half (or one point extra in one pile for odd totals).

      The larger pile is Vitality, the smaller one is Wound points.

      Damage goes first to vitality, then to wounds. Critical hits either do regular damage to wounds or do double dice starting with vitality. Wound points are spent as 3 points = 1d4 HD, 4 point = 1d6 ... 7 points = 1d12 HD. Some rules for segments + perhaps resources to maximise single HD rolls means that there are trade offs between many small dice and one big die.

      What I like is that it shouldn't change game play too much (still tracking an HP pool) but at least for me, the fact that a costly fight will drain you of resources that are immediately applicable in the next fight is great.

    3. I like this vitality/wounds idea. It is easy to use in 5e without changing the system much, and if one is harder to recover from, might make the game a bit grittier.
      Not sure I mentioned it already, but there are a few games that work like that - one example IIRC, is Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, which is a great game, and free. I think Dragon Heresy, a 5e viking-inspired book, also uses something like that.

    4. I'm glad you like the idea. The only thing I am uncertain of is the idea of using duration of a rest to dictate how many Wound Points you can spend to restore vitality, but I do not think it is worth the hassle in game play. Maybe you cannot spend more than half your max wound points in one rest. You then only recover half your wound points per long rest.

      The point cost may need to change so that there is value in rolling many small dice in terms of averages. Not sure if as written it works that way

    5. I'd lean towards something simpler... Maybe Wounds waste take longer to recover, or they are just a small pile (say, 1 WP per level), and you can only replenish it with full vitality - a character with full VP and little WP might be susceptible to dying with a single crit, etc.

    6. My thoughts lean more towards "only recover half wound points per long rest", which you then spend to restore vitality.

      If you lower the cost of d4 -d12 to (2 -6), you have a 2nd lvl fight at +2 con would have 11 WP, which they could spend on 5d4 to 1d12 + 1d10. If you add your Con to every die, you gaib 30 HP max with the former, and 24 with the latter.

      How I could think of doing it is making a bedrest rule: Every hour of bedrest maximises 1 die. In this case, hunkering down for a few hours gives advantages.

      I would then allow Temporary HP (proficency times CON mod, min CON mod) to allow for rolling "over" on healing meaning it's worth spending resources early.