This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve tried to write about Pathfinder Second Edition. The reason being that every time I tried to write about it, I would quickly go off on a tangent about some aspect of the game that didn’t mesh with what I thought I should expect.
The short of it is, Pathfinder Second Edition (PF2e) is pretty much a completely different game. It still feels like first edition, but to me it is like comparing 1st edition AD&D to 4th edition. If they didn’t share the same name and a few commonalities, I suspect one could easily confuse both editions of Pathfinder for different gaming systems.
If I had to say what I feel is the defining characteristic of PF2e, I would tell you it is a game about feats. This is in the same vein as how I would define Vampire: The Masquerade as a game of social interactions, or Shadowrun as cyberpunk and magic awesome fun time (I love Shadowrun, by the way.) or Starfinder as streamlined grade-A scifi rules, or AD&D 1e/2e as THAC0 (said colloquially as “Thay-Co”,which is short for “To hit armor class zero”). Anyway, enough examples.
The thing about PF2e that I feel is going to make or break it for people is the customization options. I heard that while character creation has a similar number of choices in options and such to create your character, its something around a total of 70ish choices from level 1-20. That is without gear or spell selection. I rebuilt one of my wizards, one that specifically started as a PF1e character, so I do feel like converting them over to PF2e is a good example. I rebuilt them from the ground up and then leveled them to level 15 as a necromancer.
I know I haven’t had a lot of experience with the new system, but it was kinda exhausting, and at the end of it all, the differences were quite noticeable. Firstly, that I felt a little overburdened to pre-plan my character, because I didn’t want to end up at a high level and need a feat I couldn’t take because I didn’t have the prerequisite feats.
I spent some time looking through other classes, by the way, did I mention that they added Alchemist as a core class and they changed the name of Paladin to Champion? Not big deals. So the list comes down to Alchemist, Bard, Barbarian, Champion, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Pretty straight forward, kinda miss the Witch, but glad I haven’t seen Summoner (Summoners are so broken in PF1e, I banned them from my games after witnessing the great, annoying, 18 ability score man, where none of his abilities were effectively under 18, he could make four attacks per attack action and use summon creature at the same time).
Anyway, back to the classes. Monk, one of my personal favorites, feels like if I play one I am going to spend the levels trying to figure out the complex fighting style of my monk. Maybe it is less complicated than I feel it to be. PF2e has a lot of things that I do feel may help make the game simpler for players. One of those things is that combat is now based on three actions per round. You can do anything in those three actions in any order, but some things cost more than one action. Technically, you can make three attack actions, but there are penalties for each action used to attack beyond the first use. You can make three move actions. Some spells require three actions to cast. Some things cost two actions.
This simplified system also comes with a rather comprehensive set of rules governing almost everything. That means that there are rules for all the many things you can do, which means that there doesn’t need to be much on the fly rulings by the dungeon master. But there are a lot of rules.
I can’t really say much more about it at this time, other than with all the feats and such, my wizard can literally intimidate someone to death and I can technically do so whenever I roll initiative. In other words, my wizard doesn’t have to cast spells to kill, she can innately cast power word kill and stun at the same time as a surprise round.
I think with all this, new players might struggle with the overwhelming number of options. Personally if someone asked me what would be a good TTRPG for someone that has never played before, I would probably pass them my copy of Dungeonslayers by Christian Kennig because the entire game fits in 20 pages including the covers and isn’t as abstract as some of the wonderful Grant Howitt games (Goblin Quest, Honey Heist) which often fit on a single page.
Pathfinder Second Edition is a solid game, it’s as robust and capable as its predecessor. But I do feel like it is a game of complexity and is for players who like both a lot of options, but a lot of continued tweeking and management.
(I was sent the Pathfinder Second Edition Core rulebook and Bestiary by Paizo for review.)