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Pathfinder 2.0 & Gary Con

If you follow me on social media, you probably know I spent the weekend at Gary Con Gaming Convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. While there, I ran games of Bloodlines & Black Magic, as well as two games of Rhune developed for 5e. Additionally, I got to sit down and play some Ars Magica, as well as some Pathfinder 2.0 – run by Jason Bulmahn himself. As you might imagine, getting a chance to play even a small piece of 2.0 this early in the game ensures only two things; first, I have a very, very basic idea of where the game is going and 2) the clear and present understanding that it likely will change before its development cycle ends. As a publisher and game designer, understanding things like that are important. Hell, almost as important as understanding the danger of speculation or worse, project.

If you’re a longtime PF 1.0 fan like me (I’ve been following Paizo’s stuff since June of 2006), you’ve probably got a little skin in the game when it comes to how the game evolves. I get it. We all do.

The Problem with speculation

Before I go over my short list of observations and reactions, I’d like to remind everyone these are my subjective impressions; these observations are intended to inform, not influence. While I know the latter will invariably happen, I only ask that you, dear reader, do it with a degree of patience and with a few trips to the well first. In short, consider picking up a PDF of the playtest version when it drops in August of this year.

Because no matter what folks say on the Internet, you’re not really going to know if this is the new game for you until you’ve tried it yourself. I’d much rather discover the final version doesn’t work for my group or I, but still walk away with some great ideas than never evolve.

Mind you, I’m also fairly stubborn. I’m not about to let some random folks on social media decide for me what games I should or shouldn’t like. I want to play and decide for myself. And I don’t want to be that random guy who tries to convince you it’s great, either.

Go judge for yourself.

First Impressions/ PF2

The first thing that I immediately noticed was the removal of the word ‘race’ from the top descriptive block of the character sheet. This was replaced by the word ancestry; given how politically loaded that word is today, it made sense. Moreover, it was more accurate. Given Starfinder and Pathfinder share the same worlds in their systems, linking them conceptually like this (if that’s the development team’s intent) is smart. I liked it.

I also liked that the new stat block included languages and Perception at the top. I think both of those are conceptually important to a character’s view of the world. Both have social impacts and play into how that character will be developed. Given Jason’s focus on narrative and immersion (a trait we share), it made perfect sense. I also like that character’s have backgrounds at the top, as well. The mechanical changes feel like they support a cultural shift in gaming. I’m cool with it.

The stat array and saves are going to look very familiar to old school 3.0, 3.5, and PF 1.0 players, as well. You’ll see Will, Fort, and Reflex in the same place, doing the same jobs they have for over a decade.

Under defenses, I immediately noticed that Kyra, the iconic cleric I was playing, had 20 hit points. While I don’t recall her Constitution score (I believe it was 12 or 13), she absolutely had many more starting hit points than her classic counterpart (who begins with 13). Of course, her hit dice were not listed on the sheet, so my knee jerk calculation was 12 (her Constitution score) + her first level hit die (1d8). Of course, they could also be using the new method they created for Starfinder – which is what I think is more than likely. Regardless of what’s under the hood, there was a definite hit point bump.

I also like that the combat section changed some, too. And I love the simplicity of the new economy of actions; I like knowing that I can spend a series of actions to do execute specifics. While that may sound a little formulaic (that’s how one friend described it), I don’t think that’s what they’re going for. I did not feel like a move toward 4e to me, but rather a step away from the abundance of options the current system has (what most folks call “complexity”). Given the discussion about complexity vs. depth I had at Gary Con with Jason, I think letting him address it through his blog is probably the smarter route.

Kyra also had a set DC for all her spells. While I have mixed feelings on static saves, it makes sense. I’ve long thought smart designer meant DCs were linked to personal development of a character, not how “powerful” the spell is. It only makes sense that a powerful wizard’s 1st level efforts (like when they cast, say, charm person) spell is probably going to have a lot more weight than the spell of an apprentice casting the same spell.

Next, attacks of opportunity have been changed. Now, they’re tied to reactions, which every single character gets. In fact, that’s part of the beauty of the system. Everyone starts with the same action array (3 actions + 1 reaction), but how those actions are spent are entirely shaped by your class traits, your spells, your background (or so it looks), your ancestry, and other components that a player might select. In short, it has a modular feel at times (or did to me), but not one that felt overwhelming, either.

If you’ve been following what Storm Bunny Studios has been doing with Bloodlines & Black Magic, you already know that we’ve embraced a similar concept with our characters, so it was definitely a chance I could get behind.

On my character sheet, there were three types of feats; a general feat, a race/ancestry feat, and a background feat. I read that as an additional modular approach, but without a full look (which I’ll get with the rest of you in August), I can’t really say for sure. Still, with archetypes moving into the core book for the new edition, it sort of makes sense.

What else? Flat-footed is now a condition that imposes a -2 penalty to AC. Specific conditions (like being flanked) makes you flat-footed. With that condition in place, we now see a new break down for AC. On my sheet, I had two ACs – my AC and TAC (armor class and touch armor class). It felt very Starfinder and, to be honest, logical. Having three ACs has long confused folks and shifting FF to a condition just makes sense. Smart move folks.

Weapons now have new categories, which I suspect everyone on Reddit already knows. I didn’t play with sweep or the agile ability, but they were explained and pretty cool. I also like that PF 2.0 potentially adds the Hampered Condition, which automatically slows your roll. I also like how movement (now called Stride) is marked is no longer a ‘move action’; it’s an action like any other. So, while that’s really no different than converting a move action to a standard back in PF 1, I no longer have to explain this at the table. I like that.

Obviously, there was a lot more on the sheet, but that’s what I’m comfortable mentioning right now. While Jason made it clear none of us were under an NDA, speculation can be dangerous and I’d rather write organically about it. I think once you get a chance to look at it, you’ll understand why.

Did I get the impression that Unchained, 5e, and Starfinder influenced PF 2.0?

Absolutely, but only in the best possible ways.

I’ll write more about this early next month.

Gary Con X

As some of you already know, I work a lot of the cons in the Midwest and Gary Con Gaming Convention is one of my favorites. It’s laid back, calm, intimate, family friendly, and damned near religious for some folks. As the birthplace of modern tabletop gaming as we know it, going to Gary Con is borderline spiritual for me (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point). It’s a pretty excellent convention.

This year was no different.

While I didn’t get to speak with all of the people I had wanted to, I did get to touch base with a lot of people. I got to run a session of Bloodlines that evolved slightly on the fly, which was pretty fun. I had written the adventure to go one way, but because of character choices (some folks should not be allowed to play with guns) and circumstances (I was exhausted), that episode went left at about 98 mph. The resulting changes were fantastic… in every horrible way possible.

I also ran Rhune as 5e for two different groups, showcasing my new approaches to character class, ethnicity, and the core cultural concepts each iconic represents. The players responded well, too. I couldn’t complain. As an adventure, the Escape From Harhagen felt right.

A lot of fun was had by all.

The Shadowlands

Once I learned that I was going to get to play PF 2.0 this weekend, I had folks from a Kickstarter I’m currently managing start asking me if we’re going to make the jump. After several long talks with the boss, he made the call – no, we’ll not make the shift. While he initially liked the idea of a multi-system approach, that project is already horribly late. Tying it into a new game in development for another 18+ months would just be silly.

That said, there are some concepts I like that I think fit nicely into the overall world and we can certainly include a conversion option for readers, if that’s what the backers ultimately want.

In Closing

Between school and Storm Bunny Studios, I have a metric ton on at the moment, so I’m going to make this a little shorter today. All in all, however, my initial response to PF 2.0 is positive. I don’t know how much or for how long we’ll play with the new license, but I absolutely think we’ll explore eventually moving Rhune over to it, if only to make sure a whole new generation of Pathfinder fans can play in it.

Cheers, Jaye

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