In March, Paizo announced the Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest. Now the playtest is well under way. Today I had a go at running the playtest adventure path, Doomsday Dawn, which is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic. It makes sense to mark the upheaval of a new edition with an apocalyptic adventure!
My biggest problem with the playtest material is that character generation is a huge obstacle. This is one thing that has put me of Pathfinder previously. However, this playtest material is at least more straightforward than Pathfinder 1st Edition. I just don’t think making a character requires that many numbers –that’s why I like Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition! I just want to get playing as quickly as possible.
The character generation problem could be solved by providing plenty of pregenerated character options (at least so that players can learn how characters work) or with a digital toolset. I found some pregens here, and two of my players opted to use a pregen. We found that the goblin alchemist was a lot of fun but the human paladin didn’t make sense. It’s kind of annoying having a character with a thievery proficiency whose code of conduct forbids them from stealing.
Another unhelpful obstacle to was the amount of details the dungeon master and players need to consider when making a check, a save or an attack. You shouldn’t need this many stats for a roleplaying game.
Those are my main gripes. I understand that Paizo will be trying to make Pathfinder more accessible to new players while also retaining what the existing Pathfinder community likes – which apparently includes lots of stats! There’s always going to be some barrier to entry in any community, because it’s the barrier that defines the community.
One thing I really like about the material is the feat system. You have opportunities to choose new feats at each level, making character advancement very flexible. Each ancestry and class provides feats that are available only to characters of that ancestry or class. More powerful feats only become available at certain levels. Some advanced feats have simpler feats as prerequisites, so it works a bit like a skill tree in an MMORPG.
I’m impressed by the wide range of feats offered. It seems like Paizo are really trying to make sure the ruleset is comprehensive from the beginning. On top of the feats there are thirty-eight cleric domains. If the finished product contains all of these, it should mean you don’t need to carry around a mountain of splat books just to run a game.
As well as choosing feats as you level up, there are opportunities to improve your skill proficiencies. If you’re a spellcaster, your cantrips improve as you level up too.
Something that stands out to me is that a lot of flavor is built into the class rules. This is stuff that D&D 5E players would roleplay, but here it seems baked in a lot more. The way the bard’s feats are written, they sound like performances. A number of classes have taboos built in, based around their god or their totem. Some feats and spells also have particular alignment restrictions, making sure alignment matters.
In short, I would say that the playtest material is a lot of fun if you can get past the (still rather high) barrier to entry.
You can download the free Pathfinder playtest package from Paizo here.
You can also buy paper copies of the playtest books on Amazon or at your local store, while stock lasts.