Pathfinder 2e overview: Dungeons & Dragons’ most significant competitor gets improved

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Following extra than a decade on the market place, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is recognized for two factors: its origins in Dungeons &amp Dragons’ older editions, and the daunting complexity of its ruleset. Thursday is the worldwide launch date for Pathfinder Second Edition and, just after poring by means of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder Bestiary for the improved component of two weeks, I’m excited about its prospects.

Second Edition refines Pathfinder’s tactical combat with no losing the complexity that tends to make it so a great deal exciting at the table. Meanwhile, these new sourcebooks assistance to bring its exclusive planet and its quite a few unique peoples sharply into concentrate. Even if you are not arranging on beginning up a game in the method anytime quickly, these documents are outstanding inspiration for your homebrew campaigns, regardless of what method you choose.


The cover of the new Pathfinder Core Rulebook shows heroes fighting against an ancient red dragon, which is bursting through the side of a decrepit castle. Flames fill the frame, while a female cleric with an exotic sword casts a spell through a holy reli

Paizo

A swift history lesson

It is really hard to speak about Pathfinder with no straight employing D&ampD as a point of reference. But, offered that the vast majority of men and women who have been exposed to pen-and-paper RPGs know extra about the latter than the former, it is the ideal spot to begin. So, apologies to the diehard Pathfinder fans in our readership, but I’m kicking factors off now with just a bit of table setting for absolutely everyone else.

When Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson concocted the initially edition of D&ampD back in the 1970s, it was a incredibly unique animal than it is now. Gameplay was a great deal much less focused on the narrative of a offered encounter or adventure. Rather, the emphasis was on the nuts and bolts of combat, with complicated guidelines for landing blows and casting spells. All through second and third edition D&ampD, the measure of a skilled player leaned extra toward whether or not they could do very simple math at the table, rather than seeing if they could speak their way out of danger. Signature adventures, like the Tomb of Horrors, have been meat grinders with a couple of named characters sprinkled about.

But, as D&ampD grew, so as well did the tone and timbre of its published adventures. A main turning point was the classic Ravenloft, initially published in 1983. It was a single of D&ampD’s initially comprehensive narrative arcs, featuring a complicated villain with hopes, desires, and ulterior motives that the players had to uncover more than many gameplay sessions. Authors Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman, and the writers and designers that followed in their footsteps, helped set the stage for today’s fifth edition of D&ampD, which is a a great deal extra social game than ever ahead of. That is why so quite a few men and women who do not even play get pleasure from watching or listening to other people knowledge it by means of livestreams and podcasts.

Nowadays, you can play an complete campaign of D&ampD with no employing markers or miniatures of any type. In some techniques, that tends to make the vignettes from Stranger Issues — with 4 boys sitting about a card table pushing about pewter miniatures on a paper grid — a bit of an anachronism.


An ancient red dragon as depicted in the Pathfinder Bestiary, second edition.

Image: Paizo

Except it does not.

There’s nevertheless a lot of meat left on the tactical bone, as it have been, of pen-and-paper part-playing. Moving miniatures about and carrying out very simple math is a lot of exciting, in incredibly a great deal the very same way that technique Computer gaming is exciting. Pathfinder has normally embraced the use of paper grids and miniatures, and its ruleset — primarily based in an older version of D&ampD referred to as three.five — has normally reflected that. The very same is correct of Pathfinder Second Edition. Miniatures or markers of some type are expected for combat encounters, as is a gameplay mat with a single-inch squares.

That does not imply that storytelling requires a back seat. It is just that when playing Pathfinder Second Edition, it is going to take you a lot longer to clear out a dungeon than in fifth edition D&ampD. That is not a bug, it is a function.

A extra refined knowledge


Icons from the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook show graphically how the in-game action economy functions, with chevrons for single actions, two-action activities, and three-action activities. The key also details reactions and free actions.

Web page 17 of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook includes all the things you have to have to know for your initially couple of rounds of play. The huge book also has shaded tabs printed along the edge so you can swiftly come across the section that you are hunting for.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Exactly where Pathfinder Second Edition excels is in generating combat much less difficult than it was previously. It does that, at the most standard level, by refining the guidelines for what a player can do on their turn. This “action economy,” as it is referred to as, is far easier in Second Edition than it was ahead of, and the writing and style group at Paizo has sprinkled references to it all through the complete Core Rulebook. The outcome is a game method that is a great deal less complicated to study, and far extra uncomplicated to run for harried game masters at the table.

Pathfinder characters can now only carry out 3 actions on their turn. These actions may possibly contain drawing your sword, casting a spell, or yelling anything to somebody in your celebration. Every little thing you do in combat has a expense in actions, and just about every expense for just about every action is clearly explained. As a outcome, Pathfinder Second Edition feels unified and comprehensive, rather than a hodgepodge of errata and exceptions that had accumulated for its prior iteration.

As an workout in graphic style, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook itself is extraordinary. Information that would be relegated to a sidebar or a tiny, bespoke graphic in other game systems get complete pages with elaborate diagrams and drawings. That type of interest to detail, coupled with the repetition inside the text itself, tends to make it a correct reference document. That indicates players and game masters alike will devote much less time flipping back and forth involving sections of the book hunting for guidelines.

Of particular note is the Core Rulebook’s appendix, which contains a mixture glossary and index that also tends to make reference to the action economy in a clear and concise way. Front to back, the complete document is supremely nicely-organized and appears thoughtfully created with the intention of speeding up play. I’d spend actual revenue for a version of Wizards of the Coast’s current Player’s Handbook laid out in a equivalent way.

If I have any complaints, they’re about the ruggedness of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook’s cover and binding. Even though it lays completely flat on the table, revealing wonderful matte-finish pages that are uncomplicated to study, it feels extremely flimsy. I could quickly break each the front and back covers more than my knee at the very same time. With as a great deal use as mine is probably to see, I’m currently on the hunt for aftermarket sleeves that will strengthen its survivability. For a sourcebook that charges $59.99, that is a bit of a disappointment.


A halfling cleric from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, second edition. He stands barefoot and has face tattoos. He holds a long, curved dagger with exotic armor to match.

Image: Paizo

What is not disappointing, nevertheless, is the depth and breadth of character customization possibilities out there inside. There’s quickly the equivalent of a single further sourcebook’s worth of material bundled in right here for absolutely free.

Pathfinder Second Edition comes with six ancestries, such as its signature goblin race, and 12 completely playable character classes, which themselves contain many variants. That is an awful lot of content material for what amounts to a starter set, and it speaks to the Pathfinder system’s maturity and Paizo’s self-assurance in it. This Core Rulebook all but guarantees that your celebration will have its personal exclusive flavor from day a single, even if many characters share the very same combat part.

The planet of Golarion is also explained in outstanding detail. Exactly where D&ampD’s Forgotten Realms setting can really feel a bit samey from campaign to campaign, Pathfinder’s setting is a great deal extra diverse. Just a single tiny portion of a single continent includes realms devoted to higher fantasy, African-inspired fantasy, pirate-themed places, and undead realms filled with zombies, not to mention places for sword-and-sandal-style adventuring and a number of flavors of mythic weirdness exclusive to its universe alone. There are even other planets as nicely.

Golarion feels huge, and the possibilities in this new Pathfinder Core Rulebook really feel just about endless. It is a excellent displaying for Paizo, and a sign of factors to come. Tabletop RPGs have extended been dominated by a single 800-pound gorilla. Pathfinder Second Edition is a powerful item that, though unlikely to knock that gorilla off his perch, nonetheless aids flesh out the landscape for fans of pen-and-paper gaming.

You can come across out extra about Pathfinder Second Edition at Paizo’s internet site, which contains facts on exactly where to come across copies of all the things you have to have to get began. Physical copies of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook go on sale by means of Amazon beginning Thursday, as nicely as at friendly neighborhood game shops about the planet and at the Paizo booth at the Gen Con convention in Indianapolis. Digital versions will also out there. Virtual tabletop app Roll20 also supports the game beginning Thursday.

Pathfinder Second Edition was reviewed employing a final retail item supplied by Paizo. You can come across more facts about Polygon’s ethics policy right here.

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